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Episode 107 – The GRAPHIC Impact On Your Business

Sep 20, 2019

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • Why great graphics are important to your business.
  • Should you outsource other people?

Resources & Links

Episode 107 – The GRAPHIC Impact On Your Business

Show Notes

GREAT graphics are extremely important to your business. They save you time, money and make you look good. Poor quality graphics hinders everything in your business.

How good graphics and digitizing makes a difference:

Save time
– Better graphics are more efficient for your equipment – Thread breaks and # stitches
– ACTUAL design time – The time YOU spend working on art vs other tasks.

Cost in materials
– Less mistakes – every bad print, sew out, etc wastes supplies. Paper, Toner, Ink, shirts
– Less Supplies used – Better designs are more efficient. Less ink and toner

Avoid tech support issues
– Your equipment outputs as good as the art you put in it.
– 25-75% of support requests are art issues

It’s not how cheap you can get it, it’s how much money you can make with that graphic.

3 Options for Graphic Arts
– You do it
– Hire in house
– Farm it out

You do it – Why would you do it yourself?
– You love it
– It’s WHY you got into the business
– You have super high standards (artists are never happy)
– It’s PART of your messaging

Hire in house – Why would you hire an artist?
– You can’t do it
– High standards adjacent
– Live input – turn around time
– Messaging & Branding – You describe your business as being the artists.

Farm it out
– You can’t and/or don’t want to
– Cash flow – Only paying for that work, when it is paid for already
– Scalability – When business is slow, don’t pay for art. When it’s busy, get all your art done.
– Focus on sales – Don’t spend time trying to figure the art out, spend it on making money.

Case for Outsourcing – Why WE like it.
– 5 designs in a day or 10 in a day – not scalable
– You hate it
– You’re a maker, not a graphic designer
– YOU just can’t do every kind of art well – good at a genre, corporate vs fun
– you can’t afford, nor do you need a full-time graphics person
– How many designs/digitizing do you actually DO per month and will that pay for a person.
– Doing the Art is NOT making you money – spend that time on sales, marketing, learning

Also, Check out https://coldesi.com/

Transcript

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 107 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company, but also ColDesi, too.

Mark S: Also ColDesi, too. We should specify that.

Marc V: Yeah. I think we’re going to start just saying ColDesi.

Mark S: I think we should, too.

Marc V: Maybe we should. Anyway, let’s move on to the actual episode.

Mark S: Wait a minute. I just want to say that the reason that we usually say Colman and Company for you is because you are the ecommerce maven for the company, and that’s Colman and Company’s thing.

Marc V: Yeah, but Colman and Company is part of ColDesi. Some folks don’t know that, so I want to start talking about that more.

Mark S: That sounds good.

Marc V: In preparation for 2020, or something like that. I don’t know what that means, but it makes me feel like [inaudible 01:16].

Mark S: I like it. Let’s podcast! Stop wasting time!

Marc V: The podcast here, today we’re here to talk about the graphic impact on your business. What that really means is how important graphics are to the success of your business. So, good graphics, and actually, after I wrote that, I switched it and said no, great graphics are extremely important to the success of your business.

It saves you time, saves you money, makes you look good, and poor quality graphics are going to hinder everything that you do in your business.

Mark S: Oh, man. If you’re part of the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, you will hear graphics horror stories all weekend, really. Like “I can’t get this to work! I can’t do that. I just got this file. It was terrible!”

It can be both a great source of revenue for your business, and a great source of heartburn for your business.

Marc V: That’s true. The heartburn, for sure. We hear about it all the time. The folks, “How do I do this? I can’t figure out how to do that.”

Mark S: “How do I do this in Photoshop? How do I do that in Corel?”

Marc V: From start to finish, it’s something that’s really a pet peeve of mine. I don’t like when – if you look at our videos and pictures on our website and all of this stuff, the graphics that are on there, you’re not going to see pixelated graphics. You’re not going to see low quality embroidery.

Mark S: Everything is going to be beautiful.

Marc V: Because it’s really important for it to be that way. One of the things that drives me crazy, maybe some folks out there may have done this, is they send in a graphic, because they want to get a sample done, like of a DTG shirt.

Mark S: Yeah. This happens all the time.

Marc V: And it’s terrible. I just look at it, and I’ve said to salespeople before, “Just don’t send that out. Don’t send that as an example of what our machine can do, because it can take something crappy, and make it look really crappy.

Mark S: Yeah, so here’s kind of a baseline for all of you that aren’t in the business yet. A great piece of equipment cannot improve your artwork. It will reproduce your artwork in a more clear way.

Marc V: Exactly how you put it in. Exactly. So, let’s talk a little bit about why great graphics make a difference. Why does having good graphics actually make a difference? We thought of three reasons. Right?

Mark S: Yeah. You actually have been doing a little testing of digitizing.

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: One thing, especially with embroidery graphics, and sometimes people will talk about these things separately, but they really are – they’re different types of the same conversation.

Digitized files are a graphic result. So, we’re putting that in the same category. And we found that the difference between one digitizer and another, or one digitized file and another, can have some big impact on time.

Marc V: Yeah, massive. Besides the output, it’s probably obvious that the actual output can look better or worse. If it’s created better, it’s going to look better. But in addition to that, when somebody is digitizing correctly, they’re digitizing to have a lower amount of stitches. Which means if it’s 30,000 stitches or 40,000 stitches, that’s that much difference in time on your equipment.

