Activity Feed Forums Sign Making Discussions General Sign Topics Trades person rates – Food for thought

  • Trades person rates – Food for thought

    Posted by David Hammond on January 11, 2022 at 9:03 am

    I’ve had a fair amount of work done on the house over the past 12months, and here’s what I’ve learnt and something the sign industry should take on board.

    I had a joiner install 4 door cases, I supplied the materials, and even removed the old door cases before he arrived. The joiner charged £230 for a days work, or £115 for 1/2 a day. My bill came in at £236.50, as he needed some adhesive so that was added to the bill too.

    I’m happy with the price, and the work he’s done is better than I could have done myself. He’s made the next step of hanging the doors easier. He’ll be back to do that @ £85 a door, with all doors and furniture supplied.

    I appreciate I’m paying the joiner for his skills and knowledge as well as his tools and equipment. He doesn’t have a unit, or a van, and uses his car to carry his tools around, getting materials delivered to site.

    This puts into perspective some of the prices we see being charged within our industry.

    Not only do some of us have additional overheads such as rent, water, electricity, phone & internet. We have possibly invested £10,000+ in printers and cutters.

    The majority of the time we’re not supplying labour only, but are stocking £100’s if not £1000’s in materials and media, and supplying the materials to produce a bespoke finished product.

    It puts into perspective those pushing £99 van signs, or even sub £200.

    With the increasing costs of not only raw materials, look at the cost of your weekly shop, your home bills. £100 doesn’t buy much these days.

    I’ve had conversations with friends in the industry who are complaining, trying to compete with large trade printers, and subcontractor rates. Despite not being either.

    They claim they can’t charge these kind of prices, and I ask why not? The signage industry has been under valuing itself for years, in particular the smaller sign makers, and it’s not unreasonable to earn a fair living.

    David Hammond replied 2 years, 3 months ago 7 Members · 19 Replies
  • 19 Replies
  • Gordon Smithard

    January 11, 2022 at 10:20 am

    When I started doing signs 15 odd years ago I had no idea about prices and undercharged, mainly to get work in and get my name out there, now I value my work more (although not as much as someone with more overheads).

    It’s a conversation I have quite a lot, but as long as you’re happy with what you charge and are covering all costs and paying yourself/ staff a reasonable wage then crack on, but there will always be someone cheaper, just as you could have probably found a cheaper chippy, some people seem to be engaged in a race to the bottom which isn’t helpful.

    • David Hammond

      January 11, 2022 at 12:05 pm

      The number of trades people I’ve had round, and spoken to, they’re all £200 minimum a day. Some want £300+

      Then we quote £450 installation using a two man team, scaffold tower etc, the customer looks at you like you’ve got two heads 😂

      I value my time, and quality, and we’re not making huge amounts of money, but it seems to be an industry wide problem of undercharging, and undervaluing our time and skills.

  • RobertLambie

    January 11, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    Very valid points and something I have banged on about for over 20 years of my 33 years in this game. It is not just labour but the product prices too!

    I always remember I would easily get £80-£100+vat for an 8x4ft banner with simple “cut vinyl graphics” with only 6 or 7 colour choices in banner vinyl.
    along comes wide format solvent printers giving photographic images, any colour, drop shadows, you name it!!!
    Invest £20,000 for the machine, £100 per ink cart, RIP blah blah
    next thing you know every sign shop with a printer is knocking out full-colour photo image banners at £35. 🤨

    Lack of skill, knowledge and experience is the reason. because if you a good at what you do with plenty of experience and knowledge you value your worth.
    I know right now the excuses will be… covid, hard times and all that jazz. bollox! get your pricing correct or your next to take the fall. survival of the fittest!
    There is nothing wrong with taking anything and everything, but there is no point in doing it for nothing. you are not doing yourself any favours nor the industry on the whole.

    • David Hammond

      January 12, 2022 at 6:47 am

      Have we perhaps removed the skill from the trade?

      I Remember my dad getting the first computer, an Apple Mac Centris. Learning to touch type, the software cost £1000’s alone.

      Now it’s all pay monthly software, computer prices aren’t what they used to, and kids leave school with skills to operate them.

      In essence yes, we press print, and stick stickers to stuff, but to do it right there’s a skill, and the majority of people brush over it, and then there are those who are ignorant to different media and vinyl is vinyl.

  • Peter Cassidy

    January 12, 2022 at 11:25 am

    lack of skill and knowledge is exactly the problem!
    i know of companies that simply tell the customer they can do the job, “and cheaper” then worry about how it will be done afterwards. its a joke!

    • David Hammond

      January 12, 2022 at 3:47 pm

      I’ve seen companies advertising they’ll beat any price.

      What really amuses me, is there are these DIY suppliers, who get paid IN FULL before doing anything, and they’re charging more than some people do to supply and fit, and spend hours on artwork before even getting a small deposit.

  • Leslie Anderson

    January 12, 2022 at 3:00 pm

    Coming from a graphic design background, i am pretty much a newbie here. but my biggest concern is profit, or should I say, lack of profit? I want as much as I can from every job.
    i often think i asking too many pricing questions on this site! but the reason is i worry i am over pricing and will lose work as a result.
    i cannot think of anything worse than being known for selling budget substandard work.
    when do you ever buy a top quality product at a rock bottom price? 🧐

    • David Hammond

      January 12, 2022 at 3:45 pm

      @Leslie-Anderson ask away!

