Recipe: Drop Ship T-shirt Site

Recipe: Drop Ship T-shirt Site

In this recipe, I’ll run you through the steps to configure a WordPress site for selling drop shipped print on demand t-shirts.

This is a bit of an outline and assumes you have some experience of using WordPress and installing plugins.

If you’d like to see what a site looks like, visit Uncle Chuckles. This differs only in that it doesn’t use the Storefront theme. Instead, it uses another free theme and the Elementor plugin, which I list at the end as optional.

If you get stuck at any point, feel free to get in touch and ask a question. However the internet is full of articles on WordPress, so you may find it quicker to try searching for an answer to any queries. It’s likely you won’t be the first person who has had the query.

If you already have a WordPress website, skip to step 3. You can use your existing site for this, unless you want a new separate site specifically for your t-shirt brand.

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1: Get your domain name

Go to Namecheap and register a domain name for your site.

You can find domain registrars that are cheaper than Namecheap for the first year, but the price usually jumps significantly when you renew.

I personally use Namecheap when buying domain names now and cost is around $10 or $11 per year.

2: Get WordPress web hosting

Go to Siteground and buy their cheapest WordPress hosting plan. That will be fine when you start out and you can upgrade later if your site gets very busy.

Their cheapest account is about $5 per month for the first year. That’s discounted and it’s about $10 per month for subsequent years. You will find cheaper, but Siteground is widely regarded as one of the best hosts in terms of value and performance.

Slow sites lose sales and cheaper hosting will be slower, because they can’t afford to spend as much on their hosting infrastructure.

Many cheaper hosts also include a free domain name, but don’t be tempted.

Firstly, that just means they’ve got even less money to spend on making your site faster.

Secondly, when you get your domain name from you web host, it makes harder for you to move your site to another host. It’s a customer retention tactic, not them offering you a generous gift.

3: Complete the Essential WordPress setup

Before pressing on, open the Essential WordPress Setup recipe and work through those steps.

That will run you through some basic WordPress configuration steps. You’ll also install a few essential plugins that will make your site faster and more secure.

4: Install WooCommerce on your WordPress site

Go to the Add New plugin page and install and activate WooCommerce. After activating, you can follow through the setup wizard to get the basic settings configured.

One step of the wizard includes an option to install the free Storefront theme. This is checked by default and ensure you leave this checkbox selected.

While Storefront isn’t the sexiest theme, it’s a fantastic starting point for a new ecommerce site. It has been specifically optimized for ecommerce and follows many of the design conventions you’ll see in the biggest ecommerce sites, such as Amazon and Ebay.

You want your site to be easy to navigate and buy from. Storefront fulfills both of those objectives.

5: Install the Printful plugin

Now back to the Add New plugin page and install and activate Printful Integration for WooCommerce.

After activating, you’ll need to connect WooCommerce to Printful. If you haven’t already registered a Printful account, you can do so during this process.

If your business is based in the European Union and you have a VAT number, be sure to add this to your account settings. If you don’t have a VAT number, bear in mind that VAT will be applied to all EU orders when setting your pricing. Because Printful are located in the UK and Latvia, VAT will always be applied to sales to those countries regardless.

You can start adding products to your store now, but I’d recommend you continue configuring your site first

6: Configure WooCommerce

The setup wizard will have handled many aspects WooCommerce, but there will still be a few things to handle.

You’ll want to configure at least one payment service. My personal preference is to use Stripe on its own. However you may prefer to use PayPal or both together. Using more than one payment service may make it easier for your customers to buy.

With both Stripe and PayPal, you can use test or sandbox accounts. This is useful for testing your site as you don’t have to make real payments.

At this point you may want to open Customizer and turn on the site wide notice in WooCommerce. You can use this to display a message that live orders aren’t being accepted. When you turn on your live payment service, remember to turn this off again.

You’ll also want to configure shipping.

Shipping

Make sure you set the countries you can ship to in WooCommerce > Settings > General. Note Printful don’t ship to Cuba, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, so you should at least exclude those. I advise also removing those from countries you sell to.

Personally, as I expect to sell to only English speakers, I’ll usually restrict sales and shipping to English speaking countries. I may also include some or all EU countries, but where you sell to is your choice.

