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New here, less than a year in the sign biz<m>


New Member
My fiance and I own a very small vinyl shop that opened last July in a very small town with a very over crowded market. On top of that we don't have any money to actually invest into a new business, nor did we know a thing about signs or sign production. Pretty foolish huh? :Oops:

We owned a pretty successful computer repair/sales business for about 4 years. We would design and print our own business cards and brochures on a regualr old printer to save on money. This led to some of our business customers asking if we could do these services for them. That led to one customer asking us if we could do an in store sign for a product they sold in local grocery stores. We have a hard time admitting to customers when we can't do something, so we try to find a way.

We decided to outsource the sign to one of the two local sign shops. The sign shop acted very irritated toward us for bothering them with such a small purchase. The sign we got was an 18" x 24" coroplast sign, single sided with very simple red vinyl lettering, only 3 lines worth. It cost us $150!! When we picked the sign up it had boot marks, dents and dings all over it where it had apparently been walked on.

Being the curious person that I am I decided to do some reasearch on sign making. It all looked very interesting to me so we decided to buy a Stika-12. About a month later we realised you couldn't do much with those and we took our tax return and bought a 24 inch vinyl cutter. We played around with it for a couple of weeks, Taught ourselves the basics of how to cut and apply. Then in July we decided to give it a shot. We closed the computer business in favor of something that allows us some creativity.

We know it will be a long time before we will be successful enough to do this as our only source of income. We have alot to learn about how to produce other types of signs, or where to outsource to, how to market ourselves, pricing, what direction to head in, equipment to buy next, etc. I'm hoping I can gain alot of that knowledge here. I'm in a bigger hurry than he is to get this thing rolling along a little faster and to start seeing some sort of a profit. So I hope nobody will mind the 10 million or so questions I will have in the near future!


New Member
Wow! Welcome to the sign business and also welcome to this board. Seems like the overcrowded market you speak of would depress sign prices, not inflate them. (referencing the sign you purchased) But then I'm not in your area so I wouldn't know about the standard of living there. (the purchase price just struck me as high for a Level I sign.)

At any rate, my advice is to subscribe to the a few of the great trade journals available and read them cover to cover. Make contact with quality, reliable vendors. Learn precisely what your costs are and establish your selling price based upon that. Work hard, work smart.

Treat every client with respect. Lead the pack. Don't react.

Innovate every chance you get. Surprise the competition, stay ahead.

Just my two cents. ....and good luck and welcome once again!


New Member
I think "overcrowded with customers" was what was meant... not with other sign shops (there's only 2 of them)


New Member
Doug Allan said:
I think "overcrowded with customers" was what was meant... not with other sign shops (there's only 2 of them)

At the time we purchased that sign the number of sign shops was only 2, and experiencing the prices and lack of customer service from these shops we figured it would be an ok line to get into. About 2 or 3 months after we opened they started popping up all over the place! Now there are 10-15 sign shops in this small area, as well as out of area sign shops suddenly flooding our area with their advertising. Many of the shops that popped up are like us, little money and nothing but a vinyl cutter and a dream, lol.

I had honestly been debating the past few weeks if we should even continue or not. Then last week we got a call from a prominent local business man who needed a race car done.

When we met with him he informed us that he had called 6 area companies before us about doing this race car. He had been trying to get the car done since November. The other companies would come do the estimate, say they'd be back to him with a design and never follow through. The ones who did produce a design said they would be back on a certain date to graphics the car and never showed up.

He called us on a Friday, we showed up at the estimate with a design idea in hand for him to see, got the final design to him on Saturday and started applying it on Sunday. When we showed him our design he took the other companies designs that he had in hand and crumpled them up and made a three pointer in the trash.

That gave me the faith that our customer service might be what gets us out there. The customer is so happy that he is allowing us to put our logo and web address on the roof of the car. Since he has several business contacts we are hoping that this job will pull in some word of mouth business.

We're thinking there just might be a spot for us this business after all. :thumb:



New Member
sounds good Sarah! Good Luck.

around here, everyone is on "Maui Time" so it is often joked about (except by those suffering the consequences) that all you have to do is "show up" & you are way ahead of the competition. After 10 years, I still feel that being willing to go the extra mile keeps me ahead of the pack & has helped my business grow.

One thing you said begs the following reply, although it may be more common by start-up shops... you will get this advice many more times... don't do a layout (or design) to "get the job"... half the value in your layout is in your time (which is never good to spend before getting a deposit) ..but sometimes more then half the value is a well thought out concept. Clients can take these... go down the street... & tell some other shop they want to know if it can be done for less.

Sell them on your design abilities by showing them other designs you have done... maybe show them a quick pencil sketch if you want to convey a good layout concept... this should be done at your office too... even if you aren't busy yet... being busy has a way of implying credability & a client who has invested their own time to meet you... AND likes what you show them, is often happy to open their wallet... put their faith (& money) in your hands, & leave knowing one more thing is that much closer to being crossed off their list.

Here is two sketches I drew today. Both sold. I got $475 worth of work out of 20 minutes of talking & 20 seconds of drawing... of course I still have the work to do, & I will show the computer drawing to the client, but it is understood that anything more then minimal revisions is at an additional charge.


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New Member
Welcome to this site, and welcome to the crazy world of signs. You will meet many types of people in the business, some great, some bad. Keep the faith and all will come your way. One thing I would do, if possible is to find your niche and go for it. Good luck from North Carolina!


New Member
Welcome to Signs101

Welcome, if you need any help with bigger jobs like full or partial vehicle wraps, banners, billboards or anything drop us a line.

We do alot of wholesale work and we have a full team of installers.

Check us out at www.largerthanlifegraphics.com

Good Luck,

Mike Farney