Working at Home Making Vinyl Decals
Work-at-Home Mom Starts a Vinyl Decal Business
I am a work-at-home mom who makes vinyl decals for a living. I love being with my kids and still making money. I don’t make a lot, but I can make a significant amount of cash from home.
Here are the pros and cons of starting a decal business:
Cons: Let me tell you, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is not kick-back-and-relax type of job. There is real work involved. You will need to invest in some expensive supplies and equipment, set up your cutter, and use software to design the work. Don’t even think about trying to do this if you don’t already have a computer with design apps and know how to use them. You’ll also need to be an outgoing person in order to make connections with a steady supply of customers and continually expand your network.
Pros: This is a fun way to earn a living and not much overhead is needed. Assuming you already have a computer with design and vector-art-making programs, after the initial purchase of your cutter, all you will need is vinyl, app tape, various blades, and motivation. Starting a small home business like this can cost as low at $700.00. I bought my vinyl cutter on Amazon and it came with a design program. Plus, you can work wherever and whenever you want, and how much money you make depends on how much time and energy you put in.
How to Start Your Own Sticker-Making Business
There is a steep learning curve for using the software for your cutter, but you’ll probably get the hang of things pretty quickly. After that, it all depends on how good you are at following through on projects, finding customers, and delivering good product quickly. Since you won’t make much selling one decal at a time, you should think big when promoting, marketing, and approaching potential customers.
What Is a Vinyl Cutting Machine?
A vinyl cutter is a computer-controlled machine that “reads” your design and translates it to an outline, then uses a sharp blade to cut that shape from a sheet of vinyl. After you’ve designed your art in an art program, you send it to the cutter which cuts the image. A small vinyl cutter might look like your computer printer and the big ones hold large rolls of vinyl.
Who Needs Stickers (Who Are Your Potential Customers)?
Think big—sure, friends and family will buy a sticker or two, but to whom can you sell a bunch of stickers at once?
- local businesses
- party-givers and event-throwers
- schools or school-related events
- political events or organizations
- anyone who needs labels on their product
(Really, if you think hard enough, anyone might use stickers for some reason!)
What Kinds of Vinyl Decals Can You Make?
The size of the decals you make depends on what kind of machine you buy, but you can put stickers anywhere. For example:
- on helmets, bikes, and skateboards
- on cellphones and computers
- on school binders and backpacks
- on windows or walls as wall art
- on envelopes to show a return address or seal the flap
- on cars (to advertise a business or as a fun window or bumper sticker)
- on jars of homemade jam, home-brewed beer, or other gifts or food items
Events That Might Benefit from Vinyl Stickers
- parties (to stuff the swag bag)
- birthday parties (they make excellent party favors)
- weddings (to remember the day in a fun way)
- business events (to generate brand recognition)
- shows or concerts or community events (to promote the event, band, or cause)
(Really, any event might benefit from stickers.)
Ways to Make Money Using a Vinyl Cutter
- Have someone you know invite friends and family over and show them some items you made using vinyl.
- Make school logos for fundraisers.
- Sell your designs wholesale to small boutiques and other local businesses to use as give-aways.
- Sell your original sticker designs at craft shows.
- Set up an online store (like etsy.com).
How to Make Vinyl Decals
Although every cutter works differently and you should follow the instructions included with your program and cutter, these guidelines will help you get started.
Below, you'll find step-by-step instructions for exactly how to make a vinyl decal.
What You Will Need to Begin
- Design Program
- Vinyl Decal Cutter
- Vector Art Program
- Rolls of Vinyl
- Transfer or Application (App) Tape
- Scissors, Tweezers, X-Acto knife
- Squeegee or Putty-knife tool
Step #1: Create Artwork
Creating original art is the hardest and most important part of the process. The more original, skillful, and relevant your designs are, the more likely they are to sell.
Sometimes, you’ll be working with easy, simple designs, like plain text. The fonts and symbols you have on your computer are easy to turn into stickers with a vinyl cutting program. Also, with graphics programs like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator, you can create your own shapes and designs and prepare vector art specifically for cut vinyl.
No matter what art you make (text, simple shapes, photographs, or more complicated designs), you will have to convert it to vector art so your vinyl cutter can print it properly.
What Is Vector Art?
