It can feel like a tricky puzzle when you know you want to start your own clothing business but have little to no money to get started.
Is it possible to make your dream a reality without a massive budget? If so, where do you begin?
This guide will outline how to start a clothing line with no money and what different options are available.
The good news is that there is a lot of opportunity in the clothing and footwear sector. According to Statista, the global clothing market was valued at over $1 trillion in 2020.
Along with the many sales opportunities, starting a clothing business also allows you to express your creativity by bringing your unique designs to the world.
Let’s get into it.
How Do I Start My Own Clothing Line for Free?
When you don’t have any budget available, the best way to bring your clothing designs to life is to go the route of Merch by Amazon.
Merch by Amazon is a print on demand program that gives people the chance to market their designs at no cost.
You upload your designs to the Amazon platform, which can then be placed on various clothing items, including t-shirts and hoodies.
If someone purchases one of your designs, Amazon takes care of the printing and order processing, and you receive a commission. Simple as that!
Naturally, there are still steps you can take to increase sales, such as building a presence on social media. Luckily, this won’t cost you anything either.
Merch by Amazon is an invitation-only program, but you can request an invite using this URL: https://merch.amazon.com/landing.
I’ve found that this program is one of the best ways to build cash flow and put your name out there as a designer until you are ready to launch your own business.
If you are looking for ways to start your own clothing line at home, this is a great option. You won’t need to store or distribute any clothing, so Merch by Amazon makes perfect sense as a home business opportunity.
(Source: Merch by Amazon)
How to Start a Clothing Line Online
Merch by Amazon is a good option for anyone who has absolutely no budget. However, if you have some funding available, I recommend you consider Shopify to start a clothing business online.
Shopify is one of the most uncomplicated drag-and-drop eCommerce site builders I have used to date, and it doesn’t cost much to get set up either.
(You can use the link above to get a free trial! If you end up signing up, we will make a commission so that you know).
As of writing, you can build and run an online store for $29 per month.
What’s more, they can assist you with the printing of shipping labels and even offer discounts on shipping with DHL Express, UPS, or USPS.
So, once you have a Shopify site, what’s next?
There is always the option of manufacturing and selling your clothing. However, if you don’t have a large budget, dropshipping is the next best thing.
The dropshipping model makes it possible for entrepreneurs to sell products online without actually stocking the products themselves. Instead, items are purchased from a third-party supplier and shipped directly to the customer.
Again, this is another sound way to build cash flow until you are ready to go out on your own.
You can also watch this video on how you can setup a simple t-shirt business on Shopify using the same print-on-demand model mentioned earlier:
How to Start a Clothing Line with No Experience
Even though the clothing sector is lucrative, differentiation is still an integral part of starting and running a successful business.
When you have little to no experience, here are the areas you should focus on once you get started:
Who are you creating clothing for? Most new designers find more success within a specific niche, so explore your options. You want to avoid major brands that offer a wide range of products (at least until you can grow your business anyway).
Design is also a major contributor to sales; your strategy should appeal and resonate with your target customer.
With a unique, differentiated design, it’s possible to stand out in even the most competitive markets.
Don’t copy, make yourself different and give your customers a reason to purchase your product.
Before you commit to a specific design, do some research on your target market, you should understand your customers’ market demographics and psychological preferences.
Competitor research is also essential! See what’s working for others and improve it in your unique way!
If you are unsure about the designs you have in mind, consider trying a print on demand model for a while.
The Quality and Fit
Ideally, you want to attract customers that will become repeat buyers. One way to ensure this is to focus on the quality of your materials and how your products fit.
You must spend time researching materials and manufacturers before you start producing your clothing.
You can also take the lead from top sellers on Amazon and Shopify and use their chosen material blends, which are often listed on their websites.
Sizing guides are relatively standard, and this information can easily be found online.
If you feel like you are in over your head and learn how to start a clothing business for free (or with a small budget) from a pro, I suggest you find a mentor.
How Much Money Do You Need to Start a Clothing Line?
As with any business, starting a clothing line means taking a financial risk. Even if you decide to limit your product categories, offering various sizes and colors is necessary, which can start driving costs up.
If you decide on the dropshipping / print-on-demand model, costs will be much lower. However, if you choose to start your own private label brand, expect to spend anything between $1,000 and $5,000 – and this is just for one type of product in one color.
Materials also make a difference to the overall cost.
The cost of starting a clothing line and growing into a lucrative business is not a small expense, which is why it’s advisable to start small and build up cash flow first.
Even if you have a sizeable budget available, it’s still important to make sure you are spending your money wisely.
Research is an essential step in the process of starting a clothing business as it’s what prevents you from making potentially costly mistakes. From choosing the right manufacturer to knowing how to market your brand, every cent counts.
Again, it might be wise to consult with a mentor before starting a private clothing label.
Do You Need an LLC to Start a Clothing Line?
An LLC is not a necessity when starting a clothing line, but it is an option.
Designers and clothing manufacturers tend to operate as sole proprietors or start an LLC, which requires an operating agreement.
An LLC is only essential if your business has multiple owners or you have a genuine business/tax reason for one. If this is not the case, a sole proprietorship is much easier to set up.
Please note, I can’t advise you on this topic! Speak to a professional!
An LLC can protect your personal assets from business liabilities should it ever come to that, while a sole proprietorship cannot.
Lastly, if you plan to apply for funding, banks and venture capitalists generally prefer to work with LLC’s.
Whether or not an LLC is right for you mostly depends on your business structure and your plans for the future, you’ll have to make this call yourself.
Start Your Clothing Line
A clothing brand can be the ticket to living life as a profitable entrepreneur, but you will need to settle for a slower start with little to no budget.
With enough planning and determination, you can turn a small, print on demand business into a lucrative venture filled with creativity.
My number one piece of advice is to build an audience! Focus a lot of your time on building a community of potential customers. This can be done in the form of a social media following or an email list; there are plenty of options on this side of things.
Cultivate a community of people and serve them with products they’ll enjoy!
If you have any questions about starting a clothing business, leave me a question or comment below.