Getting Started

You have an idea for a killer t-shirt. You may even already have a design you’re planning on using. But wait! It’s one thing to design a tee, but it’s a totally different thing to create one that people will love and wear. But here’s the thing: 

Every t-shirt has an intended audience, whether you realize it or not.

If you don’t already know who would want to buy your shirts, it’s crucial that you find—or create—that audience. Whether you’re an artist looking to promote your own personal designs or an entrepreneur hoping to establish your own brand, the first step to launching a successful campaign on Teespring begins with identifying and clarifying a niche of individuals within an audience who will be interested in your unique tees. 

So let’s put the physical design on hold for a moment and get conceptual first. 

what counts as an audience?

An audience is a group of individuals that share an interest. These groups are everywhere, even in places you might not realize, and between individuals you might not associate together.

Here are some examples:

  • Rap music aficionados

  • Basketball fans upset their favorite player switched teams

  • New Yorkers participating in an annual Cancer Walk

  • A university intramural sports team

  • Kale lovers in San Francisco

  • Fans of abstract and non-conventional art


List five audiences that you’d want to design a t-shirt for. Try to come up with at least one for each of these categories: those with a shared interest, people talking about a controversy, a group that you’re a part of. 
Audience #1:

Audience #2:

Audience #3:

Audience #4:

Audience #5:

Narrowing an Audience into a Niche

A “niche” is a smaller section of a larger audience, whose members are interested in very specific things. By identifying these precise groups, you can create tailor-made shirts  that sync perfectly with their interests. As a general rule of thumb for Teespring campaigns, the smaller the niche you target, the better. For example, it’s hard for a tee about the medical field to stand out. However, male nurses over 40 that love Taylor Swift is a very specific audience that will dig a certain kind of tee.

As you or your designer put together your creative, stop and ask yourself: Who would wear this shirt? What kind of people? Where would I find someone wearing a similar shirt? Then think more externally: What kind of interests do these people have? What kind of groups would they be a part of online? What social media groups would they frequent? This is how you can begin to identify the ideal audience for your designs, and go from there. 

Think of this process as trying to create the most resonant design for a particular group of people—and not as trying to sell the most unique design that a general population will love. If you have your design already, then focus on identifying that group.  

Figure out who your audience is and where you can find them.

This discovery process is called “targeting” in marketing language, and will allow you to better understand how to effectively promote your tee to the “right” people once your campaign is live. 

Going back to our earlier example of shirts for those in the medical field, you can get more specific by targeting orthopedic surgeons or paramedics. Another good way to identify a niche is to look for overlapping audiences—think of this as a Venn Diagram, or an intersection of two or three big audiences that have some overlap. Female paramedics who like cooking, for example.


Moving forward, we’ll continue to use paramedics as our primary example of a real niche that has yielded immensely successful campaigns. Remember that the strategies we lay out are applicable to whichever niche you choose. 


Look back at your list of potential audiences and refine each of them into something more specific. Choose a niche that seems particularly promising.

Deepening Your Dive

By now, you should have identified your niche. Excellent. The fact that you’ve even thought about this means you’re way ahead of the game. With this information, you can now start thinking about your potential design in a new light—and hopefully design and promote a shirt that your audience loves.

But we’ve only scratched the surface of understanding tee creation and design. And the more you know, the further you’ll understand your audience and your niche—and score potential gain down the line. 

The next step will be to learn more about your niche members through research, engagement and genuine interest. The community you discover will not only provide you with deep insight into what these individuals would love to buy and wear—but they can also become potential connections that will help give you feedback, provide social shares and ultimately build your brand (if that’s what you want). 

where the niche lives

So how do you get to know and understand the people within your niche? 

First, let’s think about exactly where our niche hangs out. This is the first step in understanding where we can reach out to them in our quest to ultimately learn from, engage with and promote to them.

your niche members: who they are

We’ve found the main “watering holes” of our niche: where we can find our niche members and where they like to spend their time. Awesome. If you’ve come this far, it is clear that you really care about creating a meaningful design for these individuals. 

So who are these people? The next step in delving deeper is reaching out. Take time to follow, interact with and befriend individual members of your target niche via their online profiles. 

Remember: If you really want to contribute something to your customers’ community—or if you want to bring together a mass of interconnected but unconnected individuals (for example: Chihuahua Lovers in Texas)—then reaching out isn’t necessarily intimidating. Be friendly. Be respectful. If you express your intentions in a positive way, people are often happy to positively respond back.

