(Guest post written by David Vahey, the creator of RyoArt and owner of MediaFly)

Look I get it, you got into screenprinting for one of two reasons: you either wanted to be creative and print shirts for your band, or you wanted to support yourself / family and run a business. This post is for the latter. These three steps will help you be laser focused on what is truly important, staying as lean as possible as a business, while delivering what your clients needs, not wants.

Make sure you read #3.

1. Don’t Over-Buy On Equipment

Most entrepreneurs go all in. They think they have the best ideas and need the most expensive equipment before they can even test the market, don’t be that person. Don’t overspend on what won’t deliver to your bottom line. If you don’t need an auto press yet, don’t buy one. Don’t need an 8 x 8 press, then don’t get one. Stay lean and grow the right way, if you can’t afford to buy it outright, don’t buy it. Our main press in our shop is a 6 x 4 old Riley Hopkins that I got off craigslist for $300; it’s made us over $300k. Yes, the day will come when you need to upgrade, when that time comes have fun and only buy from ScreenPrinting.com (they have been our only equipment & supply dealer).

Lesson: Don’t buy something unless it drives revenue and satisfies customer demand.

2. Think Twice Before Leasing

When I first started printing I had a massive 220 volt BBC 8 foot conveyor with a 4 x 4 press jammed into my attic. When a business mentor came by I was embarrassed to show him my setup, I was shocked by his response. After five seconds of looking at my setup, he said something I’ll never forget, “Smells like money up here Dave.” He went on to tell me that most small companies dream of having a huge shop and buildings. He warned me that leases and rent are just overhead that can cause headaches and stress if you have a few slow months.

Lesson: Dream big, but grow cautiously.

3. Choose Clip Art Instead Of Designing

This is very important, don’t skip this step. There are two types of clients that you will encounter in your lifetime – shirt client number 1 and shirt client number 2.

Number 1: Their design has to be fully custom and done by an artist they love to deliver a dream design. I would say this type of client accounts for 10 percent of all my clients (70 percent of your time though).

Shirt client number 2: They need a good looking shirt and give you full or close to full creative control. In one of my early years of printing I spent $45k in design fees to a local freelancer, it averaged $145 per design, looking back it was totally foolish to think every customer deserved a fully custom logo. I should have used clip art to make a quick and professional customized design and made everyone happier in the end.

Lesson: Design for profit. Keep it simple and never design something that you can’t or shouldn’t print. Always design with profit in mind and use clip art to keep your costs down (in both money and time).

We put together an awesome clip art collection called, “Drop N’ Fill Art” – 100 Text Ready Designs that will help you to stay lean on your art expenses. It includes 100 designs for $100, all formats are included, psd, pdf, png, eps and jpeg in large dpi format. Being able to mock up a design with clip art in five minutes will not only impress a new client but will keep them coming back for years to come.

David Vahey is a traveling screen printer who runs Mediaflyscreenshop.com – he’s printed over 200k shirts in 10 different states and since starting his business has grossed almost +1mil in sales, he still prints out of his attic too.

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