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Hi! Looking to get into digital printing...

Discussion in 'Newbie Forum' started by jcmeyer, Dec 27, 2006.

  1. jcmeyer

    jcmeyer New Member

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    Hello! I am currently exploring the possibility of getting into digital printing - primarily on 10oz vinyl. My immediate efforts will be focused on retail, personalized products... primarily banners for special occassions (graduations, birthdays, parties, holidays, athletic functions, etc.). I might get businesses to order from me, and I might even target them with some marketing, but it will be a product designed for retail... primarily banners between 18" and 30" tall (or wide depending on orientation), and however long is reasonable (I am thinking a 1:3 ratio on dimensions is appropriate for most applications). The artwork will be primarily predefined, but there would be options for photo banners, MAYBE custom requests (a bit tricky since this is subjective and you could spend a week on designs and in the end not even get a purchase). The primary selling points would be a) personalized, b) wide selection of artwork, and c) quick turnaround.

    Who/what am I? I am an accountant by schooling, so I run numbers all day long. This will be my first "solo" adventure into small business. I have assisted others in setting up small businesses, but never for myself. I will make no bones about it... I dont like accounting.

    What am I not? An artist. I am a stereotypical accountant in that I have no arts skills in the least. I can layout a page just fine, but the actual DRAWINGS... no. I will have to purchase that or find someone who can do it for me. Maybe a commission basis? Still working on that.

    So anyway... Hi!
     
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  2. Ken

    Ken Major Contributor

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    Hi JC. Welcome to S101 from Beautiful BC.
    Considering your background, this sounds very do-able to me. It is however, a very steep learning curve to get up and running in a reasonable amount of time. You did not mention setting up a store-front business, but, I expect, rather using contacts to generate sales, leads. That is also d0-able. It works to a point. If you plan on sign work as a full-time occupation..there is the business plan etc that you already know about.
    Learning the various graphics software ( simultaneously) was a big challenge for me. They are very similar, yet have their own nuances, that it does get confusing while trying to juggle them all. BUt clients will send you files in all of these formats ( and more) so you need to be up to speed with these programs.
    Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, Corel, printer drivers and operations, colour management ( that's a tuff one) Others here will add to this list, I'm sure. If you can throw money at everything, more power to you. Your idea of out-sourcing design work has some merit, but may take you beyond the realm of affordability to your clients.
    Dan Antonelli has a couple of great books regarding logo design.
    This forum can be a huge boost to your learning curve, when digested in small bits with an open mind.
    I wish you well.
    Ken
     
  3. jcmeyer

    jcmeyer New Member

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    Dec 27, 2006
    Thanks Ken.

    As I START, I dont plan to offer much in way of "send me your file and I will print it" products. I plan to have about 100 designs online for various events. The customer would get to pick their text, text color, font, design, and a size. About as close as I would get to "send me your art" would be if I took a photo of theirs and put it on a banner... at least to start. Keep it simple for the learning curve.

    I found www.clipart.com... they claim royalty free clipart. I took a brief run through them. Now, I can take images and lay them out on a banner. What I cant do is draw. I have an eye for what looks good etc. etc., but I cant get it to come out of my hands.

    Eh... my first step is to see if I can get some artwork setup. I can sink a couple hundred into that without losing too much sleep at night. We will go from there and see what happens.

    Thanks again for the welcome!
     
  4. Ken

    Ken Major Contributor

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    Hi JC.
    www.vectorart.com has thousands of images downloadable in vector format. $2 ea , I think...A good source.
    The owner/operator of this website, Fred Weiss, also offers high quality print/cut images. ( Allied Graphics) It is a cut and paste world these days and these two I mention are just a snif of what is out there. www.dreamstime.com for photo images at a very reasonable cost.
    I kinda had a focus similar to yours when I first started..I was gonna serve the RC modeler crowd...WOW! Wrong!
    I think you will find business to business more attractive and meaningful/rewarding. But your plan, simple, is a great start.
    My 2 cents..oops..an accountant would say my .02...lol
    Ken
     
  5. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    With regard to clipart, clipart.com is a great and affordable resource ... but most of what they have available is 99% suitable for print only and will not work for vinyl cutting. You may want to visit the sites listed in my signature where we offer clipart with suitable characteristics and licensing for commercial sign production. One site specializes in collections on CD/DVD while the other features individual images for immediate download. Both sites have a search engine to locate images quickly.