Mark S: And it’s not just difference in time. The design looks different. It looks more fine. It looks more refined.

Marc V: It looks more refined. Also, Michelle, who is one of our trainers in here, she has training all the time, and she does support all the time. A lot of the times she runs into and she has to constantly tell people, is the reason your machine is breaking threads and breaking needles and things like that, is because the digitizing is not done correctly.

There’s lots of technical things, in regards to the stitch length and all of these things, that are fairly technical, and there are rules you have to live within. If the digitizer is not making them that way, then your machine is not going to like it. It’s friction and things like that.

Mark S: It saves you time. Also, it actually saves design time.

Marc V: The actual work.

Mark S: Yeah. The actual work is less, if you’re doing it correctly.

Marc V: It’s so important, just to kind of get into that mindset of understanding what great graphics are going to do. The first thing is that it’s going to save you time, and we’ll dive deeper into all of this stuff.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: The next is actually the cost of materials.

Mark S: If you’re a Digital HeatFX customer, I know you feel this, especially because you have a relatively fixed cost for every print, if you’re doing a specific size print. If you print it and the graphic isn’t right, you’re not going to know that until you print it. And it’s going to cost you, every time you test. So, that is a real cost of materials difference, when you don’t have a good design or appropriately designed.

Marc V: If the design is not done correctly, it’s so much more than at initial glance on your screen. Initially, you open it up on your screen, and there’s a myriad of issues that could be. You could have pixels living, that you don’t even know about. Just dots that are up in the corner, and you didn’t even realize it, and it prints it out.

Mark S: You accidentally just hit a stroke, just for a second.

Marc V: And that can affect your design size, because if you type in 8 by 10, it’s measuring that little piece.

Mark S: It’s going to scale it wrong.

Marc V: Yeah. There’s all that. There’s also not noticing that when the background was deleted in your cartoon character, it also deleted the eyes, because the background was light.

Mark S: You’re knocking out a color.

Marc V: You print it out and you look it up, and you realize you’ve got clear eyes. You put it on a green shirt, and your character, instead of having light eyes, has green eyes.

Mark S: It might be a plus!

Marc V: These are all little things. There’s also how transparent it is. If there’s a little bit of a transparency or a screen put on your color, when you go to print it out, it’s going to be printed out like that. That effect is not going to be desired, because based on the color of your shirt, the color is going to change.

Mark S: And for direct-to-garment printing, pretty much a lot of the same things are true. You can design a beautiful file that uses an entire layer of white ink underneath. It looks amazing, but it will feel thicker, and it will cost you a lot more money to print that shirt. But if you know what you’re doing, and you can design a graphic specifically for DTG or with that in mind, then you can have a great-looking design that feels better, feels lighter, and you save a lot of money on ink.

Marc V: It’s going to wash better, too, across the board.

Mark S: It will, absolutely.

Marc V: The less stuff you put on garments, the better it is. That actually is true for everything – embroidery.

Mark S: Vinyl.

Marc V: Embroidery lasts longer and looks better if there’s less stitches on it. So, there’s a lot of things going on with that.

Mark S: I would also say that the cost in materials is the cost of mistakes. Every time you, or frequently, when you make a mistake, if you make a mistake in DTG, the only time you see that is after it’s on a shirt. Right?

Marc V: Oh, yeah.

Mark S: So, with Digital HeatFX and other printing technologies, you might see that on the transfer before you put it on the $3 or $5 or $12 shirt. But with embroidery, you’re not going to see that until you sew it out.

Marc V: That’s an interesting point, when you talk about embroidery, because you might just sew it out on a piece of scrap material, or something like that.

Mark S: It’s not the same.

Marc V: Yeah. It’s not exactly the same as the finished garment, is one. And also the fact that that design may have taken 45 minutes, if it was relatively well designed. So, that’s 45 minutes of your equipment running, to find out that the last portion of it wasn’t digitized very well.

Mark S: Even if it’s a left chest logo that’s 12 minutes. If you’re doing it all yourself, you’re going to digitize it, you’re going to preview it, you’re going to send it to the machine, you’re going to sew it out. Let’s say half an hour or 45 minutes for the digitizing, 15 minutes for the design. It’s wrong.

If you did a test sew-out, then you fix it, do another test sew-out.

Marc V: That’s like another five, ten minutes in the design.

Mark S: Then, if that one’s good, then you do the shirt. Most people aren’t going to do that. They’re going to put it directly onto a shirt, and like “Oh, my god! I spelled that wrong!”

Marc V: There’s all that. That time that you’re eating up, it’s cost of materials and time. It’s kind of like a combination. Also, time is money on this equipment, especially as you’re starting to get busy. Because eventually you reach a point, if you’re growing your business and you’re doing all the things that we’ve talked about in the last 106 episodes, hopefully you’re growing your business.

Eventually, you get to a point where you and your machine are on the brink of being overwhelmed. So, that 12 minutes on your machine, times ten orders, that’s a couple of hours’ worth of work. That’s money that you would have made, that you can’t, because of poor quality artwork and not doing things correctly.

Mark S: it’s also stuff that you’re not going to be able to communicate very well to your customer. They don’t care.

Marc V: They want to give you money and get shirts.

Mark S: Yeah, yeah. They don’t care how long it takes you.

The last thing that good graphics help you do is they help you avoid technical support issues.

Marc V: Something nobody thinks about.

