While no two businesses are exactly the same, there are 10 steps entrepreneurs and potential business owners must take prior to opening the doors of their new company.
1. Write a business plan.
Experts agree writing a business plan is the first real step any entrepreneur or prospective business owner should take. Not only does this show a true level of commitment, it also forces real and tangible answers to important, and sometimes challenging, questions. A business plan is also the first thing any potential investor is going to request. This gives them a full understanding of the business venture being proposed, the owner's level of expertise and understanding of the opportunity, and the financial requirements and potential upside.
2. Choose a legal structure.
How a company is incorporated is important, and not always an easy thing to change after the fact. While not overly complex to understand, each type of legal entity comes with certain requirements and restrictions. Certain types of corporations may not be available or appropriate for your type of business. If you need help, a corporate attorney or experienced business accountant can offer timely and accurate advice on the exact legal structure of your proposed company.
3. Get your business registration, licenses, and tax identification.
There are various resources to assist with various things like business names, filing incorporation paperwork, obtaining necessary licenses and registrations with your local municipality, and getting your federal tax information squared away. Aside from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for federal tax matters, local corporation commissions (typically at the county level) can assist any new business owner in meeting the regulatory requirements for each locale around the country.
4. Know your competition and marketplace.
There's nothing wrong with a little competition. In fact, it's what gives business owners the opportunity to come out with a better product or service. Knowing your marketplace, what your competition is doing, and how you're going to compete and win customers is a critically important step in the business setup process. Including this information is your business plan, will show your mastery of the type of business you're proposing to start. Without this information, no serious investor will rise to the occasion. Know your marketplace, know your competition, and know how your company is going to be different
5. Finance your business.
Unless you're an accountant, have a degree in finances, or are a sophisticated investor, chances are you'll need some help nailing down this part of your pre-business planning. Investors are going to want to know how much money your company has to start and how much it's going to need in the future. No matter where your revenue will come from, list it. Will you use your credit cards and home equity to start? Will you have sales the day you open your door and will you need a loan you can service as debt? Are you willing to give up a percentage of your ownership in exchange for cash?
Related: Get quotes on business loans for expert small business lenders.
No matter how you propose to finance and fund your business, share that information in your business plan. There are a myriad of investors out there and they've seen it all. Don't assume no one will invest just because you aren't also bringing some capital to the table. Investors typically want to know three things:
For how long?
What is the exit strategy?
Answer these three things to an investor's satisfaction and you're very likely to strike a deal.
6. Identify and secure a location.
Whether it's your home office or an entire building in an industrial park, the logistics of your proposed business location must be firmed up before starting your business. This includes managing things like choosing phone and internet service providers, business directory listings, utilities, and of course the lease or purchase agreement totally in place the day you go into business. It is actually acceptable to have the type of building you'll need identified in the early stages of creating your new business. Investors, bankers, and legal counsel generally don't see the lack of a specific location, early on, as a deal breaker or red flag.
7. Get proper insurance.
Types of insurance to consider include healthcare, vehicle, directors and officers, liability, performance bonds, travel (to include AD&D), and life. It's important you understand any local regulations that might require your specific type of business to carry certain types of insurance. If you're a carpenter or a plumber, as an example, you'll need liability insurance, which you might not need in other industries.
8. Obtain legal counsel.
Whether you are proposing to have in-house counsel or will hire appropriate counsel when needed, it's important for your business to have access to a lawyer. You may need a lawyer who specializes in corporate, tax, intellectual property, labor, trial, or international law.
Wherever regulatory requirements demand compliance, using a lawyer to review and sign-off on this part of your business will save you time, money, and potentially your company and intellectual property in the long run. Don't skimp on legal counsel.
9. Use local and national business resources.
Local, county, and national resources exist to ensure your company is compliant, that you've chosen the correct legal structure, the name you've selected is available, as well as learn about business loan options and other types of money that is available to entrepreneurs. Your local corporation commission, the Small Business Administration, and the IRS are all useful resources at every planning stage.
