Chapter 1: I'm broke so I want to build a DTG printer to make millions.

It's that time of the year again: summer is over (financially speaking) and the biggest t-shirt brands are already done with Christmas designs and prep. Most brands were done with Christmas a month ago.

That means there's going to be an influx of folks who want to get into the t-shirt business (because they missed the summer busy season), and the majority of them follow this 10 point plan:
  1. They have no money.  Spending $500 a month on beer and cable TV was more important to them than saving money towards a business.
  2. They have a 5-10 year history of dreaming about success but have done zero groundwork actually doing successful planning.
  3. They envision what their shirt designs will look like but they have nothing on paper.
  4. They don't own a graphic design program, they have a bootleg version of Photoshop from 6 versions back that errors out randomly.
  5. The most popular t-shirt design they ever had was something they designed in MS Paint in 5 minutes, uploaded to Zazzle, and sold 3 shirts to their mother, their then-girlfriend, and some random person by luck.  They spent over 60 hours of their time spamming forums and social networks with links to their low quality design, and all they got out of it was $9 in commissions.
  6. They assume the cost of doing business is $600 for an Epson P600 and 2 hours of time hacking it to be a DTG printer.
  7. They don't have a domain name for their brand name, and their brand name is probably 3 random letters that signifies their initials.  DGY Fashion or GFY Streetwear or KXV Athletics.
  8. They want to know the "best and cheapest" of everything, even though the best is never the cheapest, and the cheapest is never the best.
  9. The only thing they want to sell is black shirts, and they want those to have graphics that are 16"x20" on both sides.  Just like Nike or some urban brand.  They also want a sleeve print and a custom collar tag.  And metallic foil.  And embroidery.
  10. They figure they have 1200 friends on Facebook so that means they can probably sell thousands of shirts at $30 a pop and retire in the Bahamas by Christmas.
It's possible this list describes you.  In all likelihood it does.  That's because it's much easier to dream about success than to actually take the important step to plan for it responsibly.

My series called DTG Hell will cover chapter by chapter the actual steps one must take to become success.  DIY DTG can be part of it, but it's no guarantee.  Worse than DIY DTG is getting a lease or a loan for $40,000 of equipment before you actually have a successful product to print.  

Chapter 2 Preview, "Sell shirts before you print shirts"
My first 1200 DTG t-shirts I sold lost me nearly $8000 total, because I contracted them out.  But once I sold 1200 shirts to others, I knew I now had the volume and brand recognition to print my own shirts.
The truth is, DIY DTG can be a remarkable asset to those who take the minimal steps needed to shift from dreamer to do-er.  All it takes is making the decision to hold the advantaged position.

The best reason I have succeeded in life is because I took the advantaged position of knowing that most people will only be dreamers, so as long as I take at least a few steps to do something, I'm already ahead of 95%.

I love the idea of an open foundation for DTG because it means an actual do-er is going to have assets and information available that isn't clouded by salesman speak.
2 years ago I created a new domain name just for kicks and put up a very simple HTML website up.  No PHP, no MySQL, just pre-written Paypal shopping cart links and a Paypal checkout button.

I wrote every page by hand and made it a point to create 1 new design every 3 days, with no more than 60 minutes spent on any one design (20 minutes per day).  It was a lot of typography work, just drawing words on paper (my handwriting is very very low quality chickenscratch).

I wasn't going to promote the website more than 1 link every 2 weeks on my personal Facebook page.

After 3 months I sold 2 t-shirts.  Put in over 2100 minutes up to that point on the site, designs, etc.  That's 35 hours for a profit of about $18.  So my hourly income was $0.50 or so per hour.

After 6 months, I sold about 45 t-shirts total.  At this point, I was invested over 3800 minutes (about 64 hours) for a profit of about $400.  Now my hourly income was averaging $6.25.  Not quite minimum wage.

After 9 months, I was up to about 300 t-shirts sold total.  I was still making 2 new designs a week, and my handwriting skills got a LOT better.  Still crap compared to professional graphic designers, but after 270 days I was up to 300 shirts sold.  Almost 6000 minutes in (100 hours) with a net profit of $2700.  $27 per hour average in 9 months, or twice the living wage where I live.

