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Ask Signs of the Times

You Don’t Have to Fabricate Everything

There are times when it makes sense to subcontract, as explained in this month’s “Ask Signs of the Times.”




How does Signs of the Times pick what goes into the magazine?

Great question, especially as we have recently received more suggestions to “write an article about me” than usual. Every fall, we finalize our “editorial calendar” for the following year. We decide exactly what the subjects of both feature articles will be for every issue. (IOW, we have already fully planned every 2023 feature article.) That said, those are just the topics. We look for sign companies that fit those topics throughout the year — for example, we recently contacted companies that have been in business for 100 years (see page 24). For many topics, such as shops’ most memorable projects (see page 32), we directly survey our Brain Squad; every company in that article belongs to the squad. We also search Brain Squad profiles for company specialties, such as those with full neon shops for last month’s article on LED vs. neon (see St February 2023, page 32). So, our advice, if you want to get published in Signs of the Times magazine, is to join the Brain Squad at

Should sign companies have to fabricate everything or just sub work out? Subcontracting brings less profit but also fewer headaches.

To answer this as it was asked, no, sign companies should not have to fabricate everything. Plenty of jobs of all types can be sold by signshops without also fabricating whatever was involved. Subcontracting often makes sense: when you don’t have the equipment (or skilled labor) to fabricate the job yourself, when it would be more costly to fabricate yourself vs. subcontracting, when you are just too busy to fit the fabrication of a job into your schedule, and more. Our recent Big Survey found that 52% of all respondents subcontract fabrication and that the trend toward subcontracting at least some services in general is increasing (see Big Survey 2023, page 18). There’s no shame at all in subcontracting fabrication. Often it makes a great deal of sense for a sign company.

What are the best practices/tips for saving money on income taxes?

Hire a professional if you are not professionally trained in the area yourself. A tax preparer will be aware of every deduction that might apply to your business. A professional also will almost certainly not make a mistake on your income tax return; the chances are greater when prepared by a novice. Lastly, having your income taxes prepared by a professional will allow you to do — as the recent commercial says — “not taxes.” You can even justify the expense by using the time you would have spent doing your own taxes by making more signs, and more money.

Is the charcoal pounce pad obsolete? I still have patterns shipped to me and at least 300 patterns stored in case of sign replacements. Or am I obsolete?

While pounce pads may not be widely used anymore, we will not dare to declare them obsolete as long as they are still useful to the sign pros, who, like this one, is certainly not obsolete either. Old is not the same as obsolete, so keep on pouncing those patterns and “snapping” signs!

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Signs of the Times has been the world leader in sign information since 1906. Contact Signs of the Times' editors at



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