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The Darker Side of Screen Printing Contract Work

As a custom shop, on occasion you may have a client who brings in shirts he wants you to print. Or perhaps you are considering picking up contract work to fill open time on your press. Before you accept that order, here are a few considerations to make.

1. Misprint Replacement
If the client brings you two-dozen shirts and you have a misprint, you are going to have to pay to replace that shirt. The more expensive the garment, the more you are going to be out of pocket. No matter how careful you may be, mistakes happen, but the customer will expect 24 perfect shirts if that’s what they originally brought in.

If you feel obligated to accept the job because of your personal relationship with the customer, then you should establish in writing upfront that if one or more shirts are misprinted, you are not responsible. Ideally you get that signed so you have documentation in the unhappy event this occurs.

Regardless, there is some risk involved of damaging your relationship with the client if you are not able to perfectly print all the shirts.

2. Printing On The Unknown
Anytime shirts are provided by the client, you run the risk of having no experience with the brand or fabric content, which opens doors to unexpected issues. The shirts may be treated with a finish or some other treatment that will prevent your inks from properly bonding and curing.

If the dyes are not set properly or the shirts have been overdyed, this also can cause problems. And the list goes on from there.

Ideally, you have some extras to test on, but again, this takes up more time than your typical custom job where you stick to familiar shirts; however, the customer expects to be charged less because he provided the shirts.

In addition, if you don’t know where the shirts were procured, then you are unable to contact the supplier to get the crucial information about the shirt’s fabric content and treatments.

3. Cut-Throat Pricing
Another common challenge with any type of contract printing is charging enough to make a profit while remaining competitive. In my experience, I found you could not make a good profit unless you have several automatics and were outputting high volume.

The customer will send the shirts directly from the distributor to you. They have to be sorted and counted. You end up putting in the same amount of labor as when you order them yourself, but get less than half the pay.

4. Marketing and Visibility
Another downfall as a contract printer is you do not exist in the business world. If you get a job to do shirts for a hospital that has gone through a broker, the hospital does not know who you are, and you cannot not reveal this without damaging your relationship with the broker.

Contract work can be a wonderful way to fill slower seasons and supplement your income, just be careful of the world you’re getting into. Larger shops are able to accept this work without as much consideration, but that doesn’t mean other printer’s don’t have a chance!

Scott Lamb
Territory Sales Manager
Ryonet

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