The printing industry involves companies primarily engaged in printing text and images onto paper, metal, glass, apparel, and other materials. Most printing shops print magazines, books, and newspapers, while more specialized printers offer 3D printing services to create three-dimensional objects.
Still, others print on T-shirts, mugs, and other souvenirs. Some are also engaged in direct mail, including the production of labels, manuals, and marketing collaterals.
Like any other commerce, the printing industry is evolving. As technology continues to impact how businesses operate, it keeps up with the changes. For instance, most commercial printers now engage in digital printing.
Business forecasts predict that the printing industry is poised to grow over the next five years. It is anticipated that technology will further encourage demand globally. For one thing, the need for short-run production is rapidly increasing for commercially printed materials such as books, brochures, and catalogs.
In this article, we’ll talk about some essential factors you need to consider before starting a printing business.
Essential things to consider in starting a printing business
#1. Formulate a business plan
The first and most crucial step in starting a business is to research your market. Your findings will be the basis of your business plan. A clear plan will help you map out the specifics of your business.
In coming up with your business plan, it is crucial to determine whether there will be a demand for the printing services you plan to offer. You will need potential customers to whom you can advertise your services. Your clientele will depend on which sector you opt to serve and what services you propose to provide.
Your customers might include:
- Local businesses and organizations
- Other printers with whom you will do outwork for, like finishing work
- Graphic designers and artists
- The public
Essentially, your market research will help you to identify:
- The demand for your printing services
- Standard rates
It is vital that you understand the particulars before coming up with a business plan. One way to do this is to work in the industry for at least a year or two, as this will allow you to familiarize yourself with the equipment, processes, trends, and pricing.
#2. Choose your specialization
The printing industry covers diverse processes and products. Usually, firms choose to specialize in a particular area.
Popular processes include screen printing (silkscreen), small or large format digital laser or inkjet, traditional offset lithography or letterpress, hot foil stamping, sublimation or dry-ink heat transfer, gravure, standard and ink engraving, and flexography.
You may also choose to specialize in book or journal printing, carton printing, or work packaging. You can likewise opt to offer general printing services typically required by businesses. These include letterheads, invoices, brochures, leaflets, envelopes, posters, tickets, stationery, and business cards, among others.
As an initial step, decide on the nature of the service you will provide, as this will guide you in buying or leasing the appropriate equipment.
#3. Get the basics done
Putting up a business entails obtaining permits, licenses, and other necessary documents. The following are some of the basic requirements for a printing business to become operational:
Permits and licenses:
Business, health, and building permits are usual pre-requisites in opening a business.
You need insurance to protect your company’s finances in the event of a loss. Based on risks and nature of business, there are several types available. If you’re not sure of the types of risks that your business may face, experts suggest starting with general liability insurance, which is the most common for small businesses.
Legal business structure:
For your print shop to be a legal entity, it must be incorporated as a business. There are different structures, with the most common types being sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, and corporation. Having a legal entity protects you from being held personally liable if your print shop is sued.
You will need to register for government taxes before you can operate. Depending on which business structure you choose, you may have different options for how your business will be taxed. Also, there are specific taxes that may apply to your business.
Business bank account and credit card:
Consider opening a business bank account and credit card. Your customers will pay either by check, credit card, debit card, or through your bank account. It’s important to ensure that you have diverse payment systems in place if you handle cash regularly.
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts separates your personal assets from your company’s. When your personal and business accounts are merged, your personal assets are at risk in the event your business is sued.
Keeping an account of your expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Having accurate and detailed reports also simplifies your annual tax filing.
#4. Start with affordable equipment
When starting your printing business, you don’t want to go all-in on the most expensive and high-end equipment right away. Instead, you want to make a minimal investment in a few good printing pieces that you know will get the job done.
This can help ensure that you can actually perform the services before committing considerable amounts of capital into your venture. Although you should have already researched your market, nothing will give you as good of an indication of your long-term success as studying your current level of success.
Once you have too many projects that your lower-end equipment cannot handle anymore, it’s time to think of upgrading and expanding.
#5. Promote your brand
You need to get the word out about your brand. Your potential customers must know about you. This is particularly vital if you’re a new business and don’t have an existing clientele to do word-of-mouth marketing for you.
There are several things you can do to promote your business:
- Mail or hand out marketing aids to potential customers
- Send samples to local businesses and organizations
- Advertise in local newspapers
- Sponsor and exhibit at local events
- Send current and prospective customers useful items like calendars at Christmas time
- Build a unique online portfolio by creating a business website and utilizing social media to showcase your services
#6. Talk to businesses
One source of revenue that is often overlooked is other businesses.
Larger firms are more likely to order things in bulk than the average consumer. For instance, a restaurant preparing for its grand opening will likely need leaflets to hand out to people. A magazine publication is going to have volumes of pages printed every week. An educational institution might look for printing services for its letterhead and envelopes.
Consider approaching as many businesses as possible to let them know about your new business and the services you offer. Remember to bring samples of your work, together with a price list.
Note that they already probably have a deal with a printing firm, so it will be important to show them that you can provide a better service. For example, you might have installed digital printing equipment that allows you to produce high-quality orders in a shorter time frame.
#7. Make your customers come back
Return customers are the lifeblood of your business. They serve as your ambassadors for your services. Protect the investment by providing a top-notch customer experience.
Offering discounts is one way of showing your customers that you value them. For instance, you may want to offer sizeable rebates to major customers in return for volume purchases and regular orders. You can also consider giving freebies and price cuts by including extra orders for free. This way, they have something to look forward to in their next transaction with you.
Essentially, consistently delivering quality service is your primary retention tool. Customers want their printers to take an interest in their business while helping them make sure that things go smoothly.
#8. Get investors
When it’s time to start thinking about scaling up your business, risking your personal assets against a loan may not be the best way to go. Instead, consider asking investors to work with you in an expansion endeavor in exchange for a share in profits.
Consider using online fundraising platforms. They have become highly popular with accredited individual investors and even banks looking for new ways to deploy capital. Attending events can also help you increase your visibility, allowing you to meet more potential investors.
Experts recommend finding out ahead of time who the event attendees are and then scheduling meetings with them. This way, your time at the event can be productive.
Starting a printing business doesn’t have to be hard
Starting a printing business doesn’t have to be complicated. The key is to understand the nature of the printing industry, develop a well-researched business plan, and make sure you consistently offer quality service. If you ticked all the boxes, then you’re ready to run your printing business.
About the Author!
David is the Marketing Manager of Intermedia Print Solutions, a print media and packaging solutions company in Princeton, NJ notable for its high-end print quality printing and on-time delivery. A mixture of technology and creativity is what makes David enthusiastic about his work. He likes to spend his free time reading books, watching sci-fi films, and writing articles.