If you run a tint shop, you already know how troublesome slow months can be. For US-based tinters, business can grind to a halt when temperatures drop and no one is worried about tinting their windows. Now, you have a few options if you find yourself in this situation. Some tinters choose to close down shop entirely, send their employees home, and go on vacation. Others keep their employees around and find odd jobs for them, such as sweeping the shop.
But there’s another way to boost revenue and keep the money flowing even when your tinting customers aren’t showing up. Yes, that’s right – we’re talking about creating a profitable, sustainable side business creating vinyl decals and signs. You’d be surprised at how easy this can be, especially if you have the right equipment and a winning game plan. Soon enough, you might find that those slow months aren’t so slow anymore.
What Do I Need to Start Making Vinyl Decals and Signs?
The most important thing you’ll need to start your vinyl decal business is a plotter. The good news is that you probably already have one of these lying around your shop for window tinting purposes. And if you don’t? Well, you should seriously think about grabbing one. For a relatively small investment, you can seriously boost the profitability and productivity of your shop during your busy months. And when business starts to slow down again, you can use your plotter to start creating decals or signs for an excellent side hustle.
If you don’t have a plotter yet, you can explore your options over at PlotterDepot.com. We offer a wide range of options, from entry-level devices to some of the most advanced plotters on the market today. On the lower end of the spectrum, you can get a reliable, beginner-friendly plotter for about $1,500. More advanced plotters can cost upwards of $7,000. If you want to use your plotter for both vinyl and window film, you might want to make sure that you’re grabbing a device that is versatile enough to reliably cut different types of materials.
Speaking of materials, you’ll also need some vinyl with which to create your decals. Finally, you should also grab a reliable piece of plotter software that you can use to create designs. And honestly, that’s about it. This business doesn’t require a lot of startup capital, especially if your shop already has a plotter.
Who Needs Vinyl Decals and Signs?
After you’ve gathered your materials and equipment, you’ll need to think about your target market. This is one of the most important steps for any business, and you’re probably already aware of this if you’re running a successful window tinting shop. The good news is that you already have window tinting customers. Often, the most obvious choice is to simply “upsell” decals to these existing customers.
But who actually wants decals? Well, the possibilities are endless. Customers can put these decals pretty much anywhere: On their laptops, on their walls, on their snowboards, and yes, on their cars. If you’re already running an auto tinting business, the obvious choice is to target the latter market. So what kind of decals can people put on their cars?
Car decals can be simple or complex. The simplest options are the funny, quirky stickers that you see on bumpers and rear windows. More complex options include stunning designs that take up the entire hood. Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find examples of cars decorated with large motifs of flames, wolves, skulls, checkered flags, and anything else you can imagine. Make no mistake, these decals are definitely popular for certain auto enthusiasts.
Decals can also be extremely popular for advertising purposes. Many of your customers might be running businesses of their own, and they might appreciate the opportunity to use their vehicles to advertise their businesses. Logos, slogans, contact information, and a range of other messages can be emblazoned proudly on vehicles of all types. You might even want to advertise your own business using this method.
But this is just one of many target markets you can focus on with your decal business. Aside from the auto market, you can also make decals for a range of other purposes. Decals are making a major comeback in the world of interior design, and they can create an effect similar to wallpaper. With the right equipment, you can even screenprint t-shirts and hoodies with your plotter. The possibilities are endless, and it makes sense to diversify in order to maximize your potential profits. That being said, it might be a good idea to get started in a market you understand, like the auto world.
Sign-making is a little more specific, but it is just as profitable. You can also use vinyl to make your signs, and these products are in constant demand. If you’re running a physical business, you probably need a sign. Signs can be big or small, and they can be placed outside a physical storefront or inside the premises. Banners can also be useful when companies attend conventions or promote their products at various events. Both small and large businesses need signs – even those who are selling crafts at local fairs and farmer’s markets.
Once again, the possibilities are endless. Here are some examples of different signs you can make:
- Wood Signs (with vinyl overlay)
- Restaurant signs
- Directional signs
- Traffic signs
- Parking signs
- Lobby signs
- Large-scale commercial signage
Finding customers is the number-one problem that all businesses face, as you probably already know from experience with your window tinting shop. However, you have an advantage when it comes to marketing your new decal and sign business. This is because you probably already have a number of loyal customers and contacts due to your window tint business.