Mark S: Nobody thinks about it. I know you did a survey recently, of the support guys. What are some of the things that they said about the graphics issues that they run into?

Marc V: The first thing, I went to every technician for every machine. I just walked up to them and “Hey, let me ask you a couple of questions.” One of them was “What percentage of your phone calls were graphics related; poor quality graphics, incorrectly done graphics?”

Depending on the equipment, the answer was 25% to 75% of calls. So, even just averaging it out, half of the people calling up our technical support line, trying to get help because they can’t get the output that they want out of their equipment, is because their graphics are done incorrectly, poorly, not in the right format.

Half the people! So, thousands and thousands of people that, if they would have gotten the graphics done correctly in the beginning, they wouldn’t have had to call.

Mark S: It’s huge for digitizing especially on caps and things like that, where you’ve got to digitize it for caps. And most of you don’t believe, or I’m not going to say most of you, a large percentage of people that call in don’t believe that the digitizing file might be the issue. So, you spend an hour or two hours, or a day, testing other things, only to find out, “Here, try this graphic,” and it sews out fine.

Marc V: Yeah. “I bought the titanium needle, and I’m running my machine slower.”

Mark S: “I did all this stuff.”

Marc V: “I put on the different backing. It’s the hat. It’s the machine,” and all these things. Then, frequently, we get the artwork in here, and we try to sew it out, and we can’t get it to sew out on a flat piece of backing or something.

So, there is so much. These things are really complicated. But they don’t have to be, if you’re doing things the right way.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: There was one other thing to mention about the technical support issues on that. They kind of all said the same thing about garbage in, garbage out. That phrase was used by everybody I asked, when it came to graphic arts and using it with your equipment. Whatever you put into your machine is what you’re going to get out.

All of this equipment are replicators. They replicate what you tell them to do. Every single machine we sell does that. They’re not conceptual, artificial intelligence, art-creating. They’re replicating machines. They will replicate. If you put in a piece of garbage, they will replicate that garbage.

Mark S: Yeah. We get comments all the time. Maybe part of it is our fault, because we do make it look easy. Because when we start making a file to do a demonstration video or a training video, we start with good artwork 100% of the time.

But people assume that I can download a logo off of a website, and I can put it out on a DTG printer in a left chest, and it will look great. They think that they can take a photo, without retouching, and they can print it out with Digital HeatFX, and it will work perfectly on a shirt. Both of those things, they will reproduce those graphics, but they’re not going to make them look good or feel good, or be appropriate for the technology.

Marc V: This makes me think that we should maybe get somebody on for an episode, to do some graphic arts education here, or maybe make a course, a graphic arts education course or something. I don’t know. It’s an idea to be had.

But I want to mention just a handful of things that you listening, might not know what I mean when I start saying this stuff. I barely know what I mean, when I’m saying some of this stuff.

Like “What does my dpi need to be? What if I want to take an image that’s a 6 by 6, and make it a 12 by 12? Is the dpi that I have fine? Does it have to change?” If it’s a vector graphic or a raster graphic, which one can I scale? If I’m printing out, and my monitor is displaying my graphic in RGB, and my printer prints out in CMYK, but I have another printer that prints out in CMYW, and I have another printer that prints CMYK liquid ink, versus toner?”

If you don’t understand why all of those things affect your graphic, you should take some time to educate yourself, because you’re not going to know what to do. You’re not going to know how to replicate things properly, and you’re going to blame a lot of other things, when it’s really the lack of knowledge that you have.

Mark S: I agree. I couldn’t’ have said it any better.

Marc V: Okay. You probably could have said it better.

Mark S: Well, I could, but I don’t like to do that. I don’t like to do that every time.

Marc V: Alright.

Mark S: I want to start with this little phrase that we [inaudible 15:48], for the next part.

Marc V: You wrote this. I like it.

Mark S: We’re going to go through some different options in your business, for graphic arts and how to get it created. But I want you to keep this in mind, that it’s not how cheap you can get the design. It’s how much money you can make with that graphic. So, just that. It’s not how much money you pay for the design.

For example, if I’m going to have an account that’s going to be worth $15,000 to me, over the next two years, does it really matter if I spend $15 or $150, getting that design digitized? No.

Marc V: That’s an interesting concept, to say it that way.

Mark S: It doesn’t.

Marc V: It’s a fraction of a percent of the money you’re going to make.

Mark S: It is, and really, that’s the way you’ve got to look at it. Not “I’ve got $12 in my pocket, and this is all I can spend on getting something digitized.” That’s rarely the case. I understand if it is, but that’s rarely the case.

What it is, is “I heard that I can get somebody to design a shirt for me, for $20. I’ve found a guy that will do it for $8. I’m going to go with that guy.” That’s not the right way to think about it. This customer is going to make you hundreds or thousands of dollars over its lifetime. You should treat every part of the process like that.

Marc V: Yeah. We’ve talked about customer experience and delivering good products and all of that stuff, tons of times. And how you do all of these things to try to build value in your sale. You call the customer and let him know how things are going. You don’t over-promise and under-deliver, all of these things.

Part of that initial process, too, is impressing them in the first place. If you’ve got the opportunity to provide better artwork to them – we’re getting into all of that.

Mark S: We’re going to.

Marc V: Let’s talk about your three options, doing graphics.

Mark S: Really, when you’re thinking about doing graphics for your business; custom t-shirts or even if you’ve got a UV printer, and you need to get graphics created, it really doesn’t matter why, you’ve got three options.

