In case you hadn’t noticed, another election year is upon us. Whether you’re in a red state or blue state, this can bring more green to your sign business. Candidates need exposure and that means lots of signs, especially corrugated plastic road signs.
Normally, you would produce a cor-plastic sign with your trusty Graphtec, Vinyl EXPRESS, or Roland vinyl cutter. But, with the kinds of orders aspiring public servants place, that may not be the most efficient way to get the job done.
Don’t cut it; Print it!
Let’s say Archibald “Bubba” Montgomery is running for City Council, and wants 500 signs in red and blue letters (on a white background of course). You could probably cut and weed vinyl for 500 two-color signs, but weeding “Archibald “Bubba” Montgomery” 500 times might cause a revolt in your sign shop; or a divorce, if you’re a “Mom and Pop” shop. So you might want to screen print the job instead. Of course, you could outsource it to a local screen printer. But, with an EnduraSCREEN 1824C, you can keep the job in-house and keep all the profit. Speaking of profit, that brings us to the central question: can screen printing 500 campaign signs be profitable? Do Governors kiss babies? Here’s the price/cost breakdown:
How much does it pay?
One of the off-putting aspects of screen printing, compared to digital technologies, is the initial setup time and cost. Specifically, you have to make the screen. And because it takes some time to do this, you should charge the standard screen setup fee of $30.00 in addition to your $70.00 design fee.
For 500 two-color 4-line screen printed 18” x 24” signs, the Sign Contractor’s Pricing Guide recommends a price of $11.85 each. This is not a piece rate. It includes labor costs. Someone’s got to ink up the screens and run the printer. So, according to sign industry standards, the job should be quoted at $5,928.00, plus whatever you decide to charge for the sign stakes. If you charge 99¢ each, you have a total invoice for Mr. Montgomery of $6,423.00.
But not everyone uses industry standards; especially in a recession. According to screen print industry manufacturer and trainer Geri Rhein, the going rate for screen printing flat stock is “a buck a pull”, or one dollar per color per sign. In this case, that gives us a charge of $2.00 per sign. Added to the $70.00 design fee, $30.00 screen setup fee, and the 495.00 for stakes, you have a much lower quote of only $1,595.00. If you live in a rural area, this is more likely to be closer to your prevailing rate. But even at the lower price, there’s profit in this job.
What does it cost?
• The material cost of making one screen is about one dollar. Since this is a two color job, let’s estimate two bucks for the screen costs.
• The sign blanks cost $1.03 each or $515.50 total.
• The sign stakes cost 72¢ each or $360.00 total.
• The ink cost for a standard 18″ X 24″ sign is less than ten cents! For two colors, let’s err on the side of caution and say 20¢. So the total ink cost is $100.00.
• That means the total material cost of Bubba Montgomery’s 500 signs is only $975.50.
How much do you get to keep?
Even at the “sharp pencil” price of $1595.00, you have a gross profit of $620.00 for a jog that takes about 10 hours of labor to print. If you’re paying your nephew Roscoe $10.00 an hour, you have a net profit of $520.00; a respectably 32% margin. Ten such jobs will recoup the initial equipment cost of $4,995.00. The rest is gravy.
If you can get the Sign Contractors Pricing Guide money, you gross $5,448.00 and keep $5,348.00 after labor costs. You’ll achieve 100% R.O.I with one job and have more than enough left over to attend Senator Fogbound’s $100-a-plate fundraiser and land the next one. Do you have to live in a major market to make good money with a screen printer? Not at all. One of our southern Oklahoma customers owns a large format digital printer, a laser engraver, and an EnduraSCREEN 960 screen print system. He told me that, of all the equipment he has, the most profitable is his screen printer. So whether you live in Metropolis or Smallville, this is a good time to invest in an EnduraSCREEN 1824C. Then, get to know your local politicians and let them turn their campaign promises into your own personal stimulus program.