As you research, it'll be helpful to ask yourself key questions like: What excites my niche? What makes them laugh? What would they proudly wear on a t-shirt?

Macro scale insights into your niche
Use Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to give you a better sense of big trends in the niche: What is the ratio of men to women? The average age? Average household income? Popular shared interests? A search for Californians who like EMTs and Paramedics tells us that men are more outwardly interested in the subject.

Keep insights like this one in mind as you design and promote your tee. For example, if you know that 45% of your niche’s members are women, you’ll want to offer some women’s styles.

Micro scale insights
Like digital photographs and Photoshop documents, raster graphics are made up of thousands of tiny squares, or pixels. Typically found in .JPGs, .PNGs, .GIFs, .PSDs, and .TIFFs, these graphics look great at their original size, but become grainy and “pixelated” if that size changes. On a shirt, those pixels can print with rough edges, so try to use vector graphics when possible.

Contribute to the niche, pitch your idea
To reiterate: Engage with your audience as genuinely as possible to create the best possible design. For example, if you want to know if people are even interested in a tee for Emergency Medical Responders, you could ask a few niche members on Twitter by @replying them. If they’re interested, note that interest and tell them you’ll get back to them when the design is finished.

locating past designs

To further inform how your design will be received, take some time to search and see if any similar t-shirts have previously been designed for your audience, and note whether they were successful or not. Start with a basic Google search, then expand to sites like Zazzle and Amazon if you wish. This is a great way to potentially get inspiration, but also to figure out what to avoid doing. You don’t want to recreate a t-shirt that has already been done before. This way, you’ll stay original, avoid copyright infringement and skip the embarrassment of recreating a tee that has already been thoroughly sold to your audience before.


Identify three places where you can reach members of your niche, 
then rank these places based on member engagement level. Save 
this list for when you begin to promote your design.
List 5 audiences that you’d want to design a t-shirt for. Come up 
with at least one for each of these categories: those with a shared 
interest, people talking about a controversy, a group that you’re a 
part of. 

Channeling Your Idea Into an Original Design

At this point you should know your audience pretty well. Now it’s time to take this knowledge and apply it to the design itself. What kind of designs would your intended audience wear? Check out some examples where entrepreneurs successfully selected an audience and designed a shirt that they (and their fans) loved. 


With this highly successful shirt, engineers got to show off their profession as well as the full range of what it means to be an engineer. The designer of this t-shirt explained the process: 

We actually had two versions to start out with. One just said 'Engineering' while the other was 'Trust Me, I’m an Engineer.' We reached out to our audience and found out the second version was more popular. We then kept working on this version and kept receiving feedback from all the engineers and engineering students who followed our Facebook page. After many changes we then released it to our audience.

My inspiration in creating the design came from engineering. There are so many different disciplines in engineering that we could work with. We had electrical engineering, computer engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and many more to work with! Engineering is a beautiful topic and each discipline in engineering has so much to offer. Looking into each discipline we tried designing a shirt that all engineers could relate to. We tried putting in what was popular in each discipline and we gathered this information from our audience.


Write down 2-5 ideas first and pitch those to the potential buyers 
you identified previously. Refine only the best ones. Remember that 
many successful designs go through a handful of attempts before 
finding the right one.

Building Out Your Audience

Perhaps you choose an audience that doesn’t have a single, well-organized forum for its members, or you think you can create a better place than what currently exists to bring together your audience. This is a new opportunity to build a community, a brand and a following. If you’re passionate about the group, there’s a good chance others will be too. Start by building relationships with people you’ve found to be most invested in your ideas, and build out from there. 

Create content your audience will love and share.

But remember: This process doesn’t happen overnight. Building and nurturing a sizable audience can take months—even years. And this certainly isn’t necessary for being successful on Teespring—you can be successful simply by interacting with a number of separate audiences and ideas. However, Teespring does provide you with the platform and tools to build something of greater depth if you so choose. 

By diving in, you have the chance to create something long-term and super-awesome.

Next steps

You made it! And in getting this far, you’ve set a solid groundwork for a successful campaign. Now that you’ve identified your niche and you understand their community and interests, you are ready and prepared to start designing an awesome and resonant idea that people are going to love.

For additional resources on building your audience check out the Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience by QuickSprout. For design tips, tricks, strategies, and more, read the next course.