You can either do it yourself, you can hire somebody to do it for you, as part of your business inhouse, or you can farm it out or outsource it.

Marc V: Okay, so let’s talk about – these are the only three options.

Mark S: Yes.

Marc V: There’s no middle. The fourth option that could exist is “My customers have to provide me the graphics.” They’re never going to provide you with print-ready stuff. They’re not going to provide you with something that’re ready to go, so it’s really not an option.

Mark S: You know what? Sometimes I think, even worse, is there’s a difference. If you don’t know yet, there’s a big difference between preparing a graphic for web, preparing it for print, and preparing it for a t-shirt.

A web guy and a print guy may or may not be able to send you a good graphic for a t-shirt.

Marc V: Another small tidbit of information, too, is every printer that you’ve ever owned in your life, from the $69 one that you got at Office Depot to a $35,000 printer, toner, ink, sublimation; none of them can reproduce the same exact colors over a gamut. Imagine the color wheel. Everyone’s seen that thing. It’s all of the colors, a big giant wheel.

The drawing of what every printer can do is not that complete circle. It’s like a jagged edge, and you just can’t reach some colors with every single printer that exists. So, when you’re getting artwork provided to you, you need to have the knowledge of what your printer can do, so you can adjust the artwork.

Mark S: There you go. I like that a lot. So you do it, you hire somebody to do it inhouse, or you outsource it. Those are our three choices.

Marc V: Let’s start with the first one. You do it. Why would you do it yourself?

Mark S: You would do it yourself because you love doing it, because you have always wanted to be able to do it, and this is it. Like “I want to learn how to do Photoshop and Illustrator and CorelDraw, because I dig it. That’s what I want to do.”

Marc V: Yeah, it’s fun. You’re passionate. You’re trained in it, maybe.

Mark S: Could be.

Marc V: You’re formally trained in it, or you got a copy of Photoshop when you were eight years old, and you’ve been doing it for the past 30 years. Something like that is a reason why.

Mark S: We’re not suggesting that this is why you should do it. This is  just why you might do it.

Marc V: Yeah, why you might do it is you just love doing it. It’s part of the thrill and excitement and enjoyment you get out of your job in the apparel business.

Mark S: Sometimes that goes right into reason number two. Sometimes it’s why you got into business, that you designed a logo, or you’ve got a series of graphics or a character, or something that you are making your own brand out of, that it’s how you express yourself. So maybe, if that’s why you got into the custom apparel business, then obviously that’s a reason that you might want to do your own graphics.

Marc V: We have people and maybe some people listening right now, that they were doing graphics. Then, they started offering maybe promotional items or t-shirts, and were outsourcing them. And eventually they just said “I need to do this myself.” 

So, they got an embroidery machine or a t-shirt printer. But they’re still the graphic artist.

Mark S: Right. We’ve got some great airbrush artists that do DTG t-shirts. They’re amazing.

Marc V: Being an artist is a great reason why you might want to do it. It doesn’t mean you should, but it’s a great reason why.

One is you have really high standards. This is typically because you’re also an artist.

Mark S: We started with you’re a control freak. You pay a lot of attention to stuff that doesn’t matter, really.

Marc V: You have a vision for every customer, and when they want a specific piece of art, you’ve already got the concept in your head. You know how to make it. You doing it, precursor to it, is you have to know how to.

Mark S: Yeah. I would say, sometimes this is a symptom of having a really good eye for things. Like now, when I go into a retail store and there’s something embroidered, I immediately go up and I touch it. I look at it really close. I turn it over. I see what it looks like it in the back.

I do that, and I would say “That’s ridiculous. I would never buy that. I wouldn’t pay for that.” Or I’ll go up and touch it, and I really don’t like the feel of some of these screen prints. They’re rough. They’re really rough. So, I’ll touch it, and I’m just like “I wouldn’t do that.”

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you can’t do graphics yourself that well, but you really are a perfectionist, and you want to continue to improve, and make sure it’s exactly right.

Marc V: These are all plenty fine reasons to want to do it. The last one is that it’s kind of part of your messaging. It’s part of your branding. “My business, our business, we conceptualize your design. We do the art inhouse, we print it inhouse ,and then I deliver it to you. You’re creating this. We do everything for you, specifically for you, our customer.”

Mark S: Yeah. It could be very personal, too. It could be, if you are an artist, that “I’m going to sit next to you, and we’re going to bring your idea to life.” If that’s the message of your business, then you need to be that artist. Right?

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: If you love it, if it’s why you got into business, if you have super-high standards, you don’t think anybody else is good enough, or if it’s part of your business ethic.

Marc V: If number one is you, you should do it.

Mark S: You should do it.

Marc V: You have to know how to do it, though. That’s it. It’s what you have to do. You have to practice a ton, and be formally trained, and all these things. That’s the catch.

Mark S: It’s like we say with websites, all the time. You can design your own website. But sometimes, you don’t realize your baby is ugly, because no one will tell you. This way, what happens is you’ll produce some average artwork, or below average artwork, that you think is great, because you understand why you did everything, even though it didn’t come out great.

And you know how long it took you to do it. “I must be done now. It took me 11 hours.” And maybe not.

Marc V: Before we move to the next one, one thing that Joe, our Sales Manager here said, he said that he’s never really done graphics in his life.

Mark S: Let’s just clarify that Joe has had a side hustle. He’s had an embroidery and t-shirt business for years.

