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How to Start a Printing Business

How to Start a Printing Business

While it might seem like there is a lot of competition in this industry, don’t let that discourage you from learning how to start a printing business. There are certainly a lot of print shops  but there are different types of print shops, services and printing technology  to consider.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for anyone who is willing to learn how to start a printing business the right way. If you commit to learning how printing and pricing is done, outstanding customer service and quality, you can stop the presses of the competition.

What You’ll Need to Succeed

What type of printing business do you want to start?  There are several choices. Each requires different equipment but capital is needed to start for each option.

Each type of business is going to require some manpower: a press person or operator, salesperson/estimator and typesetter/designer and perhaps a delivery person. Any type of print shop has to return customer requests for printing quotes promptly and accurately otherwise they will take their business elsewhere. The salesperson/estimator needs to know the mechanics and specifications of printing and his press’ capabilities to sell the services. He needs to be familiar with paper colors, weights, sizes as well as ink colors.  He needs to estimate the cost of the job that will make a profit but be competitively priced, done on time and done correctly.

A print shop has a lithographic press that transfers print to paper by method of a plate on a revolving cylinder. Instead of starting from scratch, many times an existing print shop is purchased with all the equipment and often employees. You need a good press and press person with two color ink capacity or more, plate making equipment, a cutter, warehouse space for paper storage, and accounts with paper and ink suppliers. Many times it is easier to buy an existing print shop than to start from scratch. The seller may even give you some training with the press and other equipment. Buying good used equipment is also an option especially if you need to expand or replace items.

A copy shop uses copy machines for digital color copies or black and white jobs. Technology has come a long way with new copiers being able to collate booklets, staple, print both sides in one pass. The equipment is easy to operate, not messy or dangerous, requires less space and can be leased. You still need a paper cutter, space to store paper and paper suppliers.

Start a broker printing business with no equipment investment. A broker sells printing for other printers for commission, sometimes salary and commission. This is excellent a salesperson who has a customer base and is professional and customer service oriented. He can learn the printing business and go out and make sales calls to get opportunities to quote on various printing like envelopes, letterhead, business cards, brochures, flyers, etc. .  If the broker does not work for one printer he can get quotes from many printers and give the order to printer who meets his needs for price, delivery and quality. Many times this person works on commission and is an independent contractor. He pays the printer for the work and then bills his customer at a profit. If the customer pays does not pay within terms  then the broker has to be an accounts receivable person too.

Print shops produce a wide variety of printed items for customers, ranging from business cards and letterhead to brochures, labels, and promotional materials. Some printing businesses also print on product packaging, promotional items, and even signs and banners. The more services you can offer, the more convenient it is for your customers. But on the other hand, if you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be the best at anything.You don’t have to print everything yourself. If there is interest in certain products, you can also broker out jobs to companies who specialize in labels, banners and promotional items. They only sell to the trade, have their own catalogs and don’t compete with you.

While going through the steps of how to start a printing business, be sure to scope out the competition in your area. Find out what they are charging for various services, get some quotes for some “work you need done”. How is the service? How fast did you get pricing? Where did they miss the mark?  How easy is it find their location? Do they have a counter or place to discuss the project? If you can identify and fill a gap in the market, that just might be your niche. That gap may very well be as simple as servicing your customers with prompt quotes and delivery along with ideas to make their printing look better.

If you have not yet worked in the printing industry, it will be important for you to get some hands on experience in estimating and specifications prior to starting a printing business of your own. A job, apprenticeship or internship at a reputable printing company will be worth more than any college education.  Of course there actually are college courses that teach printing and related subjects.

For any business, you will need a business license, insurance, an accountant and system to invoice customers for their printing. You will also need well designed and graphically pleasing printed marketing materials for your printing business. These represent the kind of printing you produce and should standout from the crowd. Printing note pads, to do lists on scrap paper with your print shop name on it to give to customers and potential customers is a way to keep your name in the forefront for little or no cost.

Network and join everything you can for contacts. Every business uses printing of some kind. Volunteer on events committees and even donate some printing for the cause. Of course get credit with your company’s name somewhere on the printed item.

There is certainly a lot to learning how to start a printing business. This is only a small overview. Be sure to continue your research and learn all you can before starting your own print shop. Taking the time to do it right will keep the presses rolling.