How to Make Money While in College

start a t-shirt business in college

You’re in college and the parents’ money supply stopped flowing. Maybe they told you it’s time for you to get a job. Or maybe you’re going to school part-time while still working another job.

Whatever the reason ends up being, you’re a poor college student who needs a couple extra bucks. If you’re not one for the “work study” programs, or you just don’t want to make minimum wage, have you ever thought of starting your own business… right now?

It’s time to start putting some of that education to use.

(By the way, even if you aren’t in college, but live in a college town, listen up! This information is just as useful for you, too.)

A custom t-shirt business is a great business idea for college students. Whether you simply want some extra cash for weekends, to pay for books, or even to help pay your own tuition, t-shirts can be the way to accomplish these goals.

On a college campus, there is never a shortage of people who want custom t-shirts for their groups, clubs, events, parties, etc.

Every student organization gets t-shirts. Some of them get t-shirts all the time. The custom screen printed t-shirt is never going to go out of style.

How to Print Your Own T-Shirts from Your Dorm Room

It’s easy to get started. You don’t need expensive equipment, lots of room, or messy inks. You can do it all straight from your dorm room or that tiny shoe box apartment you’re renting.

It’s all done with just a heat press and screen printed transfer sheets. If you have 3 feet of space, you can print shirts.

Screen printed transfers (what you will be using) are made using the same process as screen printed t-shirts. Instead of screening ink onto the t-shirt itself, the ink is applied to a special release paper. The ink is then partially cured so it is not wet anymore by the time you get it.

All you have to do is create your design (which is always fun), and it is shipped to you fast as a custom screen printed transfer. When we say fast, we mean it. A 1 color design ships out next day!

Then, just use your heat press to apply the transfer to a blank t-shirt in just 4 seconds. The finished shirt has a screen printed design and has the same durability as if it were screen printed directly on the shirt.

There is no mess or clean up. Just paper.

It’s the easiest and fastest way to print a custom t-shirt.


The Art You Need

Most likely, you are not an artist. If you’re like most people, you can barely draw a stick figure! That’s ok, don’t worry.

The Idea Book™ (along with has a collection of over 5,000 layouts that are ready for you to customize with your own text. Swap out the clip art with over 7,000 pieces to choose from. After you choose your ink colors, fonts, and size, it will be your own design!

You don’t have to be an artist to create awesome looking t-shirt designs.

If you are an artist, or have the ability to create your own artwork, you can get that printed, too. Easily upload the artwork you have.

Marketing Your New T-Shirt Business

Once you have decided to start your own t-shirt business, you’ll need to let people know you can print their shirts for them. Being on campus, this will be pretty simple.

Are you in any organizations? Start with them. Let the officers of the organization know that you can print the shirts for the group. You already know them, so it should be pretty easy to do this.

The quickest and easiest way to get business outside of your own organizations is to print up some flyers and hang them on the student center bulletin boards. Include your email or phone number for contact.

Then branch out to your friends. What organizations are they a part of? Ask them for the contact information of their organization’s officers. Contact the officers and let them know you can print shirts. Even ask if you can attend their next meeting to present to their group what you can do for them.

Use this same process to then go after all of the organizations on campus. After you have done some shirts for others, show them the designs you have created for the other groups on campus.

Put on your creative thinking cap for other ways to market your business.

A college campus is the perfect spot to use guerilla marketing! Use sidewalk chalk to create some ads on the sidewalks all over campus.

advertise with sidewalk chalk

[Related Content: 10 Marketing Ideas on a Budget for Your T-Shirt Business]

Our marketing kit comes with a shirt that you can wear that states you make custom t-shirts! Wear this and you become your own walking billboard.

Visit your college radio station if you have one. The students who run the station may be able to make a commercial for you as part of one of their projects.

Create table tents and place them in the cafeteria. Print out flyers and give them to the mail room to place in student mailboxes. There are so many ways you can spread the word about your custom t-shirt business.

Every time you print shirts for a group, ask if you can put your logo on the back of the shirt or the sleeve for extra promotion. If they are hesitant, maybe offer them a small discount if they allow you to do it.

[Related Content: T-Shirt Marketing 101: Promotion]

Print More Than T-Shirts

With a heat press, you can print more than t-shirts. This is also another way you can make money.

Throughout the year, there are various events on campus that organizations put on. Do they need extra items for this event?

How are they going to promote the event? You can print promotional items for them, such as can coolers, caps, hoodies, cinch sacks, laundry bags, and other bags.

[Related Content: Can Coolers: Favorite Promotional Product to Heat Print]

Print your own promotional products to hand out. This is another way you can get your name out there on campus. What college student isn’t going to want a free t-shirt or can cooler? Give them the free item in exchange for passing out some flyers for you.

[Related Content: Supplementing Sales with Promotional Products]

wholesale blank apparel

Pricing Your Custom T-Shirts

Making money printing t-shirts is easy. However, every market is different for what you can charge for a custom t-shirt.

To find out what you will be able to charge, simply start asking organizations what they are paying for their shirts. This will give you an idea what you can charge as well.

A simple formula to start with is to take your t-shirt cost + your transfer cost and double that for a selling price.

(price of t-shirt + price of transfer) x 2 = selling price

For example, if your blank t-shirt cost you $2.75 and your transfer cost you $1.99, your total cost of making each shirt is $4.74. If you double it, you can sell this shirt for about $9.50 each.

If an organization has 50 people in it, you are able to make over $235 on that one order! ($4.74 x 50 = $237)

[Related Content: T-Shirt Marketing 101: Price]

What You Need to Print Shirts

Hopefully we’ve inspired you to you start making money by printing your own custom t-shirts. The market is right there in front of you on a college campus.

All you need to get started is a heat press. This is the only piece of equipment you need to print shirts.

Scrape together the last of your summer job money. If you put together a small business plan, maybe your parents will even give you the money if you prove to them that you are using it for a good reason and will make money with it.

Our t-shirt heat presses start at $700 (financing is also available to make a few monthly payments if you prefer).

(Tip: Make sure you do your homework when purchasing a heat press. This is your only investment and your business depends on this piece of equipment. If you go too cheap, you run the risk of providing your customers with a bad quality printed shirt. This will cost you more in the long run while also ruining your business reputation!)

t-shirt heat press

MAXX® and Hotronix® brand heat presses are meant for commercial use and a brand you can rely on.

Using a heat press is easy and takes no skill to learn. Get your heat press and plug it in. It’s ready to start. If you can pull down a heat press handle, you can print shirts!

[Related Content: How to Set Up a Heat Press for T-Shirt Printing]

How many organizations are on your college campus? How many times do they order custom shirts?

You’ll have that heat press paid for in no time and on your way to making some money!

Get started now designing your first t-shirt in our online designer, Easy View. It’s free and also easy to use. Choose a design and you’ll have it customized in just minutes.

Who knows, maybe you’re even starting your dream job while you’re in college. Start your own business, be your own boss. Living the dream…