Marc V: Yeah, and he’s been in the industry in one way or another, for like 20 years. So, he knows a lot about it. He’s never been an artist. He’s played with art, and he kind of knows how to do a little bit. But he’s never studied it, like hard core.

He considered if he should do that, and he started learning, learning digitizing and art and stuff like that. One day, he came to the realization that he said that there are tens of thousands, millions of people in the world, that have already forgotten more than he’ll ever learn, starting now at his age, with the amount of time that he can put into it. Maybe that’s something for you to think about, too.

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: Now, the second option is hire somebody inhouse.

Mark S: Yeah, having a full-time artist on staff, like we do. Cathy is responsible for every amazing graphic you see on our websites, all of that beautiful stuff. She produces it. We can afford it, and she’s got a lot of practice and experience at it.

I know that I’m in this category. The reason that you hire inhouse is because you can’t do it. So, I can do things, but I can’t do beautiful things.

Marc V: So, why would you hire an artist? You can’t do it. You can’t do the art yourself, so you hire somebody.

I like the second one that you had made a note on here, having to do with the high standards, but you’re high standards adjacent.

Mark S: In other words, you look at everyone else’s work, and you’re not happy with it. So, you want control of that person sitting at a desk, that you’re going to torture until you think it’s as good as it can be.

Marc V: That’s true. They work for you, so that gives you a level of control for those standards. “Do it again. Do it again. Do it again.” If they work for you, you can tell the person to re-design something 100 times, and they have to say yes, compared to other options. If you hired somebody to do it, “I’m going to give you three shots.”

Mark S: That’s the traditional thing, right?

Marc V: And the live input and turn time is great.

Mark S: Yeah, from both you and your customer. If you’ve got somebody that’s sitting in your office, that does your graphics, and you and the customer work something out, and you produce it, you can show it to the customer and you can make a change while they’re in the room.

I went into Big Frog years ago. There used to be one in south Tampa. I had a logo for another business done on a shirt, and I kind of stood over her shoulder, while she sized it and played with the colors, and things like that. That was very valuable to me, at that point.

So, maybe that’s something that you want to do.

Marc V: Jay, that works here, he had done that for a company called T-Shirt Diner. He had said, in the mall, people would come up, and part of the service was you could walk in and just spit out words, conceptualize something, and he would conceptualize and create it right on there.

Having that live input and turn time, if that was the case, if you have a storefront where somebody is going to come in and order, or part of the services you offer are “Come in. We’ll design it together and make it right there,” you’ve got to do it there.

Mark S: Yeah. If that turnaround time is important to you, along with the live input, if you consider that if you have a full-time graphic artist on staff, someone sends you a file, you could potentially walk over to them, have them work on the file, and send it back to the customer. It could happen like that.

Marc V: The last one is similar to the first one that we said. It’s part of your messaging. It’s part of your branding. Your business is full of artists.

Mark S: Yeah, so that pitch that you just made for the mall kiosk guy, the message of that business is “We’ve got a graphic artist right here. Come in and talk to him, and make something.”

Marc V: Yeah. “We can create anything that you want right here inhouse. We do it for you. You can watch us do it.” That’s a reason to hire somebody.

The third option that you could do – so, option one, you do it. Option two, hire somebody inhouse. Number three is you farm it out, outsource it, use a contractor.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: Why would you want to do that?

Mark S: First of all, because you’ve realized that you can’t do it. You can’t do it well, or you don’t want to do it.

Marc V: The hardest realization to make is that you’re not a digitizer, you’re not a graphic artist. Plenty of people are really smart and really talented. They’re great at crafting things. They can build woodwork, they can do whatever. They can hand-draw.

That doesn’t mean that you’re ever going to be a great graphic artist. It’s a different skill.

Mark S: If you got into the business because you want to make money, you want to sell t-shirts, you have great t-shirt ideas that you think you could be successful with, you’re good in sales or you’re a good businessperson – I didn’t say anything about learning how to use Photoshop.

Marc V: That’s true.

Mark S: If you can’t do it, or you don’t want to do it, then get somebody else to. Don’t torture yourself.

Marc V: The kind of “you can’t do it” realization on that, too, is you might be a graphic artist and can do print graphics, but you’ve never digitized. Maybe you throw in the towel and just say “I can’t digitize. I’m not going to be a digitizer.”

The comparison that comes to my head is, is the best pastry chef in the world, the best steak chef, necessarily?

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: Baking and cooking, although they are both heating up things you eat, they’re different skillsets. Baking is about precision, and cooking is about the intuition, because every steak is different, compared to every cake, you can measure exactly the amount of grams. They’re two different skills.

Digitizing and graphic arts are different, as well. They’re different skillsets.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: So, making the determination that you can’t do it, is the first step to this, and I think it’s important to realize that.

Mark S: Hi. My name is Mark, and I cannot digitize.

Marc V: I cannot digitize. I can’t do it.

Mark S: I think I just said that for both of us!

The second one is cash flow. I like this reason a lot for farming it out, because it’s got a couple of connotations. You can get, even what you might perceive as a high end, more expensive graphic service than the cheapest thing that you can find, you’re still only paying them for work that they do. You’re not paying overhead, for example, for an inhouse employee.

Marc V: You don’t manufacture your shirts inhouse. You also don’t buy every single shirt you can, by the case, and keep them inhouse. Why? Because you don’t want to have all of your cash flow tied up in a giant inventory of shirts. You don’t want to have a warehouse of shirts that you can just pull from, because that’s not very efficient for cash flow.

