How to Sell 25 Shirts in Two Weeks

Text: UPDATE 4/15/2014: Now designers only need to sell 12 shirts to make it to print. However, you still need to sell 25 shirts to get your share of the profit. Carry on.

Congratulations! Your shirt has been accepted by the highly selective cadre of judges, suits, and censors here at Cotton Bureau Global Headquarters—alright, it's actually just Jay—and your shirt will go live any day now. Now what?

Well, it's time to get selling.

"Selling?" you say, incredulous. "You mean like..." now you're whispering, "'self promotion?'" Yes, in fact. Exactly like self promotion. It has come to our attention that somewhere along the line, "self promotion" became a nasty buzzword, so we're here to put a bullet in that line of thinking once and for all.

Now we know what you're all thinking. "Self-promotion makes me feel icky. Isn't Cotton Bureau big and bad and popular and handsome enough that I don't have to work too hard?" HAHAHA. That's very flattering. And I mean, we're cool and all, and we get our fair share of daily passersby, but we don't have nearly the traffic to sell 25 of your shirt for you. Besides, you don't want to compete with the rest of the designs on the site, do you? Have you seen them? They're pretty good. Nope, it's best to bring your own audience to the party.

The Hard Truth

Let's rip this band-aid off as quickly as we can. If you don't actively try to promote your t-shirt, you will not sell 25 shirts in 2 weeks and your t-shirt will not go to print. (Phew, glad that's over.)

Is it the worst thing in the world if your shirt doesn't go to print? Of course not. The truth is, most shirts don't make it. But look, we're not here just to be some internet gallery of make-believe t-shirts. We're here to put some cotton—and occasionally polyester and/or rayon—on the backs of eager customers. Isn't that what you want? Yes? Good, let's talk about how we accomplish that.

Social Media

You need to tweet. And not those half-assed "oh, I'll just retweet Cotton Bureau" tweets either. No no need a gen-yoo-wine first party tweet. Include a link. Better yet, include a link and a photo. If you're clever, a snappy quip wouldn't hurt. Wait, what's that? You're not on Twitter? [turns to camera, "it's 2014...who's not on Twitter?"] Alright fine, then post it on Facebook so your Aunt Ginny and your best friend from 3rd grade can buy one. Slap a picture on Instagram (even though they don't let you link to anything). Pin it. Svpply it. Dribbble it. Get it out there. And not just once, which brings us to...


One tweet on Day 1 and one tweet on Day 14 isn't gonna cut it, especially if you don't have a zillion followers. Your shirt is out there in the sunshine for 14 days; you need to be spreading the word at least every other day. People have short attention spans—even the people who really really care about you and would gladly plunk down upwards of $25 in your name. You need to remind them. And frankly, you need to be borderline shameless about it.


You know that old saw about a picture being worth 1,000 words? Well, a post on a popular blog is worth 1,000 tweets. A link from Swiss Miss or Cool Hunting will get you to 25 and beyond. Get a link from Uncrate? can retire. But you don't need to shoot for the moon. Is your shirt about coffee? Try to get featured on a popular coffee blog. Same for bikes, or sports, or, you know, pugs or whatever. Reddit is a great place to find diehards of any topic. Just make sure you're in the right board.

Emails & Texts

Doesn't get more old school than that, unless you have access to a telegraph and/or the Pony Express. But seriously, who's more likely to buy your shirt: some stranger on the internet, or a friend/family member/co-worker who you can make a direct, personal, pleading appeal to? That's what we thought. And look, you probably bought 12 boxes of their daughter's Girl Scout Cookies this year (mmm, Tagalongs). Think of it as reciprocity.

A Little Help From Your Friends

Does your buddy have 10 times as many followers as you do? Is your sister huge on Pinterest? What about your company's email list? Ask if you can borrow their megaphone. You don't have to do this by yourself.

You Had One Job...

OK, maybe two jobs. Let us explain. There's a lot of work that goes into selling a t-shirt online. Coming up with a sweet design, choosing from the near-infinite variety of fabrics and ink types, finding a print shop that's not just two punks in a garage, building a fancy online store, pimping it, making sure you have your artwork, Pantones, and specs in just the right format, driving all the way over for press checks, navigating the horrors of shipping, and patching things up when you sent the wrong size to a customer in Sweden. We're only asking you to do two of those things: designing and promotion.

That's not so hard, is it? Now go make it happen. Good luck!