WHY I CHOSE TO MAKE SHIRTS AND VINYL DECALS AS MY NEW SIDE HUSTLE FROM HOME
I thought it would be cool to design and sell t-shirts as a side hustle to make money from home while in medical school. Everyone needs clothing and if you niche down, you’re going to sell shirts.
It would be easy for me to target medical professionals, such as nurses and doctors, since I’m “in the loop” with the lingo. Now obviously you don’t need to be in medical school to have this side hustle. Maybe you’re a huge Game of Thrones fan and you know some catch phrases that would make the perfect shirts.
THE PROS KNOW
Speaking of shirt designs, I know of this guy who runs a kiosk at the mall. He compiled a list of all these sayings from popular television shows. He then pre-made several vinyl decals of these sayings. When you approach his booth, you see a wall of t-shirt samples that people really enjoy stopping and reading. He stores blank shirts in sizes from x small to 3x and heat presses your chosen verbiage on the spot. He even has onesies for the little tikes. It’s really cool to see if you haven’t been privy to such before and he appears to be doing very well for himself.
I took a seat and people watched as I waited for my daughter who can’t get enough of Justice. I swear she’s praying for a real unicorn for Christmas and believes Justice is a magical place that sells them only to the “chosen”. The life of an 11 year old!
I noticed that a lot of the shirts made absolutely no sense to some people, including myself. Television has been pretty scarce for me for quite some time. You don’t have much spare time while pursuing a degree in medicine. But for the people who did know the references, they couldn’t stop laughing.
THE MONEY IS IN THE NICHES
As I waited, for what seemed like an eternity, I noticed that people who bought a shirt, tended to buy not just one shirt, but three. At $20. a pop, this vinyl guy was raking in the dough and constantly busy. I know I couldn’t resist a shirt that says, “Wood working is my cardio”.
To pursue this side hustle, you need a desire to earn more money and move your life in a direction closer to your ideal situation. I chose this particular side hustle because the initial cost is minimal, and the knowledge you need is obtainable from home, in your spare time.
WHAT YOU NEED TO LEARN TO START MAKING VINYL DECALS
After doing a bit of research on this new money making venture, I quickly realized I would need to learn some things. For example, how-to-create the designs and how-to-cut the vinyl. An alternative method would be to screen print. Screen printing, while doable and not-to-mention it looks like fun, is way more involved and I need something easy because I don’t have a lot of free time. So at the present, vinyl it is.
As I presently understand it, in my infancy, you have two routes for the designs. You can look online for free images and import them into your design software. More about the software in a minute. Once imported, you need to vectorize the image. Basically what this means is, even though a picture looks like it can be cut out, there is no actual information in the picture to tell the computer where to cut. By vectorizing the image, you are telling the software to trace out a path around the colors. This renders a new file that is cuttable by a plotting machine.
Another design option is to create your design from scratch. Software like Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator work well for this, but they each have their own nuances.
EQUIPMENT NEEDED TO MAKE VINYL DECALS
Next I looked into equipment I needed to purchase. I decided on a 28″ USCutter, which came highly recommended and I have to say I agree. Every time I’ve been to Joann Fabrics and seen the entire isle of Cricket and Silhouette accessories, I feel overwhelmed. Had the circumstances been different, where time was not a factor, I may have given more consideration to those options.
SOFTWARE FOR DESIGNING VINYL DECALS
My new USCutter came with Vinyl Master Cut V4.0. I was super pleased upon downloading the software. A vast library of training videos populated. While not the most entertaining, the videos get the job done. They teach you how to setup and operate your cutter, as well as how-to use the software tools to make compelling and beautiful designs. Vinyl Master software alone was enough to get me started. However, if you need or want more functionality, there are a couple software upgrades available through Vinyl Master. Or, alternatively, you can use software such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw to create your artwork. You’ll then need to import your design into Vinyl Master, which will instruct your cutter to cut the file.
So, that takes care of the artwork, but to make apparel I need shirts of various sizes and a heat press to apply the vinyl. At this point it dawned on me that I could simply start off this venture with just selling decals instead. Once I see how sales are going, I can diversify by investing in shirts and a press.
CREATING A DEDICATED VINYL DESIGN STUDIO
I kind of went off on a tangent at this point. I needed a spot to store my new cutter and a place where I could comfortably sit and work on designs and weed out vinyl. A place that could be home to my future heat press, rolls of vinyl and sublimation printer. I have just the spot; a spare room that used to serve as my son’s storage space. So I spent two days boxing up stuff that he no longer wanted and hauled it all down to the flea market. What we didn’t sell, we gave to some of the other venders just to get rid of it. The sense of freedom I felt from letting go was so unexpected and this energized me to keep moving forward.
Next I looked through my Pinterest DIY saves and found a table I love. I wanted to re-create a similar table for my new vinyl room, but I was itching to get started with making decals. A trip to Home Depot ended in a pile of lumber on the floor, but I did manage to install a few more Closet Made shelves for future storage needs. This was as far as the new vinyl room got for the next 3 weeks.
HOW I MADE $408. MY 1ST WEEK MAKING DECALS FROM HOME
My first order came in through a family member who owns a family business. He just happened to be in the market for several decals as his were old, cracking and generally just past their prime. This was perfect because I tend to get performance anxiety and being family, I didn’t feel the pressure I would have with a stranger.
I then used my connections from college and was able to sell multiple decals to a class of P.A. students. This is awesome because I only spent the time to design one decal and just printed it 38 times. I offered my kids a side hustle weeding vinyl. At first they gave me that deer-in-the-headlights look and said, “Mom I hate weeding”. “It’s not that kind of weeding”. I sat them down and handed them a long decal I had messed up. I accidently set the decal to cut at 13.5 inches wide, but the vinyl roll is only 12 inches. So I handed them weeding tools and explained that if they messed up, it wasn’t a problem. They absolutely loved it and they can’t wait for the next order to come in, which did! A Venezuelan flag. And the customers friends may be ordering some as well.
Other than the flags, I got the contact info for the marketing director of one of my local hospitals. She’s looking for some products for an upcoming heart walk. This spurred me to step up my game and practice makes perfect. My daughter was wanting a panda decal for her laptop that says “I don’t know”, because she’s quite indecisive. I wonder who she gets that from, eye roll. After 4 hours, I kid you not, we couldn’t for the life of us, figure out how to cut a black and white file. On hour 4, I found a forum that says a white cut file cannot be printed in Vinyl Master Cut 4.0. There are ways around this, but I knew that it was time for more functionality at this point so I purchased Corel Draw.
I’m still learning and I’m sure I will be for years to come. This is so much fun though and believe it or not, this new venture has resulted in more interaction with my kids aside from electronics. It’s been a breath of fresh air. I think they’re already plotting how to make their own name brand clothing on the cheap.
Stay posted for new developments as the purchase of a heat press for making shirts is next in the lineup. I also discovered an awesome type of vinyl that will solve a problem I’ve had for years. I’m really excited to share this with you!
Check out my 28″ USCutter unboxing video here. See the first thing I’m looking to buy with my new side hustle venture. Also, stay tuned to see how much money I