10. Review everything.
Last but not least, go through it all one more time. Not only is this an excellent way to fully familiarize yourself with your proposed new company, it's a great way to identify in omissions or areas that need to be modified. A second set of eyes is always preferable.
Investing heavily in the planning phase of your new business will pay real dividends when the time comes to meet with investors, securing a location, and opening your doors for business. Dig in deep, make a great impression with your level of preparation, and start your business off on the right foot.
While no two businesses are exactly the same, there are 10 steps entrepreneurs and potential business owners must take prior to opening the doors of their new company.
This should be the first page in your notebook/planner.
You can get collect this information from Google Analytics by reading your audience’s demographics and in time when people reply to you or purchase your products. My audience is mainly between the ages of 18-35.
80% are women readers and they are into arts, home crafts and education. By learning who your target audience is, you will be able to write posts that are catered to them and this in turn will increase your conversions and sales!
Basically when you know whom you’re writing for, you will be able to plan your blog content in advance, thus increasing your traffic and making more money.
Whenever I get an idea for a blog post, I go through my audience profile and see if it is suitable for them. Therefore, this particular record is mainly to serve you as a reminder to whom you’re actually writing for.
Paying attention to this one metric will really help you increase your conversions. Otherwise, you’ll just be getting pointless traffic that leads to nothing.
2. Social Media Goals and Pageview Stats
Currently, my main Social Media is Pinterest.
So, keeping goals for each month and recording your stats every single week/month is a good way to record your growth.
Other than Social Media, it’s also a good idea to record your Blog Pageviews.
Knowing how much you grow will give you a fair idea of what is working for your blog. Certain Blog Posts you write may pull in a lot of traffic.
It’s always a good idea to know where your traffic is coming from.
Pinterest Hack: See your most popular blog posts by opening your Google Analytics and heading to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages. Create 2-3 additional pins for those posts and schedule it to Tailwind to watch your traffic explode!
True, you can keep an Excel Document maintaining these, but I like to carry this information everywhere with me.
Hence, I have a dedicated set of pages in my notebook only for Blog stats. Before I begin my work each Monday, I flip through my blog stats to see how much I’ve grown in the past couple of weeks.
It not only motivates you to do so much better, it also never lets you forget how you started.
3. A list of all your Blog Post Ideas
Being an Illustrator and Blogger, means never being able to shut off your mind.
A Eureka moment can pop up at anytime! Whether you’re in the loo, or snoozing in a bus – it is always crucial you write your ideas down before you forget them.
And therefore, you should keep a huge list of ideas for your Blog Posts so that you never run out of things to write about. Reading through the list will also help you generate related ideas!
Additionally, you can also take a popular post that’s gone viral and create a Mind Map.
To do this, simply write your popular post title in the centre of the page and write similar ideas around it and connect it with arrows! You can branch those ideas into more ideas and so on! This is basically how mind-mapping works.
4. Keyword Strategy
When I’m using UberSuggest or SpyFu for my keyword strategy before writing down a post, I note down the keywords that I’m going to use along with the Search Volume and SEO difficulty.
This helps me narrow down what long-tail keyword I’m going to use for my Blog Post.
Once I’m done coming up with all the keywords, I keep the notebook open while I outline/flesh out the post.
By having everything right in front of me, I am able to write seamlessly and systematically without any loss in focus.
5. Blog Post Titles
The headline of your Blog Post is extremely important because you can spend 3 hours writing the best post in the world but if no one clicks on the headline to read it, you’ve failed.
So, spend at least an hour writing only headlines for your next blog post!
Once you’ve decided on the blog post idea you’re going to write, you have to test out a few titles before you find the one that you’re going to use.
Use the best one for your title, and the other 8-9 for your Pins.
And there’s no better way to do this than to use your notebook to scribble down a few plausible titles.
Using the keywords that I’ve already come up with, I am able to draft 9-10 powerful but quirky headlines under an hour.
