Christian Heidorn’s Online T-Shirt Business Success Story

Getting to know Christian Heidorn

Hi everyone and welcome back to another installment of Placeit’s Success Stories series. Today we’d like to introduce you to Christian Heidorn, t-shirt designer and entrepreneur since 2008. Christian managed to turn his passion into a business and learned to scale his operations with the help of various Print-on-Demand (POD) Platforms. He has also produced his own line of high-end t-shirts and even teaches others how to build their own online t-shirt business. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s pass it over to Christian and prepare to be inspired.

Chris, your story is quite unique. Can you tell us a bit more about how you went into the t-shirt business?

I think the way I initially got into the business wasn’t particularly unique to be honest. Yes, I love creating and designing things, but so do a lot of other people. Throughout my youth and University studies I was more or less on the ideal, picture-perfect path towards a great corporate career.

And then came the big financial crisis and it hit right when I was meant to start my first job at a big consultancy. I was immediately laid off. I didn’t even work for a single day. And so I ended up back at square one and started looking for a new job.

Now, as you may come to realize, it’s absolutely impossible to write applications 24/7. So you ultimately reach a point where you feel the need to fill that vacuum of time with useful things to do. I thought the Spreadshirt concept was quite interesting and had already played around with it a bit but never seriously pursued it because I didn’t have the time before. But now I did and since it was related to designing stuff, I decided to give it a go.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I was actually pretty damn good at using Spreadshirt as a platform and quickly reached a point where I was able to cover most of my monthly expenses out of my own pocket. In the meantime I had also found and started a new job at a company in Hamburg (Germany), but I continued to push the little side business I had going because I saw a lot of potential in it.

I decided it was time to scale up big time.

Go Captain! Custom Produced T-Shirts
Go Captain! Custom Produced T-Shirts

Oh wow, how exactly did you do that?

Luckily I was a bit of a computer nerd growing up and I taught myself a couple of programming languages, including PHP for web development purposes. Using those pre-existing skills and reading up on a few more things, I started writing scripts to help automate some of the more tedious tasks including tracking my sales reports and publishing new designs.

Later on I evolved these processes using automation tools such as “Keyboard Maestro”. I would essentially create macros which simulated all of the stuff I would usually do by hand, linked them with my scripts and thereby managed to scale up my productivity in a massive way. My computer would continue to work on creating products, publishing designs, translating keywords and a lot more. And it would do it while I was at work and even when I was sleeping.

The only part that I was still doing by myself was the designing part. But eventually that also started taking up a lot of time and I realized that I needed help. I looked for designers on freelancer websites such as UpWork and managed to find a couple of guys who did great work at a reasonable price. I then embedded them into my automated processes and before I knew it, I had built a well-oiled machine that was running entirely by itself.

Today that little “side business” I once had represents a significant share of the living I make and I guess it wouldn’t have been possible without some of the enhancements I made. I’ve also learned a lot about the t-shirt printing industry in the past few years and have developed numerous concepts for a standalone business.

tshirt mockup template
“American Balled Eagle” Artwork on a Round Neck Tshirt (Mockup by Placeit)

Good for you! Would you say that POD Platforms were key to your success?

Absolutely! A lot of people think that having a full-time job and starting your own business are mutually exclusive. They are not. While I agree that once you’ve found a successful business model, you will not be able to unleash its full potential until you go for it 100%, I know for a fact that you can run a business on the side which generates passive income without requiring any significant investment once you’ve got it up and running.

Handling procurement, production, stock management, marketing and sales all by yourself is extremely time intensive and binds capital. POD Platforms take all of that out of the equation and make it possible for anyone to get into the business and literally generate “passive income”.

You mentioned your standalone concepts. Have ever produced your own shirts?

Actually, yes I have. Early 2013 I decided to create my own funny t-shirt brand and shop called GoCaptain! Tees. I was actually inspired by Glennz Tees and my target audience is people who love intelligent, pop culture humor (e.g. nerd jokes and word plays). In other words: anyone who loves the show Big Bang Theory.

"Fresh Milkshake" Design on a Folded Tshirt (Mockup Made With Placeit)
“Fresh Milkshake” Design on a Folded Tshirt (Mockup Made With Placeit)

And Placeit probably helps you quite a bit in creating awesome mockups, right?

Yes, it definitely does. People often underestimate how much time, effort and money goes into creating professional photography for the product that you are selling. Placeit’s mockup generator is incredibly easy to use and very cost-effective. And the pricing plans are flexible enough for just about any size of business. Check out this amazing T-Shirt Mockups Guide!

heather tee mockup
“Party Animals” Art Piece on a Heather Tshirt (Mockup Made With Placeit)

You mentioned that you also teach others how to sell t-shirts online. Tell us a little more about that!

Millions of people are unhappy in their jobs. That’s a statistical fact. Nevertheless, most of them don’t leave because of the financial security it gives them. In their personal lives, they pursue their true passions and very often look for a way to turn that passion into profit. I know what it feels like to want to build your own business and become your own boss one day. But I also know that there is a middle ground, which doesn’t require us to take big risks right away and yet still allows us be entrepreneurs.

That is why I founded The T-Shirt Academy. My goal is to share what I’ve learnt and teach people how to start a t-shirt business online. So many people out there would love to start their own business. They just don’t know where to start. In the end it really isn’t as complicated as it seems and I try to guide people along the way.

So what’s coming up for Christian in 2017?

I actually handed in my letter of resignation at my day job last week (no joke!). I know, it’s so scary and exhilarating at the same time! I’m going all-in and The T-Shirt Academy will play a very big role in that. I’ve just set up a new Secret Facebook Group where I share special techniques and tools with the members of the group. It’s a great place to interact with other like-minded people and I get to mentor my followers in a more personal way. The group is just starting out, so it’s still really small. But I urge everyone who’s interested (no matter what your background is) to join the group. I try to foster a laid back, no-BS atmosphere and I think that appeals to people.

Main Takeaways from our conversation with Christian Heidorn

  • Becoming a t-shirt entrepreneur doesn’t always mean you need to quit your job. Starting a business on the side is usually a great way to get your feet wet without all the risk.
  • POD platforms are ideal places to start out if you want to sell any form of art online. You can focus on the design process and they take care of all the rest.
  • Apparel mockups or art print mockups are a very cost-efficient way to promote your products. Placeit makes professional advertising a piece of cake.
macbook mockup
MacBook Mockup by Placeit

Check out Christian’s businesses at:

The T-Shirt Academy Website

Secret Facebook Group

MyLoveShirt

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