Answering “how much does printing X cost”

ink fountain

When in the preliminary stages of a graphic design project involving print, people often contact me asking something along the lines of “How much for 1,000 business cards”. While it might seem that many business cards are more or less equal, there are a dozen factors which dramatically affect the cost of printing, and without knowing more about your desired outcome answering the question accurately can be tough.

While it’s a reasonable assumption for clients to make that the cost of putting ink to paper should not vary much, different outcomes can require significantly more labour on behalf of the printer and also need additional equipment to achieve the desired result.

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Find work experience at a printing house; Advice for design students/new designers

letterpress feed table

While “book learning” is all well and good, in my opinion nothing beats hands on experience.

While undertaking my studies in graphic design years ago and learning about printing – the printing equipment itself, printing processes and how to prepare print ready artwork for clients – by far the most useful information wasn’t learnt in the classroom, but when volunteering for work experience at a printing house.

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Qualifying potential clients; Advice for design students/new designers

qualify graphic design clients

Many of the same questions come up time and time again from design students and fledgling graphic designers. Questions that rank high on the list often revolve around deadlines, charging clients, and how to manage potential clients who have unreasonable expectations.

How to qualify potential clients goes a long way in addressing all 3 of these issues, finding the right clients, and not wasting time on dead end leads.

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Design contests don’t add up

roulette wheel

Design contest and other speculative design work websites try and wow potential participants with attractive numbers and golden opportunities. If you whittle these figures down to what they mean for the individual though, the numbers are far from attractive, and the opportunities are few and not nearly as golden.

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Charging what the market will bear; Advice for design students/new designers

charging design clients

A question every new designer and student inevitably asks is “how much do I charge for my work?”. If you asked a business professor to sum it up for you, it wouldn’t be unusual to be told “charge what the market will bear”.

This is definitely not to say that you should attempt to gouge clients on price. Many in the graphic design industry rely heavily on customer loyalty and repeat business in order to thrive, and nothing puts people off more than being unfairly treated on price. On the flip side, nothing makes a client happier than being quoted less than they had budgeted for (as I’ve done on several occasions).

It is however an important philosophy to understand when developing your price strategy.

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Nobody takes spec work seriously

clown

In any business, clients are only willing to part with their money when they’re confident that there paying for something they need or want.

If your car breaks down, you pay a mechanic to fix it – they fulfil a need.

If you don’t particularly like the colour of your car, you can pay a painter to respray it for you – they fulfil a desire.

You don’t take your car in and say “Everything’s perfectly fine, I love the car. I just want you to spend a few days coming up with ideas and do some work on the car and if I like the changes, I’ll pay for your work”. That would be ridiculous.

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Invoice deliverables, not processes; Advice for design students/new designers

invoice design clients

How to invoice clients is a common question among graphic design students and new designers. At the end of the day people want results, not processes, and as such it’s usually good practice for your invoices to reflect this.

Some argue that invoices should be broken down and itemized in detail so clients know exactly what they’re paying for. This is fine in theory, but in reality it’s usually unnecessary.

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