Setting up a framing business in a Photolab

Setting up a framing business in a Photolab.

Duncan McDonald Managing Director of explains how by adding picture framing to your portfolio of services you can reap big financial rewards for little outlay.


Picture framing can earn you in excess of 400% profit per frame, that’s more than you can ever make on readymade frames. Learning a few simple processes and buying some good quality tools guarantees professional results and if all these positives can be added to your business it almost seems silly not to add picture framing to you portfolio.

Picture framers on the High Street are in decline, I have a framing shop in Beaconsfield Buckinghamshire that I have run successfully for 9 years, however each year it becomes increasingly more difficult to make ends meet by just offering a framing service. Higher rents, rates, utility bills and wages continually squeeze margins, and the need for additional income becomes more and more critical. Mini-lab owners must be feeling the pinch also with the increase of home printing as well as the same increases as I have previously mentioned.

One idea I have often toyed with is starting a mini lab at my framing shop, but lack of space, poor footfall, and awful parking make this a non starter in my circumstances. However a mini lab owner could open a framing section to their business with very little effort and have a very lucrative sideline with a captive audience. Just look at the benefits;
· No extra overheads
· High profit margin (400% + on material costs)
· Simple set up procedure
· Ability to use quiet times more constructively

Since deciding not to add a mini lab to my business I started an internet business offering picture framing tools, equipment and training to people wanting to start their own framing business. Over the past couple of years I have helped a number of mini lab owners start framing enterprises within their existing business. One in particular is Fred Tabbenham who operates Photopoint, on the Uxbridge Road, Hayes in Middlesex. I met Fred at the Focus on Imaging exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham (Feb 2005).

Fred was looking to add framing to his portfolio of services, but the setup costs for a professional framing workshop were over £10,000, money that just wasn’t available on a speculative idea. After visiting our stand he realised Diyframing had a much more attractive offer. The Series 52 Pro Workshop at £999 inc vat consisted of all the tools needed to start a framing business, at a home or hobby level. The kit was able to make very professional frames and cut perfect mounts. Fred purchased the kit and a days training at the company HQ, now he takes in several frames a week that is just enough to fill the void he needed to.

Fred’s story doesn’t end there. The potential income framing has offered has given him new ideas and he is going to look at converting 50% of the shop over to running a bespoke framing service. First however he will be attending Diyframing’s Business Development week in November (2005) where he will work on a blueprint and learn new skills that will take things further. Fred said “ The training and encouragement I have received has been key to this succeeding, setting up on a small scale helps you overcome the problems you encounter in small doses, and you get to learn the trade on the job, upgrading my tools will not now be such a problem as I know the business will work for me”.

Not all mini labs will be able to add framing to their services, but smaller operations may want to offer a mount cutting service, again this is a very high margin add on to your business attracting a mark-up of 1000% + on material cost. Mounts can be cut to fit ready-made frames that you could also sell.

So what do you need to consider before starting a framing service.

· Space ( A room 8 foot square can accommodate a small operation)
· Time (Do you or your staff have enough downtime to make these frames)
· Display area for samples ( This can be as large or as small as required)
· Training ( Essential to understand what to do and how to make professional frames)
· Market (Do some market research check out other local outlets for framing)
· Pricing (You can beat framing shop prices as your overheads are less)

Taking everything into account adding a framing service to your business makes sense. Easy setup, quick to learn, no need for lots of space and most of all very profitable.


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