To all Newbies Part 2


New Member
So your New to Signs101 and want to start a Sign business and Join the rest of us in Sign Nirvana where we sip our Mi Tia's and kick back and watch the Green roll in. Well.... Welcome to OZ and if you believe that last statement.. Well your an Idiot and you have no business making signs.

So to avoid being Flamed, Ridiculed, Harassed, Carried Away by flying Monkeys, or wraped up in the worlds largest ball of Vinyl and Flushed down the worlds largest toilet by some of the fantastic members here on Signs101.

Please read the following.

Read the Sticky's before posting the same questions we have all read before, Search the site a little. 10 to 1 your question has been asked before and answered. (Probably with sarcasm but your a grown up so you can ignore those posts)

Read, Watch, Look and Listen..Look around your town. Your not an Idiot (See above statement you made it this far) You can see what signs work and what Signs don't work. Just around your town probably. Look at the portfolio Pages. You don't have to copy a design but there is a wealth of Ideas that you can tie into your own work.

Make a Conscience Decision of what type of Sign Maker you want to be and start heading that direction.. Learn your software, How to use your brushes, Chisels, Routers or what ever media you want to work with. Don't try to do everything under the sun right off the Bat. (Unless you have absolute control over your ADHD) Pick one or two items and get proficient with then then pick 2 more..

(Many people may argue with me about this but Real Estate Signs are Ideal for this.. You will learn how to Prioritize copy and develop good contrast as we all know that Realtors want everything from the book of Exodus jammed onto one 18x24 with a rider to be seen from 500' for $5.00 a sign, Including Frame) When I hire Designers, This is one of my tests for them. You will be surprised how many FAIL (At Least to my standards) And if they are Hired the will do real estate signs for many months before I allow them to work advanced projects. And Yes I had a High Turnover since everyone wanted to start at the top. And you know what. That's Great as it is my Business just like it will your business and you can run it anyway you want. All I want is the best for my clients and so should you. And in the end maybe we will get our Mia Tia's

You have to start someplace. If you want learn you need to do some reading. Here are some good references to get you started.. Listed in order of importance. (In my opinion) There's a bunch more but these will get you started.. Best of Luck
Bill (Subscribe)

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This is just a start of some Sarcasimic insightful posts I will be writing and adding to this thread in the future. Take it as Face Value.. I am no Sign Guru, and are of my own opinion I have had Big shops and Small shops and Failed at many endeavors. Coming out of Bankruptcy as I type. I found out I was a lousy at the Business side of Signs, But I do know the Sign Business.

Fred Make this a Sticky if you would.
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New Member
Very good post and one of the things you brought up on the business side is important. You had problems with that side of the business and I think it is important to also give the newbee's some guidance on getting a business started. This list is by no means complete and is based on what I learned getting mine started 6 years ago. First is a name and getting a business license, how do I apply for one where I am at and what restrictions are placed on where I plan to run my business? Will they allow me to have a home based business or do I need to rent a building? How am I going to handle Federal taxes, get a FIN or use my SSN? What state sales tax regulations do I need to know and how do I register and file my sales tax? What types of insurance do I need to protect my self and business? How am I going to do my book keeping and invoicing, what software do I need and do I need and accountant for during the year and to handle my taxes? What type of bank account for my business and what about a business only credit card? What are my actual startup cost for this part of the process and how much cash do I need to get started to cover my fixed cost for the first several months untill I get some cash flow and what amount do I need to have to cover material purchases for while jobs are working till I get paid for them. And the last thing I can think of is how well have I planned for everything I will need to get started so when I am open for business I can actually produce the product and what will all this cost? I know I forgot a few things but this gives you some insight to help get a plan together. Just a note for those going to do this on part time basses, this will be the first year I am going to pay my self anything. With the amount of folks in the "sign" business the margins are low in my area so the amount of money available for equipment to get past just having a cutter is low after you truly look at the cost of doing this or any small business. As of Monday all of my equipment is paid for! As you get into this more you will see how hard this is for a one person part time business.
Good luck in your quest.


Great advice above! It's not as easy as it looks. The business side is more crucial than the talent side, but both are better. I know many starving artists. But I know a few mediocre sign guys that know how to make money! You need to find a balance or be the exception to the rule.


New Member
Oops.. Didn't mean to make it sound Bitter.. That is the last thing I am.. I have actually reached a point in my self employment life that I am actually doing the type of work that I want to be doing and working the hours I want to work. I was just trying to point out that failures don't mean your a failure. My Step back has allowed me to move forward in the direction that I had originally planned before my brain got in the way.

And if this series helps people chose a path in the Sign Making field and helps them do it right by not making the some of same mistakes then I have accomplished another goal.

