How to Start a Vinyl Cutting Business

With vinyl cutters being more accessible than ever and online stores easy to set up, your dreams of owning your own small craft business can become a reality. A vinyl crafting business doesn’t require much overhead, and you can manage it successfully as a self-run business.

Arts and crafts continue to be a great way to earn income since customers always need products for personal or business use. So what are you waiting for? To get you started, we’ve put together the information you need to start a vinyl cutting business, including:

  • What is a vinyl cutter?
  • Can you make money with a vinyl cutter?
  • Who are your potential customers?
  • How do I start a vinyl cutting business?
  • What do I need for a vinyl decal business?
  • What Are The Best Vinyl Cutters for Your New Business? 
  • What Design Software Can I Use?
  • What Are the Steps for Vinyl Cutting?
  • How Much Does it Cost to Start a Vinyl Decal Business?
  • Understanding Licensing and Protection from Copycats
  • Should I Start my Vinyl Cutting Business Locally or Online?
  • What is White Labeling and Print on Demand (POD)?

With this comprehensive guide, we hope to answer most of, if not all, your questions about what it takes to start your vinyl cutting business.

What is a Vinyl Cutter?

Vinyl is a plastic material that is tough, durable, and flame-retardant. A vinyl cutter quite literally cuts vinyl. Similar to a traditional printer, it receives image data from the computer. The cutter scans the design from the computer and converts it into an outline for cutting. Then, it uses small blades to cut the pattern of the image into the vinyl. 

There are many models of cutters that fit comfortably on your desk. Bigger vinyl cutting machines hold large rolls of vinyl. A quality vinyl cutter allows you to: 

  • cut designs into iron-on transfers for t-shirts
  • create vinyl stickers
  • create vinyl decals for walls
  • print signs for wall decor, windows, vehicles, and other surfaces
  • make refrigerator magnets
  • cut fabric for sewing or making clothing and accessories
  • cut cardstock, paper, and other light materials for stationary or cards

Can You Make Money with a Vinyl Cutter?

With all the possible uses of a vinyl cutting machine, you can start selling your designs. However, it can take some time for your vinyl business to earn a reasonable income. Making money as a business owner means you need to allow time for your business to market itself and develop relationships with recurring customers. Word-of-mouth can be one of the best forms of advertisement where one happy customer leads to more sales. 

When deciding what type of vinyl cutting business you want to have, consider designs, you are passionate about producing. For example, do you want to make vinyl wall decals, vinyl stickers, vehicle signs, or t-shirts? Perhaps a combination. After you decide, find ways to reach customers. 

You can earn money using your vinyl cutting machine by:

  • setting up an online store, such as Etsy or Society6, for e-commerce
  • selling your designs wholesale to local businesses, such as small boutiques, for giveaways
  • setting up at craft shows to sell vinyl crafts with your original designs
  • making logos and signs to sell to local organizations
  • networking with family and friends to spread the word about your services

A useful technique to attract customers is to give discounts or giveaways so they can experience the quality of your product and be walking advertisements for your work. 

Who Are Your Potential Customers?

A successful business knows its audience and can learn about what potential customers want through market research. Understanding your potential customers can lead to better marketing plans that attract sales. Think about who you want to cater to and what types of decals they will want. 

Whether it’s for fun or to put labels on products, any person or local business can use vinyl products in one way or another. For example, political organizations, schools, or interior designers with projects could use vinyl decals for signs or sticker giveaways. 

Other examples of products that may use vinyl decals include:

  • electronics
  • school supplies
  • wall art
  • vehicles
  • outdoor equipment
  • gifts

Selling one decal at a time is not a lucrative way to make money. You remedy this by selling your products in bulk or more consistently to wedding planners, party planners, or other people who host events regularly. Anyone hosting the following events can become potential customers. Events include:

  • parties to include in swag bags
  • birthday parties to use as party favors
  • business events or conferences to generate brand recognition
  • weddings to thank guests or remember the day
  • shows or concerts to promote the event or band
  • school events to promote fundraisers or school logos
  • fundraisers or community events to promote the cause

How Do I Start a Vinyl Cutting Business?