Pauline from Brand Glow Up has written an astounding article on how to come up with catchy blog post titles! Additionally, she even offers a free template that you can download and use to come up with your own clever titles!
6. Blog Post Outline + Call To Action
Once, I’ve usually decided on a blog post idea and written down the keywords I’m going to use, I like to state my call-to-action for the post.
What is my post going to do? What is the main purpose? For instance:
- Collect leads
- Raise Brand Awareness
- Promote an Affiliate Product
- Help readers enter a sales funnel like an email course
- Garner Traffic
Once I’ve decided on my call-to-action, I pour out all my thoughts into my notebook and outline the content or the skeleton of the post onto a few pages in my notebook.
This helps me understand what topics I need to cover in the blog post in order to do it justice.
When I outline the post in my notebook, I’m also able to arrange and organize my points better.
This is usually a very messy and raw process, but trust me it speeds up the writing process. Because when you sit at your WordPress Editor, you’re no longer staring at a completely blank canvas – you have the complete outline in your notebook!
7. Editorial Calendar
I like to plan my blog content in advance.
I try and focus on 1 theme for each quarter. For one quarter, I may focus on posts that talk about just gaining blog traffic. In the next, I may cover side hustles, and so on.
And I like sprinkling productivity posts in between like this one you’re currently reading to keep things interesting.
Although I don’t maintain my Editorial Calendar in my notebook (I use Trello for this), I know loads of people who do!
You simply create a Monthly Template in your notebook and write your blog post ideas for the month on post it notes and stick them on the days that you wish to post them. Like this:
The benefit of doing this is that you can move the post it notes around in case you want to move the blog posts around. So, no mess!
8. Business Strategies for the next Quarter
Doing this has really helped me focus my time and energy on things in my Business that actually matter.
Every Quarter, it’s good to focus on 1 area of development.
We’re adorable but you will feel a world of pain if you step on us.
For instance, on one quarter, you can focus on guest posting on websites that you look up to. Or you could spend your time updating extremely popular posts so that they get you more traffic and boost your SEO.
I usually like to draft all of these strategies when I’m writing my Business Plan for the year.
If you like pretty printables, you can just get my printable Business Plan that will help you grow your blog from scratch the right way!
9. Newsletter Outlines
I like to send out a newsletter every week and during the week, I write down points I want to cover in my Newsletter.
You can form a brief outline of everything you want to say in your Newsletter in your notebook/planner.
For instance, on one week you can talk about a helpful tip that you just discovered in your industry that will really help your readers, or maybe talk about a product that you’re affiliate for or hold a sale in your shop and so on!
Raelyn Tan has a humongous post on Newsletter Content ideas you can use for your next newsletter!
10. Weekly, Monthly and Quartlerly Goals
As a blogger, it is important to focus on your goals in order to measure your growth and success.
Your goals for the week, month and year, and so on.
When writing down your goals, remember to be as specific as possible. For instance, this month my goals were:
- Edit and update my Traffic eBook
- Update accompanying Email Course
- Research and Validate new product idea
- Redo Front Page of my Website
You can organize your goals according to category – content creation, marketing, digital product, social media and so on.
When you reach your goal, remember to put a little tick next to it so you feel a strong and refreshing feeling of accomplishment.
11. Daily To-Do list
Being a home-maker, dog-mommy, illustrator and blogger means finishing a list of never-ending tasks. Forgetting even one of them could result in total chaos.
Therefore, it’s a good practice to keep your daily list in hand so you don’t waste any time trying to remember what you need to complete for the day.
I use my Blog Planner to make my life a tad bit easier.
12. Inspirational websites
Sometimes, a daily dose of inspiration is just what you need to start your day.
I have a couple of lists that I maintain in my notebook. Here are some lists of websites I currently maintain:
- Blogging Websites that teach me more about Online Business and Blogging.
- Tech Websites that help me become a clean coder.
- Creative Websites that give me ideas for color and font combinations and designs.
- Positive Lifestyle Websites that always supply me with happy and helpful articles to inspire me.
You can also maintain a swipe file of websites you like and want to learn from.