      We all started somewhere, and I’ve sacked off customers who don’t want to pay what we need to charge, and we’ve picked up far better customers. It’s not quick, a bit daunting, but bear with it.

  • Michael Cunney

    January 12, 2022 at 3:37 pm

    In terms of your fitting day rate you mentioned it’s worth bearing in mind though you don’t need a unit and the other costs you listed to fit signs, much like the joiner doesn’t need a unit or machines to fit your doors.

    I understand you have those overheads but it’s a choice to have a day spent fitting rather than a day spent in the unit manufacturing and utilising the space / machines you’ve invested in, absolute hat off to you that you’re able to carry a job from start to finish, but for me it should be seen as two separate sides to a sign business.

    Much of the time the £400ish day rate for a team of two fitters is single time served fitter along with an apprentice / extra pair of hands, so again for me at least I wouldn’t be comparing it to what it’d cost to hire out two independent time served joiners, plumbers etc.

    As for how you charge out jobs generally, pricing will always be a finger in the air job for the most part, unless you’re a trade supplier as we are and have a more standarised way of pricing work so that customers (other sign makers) can quote jobs relatively freely with a sense of what they can expect to pay, instead of running every little job past you before hand. Either way you can’t get hung up on what some other company may be charging, they may be losing money hand over fist, making a poor product or offer little in the way of service, just do what works for you and you’ll come to have a range of customers that suits the way you work.

    • David Hammond

      January 12, 2022 at 3:43 pm

      I don’t do much signage work these days, and concentrate mainly on commercial vehicles.

      I use sub contractors, but a team of two is £350-£400 a day, I’ve no problem with that, but the customers seem to think it’ll be £100-£150 to fit their sign..

      I’ve all my overheads broken down, and know what my costs are, and what work we need to get through the door, but I suspect many don’t. They look at the cost of the vinyl, and think if it cost me £20 in material, and I sell it for £100 they’ve made £80 – Except it took them the best part of day to design, produce and install it.

      Even if you outsourced the entire job from start to finish, it’s not sustainable to be making £25-30, when you consider the time involved managing it, and there’s no scope for cock ups.

      • Michael Cunney

        January 12, 2022 at 3:47 pm

        O I know, absolutely, leave them to it, they’ll run themselves into the ground.

        • David Hammond

          January 12, 2022 at 3:49 pm

          Trouble is, how do you drag the value of the industry up?

          Why should my installation be classed as expensive, because someone is happy work cash in hand, for less than minimum wage?

          • Michael Cunney

            January 12, 2022 at 3:59 pm

            Well one customer’s expensive may be cheap to another customer, so don’t under value what you do and with that you’ll end up with the type of customers that you want to deal with, and those low budget customers will end up dealing with the low budget low quality sign companies.

            • David Hammond

              January 12, 2022 at 4:01 pm

              Another reason I don’t bother with signage, chasing around Manchester quoting people who want champagne with a lemonade budget. 😂

              I tell them how much installation is first, and when they think that’s expensive don’t go much further 😂

  • Martyn Heath

    January 12, 2022 at 5:44 pm

    Totally agree with all that has been said, especially the fact that machinery has taken the skill out of the trade for example a rollover table- you dont even need to be able to use a squegee anymore. This trade has now become a competition to who can get the biggest loans and is willing to take the risks which equals to high turnover of clients which equals lower prices. I see this situation coming 15 years ago and is why i held off for so long getting my own printer. Fact is we all agree that we would be making more profit doing 200 quid simple vans all day then half wrap/wraps fancy signage etc etc. Thats when you know theres a problem.

    I feel that to be appreciated within our business and make the sort of money we feel we deserve for bispoke unique servies, prices would be atleast 20% higher.

    • David Hammond

      January 12, 2022 at 5:57 pm


      I quoted a job last week, the reality is I could just buy it in printed direct, and ship it directly to the customer, and it would probably be cheaper than, buying the material, and the time doing it myself.

      I quoted doing it inhouse, simply because we have the equipment, and capacity to do so.

      I don’t get involved in shop signage, as I simply can’t be arsed chasing around, surveying, quoting, and getting shit margin for the time and effort.

      T-shirts, mugs, I don’t do that anymore as most customers want to pay £10-£15 and I simply can’t be arsed anymore. I’d rather go home and earn nothing, than print a t-shirt.

      I give a from price, and they can like it or lump it, people are happy to pay our prices.

      I don’t know why compete on price, and race to the bottom, we should all be trying to make as much money as we can, not working our arses off, investing more money, not to mention the stress for next to nothing.

  • David Hammond

    January 12, 2022 at 9:06 pm

    Here’s a useful video I found years ago, that explains things better than I can.

    @Leslie-Anderson you might find this interesting. Whilst it’s discussing ‘joiners’ the same principles apply to the sign industry.

  • Leslie Anderson

    January 13, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks, David, that looks really interesting!
    I will watch it again properly, with a cup of coffee and a biscuit! 😀☕

    • David Hammond

      January 13, 2022 at 4:57 pm

      Here’s another one – you’ll need a fair bit of coffee to stay awake through it, but it’s worth persevering with and something we did to help with our pricing. 👍

Log in to reply.