Tag Archives: starting a button making business

What printer and what ink would you use for business level quality graphics?

  • What kind of printer do I need to start a custom button making business?
  • What paper is best for making custom buttons?
  • What is the cost of printing custom button?
  • How can I lower the cost of making buttons
Original question:   In your experience with button making what type of printer and ink would you   use for a business level quality graphics? I know that over time ink can sun   bleach and paper can break down, so for a good quality product for my   customers any ideas? I have not started my button side of my business yet but   looking to soon. Love your site btw and thank you for your time. Have a great   day.

Paper choices for Button Makers and Button Making.

Button makers are mostly designed for standard 20lb (75gsm) to 32 lb (120 gsm)paper.  There are some special photo button machines designed for thicker photo paper but in the digital age photo paper is a bit obsolete so the special machines are quite rare and not really necessary.   I think the key to good buttons is that you choose a super white paper, the look and the way it prints being more important than the weight.  That way when you print black (or any other color) on white you have the maximum contrast. I have also found that papers with a gloss finish print well.

When purchasing paper I have always found better prices and quality from commercial print shop suppliers rather than retailers like Staples.  A standard pure white glossy commercial printer paper will do it.  No problem.

Printer choices for Button Makers and Button Making.

Your choice is basically Ink Jet or Laser.  Inkjet will give you better quality for photos and artwork especially if you get a high end Epson but you will pay dearly for the ink. Inkjet or bubble jet have higher resolution than laser. Laser printers are not as good quality but are generally reasonable quality and are much cheaper per page.  I have tried many but I have not found a good quality entry level laser printer (Up to $800) that can compete with the big machines installed in copy shops.  A good copy shop can give you really high quality results but don’t just go in and accept what you’re given. All print jobs need a little tweaking.  Colours can be enhanced, saturation improved.  Find a printer that cares and then give them lots of business.  Remember the quality of the printing can make or break your custom button business.  Once you’ve established your business it becomes time to consider the big expensive photocopier on a 5 year lease with a click charge per 18″ x 12″ print.

If you decide to print from your home or office with a $300 printer that can work too.  Make sure you’re maximizing the page and remember you do not have to print right up to the cut-line.  Save ink and take out any unnecessary color on your artwork that does not show – the buttons are not affected.  See the example below.  These are 1” buttons and 42 buttons fit on each letter size page.  The cut size for 1” buttons is 1.313” but we cut the color short – the white does not show on the button.

print sheet for custom buttons

Also speaking of saving ink, I personally have had no luck with refilling my ink cartridges.  The colors coming out of my printers have always suffered.  I am not supporting Canon, Xerox and the rest for overcharging for their cartridges and I have saved money by refilling cartridges locally but quality always declined. If color is not crucial it’s a good way to go.

Some companies, like Xerox have solid ink printers. These printers are not ideal for button making if you are making custom buttons for clients because the colors are way off and that can be a problem.  Solid ink printers may be good (or not so bad) for the environment but people are often fussy about their corporate logos and business colors and that can lead to problems if your printer cannot match colors on the monitor.

Issues with bleaching and paper deterioration.

I have never found bleaching or  paper deterioration to be a problem.  I have a few buttons that are maybe 20 years old.  Yes the paper changes color but that even adds to the effect for an old button.  You could try using acid free paper but I don’t think it’s necessary, buttons are pretty durable.  I had a store with a south facing window that got direct sunlight all day.  I filled the window with a mosaic of buttons and yes after a year buttons began to fade and after 18 months it was necessary to change them, but that is exceptional exposure for a simple button.

Cost of button printing.

The cost of printing buttons varies tremendously.  I calculated that some photo buttons using a cheap Canon printer ($400) with a 4 colour cartridge system ($440 for 4) were costing $1.30 for a full sheet.  Ouch!   But that was the luxury of doing it at home and not going to a printer and that meant printing costs of 3 cents for a 1” button (42 up) and 8 cents for a 2-1/4” button (9 up).  These days I have an 18” x 12” Xerox @ 8 cents a sheet.   That means the 2-1/4” button print costs 8 cents per 18 buttons as opposed to 8 cents each. The difference in the cost of printing buttons can be huge!  But if you’re selling a custom button service print quality is key.


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Filed under Button Making Business, Printing custom buttons, Small Business Start Up, Starting a custom button business

Many people decide to start their own business around new year.

Whilst starting your own business is a big step at any time and I wouldn’t recommend it just because it is new year but buying a button maker, starting a button making business is a good idea if you have some skills.