    With regard to investing only a couple of hundred dollars ... that won't go far enough to even get you into CorelDRAW. What you describe will almost certainly require an investment of $10K to $20K just to acquire a basic print and cut production capability.
     
  6. mladams7259

    mladams7259 Very Active Member

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    Definately stick with Fred's Clipart. I downloaded an image from clipart.com once because I couldnt find anything remotely close anywhere else and I spent a couple hours making it "vinyl cut ready"
     
  7. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    there seem to be quite a number of folks who decide that the sign business is there solution to not being fond of their current career... & there's nothing wrong with that. I think many of them manage to find a way to become profitable in this business... even without a sign background, or artistic talent.

    What seems unique about your plan is that from what I can tell... you have selected only one small subset of what we do, & are hoping to make a go of it doing only that. Specialization can be a good thing, if there is a demand for what you specialize in... although in your case, I'm not sure if there is.

    Many of us, even with several years in the industry & in some cases a degree of artistic talent, find ourselfes diversifying into constantly more products & services to make ends meet...

    ...so I wonder, regarding this small cross-section of the sign industry that you are interested in... has anyone else made this a profitable business by itself, that you could look to for guidance ?
     
  8. jcmeyer

    jcmeyer New Member

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    Couple of notes...

    My initial startup idea was primarily in banners. There wouldnt be plotter work involved. I think I know how steep this learning curve will be, and to learn both at the very beginning... well we will see.

    As far as the "couple hundred of dollars" is concerned, that is primarily to explore what kind of images are out there for puchase/use. I dont intend that to start the business up. Call it research moneys. Software, printers, environmental controls, etc. come later on when I have convinced myself that I can amass a block of artwork that will sell.

    Clipart was the first large volume site. I am 100% open to any and all sites you guys know about. I am bookmarking the ones you have given me now!

    Thanks again guys (and gals)!
     
  9. jcmeyer

    jcmeyer New Member

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    Without giving too much away, yes. I have seen what I plan to do executed succesfully. Mind you, that my STARTING point is banners. Assuming things go well and the business starts to support itself (first and foremost goal), then there will be the opportunity to explore other options. I am first and foremost cautious with investment dollars, and with the learning curve ahead of me, I dont think anyone here would reccommend that I jump head first into every aspect of this business all at once.

    Why this business? I have always been a "creator" type of guy... which is why accounting doesnt really do it for me. No, you are right, I have no artistic talent. What I like is the technical side of it. Let someone else be creative, I want to work with the equipment. Can I do that for someone else's company? More than likely with the right training... but it wouldnt be MY business.

    I was hesitant to even post my ideas here, because I KNOW that people can get very territorial on trade boards like this one. However, you guys have been just the opposite. Thank you again!
     
  10. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Welcome to:signs101:from PA.

    I must admit, you have gumption. Getting into the digital…. vinyl… reproduction field today, which is mistakenly being called the sign business, seems to appear much easier than years ago.

    Your desire sounds earnest, but you must realize one thing… once you get going, it won’t be as easy as it first appeared. Being an accountant and giving people advice on how to save money, where to invest or just plain keep more of what you make is a challenging field. I’m sure you needed to study, take exams, pass tests and constantly hone your skills with the latest tax laws to stay on top. That’s how you stay competitive. You’ll need to do that here also.

    The main advice I could give you is to study more of what you want to do, so you can give your customers a justified product. It’s just not a matter of having some clipart and fancy machines and knocking out stuff. Know what you’re selling them, why you picked the medias or materials for their particular job, know the proper design balance for a simple banner vs. a more detailed banner, whether it be color combinations or spacing situations. Selling junk seems to be what many people today don’t mind giving to their customers, then wonder why they’re having trouble keeping customers.

