There are pros and cons to running a sign shop out of your home. In this article I will go over these and in the next article I will go over the pros and cons of a free standing retail sign shop.
The number one advantage of having a home based sign shop is going to be cost savings. The monthly costs to operate a sign shop from home is almost nothing. Once you have your equipment, vinyl and substrates you can keep almost all of the profit from the signs you make. For some types of signs like window or vehicle lettering this is around 95%. The number one disadvantage is going to be exposure. You are generally not allowed to post signs or have customers coming and going in a residential area. Therefore you will have to depend on advertising to bring in business. Because of the internet, this is not as expensive as it used to be. Also, newspapers, yellow pages, flyers, cold calling and word of mouth advertising are valuable ways to get customers. Let me say that if you choose to operate from home you will definitely need to set up a nice website. It will be your virtual storefront and people are going to need that connection with your business. I will go more into this in our article on promoting your business. (see our article on marketing your sign business)
Another advantage of working from home is the ability to work longer hours without it seeming like work. You also reduce travel and meal expenses. If you have children or are a stay at home parent then a home based sign shop is the perfect solution. For taxes, you are able to write off home office expenses and other items that you may have not been able to write off previously. This can be especially helpful if you have another salary and want extra income without being pushed into a higher tax bracket. You need to be reasonable about what you write off but the best rule that I have found is that if the expense is necessary for the operation of your business then your business should pay for it.
One thing you are going to need to establish up front is where you are going to put your shop. Since customers will inevitably come over now and then it needs to be a place in your home that you can meet with them. It also have to have enough square footage to hold your equipment and a work area. Don’t skimp on logistical efficiency. Make everything as easy on yourself as possible. I have a shop upstairs and if I kept anything needed for signs downstairs that would double my work needlessly. Also, consider how you would expand your shop if that became necessary. A portable building is often a good solution for a shop. It does not have to be unattractive and can be converted to another use should you sell your business later.
If you are looking for a place to live and at the same time are wanting to start a sign shop then do this. Check with the county or city and find out the zoning for different areas. There are some areas that are zoned to where you can live on the property and also work there. These locations are often undesirable for living but not always. Larger lots with the house set back from the road make great home / commercial locations. Not everyone can find this situation but for those who can you can have the advantages of a home based business and the advantages of a free standing store all at the same location.
In conclusion, choose the option that best fits your goals. Keep in mind that if you are home based then you can always expand to a retail location. If you are in a retail location you can move the business to you home. I moved mine to my home and although sales of signs have dropped, the drop in expenses has also dropped and been more than an offset. The nice thing about the sign business is that you have the flexibility to make this kind of choice.