Over the past decade, DIY (Do It Yourself) culture has been making quite the comeback. More and more people have the urge to get in the driver seat to gain control of the products they consume, use, and wear. What types of projects are we talking about? Well, the screen printing business is one of the more rapidly growing DIY endeavors out there. Having been around for more than 200 years, it’s a technique that people can continue to trust and be amazed by. Here's five tips for getting started with screen printing.
First, You Must Discover Your Niche
Whether you’re an artist who wants to open your own screen printing shop, or a business owner who’s looking to eliminate the middle-man and screen print your own products instead of relying on outside sources, you need to decide on your niche.
Do you want to print unique designs on clothing and accessories? Will you be making signage, labels for products, and store displays? Are you looking to print album covers, promotional materials, or concert posters? Whatever it is you decide you want to create, stick with it. There are different machines, techniques, and materials to use for each product and process you choose, so it’s best to pick your niche and then get good at it! If you try too many techniques at once you may get overwhelmed and produce sub-par products. You can always add offerings later, so stick with what you know (or what you would like to learn) until you have fully mastered that skill and have built a strong customer base.
Train Yourself Through Research
With every type of material you want to print on comes a new way of doing it. Once you’ve decided on the line of product you want to make, researching is the next step. For example, if you plan on printing paper goods (like business cards, stationery, greeting cards, etc.) you will need to get some sort of cutting equipment. There are hydraulic cutters and hand-operated cutters. The difference between those two lies in the amount of product you’ll be producing and how many hands you’ll have on deck. If, however, you are looking to make vinyl signs, you’ll probably need a cutter that can cut out letters and graphics from adhesive-backed vinyl. That’s a completely different machine all on its own.
What you can learn from the above example is that the more specific you get with your niche, the easier it is to facet a business around it. You’ll need to gather plenty of research on the subject and train yourself on each machine and technique. It may seem tedious at times, but gaining an understanding of the field (and one that eventually leads to an advanced level of expertise) is absolutely necessary. Customers will trust you, employees will respect you, and you’ll make less mistakes in the long run.
Give Yourself Space
There’s a reason most screen printing shops can be found in huge warehouses or old run-down buildings. They need A LOT of space. Now, you may be wondering how some people have managed to keep screen printing businesses alive in the quaintness of their own basement, garage, or backyard shed. That’s likely because they’re only crafting one item at a time with a very slow turnaround. Screen printing devices are available for in-home purchase, but they usually can’t produce enough to keep an actual business afloat.
Once you’ve figured out which machines and tools you need, the next step is picking a space that will fit these needs. Make sure you know the dimensions for each machine, and keep all those numbers handy while hunting for the right spot. Also, factor enough area between each machine both so people can actually operate them and so there’ll be space for tool storage, shelves, tables, and such. Screen printing machines are sometimes larger than your average car, and their structure can resemble that of a ride at a theme park. Your best bet is to visit your future machine up close, physically measure it, and take those dimensions into consideration when looking for a space to plant your business.
Knowing Your Customer Base and Community is Vital to Success
People love supporting local businesses, so if you’re looking to open a whole new shop, then you need to dive into your surrounding community and put your name out there. Whip up some business cards with your logo and pass them out to any place that could possibly use your service in the future.
Screen printing is a business that thrives on customer interaction.
A coffee shop that could use printed sleeves for their drinks, bags for their pastries, or screen-printed aprons for their baristas. A local venue that could use posters for upcoming events, flyers, or even t-shirts for the bands that play there. Check out art galleries, boutiques, and any other nearby small businesses. It’s ventures like those that are more likely to prefer local resources over big business.
You Can Lease or Finance Equipment to Get a Head Start
Screen printing equipment is not only enormous in size, but it also costs enough that you may want to look into ways to get it without spending your entire operating budget. Leasing or financing used or new equipment is your best bet for this new venture. When you lease, a down payment may not even be required leaving you with more cash for the things that matter. Plus, monthly lease payments can be fully deductible as an operating expense for income tax purposes. This is a great way to get started without losing the flexibility a fledgling business.
No matter what path you choose in your screen printing business, it’s always best to lay out a plan. Pick your path, gather all the research, and take some classes if you can. After you feel up to snuff with your new DIY knowledge, we’re willing to bet that everything else will easily fall into place.