    Post some of your ideas and I’m sure many here will give you some inside input, different views and good & bad advice. One of your statements about not giving too much away, sounds like you want to take and not give. I’m sure that’s not what you meant, but that kind of thing can be grossly taken the wrong way.

    Believe it or not, you’re not trying anything new. :rolleyes:

    Good Luck...
     
  11. Just Another Sign Guy

    Just Another Sign Guy Very Active Member

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    to add to the statements regarding "not giving too much away" there are very few "trade secrets" in this industry if you have thought it someone else has done it. save yourself the headache or potential loss by learning from others successes and failures that is the beauty of sites such as this.
     
  12. jcmeyer

    jcmeyer New Member

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    Wow, my statement was very poorly worded. I didnt expect people to key in on it as if I knew something the rest of you guys (who have done this forever) didnt know. I currently work for a company who does this kind of work as a segment of their business. They are NOT in the "sign" industry. I just prefer not to name who they are. That was all I intended with that remark.

    Sorry for the confusion.
     
  13. Just Another Sign Guy

    Just Another Sign Guy Very Active Member

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    dont worry jc no one is upset, just pointing it out.
     
  14. CenturySigns

    CenturySigns Custom Sign Shop Designer

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    Hey JC
    Just a thought, you might try working for someone to get your feet wet to see if this is really what you want to to do.
     
  15. Replicator

    Replicator Major Contributor

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    Hello and . . . . . . . . . .

    [​IMG]

    Good Luck !
     
  16. Pro Image

    Pro Image Major Contributor

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    Howdee from VA......................
     
  17. sullosau

    sullosau Active Member

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    if you know anyone in the industry i went and was the cheif floor sweeper/coffee maker on weekends at a friends shop before he sold it and moved to retire. From that I saw the fun stuff, the PITA stuff and the hassles you can go thru. I spent many a sat morning weeding vinyl. If you get the oppertunity grab it with both hands. this site is great for some info, but Im sure there are many like me who started 2 years ago, keeping things small and controllable and advertise by word of mouth only.
    Now Im doing vehicles for tradesman, shop windows, digital banners, screen printing, sublimation printing, and about to do a partial vehicle wrap from digital prints. Luckily I have a few regular clients who know me personally and just love to chinwag with new ideas which gave me oppertunity to do things slowly and learn. Never bite off more then you can chew and give yourself limits and dont undercut yourself or the industry, your time is valuable and make sure you can say no to some jobs despite how much you want to do some. Buy every book you can and as everyone suggested learn a software package, Iwent with corel it was easier for me, some like illy and other sign making packs like flexi sign and others which are made for this industry, look read learn and listen, then go nuts! Or you could be like me and have very little free time learning new things! :)
    Best of luck to you.
    Steve
     
  18. Jillbeans

    Jillbeans Major Contributor

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    Hello JC.
    I am an artist, not an accountant.
    But I can tell you that you will never get rich letting people design their own special occasion banners.
    What would these sell for? $25 apiece?
    That's as high as most folks would go for a small printed banner even if they did design it themselves.
    I think you can get pre-printed "Over the Hill" type things at most party stores for under $10, with a Sharpie to write in a name.
    Not trying to be a turd in your punchbowl, just honest. If you are currently working for a company that provides this service, would you be using their equipment or buying your own?
    It seems a poor investment to spend $10K on a printer for little knock-off jobs like that.
    You'd be better off selling license plates at a flea market.
    Love....Jill
     
  19. Checkers

    Checkers Very Active Member

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    I disagree Jill, to a certain extent. I think if you properly present or sell a product or service, you can make good money no matter what the product is. Remember the pet rock? Someone was laughing all the way to the bank!
    Anyway JC, IMHO, you'll need to do a lot more homework first. While the idea is good, and already being practiced by many companies, I don't think your numbers are going to add up to where they need to be.
    Besides better defining your "retail" market, I think you're going to have to do a lot more research on marketing, materials and production methods. Then you'll need to worry about your distribution channels, delivery methods and return policies.
    I would discuss it some more, but I don't want to name names or give away any secrets :)

    Checkers
     
  20. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Lol
     
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