It’s important to practice using your vinyl cutter and master the vinyl cutting and crafting skills required to start your vinyl cutting business. However, just having the skills to create vinyl decals isn’t all it takes to start a business. To do this, you need all the basic supplies listed below.

Additional things you need to consider or have in place before launching your vinyl cutting business include:

  • hiring people if you aren’t going to do everything yourself
  • understanding licensing laws
  • taking professional pictures of your creations
  • managing the logistics of receiving and filling orders
  • accepting various payment platforms and methods
  • understanding and paying tax obligations
  • choosing a catchy business name and registering it with the U.S. patent and trademark office
  • having business licenses and applicable commercial licenses
  • managing a social media profile on various platforms
  • a marketing plan, including marketing materials such as business cards

What Do I Need for a Vinyl Decal Business? 

On top of the small business administration aspects listed above, you will need specific supplies to start a vinyl business. Here is an overview of the supplies you will need to start a vinyl cutting business.

Laptop or Desktop Computer

You might already own a computer that qualifies for a vinyl cutting business. The minimum specifications should be a 2.0 GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, enough hard drive space for vinyl software, and a large monitor for realistic images. We recommend a 16-bit, 1366 x 768 resolution screen. Desktop machines can also be more reliable for starting a vinyl business. 

A Vinyl Cutter 

A high-quality, professional vinyl cutter is essential to the business, especially if you plan to expand in the long run. Small businesses often start with the Cricut Explore 3 since it is less expensive than others on the market while still a quality cutter. For something more sophisticated, consider investing in the Klick-n-Kut Maxx Air. If you don’t have the capital to purchase a quality vinyl cutter, you can always use a third-party company to start your vinyl cutting business. An example is FoamCorePrint.

Other Required Supplies

While a computer and vinyl cutter are the two most important supplies, the list of what you need to start a vinyl business continues. Make sure you have:

  • design and vector art software
  • vinyl rolls in different colors
  • a cutting mat
  • transfer of application tape
  • a heat press to transfer print
  • squeegee or putty-knife tool
  • weeding tools such as X-Acto knife and tweezers
  • scissors
  • camera
  • accounting software

Depending on how you set up your business, you may also need packing and shipping supplies.

What Are The Best Vinyl Cutters for Your New Business? 

Investing in a quality vinyl cutter is one of the most important parts of starting your own vinyl cutting business, especially if you plan to grow and expand. From more budget-friendly options to sophisticated machines, here are the top four vinyl cutters to consider buying and why. 

Cricut Explore 3

One of Cricut’s best machines for vinyl cutting is their Cricut Explore 3 that replaces the Cricut Explore Air 2. It can cut and draw twice the speed of its predecessor and can work with over 100 different materials. This machine also does scoring and allows you to utilize the Cricut Design Space software. The maximum cutting width is 13 inches by 12 feet, making it optimal for larger-sized projects. Overall it is an affordable option and the best for those starting. 

Silhouette Cameo 4

The Silhouette Cameo 4 is a great vinyl cutter for creating unique vinyl heat press transfers for t-shirts. This machine also works well for signage since you can cut material up to 12 inches in width by 10 feet long. In addition, it’s an affordable option that is small enough to fit on your home desk.

GCC AR-24″

This GCC vinyl cutter has a 24-inch cutting width and is made specifically for creating signs. Still, it works great for all printed vinyl decals and other heat transfer vinyl work. It’s compact in size and optimal for home businesses while still cutting at an impressive 400mm per second.

Klic-N-Kut Maxx Air

This Klic-N-Kut vinyl cutter comes with optimum features that make it a great choice for small businesses. It has a powerful motor, adjustable pinch rollers, cuts fast and quiet, and can handle complex images. It can also cut up to 24 inches in width. Its only drawback is it only operates on PC and is not MAC compatible. 

What Design Software Can I Use?

