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Is a mobile signs shop a good investment?

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Good afternoon everybody. Not sure what section this should belong to, but I have been cutting vinyl and printing shirts for about 6-7 years now. Up until 2019, I was cutting for personal purposes and for friends/family who needed smaller decals for their cars and what not. But this past year I decided to step it up a notch and go into business as a side hustle. On top of teaching elementary PE, I offer a wide variety of vinyl services. Vinyl lettering, vehicles signs, magnetic signs, yard signs, banners, custom printed t-shirts and hats and logo design. I have not stepped into car wraps YET, but was hoping to dive into that within the next few years. I am currently working out of my house with my 24" plotter, Epson sublimation printer and a 15x15 heat press. (Using a lower end USCutter plotter for the past 4-5 years)*It has made me excellent money this year on the side im not going to lie. Most of my jobs people will come and pick up, but I do go to my customers for the installs. And this is why I am here today....

I recently picked up a new 6x12 V-nose cargo trailer to turn into my office/signs shop. I haven't done anything to it YET, but I did pick up new vinyl flooring for it and I have been mapping out how I want my desk and tables laid out inside. But for those with experience, is offering MOBILE sign services ideal? There are many shops in town here offering everything from common vinyl signs to vehicle wraps. But nobody is advertising MOBILE and that we will come to you and cut on the spot.*

So today, I am trying to talk my self into keeping the trailer and just "going" for it and trying it out. But the other side of me has me thinking twice. And I tend to overthink way too much. But hearing other stories and experiences in the same business are extremely helpful. I planned on hauling everything in an enclosed trailer, only during installs where I can go and bring my cutter with me and also becoming a vendor at local events in town or possibly the local flea markets on the weekends. I have a pickup truck that I normally haul my ladders and signs in, but in some cases I will drive nearly two hours for a large job for another company so having a mobile office plus my cutter with me is a sign of relief.*

I work out of my house probably 90% of the time right now. This past 2019 year, I have probably went out of town 4-5 times to cut vinyl on the spot and install. But if I do continue to go down this route, I will advertise and push more of the "we come to you" service.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? I have about $2500 invested in the trailer so far. Good investment or should I invest the $2500 somehow else?*

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Sounds like a good time. You will need a reliable power source as well so you don't fry something. That trailer is pretty small to try and use for all your equipment AND prepping a vehicle graphics project. I'm just trying to envision the workflow with a decent sized vinyl project and trying to weed then mask anything of size inside a trailer out of the elements (wind mostly)

Personally I would spend money on getting high quality equipment so your work is easier and more precise. You'd be surprised at the difference in accuracy when layering complicated cuts. I have pretty much stepped away from signs and vehicles and do almost exclusively apparel now. The revenue stream is much more steady and it's something that fits with a home based in the evening type side job. Only so many people want/need vehicle or sign work but everyone, literally everyone wants a tee shirt. With the right equipment you can do sports team uniforms and all sorts of stuff. You can also work well into the night when the big orders come instead of having to try and schedule time during the day to go do an install. Our little side business that started in 2010 almost exactly like yours now grosses over 80K each season, still as a part time gig. My wife is a stay at home and helps press shirts while I'm at my day job. 

I guess to answer your question with a question, how will the trailer make you money and how much will it add to your overall revenue. How long for ROI and if it takes off will you be needing to upsize? At what point do you think you will outgrow the budget equipment you have been using? Sorry not to actually give you an answer but you can probably read between the lines and see my thoughts. Good luck in your quest though!

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This was my first legitimate year in business. I mainly did a lot of vehicle graphics, custom shirt and hat printing. Those were probably my top two biggest services. I created a couple websites for clients worth around $4000 or so, but my bread and butter come from vehicle graphics and apparel printing. I actually just started partnering with a local IT company who has a 64" printer, screen print and the whole 9 yards. They rarely do screen printing so they're letting me operate my business out of part of the shop...

I work from home 90% of the time. Some installs I have to go to the customers shop or house but I dont mind. 

I guess the real question though, is did I jump the gun too quickly and purchase the trailer? Even though I purchased it already, they are pretty easy to sell here where Im at. So maybe I should have just focused on taking that $2500 and using some of it towards some advertising or possibly better tools or equipment. 

And now I don't down US cutter at all, but I have been using the US Cutter 24" model that was around $300 and I have a standard 15x15 heat press from Pro World, and an Epson sublimation printer, all 3 have made my yearly gross about $45,000 my first year in business. And this is a side job for me as well.

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Florida, hmmmmm, I sure hope that trailer has full A/C !!

You wanna really know if this will work or not?  See if a Costco 30"x96"' banquet table fits in there allowing you room to maneuver.

utility-folding.jpg

 

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If you decide to keep the trailer, I highly recommend that you put your equipment on a UPS back-up. You're going to want to protect it from brown/black outs, and the subsequent surge when the power kicks back ok.

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Not sure if trailering your equipments daily like a plotter and different types of printer is a good idea. The shock from going down the road may damage or throw off the alignment of the cutting head or print head. Otherwise, great idea!

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