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Setup Fees for Your Promotional Items: What You Need to Know

Many of the questions we get here at Quality Logo Products are about our setup fees: Why do you charge one? What’s it for? And why do I need to pay for separate ones for each item?

The details can get confusing, so let’s break it down.

What is a setup fee?

A setup is the cost associated with the creation of a die, plate, screen, or other fixture that is used in our machines to print your logo on your desired item.

Since each item has a unique imprint area, and imprint methods vary from item to item, it’s necessary to create fixtures for imprints every time you order an item for the first time. Each new fixture requires another setup fee.

A setup fee is not an artwork fee. Designing your artwork is a completely different cost.

What goes into a setup fee?

For screen printed items, the setup covers preparing a screen with the inverse of your logo on it, carefully cutting out the logo, and readying the ink.

For laser engraved items, it means calibrating your logo into the laser.

A digital printing setup charges comprises uploading your image into the printer.

Heat transfer setups include printing your logo onto transfer material, and then transferring it onto your items. (Think a higher quality iron-on t-shirt transfer!)

Why do some items not have a setup fee?

All items will have a setup charge, but we try to discount (or eliminate) them as much as we can. We want you to be able to maximize your advertising dollars and get the most out of each purchase.

Why do some items require multiple setup fees?

If your desired imprint has multiple colors and/or locations, this will require multiple setup fees. This is because when you have your items screen printed, a screen is created for each part of your imprint that’s a different color.

quality logo products logo imprint

To print our QLP logo on promotional items, we'd have to create two screens.

The exception is a digitally printed item. Digitally printed items only have one setup fee because your art is being sent to a large printer instead of being broken up into different screens.

I ordered multiple items; does the setup fee cover all of them?

It does not. Every single different item that you order has a unique setup fee.

To start, each item has a unique imprint area.

Stress balls have imprint areas around 2” by 2”, but t-shirts imprints can go up to 14” by 14”.

You wouldn’t want to have the same imprint on a stress ball and a t-shirt, anyway. Can you imagine how small a stress ball-sized logo would look on a t-shirt?

logo stress ball t-shirt comparison

That logo is tiny on a t-shirt! Can't get good brand impressions that way!

Think of it like a rubber stamp placing your logo. Once you carve out the rubber stamp, you cannot change its size.

All of our promotional products are made in many, many different factories. So even if you have two items with the same imprint method and area, you’ll still have to pay separate charges because they are being made and shipped from different places.

The only time you won’t have to pay a different setup fee is if you get the exact same item but in a different color. For example, if in one order you purchase 150 pairs of our Neon Sunglasses in red, and also 150 pairs in blue, you’ll only have one setup fee. (Though please note that if you change the ink color, that would incur a different fee.)

one setup two colors of sunglasses

One product. Two colors. One ink color. One setup fee.

So what is a reorder setup fee?

If you’ve already purchased promotional products and decide that you want to order more of the exact same product, this is when a reorder setup fee is needed.

Luckily, the majority of our factories keep artwork on file for 1 to 2 years after they print a product. So if you ordered a thousand red pens with a white imprint and you passed them all out at your trade show, you can order a thousand more for a community festival without paying a setup fee.

An extra bonus is that you can even change the color of the item or the color of the ink and still not have to pay another setup fee. So instead of the red pens with the white imprint, you can mix it up and try the white version of that pen with a red imprint. As long as the item and the artwork doesn’t change, you won’t have to pay for a reorder setup fee.

reorder setup fee pens

Same artwork? Same item? You can choose different colors when you reorder.

Please note: If you change your artwork in any way, there will be a new setup charge. For example, if you change the font in your logo, you’ll have to pay a new setup fee. Also, if you change from a multi-color imprint to a single color imprint (or vice versa), new screens will need to be made. These new screens would result in one or more additional setup charges.

Phew, that’s a lot of information. Let’s do a quick recap:

  • Setup fee = creating screen, calibrating lasers, etc. Totally separate from an artwork fee
  • Unless it’s a digital imprint, multiple colors will require multiple setup fees
  • Two completely different items require two setup fees
  • In most cases, you will not have to pay a reorder setup fee

If something isn’t clear, or you still have questions, please contact us! We’d love to hear from you in the comments section, by email (info@qualitylogoproducts.com), by phone (866-312-5646), or via our live chat.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about setup fees? Anything you still find confusing?

IMAGE CREDIT TO CLIPART.COM.


Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on

Comments

  1. Kelsey

    Great job covering everything, Mandy! It’s important these things are explained so that customers don’t end up getting surprised with a price they weren’t expecting. I like your use of photographs in this blog also, nice work! :)

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Kelsey!

      There’s so much that goes into setup fees – lots that I didn’t even know before researching this post. I hope it helps out customers and promo product-seekers!

