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If you dream of opening your own vehicle-wrap and graphics business, you’re in luck. This type of business is completely scalable, meaning it doesn’t require a ton of capital as long as you have the proper training. All it takes to start a vehicle-wrap business is some basic equipment and training, some talent and a steady, solid plan.
Consider a Franchise
If you’re starting a car-wrapping business, you can either launch your business from scratch or purchase an already-existing franchise. The latter is a great option if you don’t have a lot of knowledge about how to make your own car decals because you’ll get support. For example, Tint World franchises offer business training and marketing assistance. Plus, franchises already have a recognizable name and built-in consumer base.
The downside is that franchises are a bit pricey to start. If you have a do-it-yourself spirit and a creative eye, you can start a car-wrapping business without any funding beyond what you need to buy a computer and some graphic-design software. You just have to outsource your printing until you can make enough money to afford the equipment. This is a longer path, but it gives you more freedom.
Find a Location
It's time to contact your local commercial realtor. Wrap businesses generally need a parking lot or garage that's large enough to wrap oversized vehicles like box trucks and buses, but it depends on your business model.
If you're not ready to rent a commercial space, you can launch this sort of business out of a garage or spare bedroom and travel to customers. Once you make enough money, you can upgrade.
Invest in the Equipment
There are two ways to go about starting a car-wrapping business: you can design the graphics on your own and hire a third party to print them, or you can buy your own equipment and print them yourself. Plenty of artists order out prints, but launching a full-fledged print shop can be more lucrative if you have enough business. This also opens up an additional revenue stream: printing vinyl truck signs and vehicle wraps for other artists who don’t have the equipment.
If you are planning to make your own car decals and print them on-site, you’ll need to invest in a plotter, printer and lamination equipment (all of which require training to operate). A laminator large enough for wraps can cost more than $2,000 depending on the model. An entry-level sign printer can cost more than $15,000. Your business will not be able to survive long term with entry-level equipment.
Make sure to invest in quality equipment to stand out from your competitors.
Get Some Training Before Starting a Car-Wrapping Business
Starting a car-wrapping business requires some actual skill. You’ll need some training to be able to apply wraps, vinyl truck signs and car window signs without wrinkles. Thankfully, plenty of companies and manufacturers offer training. For example, Avery Dennison has the Avery-Mutoh School of Wrap for beginners and intermediates. They also offer other professional workshops.
In addition to learning how to actually apply vinyl truck signs, wraps and decals, you’ll need to learn how to design them. This requires some knowledge of design and design software. You’ll probably need to get acquainted with software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The former is most popular because it creates vector files, which means the files can be easily scaled to be large enough to fit on the side of a tour bus without pixelation.
Do your research and find the best training program before launching your car-wrap and graphic business. You might have a natural eye, but getting a degree in graphic design will definitely give you a leg up.
Find a Unique Angle
You can make your own car decals and vinyl truck signs as long as you know how to use design software. Basically, anyone with a graphic design degree can do it. This means your brand will need a unique perspective to stand out in the fray. To do this, find a niche.
Vehicle wrap and design studios cover a lot of ground. Maybe you want to focus on wraps for racing vehicles. Maybe you want to work with musicians and wrap tour buses. Maybe your goal is to help local brands with their sponsored marketing campaigns. You can also stand out with your price point. Undercutting competitors is usually a solid strategy if you can make enough money doing it.
Handle the Legalities
The last thing to do before opening a vehicle-wrap and graphics business is to tie all the legal knots. This means you’ll need to choose a legal structure for your business (like an LLC or S corp), get an employer identification number from the IRS, apply for a business license and pick up a general liability insurance plan. You also may need to purchase a commercial auto insurance policy if you're traveling to customers and a workers' compensation policy if you have employees.
After all your legal ducks are in a row, you can start advertising your wrap business. Make sure you have an impressive portfolio that’s readily available online. Instagram, Flickr and other photo-sharing apps and websites are a great way to showcase your work.
- Epson: Epson SureColor S40600 Printer
- Toolots: 67" Full-Auto Wide Format Cold Laminator with Heat Assisted & Trimmer
- Langeman Manufacturing: How to Become a Certified Vinyl Wrap Installer
- Tint World: Vehicle Wrap Business Opportunities
- Sunrise Signs: How to Successfully Get Started in the Vehicle Wrap Business
- Set reasonable expectations for your business.
- Complete a comparison of the costs associated with buying into a franchise versus starting a vehicle wrap business of your own.
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.