For instance, I noted Websites that I signed up to and asked myself what drew me to them.
Note these points down. This will help you create digital products and offers that your readers will not be able to resist.
Do you have an killer t-shirt idea and suspect others will feel the same way? Are you looking for an alternative means of promoting your business, or making some side income with merch? Do you want to commemorate a special event, like a family reunion or bachelorette party?
Whatever your reasons, the fundamentals of t-shirt design remain the same; it’s what you do with them that counts.
In this Ultimate Guide to T-Shirt Design, we’ll run through the each step of the design process, from the inception of an idea to getting your shirt mass-produced. No matter how much (or how little) experience you have, these t-shirt design tips will give you everything you need to know.
How to design a t-shirt in 7 steps
- Figure out why you need a shirt
- Define your budget at quantity
- Know your printing options
- Screen printing
- Vinyl graphics
- Brainstorm your design concept
- T-shirt types
- Style and imagery
- Specialty printing
- Find a designer
- Evaluate your design
- Get the right files
- Find a kick-ass printer
No matter your reason for designing a t-shirt, it’ll always involve a little bit of branding. If you’re using t-shirts for promotional purposes, branding is your main goal. Even if it’s strictly fashion, you’ll still need to weave consistent brand themes into all your products. For personal use—like commemorating an event, for example—you want to make sure your t-shirt design communicates clearly.
If you haven’t already, write out a list of the key themes, styles, and personality traits you want your brand and shirts to convey. Is your brand playful or serious? Edgy or conservative? Luxurious or affordable? A focused t-shirt design can answer all of these questions at a glance.
Take a quick peek at the example above. What does it tell you about the Brewmasters company? For starters, they don’t take themselves too seriously, and the wooden instruments suggest a more traditional brewing style that hints at a classic taste. That’s a lot of information from a cartoon.
To get the most effective design, move away from your personal preference and rely more on real, quantifiable data. Who are your target clients/customers? What brand traits do they want to do business with?
Here are four goals to help guide your t-shirt design process by helping you understand why you need a shirt and what you want it to do.
Your t-shirts are something you give away for free to keep your brand in the minds of prospective clients/customers.
Your t-shirts are a product you plan on selling, so make sure to factor in style, marketability and business strategy.
You’ll need to understand your shirt’s place in the market, so consider conducting research to discover the tastes of your customers. Your own personal tastes are a good start, but when it comes down to selling to the masses, quantifiable data always beats guesswork.
Special events need special souvenirs, and t-shirts are always a great option.
These share many of the same goals as shirts for internal company usage (solidarity, appreciation) but for a more casual, less restrictive audience.
Regardless of their use, most t-shirts are promotional in some way. Even if you’re designing t-shirts as merchandise, include your brand logo so observers know who made the shirt if they want something similar. It should have a strong, even dominant, presence on the shirt.
Apply the same design quality and cleverness as you would a billboard advertisement. More than just clothes, t-shirts provide exposure every time a person wears them in public, especially if the owner likes the shirt and wears it often.
Once you’ve determined your goals, you can then prioritize the different aspects of your t-shirt design. For example, fashion might be a high priority for merchandise tees, but not for employee gifts. You want to tailor your design in a way that best suits your needs.
You’re anxious to get to the actual t-shirt designing. We get it. But let’s settle some details first so you can focus your design better: namely, your budget and quantity. How much you can spend and how many t-shirts you need will impact your design.
For example, budget and quantity will help determine how many colors you can use. Depending on your printing method, additional colors may cost more money. If your budget is tight, a good way to save is conserving colors.
The number of shirts you need will also influence your printing method. Some methods are ideal for printing in bulk. Others have a higher cost per shirt and are better for small orders.
Before you begin to think about designing or printing, plan your budget and quantity accordingly.
There are a lot of things to consider when you’re looking for the best t-shirt printing method for you. Cost, appearance, production time, materials—they’re all important. The more you know about each method, the easier it will be to decide which one is best for you.