Vinyl cutters will come with software that allows you to design basic vectors or download design templates. However, to create higher-quality designs, you will want to consider other professional vinyl software.

  • CorelDraw is an easy-to-learn cutting software. You can use its user-friendly and professional-grade tools to edit your designs. It is suitable for both advanced and beginner designers.
  • Another user-friendly vinyl cutting software is Easy Cut Studio. You can draw images quickly on the cutting mat. It also has multiple useful functions such as freehand drawing, auto-tracing, lattice design, and Bezier operations.
  • Sure Cuts A Lot Pro is a vinyl software program that lets you create images for signs, decals, t-shirts, and more. It has easy-to-use magnetic snapping, masking, and guidelines. Editing software such as Adobe Photoshop is also included in its features. 
  • Adobe Illustrator is also great software to create vector graphics and texts. You can also hand-draw your designs and change them into vector art using Adobe Illustrator. 

What Are the Steps for Vinyl Cutting?

So you have your business idea, you’ve gathered the supplies, and you’re ready to get started. What’s next? The following is a step-by-step breakdown to help you understand what it takes to go from idea to final product.

Step 1: Create or Download Artwork

Whether you create original artwork or download graphics with permission, you will want to make sure it is vector art. Vector art makes it easier and clearer for the vinyl cutter to create outlines and ‘print.’

Step 2: Import the Artwork into a Vinyl Cutting Program

Vinyl cutting software allows you to size, scale, frame, format, rotate, and manipulate your artwork before sending it to the vinyl cutter. 

Step 3: Load Vinyl

Read the instructions on your vinyl cutter to see how to feed the vinyl into the cutter before you start. Every cutter works differently, especially depending on its size. Depending on the vinyl material you use, you may have to place it on a cutting mat before feeding it into the vinyl cutter. There are different types of cutting mats for different materials, including one specifically for fabrics.

Step 4: Select and Set the Vinyl Cutter Blade

You will need to select a blade depth and pressure and adjust this setting every time you change the type of vinyl you’re using. This is because the quality and thickness of the vinyl rolls can change with each roll. 

Step 5: Send Art to the Vinyl Cutter and Cut Vinyl

Make sure your vinyl cutter is connected to your computer before you send the art to be cut. Depending on the complexity of your design, cutting can take minutes or hours. Remove the cut section from the vinyl roll when it’s done. 

Step 6: Weed Your Vinyl 

The cutter will not remove negative parts of the design, so you will have to remove it by hand using a cutter blade, tweezer, weeding pick, or X-Acto knife. This step can be quick or take some time and patience, depending on how intricate your design is. 

Step 7: Apply Transfer Tape

The final step is to apply the sticky part to the sticker. Choosing a tape that stays flat will ensure the edges of your vinyl decal don’t curl up. Use a squeegee to press the transfer tape onto the vinyl. For t-shirt designs, you will need to use a heat press to transfer the design onto the shirt. 

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Vinyl Decal Business?

A vinyl cutting business does not need to be expensive to start. Over 90% of sellers didn’t require a loan to finance their business. Some said they got started for as low as $700 by purchasing a vinyl cutter with a design program. Overall, starting a vinyl business can be a fun way to earn income with little overhead. 

The total cost to get your business off the ground will mostly depend on the type of supplies you purchase and the amount of time you can put into the business. For example, you can save money if you can do most things yourself and don’t need to contract additional help or purchase commercial licenses for designs. There are also third-party options to fulfill your cutting and sales demands. These options usually come with marketing support. 

Understanding Licensing and Protection from Copycats

If you aren’t creating your own designs, you will have to download other people’s designs. This process usually involves buying a commercial license for the design so that you can sell it. Without the license, you will be stealing and can get sued. However, with enough research, you can find discounted commercial licenses to download various designs. 

On the flip side, you should have a commercial license if you create your own designs. A license can protect your design, allow others to purchase it, and give you legal standing if you come across a copycat. Make sure you have a contract for each client choosing to purchase your designs and that its clear use without permission is prohibited. Having a base contract template that you personalize for each client and design is the best way to go. You will also want to have a service level agreement (SLA). Using a contract lifecycle management platform can make this process easier and more organized. 

