Whether you've got a bit of a creative block, need to better optimize your equipment, or want to expand your customer base, here are five quick tips to help you get the most out of your sublimation business.
If you’re doing sublimation, odds are you’re a creative person. And if you’re making money with sublimation, then odds are you’re pretty good a being a creative person. Creativity is like a muscle...if you don’t use it enough, it will start to wither away. Don’t let that happen to you! I know, you’re busy. It’s hard to find time to “be creative.” But there’s a way you can stretch your creativity AND benefit your sublimation business.
A great way to keep those creative juices flowing is to spend a few minutes each day on an 'inspiration file!' OK, you’re asking, “What on Earth is an ‘inspiration file’?” Stay with me here.
An 'inspiration file' is a file on your computer where you save images, ideas, and graphics that spark your creativity. Now, those items DO NOT have to be related to something you’re currently working on…just things that make you say, “That’s cool.”
Start with free image sites like unsplash.com, pexels.com, or pixabay.com. Just take a few minutes and scroll through the trending images, downloading and saving what catches your eye. You’ll find images that you like, but not necessarily images that fit an existing project. That’s OK! The idea here is to find stuff that triggers something in your creative spirit. Maybe it’s a beach scene. Maybe it’s a photo where you like the color palette. Doesn’t matter.
What you’re doing is creating an Inspiration File, and that file actually serves a dual purpose: it gets your creative side going in the moment AND builds a reservoir of ideas that you can draw from when you need that little creative jump start. And that can save you time (and money) when you’re in a bit of a creative slump and a customer needs something ASAP.
SAVE PRINTING TIME
Sublimation can produce really stunning, full color images and photos. Customers love it. YOU love it. But sometimes you wish that printer was just a little bit faster. There are few steps you can take to maximize your time when you’re finally ready to send that work of art to the printer.
The first is to make sure you’re printing on the correct side of the paper. This one seems obvious, but we’ve all done it. We’ve invested in high-quality sublimation paper and yet we accidentally put the paper in upside down, printing on the untreated side. Wasted time, wasted ink, and wasted paper. Take that few extra seconds to make sure you’re printing on the treated side.
The second is to do a quick nozzle check on a piece of plain copy paper at the start of each day. Print a simple graphic that uses all of the basic colors and make sure they look correct. There’s nothing worse than sending a full-color photo to the printer only to discover there’s an ink clog in one of your colors. Again, wasted time, wasted ink and wasted paper. Sacrifice a sheet of plain paper to save yourself from a potential headache.
Finally, and this might be my favorite sublimation tip, print with the long edge of your paper in the printer (landscape) and set a custom paper size to 11” x 8.5” (or whatever your printer will accommodate). Why print this way? Simple. By printing this way, the print head stays on the paper longer and the printer works more efficiently. The print head is doing more “working” (printing) and less “traveling” (moving back and forth while not printing) across the paper.
KNOW YOUR TRUE COSTS WHEN SUBLIMATING
When done right, the sublimation process creates truly stunning images and personalized gifts. You know how much your customers love those products…that’s why they keep coming back! They value what you do and what you offer. But are you selling yourself short when it comes to pricing you products?
The sublimation process typically has more variables than other fabrication processes. I’m amazed at how many businesses don’t take into account all of the factors that go in to making a sublimated masterpiece! When pricing your next project, be sure to take into account the following:
- Obviously, the cost of the item you’re sublimating.
- The shipping costs to get the item to you.
- The cost of your design time to make a custom item.
- The cost of the ink…typically for small format sublimation you’re looking at $.01/sq. in.
- The cost of the paper.
- The cost to have you (or someone in your shop) print and press the item.
- The cost of the packaging.
- An additional 5% to account for scrap.
- The outbound shipping costs to get the item to the customer (if applicable).
There’s one other factor I’d encourage you to consider when pricing your products, and that’s current market price. What are others in your area charging for similar products? What about online? Taking a look at the competition and seeing where you fall price-wise can give you another opportunity to adjust your pricing accordingly.
MAKING FRIENDS TO MAKE MONEY
As a business owner, you know how hard it can be to attract new customers. You know that once a customer sees what you have to offer with sublimation, they’re often ready to buy. You’re offering great products, and the ability to customize and make one-of-a-kind items is a sure home run.
So here’s a little tip to help grow your sublimation business….make friends with local photographers! This is the ultimate “win-win” situation! If you can partner up with a photographer, you’ve got a friend who has a built-in client base of people who are interested in having beautiful pictures taken. Your photographer friend can show his clients all of the wonderful things that can be done with sublimation…from mugs to shirts to key chains and photo frames. The photographer offers your products, takes a small percentage of the sale price, and then sends YOU the images to sublimate (remember: the photographer owns the rights to the photo). YOU get to keep your machines running during potential slower months (hello wedding season!) and you make extra money. Your photographer friend just expanded the products they can offer their clients, and you just added a whole new revenue stream and potential customer base! See…win-win!
There’s a whole new world of sales potential for you and a local photographer with sublimation. Think about graduation pictures, family photos, weddings, team photos…the possibilities are endless!
Talk to your friends and neighbors and see if they recommend a photographer in town. Or, you can simply cold-call on a photographer yourself. Either way, this is a GREAT opportunity for you to grow your sublimation business.
SELF-PROMOTION AND THE “HUMBLE BRAG”
You work hard, spending time and energy to create fantastic sublimation products for your customers. But how do you share your work without coming off as someone who shouts, “Look what I did!”
For starters, you can always try the “humble brag.” If you’re not familiar, a “humble brag” is when you’re being modest but also drawing attention to something you’re proud of. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you just finished a project that came out really, really nice. You could post it to Facebook and say, “Look what I made! Isn’t it cool?” Or, you could post it to Facebook and say, “Thanks Jeff Smith for allowing me to create this mug for you. Glad you like it!” See the subtle difference? You’re highlighting your work while thanking the customer for their business.
Another thing you should be doing is stickers. Yes, stickers. You should have stickers with your company name, website, phone and email address printed on them, and they should be on EVERYTHING you produce. Make a corporate award? Sticker on the bottom. Sublimate some mugs for a customer? Stickers on the bottom. Customized photo frame? Sticker on the back. You get the idea.
By putting your sticker with contact information on the bottom/back of everything you produce, you’re giving yourself every opportunity to connect with a potential new customer. Yes, your customer already knows about you. But does the person receiving the award? The person getting the mug? The parent getting the photo frame as a gift? Maybe…but maybe not. And the next time that person needs a customized gift, they’re going to call you.
And here’s my final piece of advice: for larger orders or customers who regularly order from you, put a hand written thank you note in the box with the items. You can get note cards from your local office supply store, or kick it up a notch and have some printed with your logo on them. However you go about doing it, this simple act in the age of instant digital communication will go a long way to building customer loyalty.
Did you know Johnson Plastics Plus is home to thousands of sublimation products? We have everything you need for sublimation, including blanks, paper, printers, inks and heat presses. Shop the sublimation section of our site to see all we have to offer!