Graphic Design and Print?

I’ve worked in print companies for years and are now considering going it alone to do graphic design.
I’ve seen huge amounts of money lost and lots of cashflow problems in the print industry.

What’s the general consensus on taking on print for your clients?
Do you take it on and get the printing done yourself;
do you recommend printers to them;
do you not take it on at all?

Thanks :slight_smile:

Pros to brokering printing: you can make some additional money on markup, control over who prints the work.

Cons to brokering printing: you’re assuming the liability for the printing bill, it’s your name on the printing / your reputation if the printer does a poor job, additional work managing the printer, can be tough to make good markups, clients looking at cheap / online printers.

My approach is to recommend a printer, write up specs for the client to use in getting quotes, and work with the client’s printer.

All makes perfect sense, thanks.
My biggest worry is spending a large amount on print and the client saying “I’m not happy with it”. Then it’s trying to get the printer to do it again for nothing, or very cheaply.

This is what do as well. I’ll even get the preliminary quotes, but I only act as the go-between facilitator and assume no responsibility for payment nor guarantee anything regarding the work the printer does. I write words to that effect into the client contract/agreement and insist that the client personally approve and sign whatever paperwork the printer requires.

I broker print jobs all day every day.
That’s why you’ll see me here mentioning the vetting of print resources. That, and understanding their production specs and color handling to the most miniscule detail. Sometimes it even comes down to knowing their techs and who is going on vacation when.
There is a tacit understanding on reprints and who is responsible. If your file prep sucks, it is all on you. Buy insurance.

Of course my work is always attached to a much larger jobs, usually not more than a quarter of the bottom line, but if I don’t make money, the company I work for doesn’t make money, and everyone is sad.

Brokering is easy money, but I have rules.

  • It has to be $1500 or less.
  • It has to be an existing client with an existing purchase order.
  • It has to be a project that I’ve designed
  • It has to be for postcards, flyers, banners or brochures in standard sizes. No custom sizes, no die cuts, no spot colors… nothing requiring special services.

I have one printer that I deal with that has decent prices and does consistently good work. I get wholesale prices from them which are 10-20% less than the advertised prices on their website. I net a few thousand dollars a year from brokering. The clients appreciate not having to deal with printers and additional invoices. They can approve the art with me and be done, and it’s basically the same price for them. I do blind drop ship so it looks like it’s being shipped from me.

The worst thing is rushes. When I get into trouble with a client it’s always been because of a rush on a brokered project. They need it by a certain date or its worthless to them, so they approve the extra charge and I give them the estimated turnaround that the printer gives me. And then there is some delay in the printing, or it gets held up in their shipping dept, and I’m spending an inordinate amount of time tracking the shipment on UPS, hoping it gets there on time. That can be stressful.

If I don’t broker printing I’ll give them a list of printers I’ve had positive experiences with in the past. Some of the catalog projects I do are for 50k-100k a year in printing, which is too risky for me to broker. In those situations I offer to write up the Request for Bid for them to make sure it includes all the specs. But they need to get a printer under contract for stuff that large.

Everything I do has a deadline. These days, more often rush than not.
A theatrical opening, a trade show, a corporate event, a TV broadcast, there is no sliding the due date to accommodate lack of time.
It is sometimes pretty amazing that I have any hair left. not much, but some. Stress levels have been ratcheted up the last couple years because people have come to expect print services in 3 days or less. Even with wide format where a single print might be 8 hours on the machine before it heads to finishing.

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