CNC Sign Making as a Side Business

For a well-equipped CNC shop, routing wood signs for signmakers who mostly do other types of sign is a viable business niche. March 11, 2009

I have been making a few signs lately. It seems the routered sign market is somewhat lacking in my area. So I wanted to develop my local sign making market. I want to design a flyer to take to local shops. I produce locally and fairly quickly. I can even install if needed.

If any of you do this, how do you price it? I know hourly is the best for me and I know what I charge for signs but I wanted to come up with a price per square foot for a basic routed sign using sign foam, another basic price for redwood.

I'd like to figure out add-on's like a sandblasted look background, or for 3-D work. This way the shops can measure the square foot and know exactly what a sign will cost them. Any help would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor T:
It seems to me that this market is already using CNC with special software in most parts of the country. Do you have sign making software? It would seem that selling to these people would be short term, they could do all this themselves. Rather than sell to the sign shops, why not just market yourself as a sign maker for wood signs?

From the original questioner:
Good point but I already make some signs. I use Enroute Pro which is a 3-D program made by the same folks that use Flexisign. So I already have good software for this. No one local makes routed signs that I can locate. Most of my customers I do signs for have been looking but can't find anyone but vinyl or letter signs or big signs like the ones in front of Wal-Mart. But medium sized signs, especially made of wood, are just not produced around here.

I wanted to go to sign shops because I figured I could avoid all the advertising into a new market. They could steer customers my way and I would pay them a percentage. Or they could take the orders themselves and I just produce for them.

The image below is of a sign we made. The tree was drawn by someone in the neighborhood. She also designed the sign. It was cut out of redwood. This is the type of stuff I know there is a market for. I just need to develop it slightly.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor D:
Why not buy some vinyl sign equipment and do a little advertising. The equipment would be cheaper than your CNC. You could just take all of the sign business. Why tell the competition what they are doing wrong? If they are smart, they will see the market you want to fill, buy a CNC, and offer your service. Contributor T is right, selling to them is short term, until they figure out they are losing money and giving it to you.

From contributor J:
I mill signs. I have some software that makes it possible to v-carve fonts and curves. I only subcontract - let the sign shop do the selling, painting and installing. I just mill. I get the data from the customer's accepted proof and can run a simulation to provide an estimate for my part of the job. I mill sheet PVC, a variety of sign foams and wood. That plan works for me - keep it simple and minimal.

From contributor S:
My family owns a sign company and they outsource all their CNC work as do most sign shops. There are too many product choices in the sign business to have all the equipment to provide everything so your business model is very viable.

Sign shop does all design work and provides specs to shop to bid on a case by case basis. A general pricing structure is set up to give prospects a "ballpark" of price first so they don't waste time designing and bidding out a project with no chance to close.

All non wood based mediums are direct shipped to shop for processing. Wood based is up to the CNC shop to supply. Offering install is a huge selling point for you. Files are in 3-D vectored EPS format ready for file conversion.

From contributor J:
Here is part of the revenue stream!