This is the gold standard for t-shirt printing. Your printer makes original screens of your design (one for each color) so you can print in bulk.
Pros: Reliable standard for printing. Affordable and high quality. Ideal for large orders over 20.
Cons: New screen required for every new color or design revision (which gets costly). Colorful designs end up being expensive.
Another method of heated transfer, vinyl printing uses more durable vinyl instead of just ink.
Pros: Extremely durable and high quality. Ideal for when you want your design to stand out (literally).
Cons: Additional colors cost more, so complicated designs get expensive. Not great for large orders.
A newer option, DTG printing uses the freedom of inkjet printing, but prints directly on fabric.
Pros: Highly customizable designs with maximum detail and extensive color choices.
Cons: Use for small batches or perhaps a single sample. The more you’re printing, the less viable it becomes. Doesn’t work well on dark-colored garments.
Take a look at our guide to t-shirt printing for more information.
Here comes the fun stuff… Now you get to start figuring out what’s actually going on your t-shirt! Make sure you don’t jump to this step first. The more time and effort you put into preparing for this, the better.
Your design could go in a million different directions. As you’re brainstorming, here are some tips to help focus your creativity.
All this talk about t-shirts, and it’s easy to forget that there are lots of different types of shirts. Just to name a few…
Think about your audience and intended goals before deciding the right type of t-shirt. A revealing crop top might not be the best promotion for a law firm.
As you start sketching out t-shirt design ideas, make sure it will translate to the actual size. Design using an 18”x18” canvas and physically place your designs on a shirt. That doesn’t mean you have to fill the whole space (like if you’re keeping it minimal with a small logo), but a realistically sized canvas will help you get the proportions right.
Once you have your design, consider how it will look on larger and smaller shirt sizes. If you choose a screen printing process, different sizes may require different screens, which means additional costs.
At this stage, you have to rely on your creative and artistic instincts to communicate the messages you want to say. Don’t forget these questions we talked about before:
- What is your brand?
- Who is your market?
- Why are you designing a shirt in the first place?
Put all of that together, and you’re ready to start designing a t-shirt that’s perfect for you.
For example, take a look at Prim’s dinosaur t-shirt design. This is a kid’s merchandise brand, so the style is cute and cartoony, appealing to its market.
Compare that to the winning entry for the Pumpkin t-shirt design contest, by 99designs creator DiditRed.
This German hardcore music festival is definitely not marketed to kids. That opens up their designs to edgier material, which suits their prospective clients better.
Of course, there are more options than being terrifying or sugary sweet.
Alex Lalove shows us how to design a professional, risk-free t-shirt without being boring. His winning entry promotes the Datafinity brand with its logo front and center, but spices up the look and feel so it seems more fashionable than a standard business tee.
Also, remember that your design is being displayed on bodies. Lumpy, bumpy bodies that aren’t always as symmetrical as we’d like. Think about flat, uncomplicated designs since there’s no telling where the nooks and crannies will land on your image.
For similar reasons, you also want to avoid detailed imagery, such as subtle color gradients and intricate linework. Always err on the side of simple.
The fonts you choose say a lot about your brand. Serif fonts (the ones with little arms) or script fonts look more classic. Sans-serif fonts make it more modern. T-shirts offer more of an opportunity than other areas of graphic design to play with fun, crazy display fonts, but do keep readability in mind. If the words on your shirt are important to communicating your message, make sure they don’t get overshadowed by swirly, grungy, loopy typography.
The element of design that is best at instantly communicating personality is color. Each shade, hue and tint evokes an emotion, acting as a shortcut for you to portray something about your brand at just a glance.
T-shirt designs have two sets of colors to keep in mind: the fabric color(s) and the print color(s). To make sure that these two complement each other, always use your fabric color as the background of your design ideas. (And also note that a colored canvas can have an impact on what inks look like, so make sure you talk to your printer about that!)
Because of the way t-shirt inks work, printing colors can get a little tricky. The least expensive way to print your design will be to approximate the colors. Just know that your “teal” might not match your printer’s “teal.”