What you do is you get an order, you order the apparel for that, typically. You might have some shirts in, but whatever. And that’s the same with this. As an order comes in, you order the graphic. You charge the customer a $25 fee, you order the graphic, whatever it might be.

I was going to order some shirts online, doing some tests the other day. They had a $59 graphic fee. They’re getting that graphic done as soon as I place my order, for the $60. $60 for the graphic turned into $60 for, probably for fixing the graphic.

Mark S: Right, yeah.

Marc V: That’s an important thing for cash flow. You only pay for work until it’s done, and typically when it’s already paid for. You’ve got your deposit or your initial payment, or you have them pay in full up front. Then, you order the graphic. So, cash flow, it works. You’re never investing in anything that you don’t have money coming in for.

Mark S: I like that a lot. The next one that we’ve got for a reason why you might want to outsource, is scalability. Let’s say you’re going to be successful, because you probably are, if you’re listening to the podcast. We talk about that all the time.

Marc V: Yeah. The likelihood of you being successful -.

Mark S: It’s a lot higher, because you’re investing this time. But let’s talk about two things. When you’re slow, you’re not paying for art. When you’re busy, you are paying for art. So, there’s that scale. The busier you get, you don’t have to hire more people. You don’t have to work out more time for yourself to be able to digitize and create artwork for customers.

All you have to do, when you’re outsourcing, is if you get an order for ten designs today, you talk to a company that can handle ten designs, or you talk to a couple of different people that can do the work, that you’ve vetted. You can do an unlimited number of designs, as long as you’re not doing it.

Marc V: That’s true. There’s two levels of scalability. There’s the cash flow scalability and the time scalability. The cash flow scalability is you hire somebody to do your graphics inhouse. You’re going to pay them $15 an hour, so $2,500 a month. I think we did the math on that. So, $2,500 a month fixed cost, no matter if they’re doing 200 designs or two.

If you’re outsourcing the graphics, then you’re only paying for two designs, or you’re only paying for 200. There’s a tipping point where it might cost you more, but you’re also not paying for when it’s not there. It’s very cash flow friendly. It’s very cash flow scalable.

Then, there’s the time scalability. If your graphic artist, you know can do four designs in a day, or whatever the time is, and then all of a sudden, it’s rush busy season. Now, you’ve got 20 orders. Are you going to turn away orders, because you can’t scale up your art?

Mark S: I agree, and I will tell you a couple of things; that the mixed positions rarely work. If you’ve got somebody that’s going to do graphics for you, and they also answer the phone, or they also sweep up, or they also run a screen printing press, it can work, but it hardly ever works well. You’re not going to get the best graphics possible and the best printer possible.

Marc V: The people who are going to be a really good production, and be really good in graphics, and can manage that time well, somebody listening to this might have one of those people. But they’re anomalies.

Mark S: Or honestly, it’s very likely that you’re that person. If you are a good graphic artist, and you’ve been in this business for a while, then you can probably do all of that. And that brings me to what I really wasn’t sure I wanted to say, that if you do have that guy inhouse, that’s doing your artwork, that’s the guy who is saving up to buy a printer. It really is.

We’ve talked to a bunch of our customers that started just that way. They worked in a franchise or they worked for somebody else, and then “Hey, I do all the work.” That’s what everybody thinks, is that they do all the work. And they end up competing with you.

Marc V: There’s a lot of different things with that. There’s risk involved in that, as well, if that person quits or gets injured or gets sick, a lot of your business goes down at once. Two of your departments go down at once. So, there’s a really strong case for farming out, getting somebody to do it, for all of those reasons.

We’re actually fans of a little bit of all of this stuff. We have an inhouse graphic artist here, because we don’t do graphics. But our business is of the size where having somebody available to do it makes sense. It gives us the control, the speed, all of that.

You have to make the determination. Is your business up to that size yet? Even still, though, how often do we outsource pieces of graphics?

Mark S: All the time.

Marc V: Constantly. We have people that can digitize. We have tons of people that can digitize, here.

Mark S: We never do that! They should be on the phone with you.

Marc V: They’re really busy doing other things, even though they can digitize; training people, helping with support, installing machines, fixing machines.

Mark S: Good example.

Marc V: All of the different tasks that these people can do, even though they’re great digitizers. So, when we need an embroidery design done, oftentimes we pass that on. Then, eventually you get to a point where maybe you’ve got a whole graphics department. Then, that’s different. That’s a different scale of business.

You’re not Coca-Cola, where you’ve got a whole floor of people.

Mark S: And neither are we. As a matter of fact, I’ve got another example that I can’t help saying. Occasionally, you’ll hear us on the Facebook group and other places, call for artwork from our customers, from you guys. We’re always looking for spangle designs or rhinestones, or vinyl examples.

“We see some of the work that you’re doing, and think it’s amazing. Do it for us, please,” because we’re in the same situation.

Marc V: No matter what size your business is, it’s humbling to outsource, because you get to admit “Listen. I can’t do it.” We can’t control everything. Sometimes we use it, and there’s a lot of benefits.

Mark S: I do also want to highlight this idea of one of the reasons that you outsource is so you can focus on sales. What we just said was that we don’t do those kinds of graphics inhouse, so our people can focus on support, because that’s part of our business.

For you, it’s going to be like you don’t do it, because even though you love it, you’re going to make more money spending those two hours out meeting new customers, than you are in designing this one design.

