I can lower my price to get experience right?
Nick Garrett

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On the Money

Ok so many students express open gratitude when I talk about exactly how much is the right price to charge customers for say, a shop sign.

”Well guys if you charge 300.00 a day you take home 160.00 living and working in London”.
Yep as a newbie you’ll be scraping the barrel if you charge below 275.00 per day and here’s why. You’ll need a full kit and that will include good brushes, stock of paints, ladders, sundries, travel and accountants.

The sum total is about 35-45% of your takings in year 1 and 2.

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”Well how much is a fair day rate then?” Asks Mia Warner http://www.miawarner.com who has just started out as a signpainter in Leyton.  

”Well Mia my matey Colin charges me 400.00 a day… and frankly at that money I can’t pay him as a subcontractor, but he is worthy of 500.00 a day.  It’s definitely NOT 250.00 because to charge that kills what all the guys out there have been building for 30 years. Last summer it ground to a halt because people were working for 150.00 a day!! Not even a vinyl sticker works for that!”

The going rate for a decent plumber is c450-600 a day these days and to be honest I can understand that… it’s hard graft, awkward, often cold and always dirty – so is signwriting. But plumbing’s not art is it? Anyone can do it. And gleaming taps might keep a client happy in the restaurant toilet, but what got him or her there in the first place was that beautiful sign outside right!!??? Let’s get this straight.


Great signwriting DRIVES business! 24-7 they are the best business return you could ever dream of. A great sign will add new clients and keep those onboard very happy to be so.

Last week I chalked up Chai Tea on the wall of Sugahill (funk) Cafe in Sydenham and they sold 3 that morning. No surprise to me but owner DJ Chris Arch was genuinely surprised. Why wouldn’t a hip sign work? By work I mean sell product?

Signs tell people what you can give them, make them feel special by, taste, luxuriate and remember for 50 years… they can’t read yr f mind can they!!!

Signs sell.

Bad signs turn people away.

No signs…

Beautiful signs? 

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The Globe (Lisson Grove Marylebone) wall art was still wet when Gerry and Darral flung open the doors on an opening that was surely a week too early, despite the stacked cartons and mad disarray bartop, the place packed out and stayed that way every since. The signwriting pitched at the local French Italian quarter and the Wine, Champagne and Scotch flowed.

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Above: The Globe opening with fitters still in full swing.

Below: Stacked out not on a Friday this but a Tuesday summer evening.

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It’s not rocket science, that the writer, as the last on site, has to handle clients that are near out of cash, but it is obvious to me, that the brand signwriter is absolutely going to be the dude who stacks the chances of success high – exactly where you need it.

The book is always sold by it’s cover be under no illusions.

A price unworthy is worse than nothing

Underpricing is in nobody’s best interests. A few catastrophic things happen when you devalue your work

Short term:

  • The project is unpleasant
  • You have to do extra work to cover the loss
  • You can’t pay for a round of beers

Medium to Long term

  • You get depressed
  • Over work and under produce mainly in quality
  • You owe tax
  • You fail
  • Your personal life suffers and you take on addictions

Self worth and professionalism are a great partnership business plan for the newbie sign writer. Be under no illusions either that at 500 a day, a top end brand based signwriter is under valued but can pay the bills and set aside a bit for a well earned break.

Jack Hollands remarked the other day ”I have had clients tell me they expect to pay a thousand a day for quality artistry… more even” He’s dead right. He always is 😉

”You have embarrassed me Nick” came the remark bang in my face from Ballymore’s creative head, Roger Black. ”You’re too cheap…why did you price this so low?”

I just assured him I wanted to win that particular project.

”Nick… we didn’t look at anyone else… ”

I’d charged nearly double my normal rate.

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Of course not everyone can afford 500.00 for a craftsman who can literally make or break their business ID (more the case they can’t afford not too?)… most clients are on a 25k remortgage business set up and are literally down to their straps… but we cannot subsidise that. We cannot scrape ourselves out and risk burn out, hard work (crazy long hours) and end up with nothing at the end of the year to show for it.

350.00 a day is the minimum rate.

Go below that and you fuck everyone over. Me and all the other king pin sign writers that have grafted for years at it. This is a craft that is high performance in every way. Don’t undervalue all of us in it. 

And yourself too.

Because you are worth every hard earned penny of it… even on day one.

Just make sure you create a bloody fine sign and if you think working for less that a vinyl sticker is good for experience you’re never going to make it in this game… the most important experience is to fight hard to make this sign beautiful and get home cold but well paid and valued.

There’s no feeling like it.

”It is better than… ” Mia whispered laying up a beautiful piece of floating gold leaf.

I thank all of my amazing clients who value what I and others in the trade to.

NGS

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