Im new

Hi people...Here is a little bit of background on myself. I have been in retail for 9 years. There is no future for me in retail. I work crazy hours, I never have a set schedule, I work almost every holiday, and the pay is crap. I took on a business venture last year that failed. It left me 10,000 in the hole. I now have that debt down to $5000. But I still know in my mind and my heart that I would love to have my own buisness one day.

As a hobbie now I love to make cool graphics on Adobe photoshop. So I said to myself why not take it to the next level.
Im interested in signs, but know nothing at all about them. I just figured I would sign up here to learn a little about the business, and so I can ask some questions. If I like what I see I might just have to go out and buy a plotter with my tax return and give it a shot on my own. I am going to start out as a hobbie mostly graphics for my car and my friends cars. If I get good I would like to make a profit from it. I'll do some small stuff like real estate signs, car club graphics, maybe some graphics for hunting and fishing clubs.

I have did my reasearch on what plotters I want and I narrowed them down to Summa D60 and Graphtec CE3000. I live in NJ about an hour and a half from a supplier. So I am pretty much set there. I am confused on were to buy my plotter though. I have seen the graphtec for $755 dollars less than what the local dealer sells it for but I would like to have there it worth spending the $755 just to have the support. The place that sells it cheaper I have heard from message boards and emails that they kinda suck. But $755 is kind off alot of money to me. I don't want to invest as much as I did in my other business venture and put myself into a larger hole. So I bassically want to get set up with the right equiptment for as little as possible. I could see if the local guys plotter was better but its the same exact thing. I would tell the local guy to match the cheaper guys price but its an auction price so I doubt they will match it.

So... what to do? save money and be out of good support or get good support and be out of $755.

What would you guys do.

Thanks and I hope to be posting alot more..but not so much rambling:)
No I have nothing. My dad has corel draw 8 but I think thats a little out dated huh:) I havn't done my reasearch on any software yet either. I have just seen people talk about adobe illustrator, Corel Draw, and Co cut. I have no idea which software to go with so any advice would be appreciated.

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
I would suggest that you focus on the least expensive and most helpful things you can do:

1. Pick a vector illustration application to supplement your Photoshop, and learn both thoroughly while educating yourself about the various way signs get made. This way you have the creative control and are only a few hundred dollars invested. Top two choices would be Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. The skills you acquire here are fundamental to whatever else you do.

2. Get out and meet people that you think have a need for signage or vinyl graphics. Figure out and learn how to market yourself. This and design are the most important aspects of what signcrafting is all about.

3. Find some places to outsource to. Sure you'll pay a little more and you may not be able to turn a job around the same day, but you won't be making equipment payments either. Outsourcing provides you access to far more equipment and knowhow than you could ever acquire in the early going.

4. Take out a subscription to both SignCraft and Sign Business magazines and read them cover to cover.

It doesn't make sense to invest in equipment at the stage you're at. Invest slowly in this area as you learn what will really work for you. There are dozens of dedicated wholesale to the trade vendors that will give you good service, fair prices and work from your Corel, Illustrator or Photoshop files. Imagine that you have a shop set up for vinyl cutting, thermal printing, inkjet, screen printing, routing, molded letters, ADA signage etc.etc. ..... all paid for ..... and you have a staff of skilled operators who are only on your payroll when you have a job for them to do.

Now imagine what you can accomplish with good design and technical skills with all that at your disposal. With a situation like that do you want to spend your time cutting vinyl or do you want to spend your time marketing work and creating the designs that will be produced.

In the last twenty years the sign industry has gone from being a hand craft to a well automated industry. Lots of people have invested in hardware and software but not in design skills and marketing. The result is a lot of "acquired productivity" and the predictable driving down of prices. The joke is: "I spent $xxx so I could make cheap signs".

Yet many of us that populate this business will tell you that there are lots of clients out there who will gladly pay more to get better work and better service. So my message to you is to first develop yourself to be able to provide that and then find the clients that understand the value of what you can do for them.