Your first step should be to simply let your customers know that you’re offering a new service. Even if they don’t need these services themselves, they can let their friends, family, and colleagues know about your new business. Remember, word-of-mouth marketing is almost always the most effective strategy.
Be sure to update your website and include information about your new service. If possible, create an entirely new section for your website that talks about decals and sign-making. You might also consider sending out an email to your customers if you already send out monthly newsletters. To promote your new service, you might also choose to bundle auto decals with window tinting. For example, you might offer a promotion that provides auto decals free of charge for your window tinting customers. This serves two purposes: it attracts window tinting customers during the slow months, and it also lets you show off your decal skills. Once a few customers have received their free decals, you can increase the price to something a little more reasonable.
Of course, all of the normal rules apply when it comes to marketing your decal and sign business. Go with whatever strategy you feel most comfortable with – whether that’s Instagram, Facebook, flyers, radio ads… the list goes on. If a marketing strategy has worked well in the past for your window tinting business, it’ll probably be successful for your new decal business as well.
How to Make Your Decal & Sign Business Unique
It’s important to stand out from the crowd when creating this type of business. You’ll need to offer signs and decals that look unique and interesting if you want to attract plenty of customers. Remember, this business is all about creativity. Auto enthusiasts probably don’t want the same old designs that have been done a hundred times before. Offer them decals that are truly original, and you’ll have no trouble finding new customers. The great thing about auto decals is that your customers advertise your business whenever they go out driving. People might ask your customers where they got their decals, and this will lead to more customers coming through your doors.
The same logic applies to signs, logos, and lettering. These should all be eye-catching and interesting enough to attract new customers. Often, your clients will have their own designs, signs, and logos planned out and ready to print. However, some clients will ask you to design these products yourself, so be prepared to bring your creative talents to the table.
Lastly, creativity also provides you with legal protection. If you’re going to create logos, decals, and signs, be careful not to violate copyright restrictions. The last thing you need is a lawsuit because you copied someone else’s design. Create original designs, and you’ll never have to worry about this problem.
Creating Your Signs and Decals
The process of actually creating signs and decals is similar to cutting patterns when tinting windows. If you’ve already used a plotter to cut window patterns, you’ll find signs and decals relatively easy to handle. That being said, there are a few notable differences.
The main difference has to do with the design process. Instead of simply cutting out film in the shape of windows, you’re creating legitimate artwork. In order to do this, you’ll need to use your plotter software in different ways. Fortunately, most plotter software provides you with plenty of tools to create original designs, lettering, and banners. That being said, you might want to invest in more advanced software if you’re currently relying on an entry-level option. PlotterDepot carries a wide range of plotter software for creating decals, cutting window patterns, and making signs. Be sure to check out our selection and choose the best option if you’re starting a new sign-making or decal business. You can also create your designs on a separate piece of software before importing them to your plotter software. If you choose to do this, your best bet is to create vector art.
Finally, you’re ready to start cutting your signs and decals. First, load your vinyl. Next, select blade depth and pressure. Remember, these settings should be adjusted every time you switch material. If you’ve been using your plotter to cut window film patterns previously, this step is essential. Once you’re ready, start cutting your decals. This process can take seconds, minutes, or hours depending on how advanced your plotter is. When cutting is complete, it’s time to weed your vinyl. “Weeding” is the process of removing unwanted material from the finished product. Finally, you’re ready to apply your transfer tape. This is the layer that makes decals and signs stick to surfaces.
Once you start selling your first signs and decals, you can start thinking about expanding your business in the future. As previously mentioned, the possibilities are endless. You might want to start out by targeting the auto decal market, but you can easily expand to different customers. These days, people love customizing all kinds of objects with decals. From cellphones and iPads to mugs and water bottles, you can stick a decal on just about anything. As your business progresses, start searching for those unexploited niches.
Starting this type of business is an excellent choice if you’re already running a tinting shop. You probably already have a plotter, and you’re probably already familiar with plotter software. Because of this, you have all the knowledge and equipment necessary to start this business. Better yet, you also have your own set of customers that may be interested in these new services.
Let’s face it: window tinting is pretty seasonal, and it’s difficult to avoid that slow period during the colder months. Diversification is key, and this simple, easy business allows you to boost profits and keep cash flow consistent. Why not give it a try?