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Outsourcing Work When Crazy Busy?


New Member
Hi all - I've been a Signs101 reader for the past three years but first-time contributor here on the site. I've only been in the graphics and sign business for three years but we've (thankfully) seen some pretty serious growth in the Midwest since that time.

I had a business question for the more experienced members on Signs101: do you guys outsource work when your shop gets really busy? And if so, how do you go about establishing these outsource relationships without stepping on toes or enabling your competition?

We have gotten into situations where we have had too many projects going at one time, and this led to slower turnarounds and some disgruntled customers. Do you outsource to keep up? Or simply make customers wait?

Thanks for the help.


Active Member
Yup, we jokingly call them our "overflow facilities." Also, who cares what your competition feels. They probably outsource anyway. I'm not sure what products you'd be outsourcing, but there are tons of wholesalers with good pricing, quality, and turn around on everything from business cards to channel letters.


New Member
We outsource when it makes sense. Whether we don't have enough capacity at the moment, or perhaps a particular job is outside our capabilities. You make less profit than doing it in-house, but the way I see it that we are doing work that we would have had to pass on so it's better to get something than nothing.


Go Bills!
We have gotten into situations where we have had too many projects going at one time, and this led to slower turnarounds and some disgruntled customers. Do you outsource to keep up? Or simply make customers wait?

Never promise what you cant deliver and you won't have these problems. If timing is going to be an issue I let my client know and either they say they can't wait or they go elsewhere. The good clients wait, the ones usually not worth it don't.



New Member
If you're falling behind on your core business, I'd look into hiring rather than outsourcing as a potential solution. You could also look into adding equipment.

Generally speaking, outsourcing is common in this industry on some level or another. The trick is always finding reputable vendors that do a good job for a fair price. I personally ran into a problem in April where I had a bunch of projects outsourced with newer vendors and they went horribly. In the end, I got it worked out, but I spent a lot of time on the phone working through issues that should have never been issues.


Active Member
One man operation here so I outsource certain items. Banners over 4'x8' in quantity is one of them. I also outsource all my cut vinyl to a shop near me. I supply them with all their wide format work. It's a unique situation.
Find a local trade printer. We have a trade printer in town that does not work with the public. You have to setup an account with them before they will even quote your jobs but they absolutely do not do printing for anyone other then sign and print shops. Thus there really is no competition or possibility of loss of customers. They are in the business of fast though so you always have to check quality.


New Member
Hello all -

Wow! Thank you for the great responses, I appreciate the feedback and education. We have seen these outsourcing situations as an opportunity to still keep our customers happy without having to turn down business. We certainly lose some of the profit margin but it also allows us to offer some products outside of our core competency.

For those of you that have had success with outsourcing some work, how have you found these reliable partners? Are you finding them online, through word-of-mouth, or just through industry connections? I'd love to know if there's an easier way to find good partners in this area.


New Member
We have always outsourced overflow work whether it is due to not having the technology or workload. It has its pluses and minuses. Pluses are being able to do work you would normally have to turn away, forging lots of great industry relationships, and building a book of business that allows you to hire more people and buy new equipment. We have been subbing out flatbed printing and cutting for a few years and we finally got enough business recently to be able to invest in our own equipment and hire more employees to handle the work in house. Minuses are not being in control of the jobs (timing and quality), margins aren’t as high, and you do have to devote extra time to managing the whole process. All in all, we have had pretty good luck and if you can find the right subs, it is a valuable tool. As for finding the subs, it’s all about industry relationships. Ask your friends in the industry and your supplies if they know anyone. I highly suggest staying local with your subs so you can keep an eye on things. Good luck!

Sign consultant

New Member
Outsource is really amazing if you have a lot get it done by others.What you just need provide rendering with details amd the company would make it happen even quicker than in house.


Certified Enneadecagon Designer
Every sign shop we work with outsource, not just our design services but various products they don't have room for, or the experience to do. Mostly ADA signs, larger monuments, billboards and nationwide fabrication, permitting and installs.

But in order for it to be successful, you really need to develop a relationship with them.

You might start at www.signsearch.com


Very Active Signmaker
To the extreme... I outsource most of my stuff and do not own or operate a printer/laminator, thus relieving me of needing a large shop and extra help running those things. I just preform finial assembly / install or drop ship... I generate way more per hour doing that then manufacturing on my own. 99% of the time everything arrives as it should...RARELY does something not come in on time or is incorrect, but I never over-promise anything so I have no problem dealing with it. I use 4over and Signs365 most of the time.

Key with outsourcing... always plan in some extra time. Under promise and over deliver.


New Member
We outsource based on the project. If we can focus on things more profitable then chances are we are going to outsource the signage that can eat labor hours.

There are a some good wholesalers on this site. Create files and pay for each of them to print. This will allow you to compare the quality of the work. You will find that some can be almost a one-stop source and others are for certain products.

It's okay to outsource when the wholesaler provides the quality w/ reasonable prices. Chances are they can outperform most shops production capabilities. This allows you to focus on the bigger picture and your profit margins will rise, if you're charging enough per project & focused on getting new work.

We typically tell clients it's 2-5 days for large format printing and 4-6 weeks for custom 3D signage. We stay busy and try not to allow any larger format printing (in-house) to take longer than 48 hours, if so we will sub-out the project to one of our wholesalers. We have worked with our main suppliers for many years. It allows us to do much more than we should be able to do in a week that is for sure!

When you find wholesalers that have the same printer brands and sometimes models then it will make everything much better. Don't let the hours eat away on banners... you should be able to find a better value for your time. It could be creating your new websites, marketing materials, attending events, or even shotgun style emails to your region are worth far more value to you than producing some banners. The profit margins on banners are high enough to send it out.

I would look here first for suppliers. You can get a track record on them in ways that a simple google search cannot provide. But you can also look in the mags & subscribe to them to find new solutions. We are in the solution business... be that for your client and you're pricing can even be a bit higher than your comp without the fear of losing them in the future. People that don't own their own business and only work for a company tend to want solutions over price. They want to check out at 5pm and not look back... not worry if your shop can handle the work load. Missing deadlines is a surefire way to lose a client and yes, even a long term client!

Good luck... It's a great industry that will provide an opportunity for you change your life for the better.


New Member
we definitely outsource jobs depending on our own capabilities/inabilities. for example, large large banners are something we use another shop for. or certain installation services that we don't offer... or smaller stuff in large quantities... That being said, the relationship we have with those shops in return is about the same. They'll outsource to us to produce, install, provide whatever they cannot do. it's really nice.. and sometimes we'll all work together on a very LARGE job.

when it's really busy though, sometimes we don't outsource but try our best to get things done and be as transparent as possible with the customer to see how we can arrange timelines to work in everyone's favor. it's pretty lame to get customers that want something right away but pick it up weeks later or someone that needs something yesterday but still doesn't have artwork ready... but we do our part in laying down either demands or fees to prevent these from happening.

I mostly do production and don't do a lot of the admin/accounting as much but of course customers contact me directly asking for items and for the most part, they are very understanding and are flexible with our conditions as I am with their timeline and needs.


New Member
Outsourcing job's is a great thing, is builds relationships with other companies around your area. From my experience it most of the time led to more work in the future with that company and other companies they knew but did not know us!