  • Are you proficient with design?  Good design is key to a button making business. Photoshop? Illustrator? Gimp? Paint Shop?  Correll Draw?
  • Are you good with people – As a sales person or as an employer, you need to be good with people.
  • Are you a perfectionist?  You don’t have to be but quality control is important!  Well made, good quality products every time will get you more business!
  • Are you disciplined?  Can you work without someone breathing down your neck? – are you motivated?
  • Do you have $1000 cash to get you going?  Sure you can borrow it but then you have to pay it back, if you have it free and clear your chances of success are vastly improved. And yes that was One Thousand Dollars, a very small amount to start your own business, that is the beauty of a button making business.  It is the perfect small business idea if finances are tight you can probably start with $600.

If you can answer yes to all of the above then you should think about starting your own button making business.  A simple low investment business idea that can bring immediate revenue.

Here’s are a few more articles:

Thinking of buying a button maker?

I’m starting a new business: How do I get people or businesses interested in getting buttons made or using buttons for fundraisers?

Starting a business from home – Do I need insurance? 



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Filed under Button Making Business, Small Business Start Up

How do I get people or businesses interested in getting buttons made or using buttons for fundraisers?

Faisal asked

“I’m interested in button making and I design fanart too. How do I get people or businesses interested in getting buttons made or using buttons for fundraisers?”

Thanks for the question Faisal, it’s a big question and I will try to answer it here in short form and at the end I will link to other related articles that I have written.  Cheers!

How do I start my custom button making business?  How do I market my buttons? How do I start a button making business?

1. Create your tools.

2. Identify your market.

3. Create your marketing plan for your launch.

4. Consider timely or seasonal and ongoing strategies.

1. Create your tools:

Your tools are what you need when you walk in the door the first time to meet a potential customer.

Samples and Business Cards.  Keep samples handy, that way when you see your friends, family or meet new people, you can give them one. They’ll probably compliment the design, at which point you can say “Thank you! I made it myself. If you ever need buttons for an event or business, let me know”. They might not need them right away, but they’ll have you in mind for when they (or someone they know) do. Better yet, make your samples double as your business card: put your contact info on a button and voila! You’ve got a button business card. It can be round, square, or whatever shape and size you want. If you make them as magnets instead of pinbacks, you have the added benefit of the free publicity you’ll get when they put it on their fridge, locker, etc. The 1-3/4” x 2-3/4” rectangular button maker makes great business card sized magnet or pin-back buttons. BUT REMEMBER: if that’s your card, people may ask for the same shape and size, so be ready to buy that machine – or limit your business cards to the size of the button maker you own.

You need a price list.  That means an easy to read, single piece of paper with your prices.   Give price breaks for larger quantities, but don’t go too cheap.  No point making 100,000,000 buttons if you’re going to lose money (and time) on every single one!

You need a website. This can be a free site (such as WordPress). To start, make sure you have 2 pages: one that says who you are and what you do and the other with your contact information so potential customers can get in touch to place an order. Having a website with your address, phone, etc. increases trust while publishing prices online assures customers they are getting a fair deal.

2.   Identify your market:

You have, in your question, identified fundraisers as a potential market.  Who raises funds?  Community groups, Non-profits, church groups and activist organisations. Start with a list of local groups that you wish to contact.  Send them samples (5 buttons or magnets, or a mix of both, is more than enough) and a pricelist.  If you see an excellent potential client, make them a personalized button and go and meet with them face to face (perhaps at one of their events!).

If you want to sell CUSTOM buttons (meaning, you use or create designs specifically for your customer):

Any local business is a potential customer, canvas your local business area or drop a business card button through the door whilst taking the dog for a walk.  Local small businesses are your best bet when starting out, as big chain stores often buy at head office and not at branch level.

Don’t forget your friends: they are your biggest supporters, probably your first customers, and will be the happiest to tell other people that their friend is in the button making business. Create a personalized button for each of your friends (if they like Godzilla, give them a Godzilla button with their name on it). They will wear it, go forth and spread the word.

If you want to sell YOUR buttons (meaning, you want to sell your own art in button form):

Set up a booth at local farmers’ markets, flea markets, or one-of-a-kind shows.

Create an online store on etsy, ebay, or other online shop.

Do a “crowdfunding” campaign. Rockethub is a great company to help you with this and can give you more information. Simply put, you set a goal for the amount of money you want to raise (which can go towards establishing your button business: maybe you don’t have a machine yet, maybe you want to get another one) and then you promise your donors a product in return for their donation (which you give to them once your campaign is complete). This is a great way to a) get the funds you need to purchase your gear and, b) start establishing a word-of-mouth client base before your business even begins!

