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Don’t be Stupid

Pricing is an area where we as screen printers are typically ignorant, afraid, or just plain stupid.

In no way would I say that I have all of the answers on screen print pricing but I can say that I have, and continue to, put a lot of thought into the subject, and make adjustments accordingly in my business.  I do not believe in overly complicated pricing formulas that account for ink consumption down to the gram, I am perfectly fine with averages. I do believe in establishing a per-hour charge for press time based on a target margin and realistic calculations for setup times and run rates.  The key word here is “realistic” and that means accounting for the known variables which will affect setup times and run rates.  We all know that color count will be a factor in pricing and most customers understand this as well.  But do we all account for factors such as substrate, image size, placement, ink type, print method, etc. when determining pricing?  Do our customers understand this?  If not, it’s bad news as these factors often have a much greater impact on setup time and run rates (and ultimately production cost/opportunity cost) than color count.  To give a real-world example, I recently bid a job for printing on hooded sweatshirts with a print running down the sleeve.  In this case we charge for the print and then apply an up-charge for the substrate (fleece) and for the print placement (down the sleeve).  We lost out to a printer whom does not apply up-charges.  This is insanity.  Anybody whom has worked in a printshop for more than a day can tell you that this specific print run will take 2-3 times longer on press than printing on a standard substrate.  The funny thing is that I never have a customer question (or not understand after a basic explanation) these up-charges as with common sense they are completely reasonable.  It is only in a bid situation when another decorator does not apply such up-charges that a customer takes issue.  I’m not complaining about a little healthy competition, but contending with stupidity is another story.

A friend of mine in the business once summed this up nicely by saying:

“market price is determined by the stupidest bidder”.

More to come…


  1. Tom, great piece…lots of db’s doing a good job of dragging price per print down. Or, saying they’re contract printers offering contract prices on 18 units…nonetheless provided by the customer. Stay away from the bottom dwellers. Peace,Darryl

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