I need to start digitizing because...
I am seriously considering purchasing digitizing software because I have to turn a lot of business away. I can't justify hiring someone to digitize a design for a few shirts. Does anyone have any suggestions on good software that is affordable?
I would be a very, very wealthy woman!
And because I DO have this conversation at least once a week with an embroidery professional, it is clear that this conversation that needs to happen on a broader scale than just one-to-one conversations.
So here it is... my thoughts on becoming a digitizer because you want to be able to do small runs for customers - the good, the bad and the ugly!
PLEASE consider letting any of the hundreds of experienced digitizing professionals, the experts, continue to do your digitizing! Think about the statement above... You would rather spend your time (your most precious asset) creating designs for customers BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT PAY FOR DIGITIZING!?!?!?! Yup, I AM yelling about this.....
There is NOTHING WRONG with charging customers for a custom design. In other industries, customers pay BIG $ to have a custom design created. Ad agencies charge hundreds of dollars to create a logo, much less an entire branding package. Yet in our industry of apparel decorating, so many business owners do not charge a single penny for this service yet they perform it regularly. WHY is that??? If the customer comes into your business with a concept, why is it reasonable for us to assume the expense of generating the useable artwork? It is NOT reasonable! Charge the customer for your time, or for the design fee or digitizing fee you hire it out.
Getting the art done well and getting the digitizing done right and quickly is worth every penny as the quality of the work you will deliver will be awesome.
Let's take the first challenge - creating good art... Everyone can take a basic image (stock design) and add some lettering to it and it will look OK. That is not what I consider digitizing.
When a customer comes to you and has a rough concept along the lines of something like this
"I want a toolbox with a bumble bee coming it out of and then my company name somewhere..."
since their company name is Mr. B's Plumbing (he is Mr. Benson)... Now you are edging over into the realm of graphic design.
Guess what? People go to school, sometimes for years, to become good graphic designers! There IS an art to creating appealing designs. Understanding how to create a visually pleasing design with balance, selecting fonts, combining colors comes naturally for some people. For the rest of us, we should NOT attempt it! Bad designs abound in the world, and I think it is a visual crime to add more to the universe! I speak from personal experience - I STINK at creating a decent design from scratch. I am not so bad at modifying an existing design, I can see what might improve something. But to start at a blank page and come up with a good design - I am NOT the person for that job!
Now let's look at the second challenge - creating good digitizing... HOW LONG will it take you to become halfway proficient as a digitizer? MUCH longer than you have time for if you want to earn income from your embroidery business. In the meantime, are you willing to put work out there under your name during your learning curve?
I've seen WAY too many businesses in this exact same spot make the decision to "become digitizers," only to realize soon after that it was a very expensive mistake! They lose untold number of hours trying to create a design that looks good and runs well, sometimes even DAYS, and the embroidery they produce with their design is marginal at best while they are learning to digitzing. And then they end up in a bind - to produce the embroidered goods as is or to spend money to send out the design anyway!
Now I did promise you the GOOD as well as the bad and ugly (reread above).
If you are a graphically creative and/or talented person, and if you do not need to earn income from every hour that you are working in your embroidery/apparel decoration business, then by all means embrace and unleash your creative genius with digitizing software. It is an awesome feeling to have a vision of a design in your head and then be able to create it with the software and then ultimately in embroidery thread. But you need to to know that during this time of creative fulfillment and bliss, you are not earning any income! Can you afford that?
I know some embroidery professionals that set aside "personal" time for digitizing specifically because of the level of enjoyment they get from the creative process - it energizes them and gives them something essential that they then apply to the rest of their businesses. Feeding that inner creative is important and healthy and I applaud everyone that gives themselves that time and spark.
But the reality of digitizing for customers is far different. You are not able to embrace your creativeness because, in this situation, you need to create the customer's vision, not a vision of your own choosing.
So, here is the acid test as to whether you should purchase a full scale digitizing software program and invest the time to become proficient with it - can you afford to spend that time and money and not be earning anything from it for however long it takes you to become proficient with it? If you are the only employee in your business, this is the real question. If you have more employees, it does become more viable, as one person can be running machines and earning income while someone else is spending the time to become skilled with digitizing software.
If your answer is yes, you can afford the time and money to add this system to your business, then go for it. Otherwise, take that money and invest in the digitizing fees for your customers - the money is spent all the same, and you will be earning income on order after order that sew well. And in a perfect world, you would be charging your customers for that digitizing and not even underwriting it for them! THAT is a model for a financially healthy embroidery business.
What do you think about this?
Do you digitize?
Is it a profit center or a loss for your business?