Marc V: When we were prepping for the show, we talked about it’s lunch time on a Tuesday, and you’ve got two opportunities. There’s a local B&I chapter that you’ve kind of joined with or you were going to go meet, and they have a luncheon. There’s going to be 20 people there, going to lunch.

Or you can spend that hour digitizing something for a customer. If that digitizing was going to cost you $25 to do, are you better off to stay, save the $25, and do the digitizing? Or go to the B&I meeting, meet ten or 20 people, a handful you’ve never met before, network, and get some business out of them?

Mark S: Let me rephrase that, because you said $25. What is the likelihood that if you do find a customer at one of those meetings, that it will make you $500? $1,000? You meet somebody that could mean three years’ worth of regular business, for tournaments on an annual basis, that could make you $4,000 a year. You don’t know.

So now, it’s $25 or $50. How much would you pay somebody to design, so you could have that opportunity? $100? $300, to potentially get an $8,000 sale?

Marc V: And is your business on the offensive or the defensive? If your business is on the defensive, which means that you’re trying to save costs, then that’s like a sign that there’s no more growth to be had, or that growth is stalling. So, what you do is, in order to make more money, you try to save more. This is what happens with really large organizations.

Not you, though. The chances of you having stalled, where there is no more business to be earned, or you can’t get any higher, is really low.

Mark S: It’s very low.

Marc V: So, if you’re taking bets, you’ve got to go on the offensive, and say “I’m much better off to go get more money, than I am to try to save a little bit of money.”

Mark S: Actually, it’s the same example we use when we talk about people that shop for embroidery thread, which is the most ridiculous activity. I’m just going to say it.

Marc V: It is.

Mark S: If you go and Google “embroidery thread” when you need to order new stuff – how much is a roll of Royal thread?

Marc V: Like $5 – $6.

Mark S: So $6, so you can save 50 cents? Seriously!

Marc V: Then, you’re not getting anywhere.

Mark S: Then, don’t worry about outsourcing.

Marc V: This is something with that, though, now that you bring it up. So, you save 50 cents. You have no clue if the quality is as good as you’ve bought before, whatever these things are. There are ship time issues, all of that. Maybe you have to recalibrate your machine, because every single brand of thread, you have to recalibrate for. So, now you’ve got tension issues and all of that.

You’re wasting so much time, to save 50 cents. It’s the same concept here, that $25 on a design is – yes, that one order will be $25 more profitable, but there’s so many other revenue-generating activities.

Joe, when I had talked to him about him running his business, and his experience with customers and things like that, he said “I consider doing the graphics the busywork.” We got to talking about it, and I said “Okay, you mean busywork to you is non-revenue-generating activity.”

Revenue-generating activity would be your marketing, direct sales, networking. All of these things are going to eventually, if not right away, put money into your bank account.

Digitizing stuff yourself, unless somebody is paying you, because you’re a digitizing service, is not something that is going to continually increase the money that’s in your bank account.

Mark S: That’s really true.

Marc V: What other reasons here? Another reason that we kind of alluded to, but I want to just straight out say it, is that you would like to do graphics inhouse. You just can’t afford it, yet. So, you outsource it until you get to a point where you say “Now I’m going to have an inhouse graphics team.” That’s a great option, too.

Mark S: A lot of people, we have down here “You hate it.” A lot of people don’t realize the software skills that you need, to produce a good graphic. You may be a maker. You’re used to doing crafts and things like that, which are fairly simple. But learning a software application like CorelDraw or Illustrator or Photoshop, or even GIMP, it’s a project.

A lot of makers aren’t software people, so it’s not intuitive. You don’t enjoy it. If you hate it, you should really consider outsourcing.

Marc V: Yeah, and there’s the time. Going back to time , I think, is another reason that just kind of came up to me again, as why outsourcing is so great. This is something that Heath said to me. Heath is a DTG technician and trainer, and all these things.

Mark S: Maven.

Marc V: Maven. He’s got 30 years in this, since he was a kid. He’s been in this industry since he was a kid. He said he can’t tell me how many times he’s heard from people that are hunting and pecking at how to smooth an edge, how to remove a background, how to change a color, how to do this or that; going on YouTube, going onto Facebook groups, asking questions, talking to people, messing around with settings.

Hours and hours and hours and hours, to do something that a trained person would have done in a minute. You look at that as “Well, I’m learning, and now I’ll know how to do it next time,” and that process is fine, if you are a number one on this, if you do it because you want to do it, you love it, and this is something that you can do.

Otherwise, is this skillset actually going to help your business grow?

Mark S: Right. And the answer is no.

Marc V: Yeah. The answer is really no. The only way I ever say it’s yes is if part of your business plan is that.

Mark S: Yeah, if that’s your message, you’re the person.

Marc V: If that is the message, that you are going to be the graphic artist and the printer. But you have to realize, if that’s the choice you’re making, then that’s where the business stops.

Mark S: Yeah. I mean, you get paid. Right? You get paid by the hour. So, if you don’t charge somebody a design fee, and you spend an hour – I’ll use the number that gets thrown around in embroidery all the time, where people want to make $50 an hour.

Marc V: Okay.

Mark S: Let’s say that you want to make $50 an hour. It takes you an hour, 90 minutes, to do a design for a customer, that you don’t charge for. You just lost $50 to $75. You do one that you do charge for, that you charge somebody $15 or $25, then you’ve just lost $35, because you did it yourself.