Some countries will be higher risk for fraud and you will be responsible for the costs incurred. That may be a good reason to limit where you sell to.

The Printful plugin can calculate and show customers the actual shipping price when they checkout.

Printful also have a flat rate fee, but often the calculated fee will be lower.

Normally I strongly advise shop owners set a flat rate fee for shipping if possible. This reduces frustration among shoppers as they always know what they will pay for shipping.

However, as the Printful plugin can often supply a lower shipping fee, I prefer a compromise.

Instead of announcing a flat rate shipping fee on each page, I display a notice saying “never pay more than $X for shipping” or similar.

This means customers can shop knowing the maximum shipping cost. At checkout, they may be pleasantly surprised to see a lower fee or choose a faster shipping option.

To use Printful’s shipping calculations, go to the Printful plugin and the Settings tab. There you can choose which services to let your customers choose from. Not all options will be available for every order.

I turn off the Flate Rate option here. I configure my own flat rate option for each shipping destination. This because Printful’s flat rate applies a fee for each additional item ordered. However, I want to set a single flat rate regardless of how many items are ordered.

Then go to WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping and click the Printful Shipping link. Check the Enable/Disable checkbox to turn it on. Also turn off Disable WooCommerce rates if you’ve set your  own flat rate shipping option.

Now customers will be given a choice of shipping options when available. And if the calculated rates are higher than the flat rate, they can select the flat rate fee which you announced on your site as the most they will pay.

Taxes

The last thing to consider is taxes. Taxes are applied to sales in a number of circumstances.

Any US sales to North Carolina and California will have sales tax applied.

All sales European Union member states will have VAT applied at the rate of the customer’s country. If you have a valid EU VAT number, you can register this in your Printful account. In this case VAT will only be charged on sales to the UK and Latvia.

You have two choices when it comes to taxes.

Firstly, you can do nothing. That means you charge the same amount to everyone. In doing so, you understand that for some sales, you will receive a lower payment from Printful. They will separate any taxes that need to be paid before paying you.

Alternatively, you could turn on Enable taxes in WooCommerce. You can then configure taxes for those places Printful has to apply taxes. This means such customers will be charged a higher amount at checkout to offset some or all the tax.

Personally, I favor the first option. It’s simpler for a shop owner and simpler for customers. No-one is going to enter their address at checkout and see the price increase. That’s a sure fire way to annoy customers and increase cart abandonments.

However, it’s entirely your choice how you handle this in your store.

7: Configure Storefront

The WooCommerce wizard installed and activated the Storefront theme.

Open the Customizer and you’ll see an entry for Storefront. Here you’ll find settings to edit what appears on the homepage of your site and some other settings you may want to consider.

8: Install Elementor (optional)

I’ve added this as an optional step that you can choose to ignore. Your own site allows you to send traffic to specific products with no worries about that traffic buying from a competitor. You’re the only seller on your site, so if they buy, they have to buy from you.

Your own site offers another advantage that I’ve ignored till now. You have complete control over your site. That means you can present your products exactly as you want to present them.

So instead of driving your traffic to the normal product page in WooCommerce, you can send it to a more specialised sales page. A page that is completely focused on selling the t-shirt that you shared on social media or displayed in an ad. A page that is more congruous with your post or ad.

Elementor is a fantastic free page builder plugin that you can use to build focused t-shirt sales pages.

You can easily add a button that adds the t-shirt to the cart and then WooCommerce will handle checkout for you That will happen just the same as if they purchased from a normal WooCommerce product page.

Finish

At this point you should now have your own online store for selling drop shipped print on demand t-shirts.

After sending your t-shirts to your site from your Printful account, ensure your payment method is set to live. You’ll also want to turn off the site wide notice if you turned it on.

I recommend you make a mental note to check your first few sales in real time. Make sure that they are sent to Printful correctly and that everything runs smoothly.

When you have your own site to sell t-shirts, it gives you the best of both worlds.

You can list your products on as many marketplaces as you like and take advantage of their audiences.

You can also market your t-shirts wherever you like and send your own qualified traffic to your own site. In so doing you never need to worry about your traffic leaking and buying from your competitors.

I’m Ian Pullen and when not working as a dog and cat butler, I’m a designer/developer and writer who works on projects for solopreneurs, SMBs and multi-nationals like Unilever and Lenovo.
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