How to Start a Printing Business
If you are tired of the office routine and want to plan your schedule, it's time to think about your own company. Fortunately, the world offers many opportunities for those who wish to develop their businesses from scratch. A printing business startup is one of the options to consider. It's a profitable commercial direction where you can become successful having basic industry experience and a great desire to create and earn. In this article, we will talk about the main stages that you must go through on the way from an idea to its implementation.
Table of Contents
Guide to starting a print business: 7 steps to success
Finding a printing niche
The first step in any strategy is to research the market and study the audience to find a promising direction, i.e., your niche. This term can be applied to any specific product. In our case, it means a range of products profitable to print for target customers.
So, you can choose a product type (T-shirts), a category (Women's clothing), or a destination (Tourism and outdoor activities) and gradually add new products. Starting a small printing business entails many risks due to high competition. To work in a wide niche containing different categories, you need experience and a budget to buy additional equipment and expand the team.
You will be more successful if you initially focus on a specific need rather than offering everything at once. The best option is finding a balance between your expertise (professional knowledge and experience), personal interests (hobbies), profit (market trends and growth potential), and competition in the target region.
When studying trends, we recommend using the following tools:
- Google Trends. It’s an easy way to identify the keywords and phrases your audience is looking for in different regions. Here you can find out what potential customers are interested in and what queries they enter in the search.
- Google AdWords. If you decide to start your own printing activity, you will definitely need a business account. It is useful for those who want to find popular topics, plan advertising campaigns in time, and launch them.
- Trendhunter. It is a lesser-known tool than the previous ones. However, it will help you find creative ideas and get inspired. You can also use analytics to study consumer behavior.
Get ready to put focus on niche research. If you manage to combine all 4 factors (expertise, your interest, profitability, and low competition), you will have a strong base for commercial development and competitiveness.
Choose printing methods
The next essential step in your strategy is selecting working methods. Starting a printing business involves specialized technologies for applying texts, photos, drawings, and patterns on various materials (paper, fabric, glass, ceramics, plastic, wood, etc.). If you focus on a narrow niche and product category, it is easier to choose appropriate methods. As your printing company expands its range of services, you should introduce new technologies into your business.
Here are prevalent printing technologies:
- Digital printing
This term includes all technologies used to reproduce text and images in electronic format without forming. That is, paints are applied to the surface without printing forms. Direct application technology does not require complex preparation and is relatively cheap, so you can expect decent returns.
You can use 3 kinds of the method:
- Sheet-fed: non-contact (laser). For large volumes or single copies;
- Roll-to-roll: wide format with solvent ink. To ensure the resistance of the image to mechanical damage.
- Inkjet: High-resolution photo printing. To create bright pictures with sharp edges on special photo paper.
This method is suitable for small and medium circulation products. It is indispensable for outdoor advertising (signs, posters, presentation stands), business cards, booklets, catalogs, flyers, calendars, stickers. Logos, photos, inscriptions, and combined images (picture + text) can be applied to the fabric.
- Offset printing
This technology involves applying ink from the printing plate to paper through an intermediate link (offset rollers). You can work with any kind of paper and create large print runs in the shortest possible time.
Depending on the method of applying paint, there are two offset types: with dampening solutions and dry (with silicone). By equipment type: sheet (individual sheets of paper) and roll (rolls of paper). The latter is justified only for large printing houses with a high print run.
The method is suitable for different product formats: from etiquettes to books and large geographical maps. If you plan to launch a printing business for making magazines, postcards, calendars, diaries, or envelopes, this method will come in handy. Especially when it comes to large orders, as this will significantly reduce the cost of printing.
- Screen printing
This type compares favorably with all the others: it allows you to place any full-color images on any surface: paper, polyethylene, fabric, or metal. The picture will look clear and bright on any background.
We recommend choosing this method for drawing designs on earthenware and glass mugs, T-shirts, notebooks made of craft cardboard or textured designer cardboard, business cards, or business document folders. A wide range of colors and shades allows you to create multi-color products.
- 3D printing
If you want to do something extraordinary, start with 3D products. You will need a 3D device to create unique digital models. Also, you have to spend on expensive materials. Ask for help from someone experienced in design and configuring such equipment.