12 months?  Christmas included (woot!) and I was closing in on 800 shirts sold.  $7200 profit, 9000 minutes of work, 150 hours.  $48 per hour average for every hour I worked.

After 2 years, the website started having issues because the Paypal shopping cart code was dog slow in responding for whatever reason and people were obviously creating carts but not checking out.  So I merged many of the best designs into another site of mine, made some 301 forwarding URLs, and let the dotcom expire eventually.

IIRC, 2 years brought me around $20,000 in profit for about 20,000 minutes of work or 330 hours.  $60 an hour average.  But the first few months I was literally throwing my time away.

Little tiny steps, every day.  My SEO juice was massive because I hand wrote my code and it displayed instantly versus ecommerce sites that take 3-7 seconds to load a page.  I learned HTML, I learned how to manage traffic better, I learned how to handle web sales without a back end admin page to guide me, etc.

I got a free education out of it, invested 15-30 minutes a day every day (including vacation and weekends) and never once had any headaches or hassles.  The $20,000 bought me a boat.

In the same time, I see people who just dream of success.  They think earning $18 for 35 hours of work is a waste of time, so they give up well before they even get to 2 sales in 35 hours.  They're dreamers.

Dreamers never succeed.  Dreamers live for one purpose: to make other men wealthy when they buy the dreams those men are selling.

Just. Do. It.  Lol.
And even if you aren't bringing the market value today, all it takes is a market shift and all of a sudden you're selling more than you can manage.

We sold a certain style of t-shirt for 6 years.  The first 2 years no one wanted it, but I would do some giveaways every month to try to generate interest.  I kept posting photos and blogging about it.  Then it got HOT, and then the local newspapers interviewed us about it and now we do those shirts every week.

2 years ago I had an idea for a cut and sew tailored t-shirt that would be custom printed on the back and upgraded as you got older.  Picture a baby toddler t-shirt with "2016" printed on the back at the top.  Then 2 years later, they bring it in, we cut it down to panels, add another few inches all around (different color material maybe) and then print "2018" on the back below the other number.

After 20 years, you have one of those creepy memory quilts.

The idea failed miserably.  No one wanted to spend $25 on the upgrade, and at $25 we were losing money.  But what if it succeeded?  I took a risk, I lost, but new ideas come every few months to try again.
Great post.
Myself dealing with the sales of branded dtg and other printers this thread made me laugh.

It's oh so true and makes a lot of sense.
But it is true... people aren't willing to take the time and effort to make it work.

The most common thing I hear is:
"I have $5000 to setup my business and buy equipment, setup a webpage and buy stock"
Here is Australia most decent branded heat presses are half of that person's budget.
So people cheap out and buy a $300 Chinese press that... yes, they work but give printing issues.
And because they haven't made their money back, loose interest or don't do the maintenance required, it all ends up going pear shaped and failing.

Even that I sell the equipment I spend more of my time educating people on the ends and wants of T-shirt printing rather than doing the hard sale for the equipment.
Which a lot of companies still do... which is sad. As it gives this great industry a bad name and a sour taste in people mouths.

My advice to people is to pick a machine that you think is the best... (print size, ink style, ease of use and how much maintenance) fairly simple yeah?

If you end up buying a machine with bulk ink choose the right ink... don't buy on the cheap.
The new ink formulas will help save heads.

I have run firebird ink in a dtg branded machine and we haven't had to replace heads or do any major repairs in over 2 years. With DuPont we had nothing but problems with drop outs and failures. Yes it printed well but there were knock on effects.

Research research research and ask questions.
That's all I say
And I want to say thank you to Andy and everyone who has contributed to the wealth of information on this forum, as it has provided me with the tools to save my 3D printer consumables manufacturing business. No longer will I have to chase the OEM's attempts to put me out of business making consumables for their 3D printers, ( I am the only other manufacturer that produces a working product for the OEM's 3D printers in the world, selling 30 lbs for $500 while the OEM charges $1,100 for the same 30 lbs of powder). An RFID authentication system added to their 3D printers to authenticate their consumables is the their latest attempt to thwart my production.... I wish I could see their faces when I produce a $5,000 printer that competes with their $300,000 printer! OpenDTG kicks a$$!! The OEM can Eat Pants!