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How To Start A Screen Printing Business

So you are considering going into screen printing. You want to create t shirts or other items that you can sell for a profit, but you have no clue how to start a screen printing business. This handy guide will give you the basics on how to start a screen printing business. 


Estimate Your Initial Screen Printing Costs


The first thing that you need to do is figure out what you are initially starting with. Do you have thousands of dollars saved up, or are you flat broke? This may sound funny, but it is true. You can start a screen printing business with a lot of money or a very little amount of money. All you really need to start a screen printing business is a design, a screen, emulsion, squeegee, and ink. That’s it. 


A screen will run you somewhere around $30. Emulsion will cost around $20. Ink will cost you around around $13 for an 8 ounce jar. A cheap squeegee will cost you $1. In theory you could start for as low as $64. That’s pretty cheap. In fact, you could probably start it for even less than that. There are people on YouTube or Pinterest who can show you how to screen print for very little money.


While this is a low number, this doesn’t factor in the cost of the shirts that you are going to print on and the design itself. It’s just a low-cost equipment cost. 


What you will be able to do with this type of screen printing is very minimal. You are basically laying the shirt on a flat surface, then laying the screen on top of the shirt and then spreading the ink. This is a bare bones situation. One color. One design. It is not the best way to start up a screen printing business. However, it can be done. This will take a while, but you will be able to do it. It will be rough starting your new venture this way, but it can be done. 


From there you can start considering other options for screen printing. If you have a budget. You can spend that budget completely on equipment. So if you have $250 then there is equipment that will be better than your bare bones option and will do a better job. Again, it’s a step up, but not unachievable. 


In the long run you can purchase a lot of equipment and it can get very pricey. There are screen printers out there that are automatic and can print lots of colors. They cost a lot of money. What your budget for this venture is determines where you will start and what capabilities you have. 


The general level that you want to get to is to have a four station press and support equipment. This sort of package will cost around $5000. This will have the press, a washout sink, a flash dryer, and an exposure unit. When you have this basic level of equipment you can begin to produce shirts faster and with multiple colors. 


Just know that you can start out with bad equipment and be able to work your way up.



Can you finance screen printing equipment?


The short answer is yes. Many equipment dealers have financing available to help customers finance their purchases. You will need good credit to make this work. If your credit is not good then they will charge you more in financing costs, or worse they may not approve you at all. 


Would it make sense to finance screen printing equipment?


Let’s say that you got a loan of $10,000 and they charged you 10% interest. The loan is for 5 years. Your payment would be around $212.47/month. (That’s less than a typical car payment.) Now what could you purchase with a $10,000 loan? You could purchase an automatic screen printing press. With an automatic screen printing press you can print 100 6 color shirts an hour. Which means that if you print 212 prints a month and only made a $1 profit on each shirt you would cover the cost of your print investment. Most times  you will earn $10 profit per shirt. A banker would likely take you up on that loan seeing that they would get their money back. So yes, financing screen equipment can make sense. It will always be better to pay cash upfront. That way you don’t have to pay interest. 


What does it cost to run a screen printing business?


After you have purchased equipment and supplies you will have to start thinking about the other costs involved in operating a screen printing business. Costs such as shirts, ink, emulsion, design, labor, storage, website, and rental space. It is not necessary to have all of these when you start. You can decide as you go along.


Shirts: This is one of the most important ongoing considerations that the beginner screen printer must deal with. The average cost of a blank shirt is around $24/Dozen. So around $2 per shirt. That would be for a 100% heavy weight cotton t-shirt. Remember, these are average costs. It also depends on how many you buy at once. Typically a wholesaler will give you a deal on shirts when ordering in bulk.


Screens: Once you have purchased screens for production you will need to prepare the screens. It costs roughly $1.50 to prepare each screen with emulsion. The more screens you have, the better. When you have a rush job you will be able to fill it faster. The actual cost of the screen is around $25. You will probably be able to reuse a screen more than 20 times. 


Utilities: You will need to consider utilities in running your business. Things such as running water, lights, electricity, phone, and internet are vital to daily operations. Without these you won’t last very long. You will need to estimate the costs for each of these in the area that you are doing business in. Start checking around for estimates. The utilities in your area may be your best source of information.


Rent: If you are going to be running your business out of your house you will need space in your basement, garage, or a spare bedroom.  Otherwise you will need to rent a space to house your operation. This will be a significant cost. You may need to rent a storefront which can cost a lot of money. If you are going to rent or purchase a storefront then it would be best if it has enough front of the house space for sales, and back of the house space for production. This would be the best of both worlds. Rent will vary based on location. You will want to check prices in the area that you are looking to start your business in.