Exact color matches are possible with Pantone (PMS) or custom blended CMYK inks—but they’re more expensive. PMS uses predefined, exact ink tones that your printers can purchase. CMYK printing creates virtually any color by combining Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black) inks. Check with your printer to determine what’s available.
Like any other printing medium, t-shirts have their own set unique ink options.
- Plastisol — The standard ink used in screen-printing
- Foil — Shiny and reflective
- Novelty — Glitter, hologram or even a fuzzy feel
- High-density — For a dimensional appearance that pops out from the shirt
- Gel — Like high-density, but with a “wetter” look
- Water-based — No feeling at all; ingrained in the fabric
Got design skills? Get crackin’! If you don’t, don’t worry. There are tons of pros out there ready to turn your design concept into a reality.
The DIY route
The main advantage of designing a t-shirt yourself is the price. If your budget is tight, the decision is already made for you. Design freedom is a huge advantage, but don’t forget that professionals know the technical concerns of t-shirt design (plus a whole lot more). If you broke out into a cold sweat when we mentioned acronyms like CMYK, you might sleep better handing this off to a pro.
Hiring a pro
Rather than teaching yourself marketing, branding and graphic design, why not pay someone who knows all them already?
Collaborating with a freelancer can be tricky, but also a lot of fun. Do your best to find a designer that thinks like you and understands what you’re looking for. Consider the designer’s personality, design style and expertise. You can also try working with multiple designers at once by launching a T-Shirt Design Contest on 99designs.
Once you’ve found your designer(s), you have to clearly communicate your vision. Tell them what about your design ideas, messaging, and intended audience. Include details about colors, logos, visual style, t-shirt type and printing specifications. Send them images of designs that match the style you’re looking for. Give them everything they need to know so you can get the perfect t-shirt design.
As your design options start rolling in, browse through every version and select your favorites. Don’t forget your marketing and technical requirements. Will your design fit on a tank top? Is the amount of color within your budget? Is the messaging right? This isn’t just an art contest, but a business decision. Communicate your feedback clearly to your designer to make sure your next set of options look even better.
Then, make sure to run it by both key stakeholders and people who don’t have any connection to what you’re doing. Even if it’s just your neighbor across the street, people not closely associated with your t-shirt design will notice things you never did.
Consider asking them:
- What is the one key message you get when you look at this shirt?
- Who is this shirt for?
Their answers to these questions will help you determine if the t-shirt is communicating what you want it to. If it’s not, go back to your designer and figure out what you can change.
You’ve got the perfect t-shirt design. Hell yes! Now go back to that information you got from your printer and check to make sure you have the right files.
You probably need:
- Your t-shirt design in vector format. This will likely be an Adobe Illustrator (AI), PDF, or EPS file. You’ll need one for each different t-shirt design you’re creating.
- Color codes. If your printer does custom colors, make sure you have the Pantone or CMYK color codes so that everything turns out looking like you want.
Once your design’s ready, it’s printing time! Find one that offers the method you need at a price you can afford. Of course, extra features and discounts to sweeten the deal are great, too. Sifting through printing options to find the best one for your particular project usually requires experience and time… but we’re going to fast-track it for you!
- Find out if the printer has an in-house art department. Not only does this mean the printer does in-house prints, but it usually means these folks do good work. Only successful printers can sustain an in-house art department.
- Request samples of finished shirts, not design images. Most printing companies love visitors! Stop by their shop to see and touch their shirts. Remember: a printer’s job is to translate design to an actual print, and only a finished product reveals that.
- Start building a working relationship with a printer you can grow with. Find a printer who prints six or more colors. Even if you don’t need that many for your first project, you might need them later.
- If you’re doing a larger order, make sure your printer offers pre-press proofs. You won’t know for sure how the design fits on the shirts until you see a sample.
- Beware hidden charges, particularly with screens, films or Pantone color matching. Just like any other industry, there are a few rotten eggs. Go over all the charges before payment to make sure they’re being up front.