When you do the math for what you’re worth, what you charge the customer, unless you have a compelling reason that is not the money, to do the designs yourself, then you shouldn’t be doing it.

Marc V: It made me think about this. Some folks don’t want to charge for the artwork. The artwork is free. Some companies don’t charge for artwork. 100%, the artwork fee is in there.

“I went to the car dealership, and there wasn’t a dealer fee.” They’re not not making money, okay? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Free shipping, the money is in the product. They’re getting the product cheaper, or they’re making more money on it, or whatever. They’re charging more.

So, not charging for the artwork or charging for it, you’re going to make your money somewhere. However you build your pricing is up to you. But part of the reason people think is “I don’t want to charge for artwork, so I’m going to do it myself.” That falls into, then you’re just paying yourself less money.

Mark S: Yes. You or the other company may not be charging for it, but they’re certainly paying for it. And they’re either paying for it because they get somebody else to do it, or they’re paying for it in their time.

Marc V: You’re paying for it in your time or you’re paying for it in your staff, or you’re paying for it, outsourcing to somebody. You’re paying for it in one of those three ways.

Mark S: Or in your blood pressure medication, or in the goodwill here at ColDesi, with our support people.

Marc V: Yes, in their blood pressure medications. So, what you do in a scenario like this is, if you make the move to outsource, what you do is you say “I need to charge $1 more a shirt, because I don’t charge an art fee, or I just need to start charging an art fee.” Whatever it is, you get it in there.

You make the money work. Otherwise, what trap you’ll fall into is kind of like the person – it made me think of it before, when I was talking about the baking. I know somebody who bakes cakes, a woman, and she has a very small business. It’s her. That’s it.

She bakes, delivers, takes orders, everything. On Valentine’s Day, we had had something made for a gift for somebody. She stopped taking orders two weeks before, because she reached her cap.

Mark S: Oh, right.

Marc V: This is all. There’s no more time. Now, she’s fine with this, because she just wants a little part-time thing. She’s busy. “I only do this many orders, because I want to spend time with my kids, and it’s fine that I’m only making this much money from it. That’s my life.”

If your business is that, then good for you!

Mark S: Do that!

Marc V: That’s great! It’s a wonderful thing. But a lot of folks don’t come in here talking to us, when they’re talking about their dream, their dream is not “I want to have limited income potential, because I’m fine with that. I want to just work 40 hours a weeks, and in those 40 hours, whatever money I make, and I cap off there, is fine.”

Most folks say “I want to grow a business. I want to get my kids involved in it. I want to pass it on. I want to have something big enough that I can sell one day, and retire off of.” People have dreams that are more than just -.

Mark S: The side hustle.

Marc V: Yeah, the side hustle. This is a way to break out of that, by outsourcing artwork.

Mark S: I like this episode, because I think we covered all sides of the story, in whether or not you might want to do the artwork yourself, bring somebody inhouse, or farm it out or outsource it to somebody.

We didn’t come to a conclusion for you, but in many circumstances, the idea of outsourcing is going to be very appealing. It’s going to solve a lot of problems for you guys with technical support time, with wasting time on your equipment, and with the supply costs that it costs you, to make mistakes.

Marc V: The way I look at it is the way the scale should exist, if we’re talking about your three options – for the folks who want to be successful, if everybody was at their optimal range, most people should be outsourcing it, because it’s scalable for your business, and you can do it per order. You get it done right, you build a relationship. It gives you the ability to do whatever you want with your business.

This next smaller group of folks are people who have gotten to a big enough point where they have somebody inhouse, and they’re probably still doing some outsourcing.

And then, the smallest group of people are just complete DIYers, and side hustle. They’re like that woman who is the baker, who says “I just want to do everything.”

Mark S: She enjoys baking. That’s why she’s in the business.

Marc V: She loves talking to the people, and designing the cakes. That’s her thing. That should be the smallest group of people. You have to make the decision. What bucket do you fall into? Percentage likelihood, you should be in the outsourcing bucket. If you’re not doing that, then really just step back and reconsider if that’s a better business model for you.

Mark S: Do the math. I love that. I think that was great!

Don’t forget that this podcast is sponsored by ColDesi, and Colman and Company is the supply arm of ColDesi. I’m wearing a compress UV printer shirt, because it’s one of those things that we sell.

Marc V: That’s another thing. While we’re mentioning us and what we do, if you know about us because of the Avance website or Digital HeatFX, or ColmanandCompany.com – if that’s how you know us, and you haven’t been to ColDesi.com, to kind of see everything that we have to offer, it’s worth it for you to just go ahead and visit it.

After you finish this podcast, bring it up on your phone, and just take a look.

Mark S: We do a lot!

Marc V: Yeah. We do a lot of stuff, and we’ve had so many people that have said “I wish I would have known you were in the UV printing business, or this, because I’ve been starting to research it, and I wouldn’t have wasted a lot of the time.”

Mark S: “I would have just sent you guys a check, to fill in the number!”

Marc V: Yeah. It’s also about building up the dream for the growth of your business, as well, to say “Okay, I’ve partnered with ColDesi. Things are going really well. They also offer this, and that’s a good inspiration for me to want to grow.”

So, go check out ColDesi.com, and make sure you know everything else we do.

Mark S: I love that! This has been episode 107 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from ColDesi, as well!

Mark S: I love that! You guys have a great business!

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