Digitizing is one of those services that’s worth paying for quality. The primary goal should be to cut overall costs related to digitizing, not to get a lower expenditure.
Though it may seem nonsensical, you may want to make sure you are paying enough for your files. What I mean by that is, you may find yourself saving much more costly production time if you make sure you are using a digitizer who rarely requires editing and who creates production friendly designs that don’t have excessive color changes, trims, movement, or stitches. Sometimes this means paying a more skilled digitizer a bit more than you might a commodity digitizer, but it also means not wasting time on multiple sample runs, waiting for edits, or losing precious minutes on every run of a design.
As for saving on digitizing costs themselves, the first thing every embroiderer should do is get a solidly capable lettering and editing package. The skills needed to set up simple type and add text to existing designs are much easier to train or learn than complete digitizing. Moreover, no customer wants to wait for a digitizer to set up type. If you use the same software as your digitizer, you may be able to edit simple things like the changing years on repeated event designs without ordering an edit. All shops should be able to create individual name-drops and add text to designs in-house. If that skillset is easily grasped by your staff, upgrading to a basic digitizing program can allow for some small time-saving edits and simple designs to be rendered when you can’t reach your outsourced digitizer or when waiting for service would be disruptive.
This isn’t to say you should bring your digitizing in-house to save on costs. Saving money, however, is almost never the right reason to bring on a digitizer as an employee, especially if you have created a relationship with a digitizer that is providing you reasonable quality at standard, commodity prices.
The logical reasons to digitize in-house have more to do with being able to instantly respond to requests, to quickly edit during production as needed, or to maintain quality and creative control on-site. Costs are rarely less for in-house work, and even training yourself as a solo decorator should be evaluated against the opportunity cost you’ll feel by losing the time spent digitizing that you could have spent in developing the business or acquiring customers.
If you want to digitize, I highly recommend the experience and the incredible opportunities for creative expression, but it’s not something to take on to avoid costs. This is particularly true if you aren’t willing or able to pass a reasonable, profitable cost for the process on to your customers. Even if you only do the most straightforward designs in-house, be mindful of your time and opportunities when you calculate savings.