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Sign shop owner, curious about expanding

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I've grown up at a sign shop. My mother started it in 1976, and I've slowly been taking over.  Within the last few years we've been getting a lot of requests for tinting, frosting, and blocking out glass.

this is the first project I did. I got this job because i make all the signs and cut all the dimensional for them, and even when i'm way out of my comfort zone, i manage to get the job done and better than epected. the tinter that was supposed to do this fell off the map and quit answering his phone. they had a large conference coming and wanted the doors done before hand. for this i covered the window with frosted vinyl and then hand cut the oval. after hand cutting the outer oval, i stuck on the logo i cut with my plotter.


the second job was also for them, not as pretty, but much larger and much more intimidating. these i covered with black vinyl. each was 98" x 115", four groups of these. all went well.


third job i couldn't turn down was helping a contractor get some glass at a chase bank frosted in time to get the job approved. 2 days notice IIRC.

for everyone else that comes in and asks, i usually say i don't do tinting, and i don't know anyone that's good enough to recommend. We're picky here and so are our customers.

one of my customers owns a glass business, mostly redoing store fronts and fancy glass divided offices. a month ago he wanted me to frost a lot of glass in an office building, i declined because it seemed overwhelming.  last week he was in a tight spot because he installed tape-on mullions to dress up a car dealership and he needed to hide the tape from inside the showroom.  he needed me to help him out of his tight spot, so i did. he was thankful, and his customer got along with me great. these silver stripes go all the way around the showroom.


today he's back. keeps trying to give me more work, and i appreciate it. he's got a lady that wants her shower doors frosted. i can do that with vinyl, and i'm looking forward to it. he also had a much larger project he said i should go do. he recommended me to a guy to frost some exterior windows on a building in chicago.

this job would be to cover glass with llumar Frost (NRM-PS2)

sizes are

(1) 32 x 76"

(2) 16 x 84"

(2) 32 x 83"

(2) 40 x 80"

(9) 48 x 100"

that totals 448 ft^2

looks like i'd have a maximum of $1342 in materials figuring it costs $3/ft.

at $5/ft it would be $2237

at $7/ft it would be $3132

are those prices realistic? 

i was using the guide at [snip]


sounds intimidating, but i'm getting sick of passing up work. I think it's time to expand my business to do more of what you guys do. i'm very meticulous and have a very stady hand with an xacto. i believe i can do this.

i have a couple questions..

1- is that "llumar Frost (NRM-PS2)" film good enough for the inside of an exterior window?  i like to do quality work that lasts a long time.

2- are there any realistic pricing resources available? most sign shops i talk to price jobs like this really high and hope they don't get the job. if you do, you suffer through it. that was previously my attitude as well, but i'd like to change that.


3- correct tools vs what i've been "getting by" with? like, your preferred squeegee vs my preferred vinyl 5" golden squeegee, do you make your own application fluid? what are the best brands of quality films, and where's the hot place to get it?


4- any thoughts on my expansion plan? I'm 34, made my first sign when i was 2 on my bedroom wall. I'm taking over the shop to give my mom a bit of a break from all the stress. besides doing most of the work, i've also taken over the finances we're not getting rich, but we're keeping the lights on.  just trying to get ahead. it kills me passing on work i know i could do


my name is robert. this is my first post. i look forward to meeting you all and participating where i can.

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Welcome to the forum!


I can't comment on much of that...  The prices you listed seem pretty much inline with what I came up with... what you need to do is figure out what the going rate is for your area and make sure your prices aren't bringing down the market.


If the going rate is $7 sq/ft, try and stay around there. You can still make a profit with say $4 a sq/ft, but if everyone else is at $7, having that big of a drop in your prices brings everyone down.


Talk to some film companies.. get their dealer packs which should include sample books and price lists... talk to them and see what they recommend for your area and what you should price things out at, and use that as a guide. I've had reps suggest $xx.xx which is a lot lower then what I know tinters charge in my area.. so not all reps will give the best answer, but it's a start in getting an idea what to charge.

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thanks for the replies guys.

are there common suppiers that you guys like to use? i mean for signs we have grimco and fellers, earl mich, wensco, and rayco as our local sign supply companies. for films i'm a bit lost.  the only company i have contacted is llumar.  they forwarded my contact info to their distributor, PFD Ohio. the guy from PFD wrote that he will send me a sample book and forward my info to the guy that covers Illinois.

are there any resuppliers you guys can recommend?

are there any brands of film that you recommend?

I definitely won't be driving the prices down in my area. I prefer to charge on the high side and I'm not afraid to lose a few jobs. I'm already here at work 6-7 days a week. I'm pretty meticulous. so if something isn't perfect, i wouldn't be afraid to rip it off and re-do it.  I want to do an excellent job and charge high enough where it's worth it.  One of my favorite customer uses an unreliable tinter, the guy i mention at the beginning of my first post.  The company i did that for owns a large mall and would have no problem telling me what they have paid in the past for tinting so i'll have a good idea of where to start.

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are there common suppiers that you guys like to use?

I definitely won't be driving the prices down in my area. I prefer to charge on the high side and I'm not afraid to lose a few jobs


SunTek is decent.. and they have films in 72" widths. (As does Lulu)


Not sure what windows are like in your area, but I hate to splice windows... so when I have windows that are wider then 60", I'll use SunTek... Here is my area that is very common...


As for prices - The biggest change for me was when I decided I did not have to get every job that came along... having that mindset, IMO, allows you to price according to what you feel the job is worth - and if you get it, great.. if not, no big deal either. :thumb

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