If you find someone is using your design without your permission, get in touch with a lawyer. You will want to send a cease-and-desist letter to this person, and you most likely have a legal case against them. A lawyer can easily help you through this process.

Should I Start my Vinyl Cutting Business Locally or Online?

As a business owner, you’ll need to decide what kind of business model you want to follow. Part of the business model includes where you will sell decals. Starting your vinyl cutting business online can be easily accomplished through storefront websites such as Etsy. You could also start your own website or open a Facebook and Instagram business page to sell directly through social media.

While most people set up online vinyl cutting businesses, you can also sell locally without having to spend money on an actual storefront. Network with local businesses, sports teams, schools, nonprofits, and professionals such as wedding planners, party planners, and interior designers. Bring in samples to show them what types of products you can make. You can also display your work at craft shows or farmer’s markets. 

Whether you go with an online or offline business for vinyl decals, choose something that best aligns with your comfort level. To help you decide which way to go, here are the pros and cons of each option. And remember, you can also combine a bit of both for your business.

Pros of Online Selling

  • You can have a successful home business that reaches audiences globally.
  • There’s no need for face-to-face interactions if you’re not a people person.
  • You can work on your own schedule.
  • It’s a form of passive income where you can make sales while cooking, shopping, or sleeping.

Cons of Online Selling

  • Requires beautiful and quality pictures of the product since customers can’t touch the products physically. 
  • It can be slow to get noticed since there’s a lot of competition. 
  • Requires you to be responsive to online messages. 
  • Packing and shipping can be a hassle and expensive.
  • There are often fees to use online storefronts such as Etsy. 

Pros of Storefront Selling

  • Customers and potential customers can see and interact with your designs and products in person.
  • You get a chance to network and build close relationships with recurring customers while selling vinyl decals.
  • You can answer customer questions directly and highlight selling points as they decide to purchase with you.
  • There’s more justification for having your own storefront. 

Cons of Storefront Selling

  • You have to be comfortable networking and interacting with people. 
  • You are limited to the local community.
  • Clients may have specific deadlines you need to meet.
  • Products won’t sell as passive income.
  • When selling at craft shows or markets, you will have to pay fees to set up a stall.

What is White Labeling and Print on Demand (POD)?

White labeling refers to products and services that do not have any logos or brands on them. Companies will sell these products so you can rebrand them for your businesses’ sales and distribution. For example, you can purchase a set of generic, plain colored t-shirts and use your vinyl cutting machine to create designs to place on the product. Other types of white labeling products include mugs, phone accessories, tote bags, and water bottles. 

Most white labeling products are also available through an online print on demand (POD) service. POD is when you provide the custom designs for a third-party company to fulfill the printing or vinyl cutting on a white label product. The printing or vinyl cutting will only occur after a customer purchases. You only pay for the white label product after making a sale. 

POD can be a great option when starting a business because it cuts down on your initial costs, reduces the need to buy bulk products, and eliminates inventory management. Once you make a sale, you just have to focus on customer service. You can also test different ideas of what design combinations are popular without investing in inventory.

Some cons to consider with POD is the cost per item is usually higher than buying in bulk. For this reason, your profits may be less. You are also not in control of the shipping process and have limitations on customization options depending on your POD supplier. 

Final Tips 

Making money can be fun when you choose something you are passionate about. Whether you’re selling locally, selling online, or do a bit of both, have confidence in your vinyl cutting business and be open to learning new things. As long as you have the passion, manage the administrative side of things, and provide quality services for word-of-mouth marketing, your business will most likely succeed. Remember, you also don’t need to invest in brick or mortar since a vinyl cutting home business can be just as successful.  And there are all types of products you can create such as Cricut baby shower projects, Cricut anniversary ideas and Cricut wedding gifts.

Use this guide to start a vinyl cutting business to make your business dreams come true!

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