How to Price Your Live Screen Printing Business in 7 Easy Steps

How to Price Your Live Screen Printing Business

How to Price Your Live Screen Printing Business.

I have been in the live screen printing business for over six years. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is… “How much should I charge?” This question is tough, because every scenario is different, so let’s see if we can give you some insight.

Table of Contents

Can I make money with live screen printing?

Yes! If you have a skilled crew ( including you) that can keep things clean (very difficult in a live environment), not bust any screens (also difficult in a live environment), and you and your team can work eight hours straight, you have a good shot at making a decent living. Basically, yahoo and newbie manual printers will ruin any shot you have at this, because you will piss clients off and get fined for making a permanent mess. But if you and your team are skilled, and can manage your ink in a super-clean fashion, you’ve got it!

Is there a onsite t-shirt printing market?

Yes and no. Live screen printing has been catching on over the last few years within the screen print industry, in large part because it seems like an easy way to add to your shop’s bottom line. The problem is, the need for the service has not grown at the same rate at which the service is being offered. Therefore, the supply is greater than the demand. In my experience, the volume per shop is dropping off drastically specifically in the activation space, mainly due to local printers picking up the local gigs, preventing the need to travel. But the amount of opportunities you will have in a fiscal year, when you are landlocked to areas where you can drive, is rather low. This makes it difficult to say how to price your live screen printing business.

How do I get potential customers that want to bring live screen printing into their event?

We do over 100 events per year, and I still can’t fully answer this question. This is in part because when I started in this segment, there were not nearly as many live printers offering the service. So I have a strong base of existing corporate clients that trust me. So, if you get a good client, make sure to follow up with them after you print the event.

To get new clients, my main methods are good old-fashioned cold calling and Google. Cold calling is pretty basic: Find a potential client you want to work with, and start working your way through their phone system until you find the person you are looking for, and then give them your pitch.

With Google, I use basic SEO tactics to try to rank on the first page for the main search terms, like “event T-shirt printing.” This has also become far more difficult due to multiple shops in every city entering the live printing space. I also run Google ads for specific search terms, based on the type of client niche I’m currently pursuing.

What sort of live screen print events are available?

There are four types of opportunity that I am aware of: Profit sharing, Renting a space, subbing your labor to another shop that gets a gig in your city or state and bidding on corporate gigs.

Concerts and festival profit shares

These gigs will offer you a space for live printing in exchange for the cost of the space — you both share the profits. The profit share will vary greatly from client to client. It will be a full-out negotiation. Hit them high, and then negotiate, but make sure you don’t include the cost of the garment. Include a restocking fee that you will subtract from the vendor’s share on unit printer garments.

Rent a booth, set up and print that event

The cost of a booth will vary wildly from event to event. For instance, getting a booth at Coachella will cost thousands per day, whereas a booth at your local arts fair may only be a couple hundred bucks per day.

I feel like this is the best method for live printing. First, you keep all the profits and you can stock up on blank tees, take them to the event, and sell them at a markup. If you don’t sell out, you can return them, and if you have a local supplier, you won’t have to pay a very high restocking fee. Or you can keep them stocked for the next event. You can price this at custom retail rates, or you can charge per impression, or charge a flat fee. The sky is really the limit, and it is mainly all profit. You can start the event of low get a line and raise the price based on demand. No one ever said fixed pricing is a law. Supply and demand is in full effect.

Become a vendor to another shop selling live screen printing.

The shop will hire you to print in your area. This is the type of gig I rarely take, and if it comes up, I still ask for 70 percent of my normal rate. Mostly, I avoid it: These companies essentially gobble up clients with aggressive marketing, take the majority of the money, and pay you a small portion to do the work. You are essentially working for someone else. Didn’t you want to work for yourself?

How to Price Your Live Screen Printing Business and win bids
Tradeshows and private parties.

This area is the most difficult, because of the requirements, access and because of the limited amount of conventions and private parties available in a year. To try and bid these gigs you can start marketing your service to the niche you are interested in printing for. Write articles, post to social media, and place ads on Google to get clients. Eventually, you will get an opportunity to bid.

How to price your live screen printing business.

There are two ways the bid on these events:

Set-up fee plus hourly: This will vary from $3500-$4500 for the set-up and $150-$499 per hour.
Day rates: These will usually range from $4500-$10,000 per day, depending on how many hours they want you to activate and how many presses you will have onsite. 

Make sure to include travel expense. Even if you are in the same city, loading up the trailer, getting to the event, and getting back is allot of time and labor. Charge for it.

Don’t underbid. There is a large amount of labor and effort required to set up at an event and print for hours with no breaks. Also keep this in mind, live printing is entertainment, it should note be priced the same you you would price printing 1000 shirts in your shop.

Don’t underbid a gig! Corporate clients have a budget for each activation, and if you come in too low, You will appear ameture, and will not be considered.

I won the live screen printing bid! How do I print the event?

This is fairly straightforward: Get to the event early, get set up, and start printing samples at least one hour before the event starts, unless you are super tuned in.

DO NOT get ink on anything, and for heaven’s sake, don’t drop the squeegee in the screen! It’s a huge hassle, it makes you and your team look like idiots, and it will completely disrupt the flow of the event.

Don’t bust a screen during the event.

Stack blank garments by size and color.

Make sure the event planner provides one dedicated 15-amp outlet for your drier.

Specify everything you need the event coordinator to provide.

During showtime, there will for sure be a line! Be super-friendly and engage the guest, get them involved, smile, and have fun.

After four hours you will begin to feel tired. This is when only the strong survive! Treat it like a retail job, and treat each guest as the most important person.

If you are charging for the garment at the event, sales is key.You cannot expect to sit in the booth like a timid mouse and sell tees. Be enthusiastic! Show guests how it works and get them involved, and they will be far more inclined to buy.

The trick to this is the line. If people see a line, they are 50 percent more likely to approach and buy, thanks to psychology. It’s FOMO, baby!

In closing …

Live screen printing is a dynamic business, with lots of variables. As I said at the very beginning, every scenario is different. But if you love what you do, clients and event guests will feel it – and that, plus persistence and hard work, will ensure that you find your niche. I hope you learned a bit more on how to price your live screen printing business Good luck!

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