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Maggie Harlow

Make Signshop Life Easier and More Profitable

Just follow these 10 simple rules.




HERE’S HOW YOU can eliminate wasted time, resources, and avoid headaches!

1. “Can you reuse my sign panel by removing the vinyl?” Our general answer is no, with very small amounts or removal from something like Polycarbonate pan faces as exceptions. We don’t remove vinyl from banners or signs. Labor is expensive, and by reusing a sign, many customers are simply saving themselves money, but costing you more.

“Can you show me my design before I pay a deposit?” Apart from a very few exceptions, we do not provide free design services. We will show them ideas we find online, or examples of our work, but design is part of our services. One solution is to charge only for design services upfront; even $50 helps discern who real buyers are.

2. “If I like this product, I’ll buy a bunch more, so be sure to give me a great deal!” Classic line to get a signshop owner lathered up, but generally never works out in their favor. I respond with, “I’ll sell you this one at full price. When you return to buy 100 more, I’ll discount that purchase.” Put the burden on them to come back with that big order.

3. “Give me a good price on this. I have a lot of business to give you if you do.” So in other words, you are going to bring me a bunch of business — maybe — but you’ll be wanting discounts on it all. No thanks. If you want to audition me, my best version comes at full price. The customer is auditioning as well.

4. “I don’t know what I want in my design. Something that pops/is kid friendly/looks luxurious!” Be very careful here! We let customers do some of their own thinking by creating Google searches for them to find ideas they can attach to. If we are going to just design and “hope it works,” we make it clear that we have an hourly rate for design.


5. “I don’t care what color yellow — just something fun.” Help your clients choose their colors by having a preprinted color chart from the appropriate printer so they can know exactly what they will get. Many customers “don’t care” until they get their sign, and then they care a lot.

6. “Can I pay at pick up?” No! — Get a deposit! We do not give terms to new customers, not even large companies. At a minimum, collect 50%. All of us have a sign that we designed and made sitting in our pick-up area, never to be used or paid for.

7. “Yes, we’ll provide a warranty!” If you have a good client who has a sign failure, just take care of it (if you can). Obviously, if the sign was damaged, the warranty won’t apply, but we try in every instance that a client is unhappy to repair or replace the sign. Remember that acquiring a new client is expensive! It’s almost always cheaper to keep a client than replace one.

8. “Oh, no, not that guy again!” If you have a client that you dread coming in, it’s time to part ways. Some clients are difficult, picky, hard-nosed, vague — you name it. It’s okay to let a client go gently. Some ways we do this: “We are too busy right now. Let me refer you somewhere.” Or you can simply raise your quote beyond what they want to pay.

9. No sticky notes for client information! Double down on your efforts to organize your incoming lead management. Even a small shop can afford software like Monday or Asana to gather information on incoming customers to capture who is contacting you and how to reach them. Scribbling client notes is a growth killer!

10. Get the time, money and materialwasters out of your shop. Devote your time and energy to your best clients, and you’ll have time to find more of them!




Introducing the Sign Industry Podcast

The Sign Industry Podcast is a platform for every sign person out there — from the old-timers who bent neon and hand-lettered boats to those venturing into new technologies — we want to get their stories out for everyone to hear. Come join us and listen to stories, learn tricks or techniques, and get insights of what’s to come. We are the world’s second oldest profession. The folks who started the world’s oldest profession needed a sign.

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