Ink: If you have a gallon of ink then you can get thousands of prints from it. We recommend  screen printing plastisol ink. It is ok to consider that you will spend around $.05 per shirt. Remember that you want to choose your plastisol ink wisely. Do not choose it based on how much it costs. Choosing a cheap ink can be disastrous. A bad ink can take you longer to print. To get the right consistency you may have to buy additional chemicals. Purchase a high quality plastisol t-shirt ink and you won’t have these problems.


Labor: There is time involved in screen printing. The screens have to be made. The jobs have to be printed. To make things more productive then you may want to pre-clean, reclaim, or coat screens in advance. Once you are ready, you will be able to expose a screen for printing in as little as an hour. 


Every state has their own minimum wage requirements. However, finding employees who will work for the minimum wage is not always the best option for your business. You want employees who will stay with you for a long period of time. This will cut down on training costs. Plus, a well trained employee is more efficient. This sort of employee will obviously want more money. If they don’t get it they will go somewhere else. At the same time the compensation for the employee must be reasonable enough to make a profit.


Are there perks of owning a screen printing business?


Yes there are some awesome perks. While there is a lot of work involved in running your own business there are rewards.


  • You make t-shirts. People love t-shirts. There is a market for your creations. People will want your product.
  • It doesn’t require a large amount of space to run this business. You can run it out of your home. 
  • You are a middleman. You only need to order and print the shirts that the customer has ordered. Nothing more. Nothing less. 
  • You won’t have a ton of inventory that needs to be constantly monitored. If you run out of blank shirts local distributors should be able to fill the order in as little as a day.
  • If you sell shirts with a brand name that will boost your recognition.
  • You will gain tax benefits from running your own business. 
  • You will be your own boss. 

Marketing Your Screen Printing Business


There are potential customers everywhere. Customers are actively looking for screen printers. Remember, that you did not have to make the screen printing sale. Somebody else determined that they needed shirts made. You are just facilitating the sale. Nonetheless, you need to get your name out there so that they can find you. 


  • Word of mouth is the most prominent way to promote any business. Tell everybody.
  • Use social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to show your fabulous creations. People will want to know where those shirts are made.
  • Use Google Ads to get in front of your customers.
  • Create a great sign. Something eye catching and flashy. You could even screen print it yourself.
  • Check out the price of billboards. You can actually rent space on a billboard for a lower cost than you think. Check Blip for details. 

Make sure that everybody knows that you screen print. Don’t let any stone go unturned. TELL EVERYBODY!!!


Create a flyer that shows that you sell:


Garments: 

T-shirts 

Hoodies

Jackets

Golf Shirts

Caps

Bandanas

Heat Transfers

Uniforms

Aprons


Unusual Items

Ties

Towels

Athletic Bags

Horse Blankets

Can Wraps

Umbrellas

Seat Cushions

Tote Bags


Flat Items

Bumper Stickers

Frisbees

Mugs

Name Tags

Pens

Binders

Corrugated Boxes

Key Chains

Mirrors

Name Tags

Pens

Real Estate Signs

Political Posters


Make a list of every holiday and event there is. This way you can be prepared to sell and take orders  for screen printing. Create designs for those special days.


Events

Class Trips

Conventions

Ethnic Festivals

Fund-Raisers

Parades

Picnics

Radio & TV Promotions

Church Functions

Concerts

Craft Fairs

Flea Markets

Open-Houses

Parties

Political Campaigns

Running Marathons


Holidays

Company Anniversaries

Father’s Day

Fourth of July

Landmark Birthdays

Saint Patrick’s Day

Valentines Day

Wedding Anniversaries

Cinco de Mayo

Earth Day

Flag Day

Halloween

Mother’s Day

Thanksgiving

Wedding Anniversaries

Christmas


Every sports team needs shirts screen printed. They also need caps and pennants. Be careful though. Sports teams can be difficult because they are not well organized. But if you deliver a great product on time they will keep coming back. 


Sports Teams

Baseball

Cheerleaders

Double Dutch

Gymnastics

Little League

Soccer

Volleyball

Basketball

Bowling

Football 

Intramural Teams

School Sports

Softball


Clubs

Car Clubs

Country Clubs

Lions Clubs

Motorcycle Clubs

Sailing Clubs

Scouts

Boys Clubs

Churches

Kawanis Clubs

Marching Band

Roary Clubs

School Clubs

Ski Clubs


Businesses

Cycling Shops

Freight

Hotels/Motels

Military

Restaurants

Home Improvement

Utilities

Car Dealers

Fire Depts.

Gift Shops

Lawn Maintenance

Musical Groups

Retailers

Theatre Groups

Home Improvement

Utilities


Remember that t shirts aren’t the only thing that you can sell. Check out our post called 10 Additional Screen Printing Products You Can Sell To Your Customers for more ideas of products you can add. 

Make sure you attach a business card to each item so they know where to go the next time they need screen printing.


There is so much opportunity when it comes to screen printing. You can print your own shirts and sell them. You can print shirts for private organizations, and special events. Everybody loves a great screen printing design. Tell everybody.

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