I enjoy trying to help people in a Humorous manner. Plus I will be 44 in a few days so I am right in the middle of my Mid-life crisis.. Think I'll go to Thailand and become a pole dancer.


Just Me
pole dancing in Thailand huh?

Thanks for the post Bill... you really have added some valuable information and resources to signs101 and I thank you for that...

and I didn't see bitter - I saw someone that wanted to point others in the right direction to begin with... instead of after...

mor mutaskun

New Member
Hi all, I am a new member of the field and glad to be a part of this wonderful site . I'd like to say thanks, in behave of myself and all the new comer if they don't mind, to everybody here who contributed all the uncountable value of knowledge to this community and society. and Bill if you'd really come to Thailand and to be a pole dancer,I'd like to personally guide you to the great spot i know here in pattaya,just let me know.

Dave Drane

New Member
I'm getting old and tired, and I am starting to not feel so bitter that I started my apprenticeship in 1965 at age 15 and hitch hiked home on weekends from the city learning the trade that my father and forefathers did and now seeing people just walk into the "trade" with the help of the internet and demand training.
I battled in the city and would do as much overtime as I could to just get a bit of spending money, so I could go out with my friends who were making double my wages for menial work. When I put this to my father he said that one day I would be a "tradesman" and be well above my mates, which did happen along the way.
After I was married I won the Coca-Cola contract for our area which was seen as prostegious even though they took 90 days to pay their bills. I worked Saturday night and Sundays sitting there second coating the white copy on red and lugging trestles all over the coast painting their logo on fascias and parapets along with the "compo" work.
It was dirty and hard work, and the fact that folks now want to enter the trade and sit in an air con room pressing buttons and asking for help is starting to sit ok with me as it won't be long before I will be playing golf and digging gardens and having fun. The trade has been good to me and still is and I would sure like to meet some people from here when I go to Orlando in April and travel around your great country that I have always loved visiting. If I can now help a newbie even if I don't always agree with them then that is a little I can contribute in this modern world.


New Member
learning the trade that my father and forefathers did and now seeing people just walk into the "trade" with the help of the internet and demand training.

I have the same background as you Dave. and starting to feel like we are an endangered species. Hope you enjoyed :AustraliaAustralia Day:Australia

I hung around my Dad's sign shop all through the 80's trying to get a feel for this business . I loved it, but never really thought it was much of a business.
Now in 2010 i print or plot almost everything (Mostly Print) :( and try to find balance between making every sign look great and stuff as much cash in the bank by Friday as i can. I guess it's more of a business nowadays then it used to be but i still miss the old days when we there were more painters in a shop and less machines.
I miss the two week lead times now its 24-48 hours.
Just had a cool little project, I got to create the tombstones for the new movie being filmed here in Austin "True Grit" 7 ea - 2" HDU sandblasted and contour cut the tops.
That was kind of fun, but still only had 72 hours to get em out!!!


New Member
Bill while I did not sense any bitterness, I can't help but think to some degree we all, (well those that have had an all encompassing journey in the last 15 + years) as a group, us "oldies" do tend to feel a little bitter.

Or is that sadness? Sadness as to what the industry has become. Sadness that those entering the sign biz seem well accepting of only a portion of what is on offer?

I suggest anyone interested should check out Bill's website. He lives in a beautiful part of the world, and has a portfolio of amazing work. To view and appreciate would be time well spent - no matter your experience.

Check Bill's work out at:

Cheers - G


New Member
I think the 'oldies' in most trades get a little bitter when we see some of the ways that jobs are done now compared to years ago. I spent 25 years as a sparkie, I now teach and do a bit of vinyl work as a hobby, and to see the standard of work done by some of the tradespeople? these days is disappointing (insert any word in there). I am currently soaking up as much info as I can to improve all tasks that I do. Great posts and I'm not going to show you my work because I can find enough faults myself.

Dave Drane

New Member
So I guess you didn't make it much as a "sparkie". Maybe I should be taking a job in Collarenebri as an electrician hobbyist? The only difference being that I would have to be licensed, but you can come along with a computer and a plotter and are now a "fully licensed" signmaker?? How cheap do you think you are going to be to get the work? Another trade prostitute!


New Member
So I guess you didn't make it much as a "sparkie". Maybe I should be taking a job in Collarenebri as an electrician hobbyist? The only difference being that I would have to be licensed, but you can come along with a computer and a plotter and are now a "fully licensed" signmaker?? How cheap do you think you are going to be to get the work? Another trade prostitute!
Aren't all service industries prostitutes? It's all money for services rendered. Anyone can become an electrician hobbyest but I don't know how long they would last. I wont be taking too much business away from the professional sign makers as I am more into heat applied vinyls on t-shirts and maybe some graphics on cars. Prostitutes do have one thing over all tradespeople, they don't have to get out of bed to get paid.