Car decals are everywhere, from the funny bumper stickers we see sold at gas stations to branded wraps and advertisements on company cars. If you're creative and have a passion for design, you might want to start a car decal business of your own. This happens to be one of the few businesses you can launch from a spare bedroom and scale to a full-service print shop once you have the funding. You only need a few things to get started.
Get the Design Software
Unlike other industries, you can actually start a vinyl decal business from home. All you need is some equipment, which costs around $700 on the very low end. At a minimum, you’ll need a basic vinyl cutter, a computer and design software.
As far as design software, you’ll probably want to opt for CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator. Photoshop might be popular, but it’s not a great option because you need vector graphics in order to make large scale prints. In addition, Photoshop operates in pixels instead of lines, and vinyl cutter blades can’t follow dots.
Choose a Vinyl Cutter and Printer
For cutting, you may want to opt for a high-end Graphtec cutter if you plan on opening a large scale business. The TrueVis VG serves as a printer and cutter so you can create intricate print designs and custom-sized decals, but the highest-end options can cost around five figures. Instead, if you’re opening a small Etsy shop from home, you may want to start with a cheaper option like a Cricut Explore Air 2.
Get Additional Equipment
Many car decal businesses choose to screen print their decals for extra detail. In that case, you’ll need screen printing equipment instead of a traditional printer/cutter. Other equipment you’ll need includes:
- Vinyl rolls
- Application tape
- Weeding tools and blades
- Cutting mat
- Screenprint inks
- Packing and shipping supplies
- A camera for taking photos of your stock
Consider Expanding Beyond a Car Decal Business
There’s a lot more to making decals than the business of car stickers. You might want to actually include other products in your product line. Many car decal businesses screenprint shirts, sweatshirts, posters, signs and pamphlets. They don’t just stick to crafting vinyl stickers and decals because there’s only so much money to be made in that hyper-specific sector.
Consider creating a full-service, professional printing company. There’s absolutely no problem with starting your decal business from home, but in the long-term, it may be more sustainable to offer other products. Plus, if you’re screen-printing vinyl decals, you already have everything you need to offer apparel, signage and paper products. You just need to purchase the actual stock you’re going to print on.
Set up Shop
After you’ve got the equipment to start your car decal business, you need to set up shop. Many decal businesses operate e-commerce stores, but if you’re planning to have a full-service print shop, you might find success with a brick-and-mortar storefront. After all, you need somewhere to store all your stock and equipment.
If your business only makes car stickers, a storefront won’t be economical. Instead, opt for an e-commerce website. Many craftsmen use services like Etsy because of its reputation for handmade and custom crafts, but you can also create your own online store with a service like Shopify or LimitedRun. Whichever you choose, make sure you take bright, attractive photos of your products to bolster sales.
Handle the Legal Stuff
Like any business, car sticker businesses have to register with the IRS and obtain a business license from your local government. If you’re starting by yourself from home, you might want to designate your business structure as a sole proprietorship, but make sure to get an employer identification number from the IRS so you don’t have to use your Social Security number when contracting larger orders with corporate clients. An LLC or S-Corp is a more common type of business structure because you can expand and hire employees, but just remember to get the required insurance.
Mind the Licensing
Before you launch your business, it’s important to keep licensing and copyright in mind. Unless you’re creating all of your car decal designs from scratch, you’ll probably be using designs you get from clients or print off the internet. Make sure these works are not copyrighted or obtain a commercial license for any designs you want to use that you didn’t create. This is especially important if you’re printing images that include sports logos and cartoon characters.
- Take the time to research the competitive marketplace for a car decal business.
- Be realistic about your financial goals and timeline.
- Set aside a reserve cash fund to use while establishing the business.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.