Vector art is different from raster art. Raster art, including bitmap and .jpeg, is made of pixels, which are a bunch of different-colored dots without clear edges, while vector art has clearly defined edges and lines. Vinyl cutter-ready vector art (aka VCRVA or VCVA) can’t be saved as .jpeg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .psd, or .tif. With raster art, the edges will become fuzzy and distorted when the picture is enlarged, but with vector art, the image stays the same, no matter what size it is. In raster art, you’ll have thousands of different colors, but in vector art, the choices are limited. Thus, vector art is much clearer and easier to print. Your vinyl cutter can cut circles, lines, and arcs but it can’t cut a pixel so when you first bring an image into your cutting program and convert it to vector art, you’ll probably have a big mess to clean up. The cleaner the art you start with is, the less time you’ll spend cleaning it up.
You can buy snazzy fonts or cool pre-made vector art that’s already cutter-ready. For really complicated designs, it might be worth it to save yourself some time by sending it out to have it vectorized or purchase software (like Vector Magic) to clean it up for you.
Step #2: Bring Your Artwork into a Vinyl Cutting Program
Once you have created your artwork, you’ll import it to your vinyl cutting program which will allow you to format, frame, size, scale, rotate, and manipulate the image many ways before you send it to the vinyl cutter. If your cutter didn’t come with a program, there are many on the market to choose from: Flexi Starter 10, SignCut, DragonCut, etc. Many vinyl cutters aren’t particularly Mac friendly, so if you’re a Mac user, you’ll probably want to go with DragonCut or SignCut.
Step #3: Load Vinyl
Every cutter works differently, so you should read the instructions for how to feed the vinyl into your cutter before you start.
Step #4: Select and Set the Blade
You’ll select blade depth and pressure. Some machines require you to push the blade down manually while others have a button that does this for you. You’ll need to adjust the blade every time you change the type of vinyl you’re using—even if you think you’re using the same vinyl, its quality and thicknesses may change from roll to roll so you may need to readjust. Every cutter is different and you should follow the instructions. This step may take a little practice.
Step #5: Send to Vinyl Cutter and Cut Your Art
Different vinyl cutters have different ways of connecting to your computer, but most will do it via your USB port. Once you’ve installed the drivers, established the connection, selected the correct port in the cutting software, and switched your cutter to the online mode, you should be good to go.
Depending on how complex your design is, cutting may take seconds or hours, but most simple decals are done in a few minutes. When it’s done cutting, use scissors to remove the cut section from the roll.
Step #6: Weed Your Vinyl
Because the cutter cuts but does not remove the negative parts of the image, you’ll have to “weed” (remove by hand) all the pieces of vinyl that are irrelevant to your design. If you did a good job setting up the cutter blade, your artwork should weed easily, but this part of the process usually takes some time. You may need to use tweezers, a weeding pick, and/or an X-Acto knife to remove the parts of vinyl that don’t belong in your decal.
Step #7: Apply Transfer Tape
The last step is to put the stick on your sticker. You’ll want to choose a tape that stays flat or else the edges of the decal will begin to curl up and attract dirt. Remember that sometimes you’re planning on putting the sticker behind glass, and in those cases you’ll want the adhesive attached to the front, not the back, of your design. Transfer tape (or application, aka app tape) is like masking tape but has a different tack for adhering to your vinyl but releasing it on the target surface. You can buy this tape in different widths, but if you have an image that is bigger than the tape you have on hand, you can always lay two or more sections of tape down side-by-side, overlapping each section a quarter inch or so. Use a squeegee or a hard, flat tool to press the transfer tape onto the vinyl to ensure good adhesion.
How I Made My Own Vinyl Business Profitable
When I first started, it took me about six months to get my business going. I didn’t do many sales locally because instead of a storefront, I had a home office and wouldn't feel comfortable with strangers coming and going in my home. I have an online store (at Etsy) where I used to make about $800 per month just selling on that site. I did minimal work, meaning I designed the work, then posted my item and waited for it to sell.
As for customers, I have often offered trades, which led to big sales later. I did craft shows with already-made home décor items such as signs, tiles, jars, etc. I gave them to my daughters who gave them to friends whose moms went crazy for them and placed orders for stuff as well. Word-of-mouth is the best advertisement when it comes to your business and always offer something free to your customers, even if they are horrible! Many people write their own blogs and word will spread, even if it is negative. I have customers who found me through blogs that were written about me. Then, I started attending an online college, which put my shop on hold for awhile.
That was the extent of it, really. My advice to people who are considering this is that you really can't expect that the cutter will arrive and then it will somehow magically make money for you. It all comes down to you and how you choose to get your product out there. But keep in mind, I did this with a very minimal advertising budget and I was making $800 a month on average.
Good luck to you! If you have any more questions, please ask! ;)