Professional sign makers design, manufacture and install eye-catching displays
with the goal of attracting business for their customers or providing the
public with information.
Sign makers are part artists and part specialized craftspeople who usually
have a talent or skill for one or more specific types of signs -- neon, electric,
pylon, painted wood or vinyl.
Depending on the type of sign they specialize in, sign makers often have
to wear many hats -- painter, electrician, welder or airbrush artist. For
those who are sole proprietors, these duties also extend to bookkeeping, customer
service and advertising.
The designing and manufacturing of the sign is usually done in a clean,
well-lit and well-ventilated workshop. "Special attention is given to the
safety of all concerned," says Amina Morbi of her own shop.
Of course, the actual installation is generally an outdoor job. This means
that weather is a definite factor in the work day.
According to Wade Swormstedt, associate publisher of Signs of the Times
magazine of Ohio, 98 percent of the sign shops today use CAS (computer-aided
sign-making). With CAS, it is easy for businesses to offer quick signs with
computer cut vinyl. As a result, there are more sign franchises popping up.
There are two types of sign businesses: commercial and electric.
Commercial shops, which manufacture wood, vinyl and other non-electric
signs, typically employ about four people.
Electric sign shops usually employ around 27 people. They need more help
because they work with bigger signs.
Sign makers may work freelance, or they may work for sign shops, government
departments, advertising firms or in-house design shops. Most sign shops are
While franchised sign shops and other well-established shops may have routine
business hours, there are times, particularly in small businesses, when long
hours are necessary to meet deadlines.
While you may not have to be an athlete to install signs, it does take
a certain amount of physical ability. "Typically, a high degree of physical
fitness might not be required," says sign maker Kim Tytler. "But stamina is
important." A sign maker often has to climb high ladders and dig holes to
It's important for a sign maker to develop an attractive portfolio of their
work that will appeal to a wide client base.