  2. Jay

    THANK YOU!

    This will be super helpful! When I get a customer who thinks that we’re just trying to get an extra $20-60 out of them for no reason, I explain it as best I can, but it’s nice to have a link to send them and have it all in one place. If I didn’t work here, I wouldn’t know how much went into the setting up of screens/plates/pads either so I can’t blame them for questioning it. Setup charges are about as old as the printing industry itself!

  3. Rachel

    Awesome resource, Mandy! Thanks for taking the time to explain setup fees so clearly. I’m sure a lot of customers will appreciate it!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Not a problem! I do my best to explain the ins and outs of promotional item terminology one post at a time. :)

  4. Bret Bonnet

    Great post Mandy!

    I still don’t understand why MORE manufacturers don’t just roll up the cost of the setup fee into the base item price and/or just eat the setup charge and write it off as the cost of doing business.

    It’s so annoying to pay a $45.00 setup charge when ordering $99.00 worth of pens! :(

    … it’s also a huge barrier to entry. No one likes paying for something in exchange for nothing tangible.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Bret!

      I can definitely see it being annoying to pay $45 more when you’re only paying $99 for some pens. Maybe one day manufacturers will start changing their setup fee policy. For now, though, at least we have a good explanation of why they’re there.

  5. amy

    Such a helpful and informative post, Mandy! I never knew the “majority of our factories keep artwork on file for 1 to 2 years after they print a product”. That’s great! My organizational style isn’t always the best and I do lose things from time to time, so having someone else keep track of my imprint would be amazing! Thanks for this post!!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      No problem, Amy! Who knew that there were so many interesting things to learn about setup fees? ;)

  6. Sherry artist

    Thanks for the info…now I wont be wondering why :)

  7. Jenna Markowski

    After reading this post, I can see why a lot of those things were confusing! I didn’t know so many little details went into calculating the setup fees. This is an awesome run-down of the setup fee basics, and will certainly be an excellent resources for our sales reps and their customers! Like Amy, I didn’t know the factories keep artwork on file for at least a year. That makes re-ordering so easy!

    Awesome job tackling a tricky topic in this post, Mandy! :)

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thanks, Jenna!

      There are so many details that go into a setup fee, that I can absolutely understand how it’d be overwhelming for someone that’s never ordered promotional items before.

      And hooray for easy reordering! :)

  8. Eric

    Good stuff to know, Mandy…handy post, even for us folks in data entry!

  9. Jeff Porretto

    This is AMAZING work Mandy. I’ve stared at this info for almost 2 straight years now and know it like the back of my hand. But I’ve never seen it stated so clearly before!

    THANK YOU!

    P.S. Why oh why don’t suppliers offer this type of clarity?!?!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Well thank you, Jeff!

      I certainly tried to make it easy to digest, and I’m glad it was!

      P.S. Couldn’t tell you about the suppliers. :/

      • Jeff Porretto

        Seriously, you rocked this out. I’ve just decided it’s going in the new employee training materials =]

  10. Jana Quinn

    Nice guide for those who aren’t “in the know”! Paying extra “fees” can feel like a scam, but you do a great job explaining how much work goes into it (and helpful tips for how to save money on reprints).

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      There’s a ton that goes into a setup, that’s for sure. So I’m glad that people see exactly why we charge them! :)

  11. Jim Bennett

    Great info! Hopefully customers will be well informed going into a purchase with this info!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Thank you, Jim! I’m glad to provide a comprehensive reference for customers! :)

  12. Josh Barnes

    This is a very valuable information. Thanks for letting us know about this. Better be sure before paying for something.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      No problem, Josh! I’m glad that you found the information helpful. And it’s definitely better to know exactly what you’re paying for. :)

  13. Bret Bonnet

    I just reread this post again. I love it. I love it. I LOVE it. I LOVE it.

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  15. AL

    Hi,
    Thanks for posting this. I just have a question though.
    How to determine the number of items/units I need? I’m planning to have it based on customer base (targeted audience).

    Appreciate your advice,

    Thanx

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Hi Al!

      You’re welcome. As for how many items, it really depends on the event that you’re attending. If you’re going to a community fair that gets thousands of visitors, you might need a couple hundred items. If you’re going to a more intimate expo, you might just a hundred.

      If you’re stockpiling for a more long term giveaway, I would pick something like tote bags or magnets that don’t go bad. Then you can order more to take advantage of a lower price per item and just hang on to them for awhile.

      Definitely make sure you thoroughly research the event you’re attending. if you have questions, get in contact with the organization that runs the event. They could certainly give you concrete numbers.

      That being said, out representatives have also helped out with lots of companies and individuals for conventions and trade shows. They’d be happy to talk to you if you have questions.

      Hope that helped! :)

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