Identify potential resellers. Look for stores in your area that could resell for you and take it a step further: ask the local bicycle store if they want to sell bicycle buttons, ask the computer store if they want to sell nerd buttons, ask the pet store if they want to sell animal buttons / fluffy animal buttons / animal rights buttons.  Then use your creative genius to design a set of buttons for them to sell.  Either they buy a box of buttons from you or you negotiate a cut of consignment sales. Talk to them, get their ideas. For example, you could create 5-30 designs for them, laid out on a clean, professional looking board (or in a counter top box or jar) in the store and split the sale 50/50 with the store owner.  You may have to settle with a consignment deal – meaning, you get paid when they sell (so you’ll have to keep an inventory and check in from time to time).  But if the store owner allows a small add on the board that says “I Make Custom Buttons” and contact info, then it could be the beginning of something good.


NOTE: Match the buttons you create to your personality and the personality of the store (and owner) you choose to work with.  If you’re an avid cyclist do cycle stores.  If you’re a tech wiz do computer stores.  YOU WON’T CREATE GOOD PRODUCTS IF YOU’RE NOT INTERESTED!   Example: If you’re allergic to anything furry and hate animals it will be harder for you to identify with animal lovers, likely your buttons won’t be so good.  If you’re an animal rights activist and want to make anti-cruelty buttons (and I’m 100% with you), there is still no point going to the local pet store that sells Chihuahua’s with pink bows if the store owner isn’t an activist.  Put a Chihuahua with a pink bow on a button and you will win that customer.  (Disclaimer:  Here I apologize to all animal activists that have Chihuahuas with pink bows – I have a Pitbull that behaves like a Chihuahua and wears pink bows sometimes.)

3.   Create your marketing plan:

A marketing plan for a new business usually means a $0 budget but there are still free online notice boards, free classifieds, crowd funding possibilities, trade/swop ideas and tabling event possibilities. Follow this simple list, add your own ideas and work through the list. That’s a plan!

Free classifieds: There are many local online noticeboards such as Craigslist and Kijiji. Just go in, use the free option and place some ads. Search for free classifieds online. Some newspapers allow free classifieds but keep it local to start. You can get into shipping, returns, credit card payments etc. later. This may bring an order or two but it’s a good place to start, you begin to formulate in your own mind why you are better, why people should use your service and primarily that will be because you are “local”. People like to deal with neighbours. Don’t just be cheap! Underselling products is a key reason for small business failures.

Tabling, Festivals, Street Parties, Yard Sales:  Tap into your local community, what’s coming up? Setup a table at your neighbours’ yard sale. What about the Christmas fundraiser at the church. Does your local business community run a festival? Talk to the Business Improvement Association. Even if you go there and stand all day and sell just $50, next time your neighbour talks to someone they may just say, “I know someone who makes buttons.”  Do not underestimate how much money you can make at a school or college lunchtime break if you can setup a table. What about a “Make your own button table.” Basically any public event is a potential button marketing event.

Birthday party events for kids:   What about doing birthday party events for kids with your button maker?  It’s simple to organize coloured pens, markers and pre-cut circles for kids to draw on.  Don’t forget to take a few magazines or comics so the kids can cut out the stuff they’re into. Create a craigslist (or other) post specifically about your birthday party services and see what happens!

Trade / Swop: You’re starting out, you have no cash – what if the local church wants $30 for a table – offer them custom buttons instead.  If a local business is willing to trade products or advertising in exchange for buttons, that could be a good way to get the ball rolling and lower your start up costs.

4.   Consider timely / seasonal and ongoing strategies.

Whether it’s for the launch of your business or for ongoing business you’ve got to be timely and seasonal.  As I write, Christmas is looming. So why not offer to put family pictures on a button for people to give out as Christmas gifts or include with their yearly Christmas cards?  In the Spring you want to be thinking about Summer events/festivals and planning ahead.

Here’s a simple framework – I know it’s not rocket science – for how a button maker should be thinking and preparing:

Spring:     Summer events, street festivals, beer gardens, yard sales

Summer:  Back to school

Autumn / Fall: Halloween, Harvest Festival, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah,

Winter:   Christmas, Holiday Season, New Year, New Year Resolutions, Valentines

All year round:  Birthdays, Marriages, Funerals, Graduations, Births.  Also new movies, trends (QR codes), comic books (any new Marvel release) and then the humdinger of them all: ELECTIONS at every level: local school or National Presidential elections all need buttons!

Some final words for reflection and advice:

Starting ANY business takes a lot of legwork to get it up and running.  The most effective advertising is ALWAYS word of mouth.  Do a good job for each customer and they will become your ‘sales representatives’.  It may go wrong occasionally (don’t ignore it!), do what it takes to win that customer back (but remember that once in a while you’ll run into a client that can never be pleased. Don’t take it personally).  Go a step further for your customers: Under promise and over deliver. Establish your customer base and as long as your service and product is good (and fills a need) it will grow naturally without expensive advertising.  Be creative. Don’t try to get too big too quick, steady as she goes and I wish you luck with your new button business! 



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Filed under Button Making