After seeing an online tee shirt store once, it’s easy for most people to get swept up into the idea of “Hey, I could probably do that!” Many love the idea of launching that one great shirt that everyone loves and that the shop can’t seem to keep in stock. And all the while you just keep raking in the money for your sweet designs!
But it quickly becomes apparent that you have little to no artistic talent, or you’re lacking inspiration. Sometimes the easiest way to do something is to have someone else handle it for you, and that’s never been as accessible as it is right now. Just about every industry imaginable relies on independent contractors or freelance workers to handle their needs, and more often than not, they work better and cheaper than going through traditional firms.
There's a variety of different ways to go about this, each option with its own pros and cons. Not every choice will be the right fit for your needs, while others may find that multiple options may work. We're going to explore a number of choices, starting with performing the design work yourself.
The One Man Army- Making Designs Yourself
Even if you struggle with drawing a stick figure, many programs are available at little to no cost. And although Photoshop is the granddaddy of all image editing software, who has the budget for buying it? Luckily, many alternative programs (such as
Luckily, many alternative programs (such as Gimp) with similar layouts and can be found for free; some users even prefer them over Photoshop itself. Whether you’re able to sketch it out on the program or merely combine other images and shapes that you’ve found, digitally designing shirts without a dedicated shop is easier than ever before.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have experience in digital photography or haven’t had the time to get acquainted with the software they downloaded. Chances are, you’ve found yourself putting off developing your design more and more, and now you’re worried it’ll never get finished. If you lack the time, money, or experience to develop a design on your own, it’s probably time to hire a professional.
Outsourcing your design work frees your time and energy to spend on scaling your operation. By decreasing your own labor hours and keeping hiring costs low, you stand to save quite a bit of money, and make more!
Calling in the Professionals- Outsourcing Your Designs
1. Crowdsource Your Project
Crowdsourcing is an increasingly popular way to raise funds for something buyers are already interested in, all without the hassle of trying to convince the local bank to loan you money. Everything from books to full-length movies and even video games have been funded using crowdsourcing techniques.
It’s an easy and effective way to generate funding and social media buzz simultaneously. By finding interested investors who like what you’re pitching, you can have a base of buyers already putting money up before the final product has been finished. This way you already know that the design sells, and you already have some sales in place. All that’s left to do is use the money wisely and deliver a killer final product.
Not all crowdsourcing sites are created equally. Some force you to do all of the legwork by uploading your own initial sketches and plans to help coax buyers to invest. Other sites will only allow you to pitch to family and friends, and most sites have strict rules to follow. If you aren’t careful, you may lose all the money you’ve raised, or worse, have to pay even more back in return.
Some sites, like 99designs, allow “designers” to pitch the idea of their shirt. In return, the artists that frequent their site agree to design the shirt for you for a predetermined agreed upon set price. It works a little like an auction site; you set your price and product description, and the artists bid to fulfill the job requirements.
Just know that many sites that follow this method allow an entire pool of designs to be submitted by various artists at the same time, and not all of them have the same price. You may want a more expensive design, but your wallet will force you to take a lesser quality one.
2. Hire a Dedicated Designer
If you wanted to build a house, you would go to where the home builders were, right? Well, the same logic applies here. You have the shirt design concepts, so you now you just need an artist to bring them to life. Some sites are communities of experienced and establish shirt design artists that are ready and willing to work for you.
Although many of these types of sites exist, one of the more popular ones is Dribble. Dribble combines artist portfolios with the option of hiring freelance labor. Some artists are merely there to show off their work, although you may still be able to inquire about them potentially working on your project. Others will have an obvious “hire me” button illuminated on their profile page, letting you know that they are actively looking for design work.
3. Search On Freelancer Sites
While freelancing websites may or may not have available designers, they act as marketplaces for any and all freelance workers. This includes creative professionals, such as artists, musicians, and writers, and more traditional temp workers for office and business needs. But in our experience, there is always designers and artists hungry to expand their portfolio with freelance contracts here.
