“How much does a sign cost?” We get this question all the time. Business owners know they need signage to bring people to their business and inform them once they get there, but they also have a budget.  We get it, but the answer is not that easy.

We recently started joking around the shop that we should release a new pricing policy: “A sign starts at a million dollars and either goes down or up from there.” Do most signs we make really cost a million dollars? Of course not, but it helps people understand that there are numerous factors and subsequent expenses involved in taking a sign from idea to installation. To get a better grasp on the true cost of signs, it helps to understand the process and the respective cost implications  involved in each step.

Designing a Sign for a Business Starts with a Detailed Site Survey

Designing a sign includes more than drawing it and deciding what materials to use. To successfully create a sign for a business, we need to see exactly where the sign is going and how it will be displayed. This usually involves an on-site visit, and may include extensive efforts  if we need to access an area that can’t be reached with a ladder, or to verify electric or other structural conditions pertinent to safe mounting and installation. These initial visits cost us time and money, which are both included in the quote for the sign.

We have a graphic designer on our staff who can create pretty much anything. Using our designer rather than bringing in a completed design is obviously an additional charge. Not so obvious is the potential cost required to convert a file into a format we can use or to fill in the blanks on an incomplete design.

Obtaining Permits for a Sign

The cost of getting permits to install an exterior sign depends on the location of the business, the type and cost of the sign, and where it will be installed. With hundreds of different municipalities in South Carolina alone, determining what drawings, forms and fees are needed often requires quite a bit of research. There are customer costs for the administrative work we do (code research, technical drawings, application processing, etc.), and the municipality fees associated with procuring the permit.

Producing a Sign

Using custom signage and graphics is a great way to help your business stand out among the competition. But just as you would pay more for a custom suit than one purchased off the rack, a customized sign will cost more than a generic one. Specialized equipment, unusual materials, and skilled staff add to the uniqueness—and the cost—of business signs.

This is where your budget and safety standards reveal themselves. We absolutely can modify material considerations to reduce the cost implication, but we also owe it to you and our community to make sure your sign will be compliant and safe.

Installation Can Increase Sign Cost

Where the sign is going to be placed is also a major factor when it comes to pricing a sign. Installing an illuminated channel letter sign 100 feet in the air for visibility from an interstate versus flat cut letters on the ground level of a building can equate to a major difference in cost because of the equipment and specialized labor required to get the sign up that high. Even if a sign is being mounted on the exterior of a building, the cost can vary based on zoning laws, where it will be placed, and what materials the building walls are made of.

You might be thinking at this point that we are trying to talk you out of having custom signage for your business. That is definitely not the case. It’s important to understand why the cost varies so greatly, and we want to help you understand the full breadth of the investment you are making. It’s also helpful to have this information when comparing various quotes, because the initial quote from some sign companies may not take all of these factors into consideration, leading to potential surprise costs by the time the project is complete.

Signage still remains the best ROI marketing dollars can buy, after all these costs are considered. Always make sure you consider the total cost amortized over the life of the sign to evaluate how the investment compares to other marketing expenditures—you’ll quickly see your sign investment is a wise one.