How to Start a Clothing Line: What You Can Expect To Earn

Smiling young woman working in a fashion factory.
Elitsa Deykova / Getty Images

The aspiration to design clothes that people love to wear is common. Since everyone needs clothes, starting a clothing line isn’t a bad idea. However, it can be a challenging one to carry out. This guide provides information about starting your own line and the basic steps you should follow for a successful launch.

How To Start a Clothing Line: Assess Your Situation

It’s important to ask yourself, “am I ready to start a clothing line?” People have thousands of thoughts a day, and it can be easy to lock onto one idea. Sometimes you don’t realize until it’s too late that it’s not really something you want, even though it may have sounded good at first.

Starting a clothing line requires a lot of time and dedication, plus you need money to get it started and might not see a return on your initial investment for a while.

With all of this in mind, take the time to consider whether this is really what you want. If the answer is, “Yes,” keep reading below for information on how to get started.

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10 Steps To Starting Your Clothing Line

If you are ready to start a clothing line, the following steps can help you get going successfully.

1. Have a Brainstorming Session

Before you dive into any heavy-duty planning or research, start with getting your ideas out on paper. Starting with a brainstorming session lends direction to your research and gives you a clearer idea of where you want to go.

While brainstorming, answer the following questions:

  • What type of clothing do you want to sell? Kids’, adults’, men’s, or women’s? Do you want to make general wear clothing or aim for dressier items?
  • Where would you like to sell your clothing? What retailers sell products similar to the ones you’re looking to make? Would you prefer to sell online or through brick-and-mortar retailers?
  • How large do you want your clothing line to be?

Write down anything else that comes to mind and draw out some sketches of your design ideas.

2. Do Your Research

Once you have your ideas flowing, you can start the research. Check out the market for the types of clothing you wish to sell. Get a sense of what’s doing well and try to figure out why it’s doing so well.

Also, research technical and design details for the type of clothing you’d like to make. What type of material is best for that type of clothing? How much does that material cost?

Take the time to seriously research your market so that you can be prepared. Read stories from other newer designers as well to learn what they did to make their dreams come true.

3. Write a Business Plan

You should now have enough information to write a preliminary business plan. It should clearly state your goals and how you plan to meet them, providing a detailed visualization of at least the next few years.

Keep in mind that you are bound to change your mind about some things, and that’s okay! Your preliminary business plan doesn’t have to be perfect. The point is to give you a map to follow until you decide to make changes.

4. Register Your Business

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It’s time to make your business legal. Some of the steps below can be completed prior to registering your business, such as building your team and finding your manufacturer. However, it can often be easier to get people on board when you are already a legally recognized business.

Registering your business starts with determining what type of entity it will be. You can choose sole proprietorship, S Corp, LLC, general partnership, limited partnership and more.

After choosing this, you’ll need to register your company in your state. Requirements differ, so you’ll have to determine them based on your state.

You’ll also likely need an employer identification number, or EIN. This is used when paying business taxes and hiring employees.

If you’re going to be a sole proprietor and never hire any employees, you can use your social security number for tax purposes. However, it can be helpful to have an EIN anyway to protect yourself from identity theft, add an extra layer between your business and personal finances and have a better shot at getting approved for business credit cards or loans.

5. Find a Manufacturer

By now, you should know what you want your clothes to look like and what material you want them made from. Unless you plan to sew and stitch every item by your own hand, you need to find a manufacturer.

You’ll want to speak with several and ask about their minimum order quantity and prices. You should also check out any reviews of the company, ensuring that they provide quality and work. Many clothing designers find great manufacturers with fair pricing overseas, though this doesn’t mean you should avoid researching manufacturers in America, too.

6. Price Your Product

The manufacturer’s pricing will play a major role in the price you charge your customers. You’ll want to find a balance between getting quality clothing and charging a price your target market can afford to pay. If you choose a manufacturer that charges too much, you’ll either have to charge more or expect a lower profit.

Take a look at what others in your market are charging for similar items and aim to compete with them. With some research and creativity, you can find the right pricing structure without sacrificing quality.

7. Build Your Team

Most small business owners are determined to go it alone. Unfortunately, this method can quickly lead to burnout and business failure.

Instead, choose the parts of your business you want to be hands-on with, and then build a team to do the rest. For example, drawing the clothing designs may be the entire reason you started your clothing line, but you really don’t like marketing. You can either hire an employee to take care of marketing or outsource it to an external company.

8. Fund Your Business

The amount you need to get started depends on how hard you want to break out into the market. If you are aiming to start small, you can often do so with less than $1,000–sometimes with just a few hundred.

For a medium-sized clothing line, you probably need at least a couple of thousand dollars. Larger lines can cost tens of thousands of dollars to start.

Some costs that help determine your initial investment include: materials, manufacturing, delivery, distribution and marketing.

If you have personal funds put away, consider using them. Doing this means you owe no interest to others and that any profit you make goes to you. However, it can take some time for your clothing line to get off the ground, meaning your money will be tied up for a while. If that would impact your personal finances, you should probably consider other options.

Some clothing designers ask family and friends for small dollar loans. Sometimes, loved ones will not charge interest but, if they do, it’s often lower than a bank loan.

Another option is to get a loan from a bank or other financial institution. This can be difficult for brand-new businesses as they have no financial history to show the bank. If your credit is in good shape, though, you can likely get a personal loan to help with the costs. You might even run across some grants or other opportunities while searching.

You might also consider investors. These could be personal connections or other businesses. Remember, though, that this means they’ll be earning money from your business, so your profit will not be yours alone.

9. Post Your Product

Earlier you decided where you wanted to sell your product. If this is in-store, you’ll need to determine what your target retailer expects of vendors. It may take some time to get a deal with your favorite retailer, though.

Whether you sell in-store or not, you should also sell your clothing online. There are many ways to do this, such as through your own website, through a platform like Shopify or even through Etsy. Whichever route you choose, be sure that you have great pictures of your clothing to share online.

10. Market Your Business

How much and how well you market your business will make a big difference in your success. The most common way to engage in marketing is through the internet.

Online marketing can take many forms. Consider starting social media pages for your brand and gathering names for an email list so that your customers can keep up with your business. Targeted advertising is another great way to leverage the internet to your advantage.

How Much Can You Expect To Earn?

There is no set answer for this question as earnings vary wildly throughout the industry. Some smaller, less well-known lines might only net around $10,000-$20,000 per year. Brands like Nike make billions each year. The earnings potential is limitless.

Advice

When you begin to market your product, go easy on yourself. Every platform comes with different rules and trends, and it can be difficult to learn them all at once. Pick one or two platforms to focus on, and then you can add others.

Final Take

Starting a clothing line can be a lucrative business for many, but it takes a lot of time, commitment, and money to get started. Reflect on your decision carefully before you begin, so you can be sure it’s the right move for you.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Brandy Woodfolk is an entrepreneur, teacher, and freelance writer. She received my Bachelor of Business Administration from Everest College, Digital Marketing Certification from Shaw Academy, Certificate in Personal and Family Financial Planning from the University of Florida Through Coursera, and she is completing her Master’s of Project Management from Northcentral University. She has dedicated her freelance writing career to creating content related to digital marketing and SEO, business, personal finance, family, and health and wellness.

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