The process is much simpler than many would suspect at first. Simply make a job posting describing your project, and set your deadline and price. Many freelancers are usually eager to find the next available job, and you’ll probably start receiving responses faster than you were expecting.
Just be sure to use common sense when choosing a freelance worker. While they are typically much more affordable, choosing cheap labor from another country is usually a surefire way of winding up with a low-quality final product. Some freelancers sub out their work, even when they insist that they do it themselves. Others will talk a big game to get your business, only to wind up failing to deliver in the end. Mediation actions are usually lengthy, and since most sites require escrow payments up front, the money may be out of your hands for a while.
The good news is that freelance workers need good ratings to get work, so most are reliable. Freelancing is no longer considered a fad or a trend, it's an industry in its own right. Some of the more common freelance marketplaces include Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Elance. There are also many more options out there, and some are certainly better than others. Be sure that, like any job, you give them an interview process, asking for portfolios and previous work samples before agreeing to use them.
4. Try Cheap Options for Quick Designs
Everyone knows that you get what you pay for, so using a cheap freelance site, such as Fiverr, comes with the inherent risk of your finished project being hit or miss. But Fiverr is a reputable discount freelance marketplace, but each user has a dedicated rating, as well as other metrics such as how many jobs are completed on time, and how quickly they respond to messages.
As long as your design isn’t too terribly complex, Fiverr could be an effective way to save you some money. Just be sure to set realistic deadlines; chances are, no matter how good the artist may be, they’ll probably need longer than a day to finish your design.
Fiverr gets its name from prices running as low as just $5 per job. There are more expensive options, and sellers are encouraged to price each additional option on every job for an additional fee. Be sure to fully read everything as a $5 job can quickly snowball into a much pricier one. But as long as you find someone who knows what they’re doing and is charging a fair price, you can avoid hiring an expensive digital artist.
Other marketplaces are dedicated shirt design sites, such as Graphic River, Creative Market, and others.
They’re always worth checking out, even if you find yourself on a budget. You never know where a great deal is going to be lurking, and knowing that you’re getting someone with experience is worth every cent. Other sites, like T-Shirt Factory, use templates to easily create a shirt design. The only downside is that it becomes easy for multiple users to be selling similar or identical designs.
5. Sell a Second Hand Design
Believe it or not, there are a ton of designs floating around the Internet that are just collecting dust. Others designs haven’t been made yet, but exist in the form of popular images, TV shows, and other entertainment offerings. It’s big business now for many companies to sell graphic design shirts, and that opportunity exists for you as well. If you find an image, poster, or other design you’d like to display, go for it! Just be sure to obtain the proper commercial license so as to not accidentally commit copyright and trademark infractions.
If you see a design by an artist that currently isn’t being sold, send them a message. You can always offer to put their design on a shirt on your online store in exchange for a cut of the profits. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no, and at best, you just found yourself a new design partner.
Designs don’t have to be from shirt designers, either. It’s not uncommon to see striking designs from budding artists within their portfolios. Seeing one of their images can come a Eureka moment of how great it would look on a shirt, and chances are, depending on what sort of medium they use, it may have never been displayed on a shirt before.
6. Find and Hire Local Talent
Conducting business with complete strangers isn’t for everyone. Whether it be the fear of getting taken advantage of, or simply not being able to properly convey your needs and desires online, it may be best to seek out a local designer in your area. This gives you the benefit of speaking face to face with a professional designer, getting you one step closer to being on the same page with your artist.
Going this avenue is surprisingly easy. You can always check classified sites and newspaper sections, especially for those artists looking to get started. Craigslist is always a mixed bag, but since it’s free to use it’s always worth a peek. Other websites, such as Meetup.com, show you local and highly-relevant events. By finding a nearby shirt expo or design club, you’ll have more designers available to you than you know what to do with.
Now that you know that you have options, it’s time to get to work. Don't have time (or effort) to design your shirt yourself, get professional help. Your imagination, creativity or mental capacity be damned, you'll have killer designs in no time!