If you’re ready to handle the biggest orders, becoming a contract printer might be the right move for your business.

Contract printing could help you grow your business and provide you with steady work, but before you make the leap to contract printing, you have to determine whether or not contract printing is right for you and your screen printing shop.

So first of all, what exactly is contract printing? How does it differ from the services your shop provides on a day-to-day basis? Contract printing involves taking on orders purely for printing services. Your customer supplies garments and the artwork; you are responsible for laying down the print.

Generally, contract print jobs pay much less per garment, but orders are often significantly larger. And having a few contract customers in your portfolio can help you to grow your shop’s revenue by cranking out large scale jobs without taking the time to help customers find the right garments and creating – or formatting – artwork for them.

When deciding whether or not contract screen printing is right for you, there are a few things to consider about your shop and your business style.

1. Is your shop equipped to handle large-scale orders?

The per-garment profit margin in contract printing is a fraction of the profit margin in printing custom orders. Making money with contract printing is all about churning out large orders – anywhere from 500 garments up – quickly. Shops looking to do contract work should have a minimum of two automatic presses up and running, as well as a conveyor dryer that can keep up with high volume production.

2. Do you run a tight shop?

No print run is perfect, but your contract clients will expect high quality and little product loss due to printing errors. Your shop has to be good at producing high quality work with few mistakes on every print run. You should have a clear policy regarding spoilage – aim to lose no more than 1 or 2 percent of garments to misprints. Before accepting a contract order, make sure your customer knows and accepts your spoilage rate and is prepared to either provide extra shirts to cover misprints, or is open to accepting a credit if the final amount of shirts delivered is less than the amount ordered.

3. Do you thrive on a deadline?

Contract jobs usually demand quick turnaround. You’ll usually have two weeks maximum to complete a job, though many contract clients will expect to have their prints in as little as two to five days. If you or your staff is stressed by the pressure of tight deadlines, contract printing might not be for you.

4. Are you able to cede control?

When you’re working on custom prints, often your customers are looking to collaborate with you to create the right print on the right garment. Contract printers know what they want. You have to be willing to deliver what they’re asking for, even if it differs from your personal style, or maybe even your usual methods.

5. Can you make your shop stand out?

The competition for contract orders is fierce. Clients will be quick to choose a shop with a lower per-garment rate or one that will tag, sort and box items for shipping to retail stores. Before you make contract printing part of your business plan, know what you’ll do to make your shop stand out.

6. Do you know when to say “no”?

The tough competition for contract jobs can make it difficult to turn any work down, but you have to know your limits, both in terms of price and time. Know your shop’s operating costs and how that correlates to your pricing. You don’t want to take a job that barely breaks even or worse, loses you money. You also have to know your turnaround times and be strict with your schedule. You can’t take on a job that your shop simply doesn’t have time for. If you struggle to say “no” to work, you might struggle to manage a profitable contract printing business.

The contract screen printing market can be intense and competitve, but it can also be extremely rewarding and help your shop grow. Before you make the leap to contract screen printing, make sure you honestly evaluate whether or not contract printing is right for your business.

Think you’re ready to take advantage of contract screen printing? Check out this blog for more to consider:

So You Want to Be a Contract Printer: Some Important Considerations

Looking for some tips on how to get your screen printing shop operating at peak performance? Check out our blog:

How to Keep up with Your Screen Printing Shop’s Customer Demand

Or check out some ideas for separating your shop from the pack:

Make Your Screen Printing Shop Stand Out from the Competition