However, the costs will justify themselves. People appreciate non-standard approaches and like exclusive products. With this method, you can produce both single parts and complex objects at no additional cost.
Determining what equipment you'll need
So did you select the printing method? Choosing the equipment is not so difficult. We recommend that you visit the competitor's website and find out what models and brands they use. In short, you need printers of one or more types, a laminator, cutting machines, and a sheet stapler. And, of course, specialized software for correcting and retouching images, applying effects, setting gradients, adding fonts, drawing, etc.
You can learn more about specialized equipment from our expert article.
Find printing materials supplies
Many inexperienced entrepreneurs wonder how to start a printing business without spending big money on materials. We answer: you can't save on this! The basis for your products is vital because it affects whether the quality will suit your customers and whether they will return to you again. That’s why we single out establishing relationships with suppliers as another large-scale stage.
In practice, it’s not as easy as it seems. The main task here is to find reliable wholesale contractors. We suggest you use the following channels and tools:
- search engines;
- catalogs by regions and industries;
- competitor resources;
- joint procurement platforms;
- recommendations from people you trust.
Act according to your financial condition. Don’t focus on cheap things to save money. We also recommend that you clarify all the important points right away: a license, minimum batches, delivery features of these batches, warranty cases. So you and your customers will avoid serious trouble.
Create tools for print-on-demand shops
To run a successful printing business, you must be customer-focused. The lion's share of customers comes from the Internet, so you should take care of the digital experience in advance. In addition to the amount of money you earn, it affects something more valuable, the reputation of your brand name in the online and offline space.
Let's look at some of the nuances. You, the POD supplier, is on the one side. Your client is on the other side. It may be the seller or the owner of the online store. The client connects to your platform, and now all orders coming to their store come to you immediately. It means that now you complete these orders and are responsible for purchasing and storing stocks, applying images, packaging, and shipping (on behalf of the seller).
What does the seller do? Their job is to update the range, add new designs, adjust prices, track orders, and monitor their statuses. And your task is to organize all processes to ensure automated interaction. It is for the benefit of you and your customers. Don't worry, it's easy if you have the right digital tools.
PodZa print-on-demand app is one of them. This solution will save you from routine and help digitize business processes. Here's what it does:
- Integrates with top platforms: Shopify, Etsy, soon with Woocommerce, Amazon, and eBay.
- Systematizes receiving and processing applications, maintains documentation, logistics, etc.
- Customizes the functionality for the needs of you and your partners (online store owners).
- Expands the possibilities of working with design, new collections, and store management.
- Automates customer communications, invoicing, setting prices for different regions, and more.
It’s your chance to eliminate 99% of the routine and create a reliable environment for communicating with customers, resolving financial issues, and managing a large number of orders. For your partner, it is a good opportunity to control everything that happens with the product: from the moment you take the project until the delivery of the finished product to the customer.
Set up delivery and logistics management
Logically, if you send goods yourself, you must have the appropriate infrastructure. There are two options for setting it up: handle transportation yourself or entrust it to a third-party company. Of course, if you are going to start a home printing business, the first option won’t suit you. And not only because of limited finance. You also must be familiar with this area and define a geographical scope.
The second option is available for all beginners. Just study financial issues in advance and learn about commissions and fees. PodZa solution will also come in handy here as it covers key operations in shipping & fulfillment.
Now you have reached the final stage, and your entrepreneurial activity will begin soon. Ensure that as many e-commerce people as possible know about it. Of course, thanks to digital marketing tools.
And here is what we propose to do for promotion:
- Declare yourself in social networks using paid advertising aimed at specific audiences (by age, gender, interests, profession, etc.).
- Optimize your website: implement analytics to track visitors, add relevant content with keywords, and fill pages with useful info.
- Launch direct mailing focusing on potential customers from the B2B sphere.
- Install media monitoring tools that will inform you of all brand mentions.
- Enter specialized directories by industry and region, indicating contact details and critical conditions.
Business and the digital world are now connected by strong ties, and your task is to find benefits in this. Combine all methods that fit the budget and do not contradict the goals. An integrated approach and digital tools will allow you to implement new ideas quickly.
Instead of a conclusion: 4 small tips
- Find investors. Visit thematic events (business conferences, forums, round tables, presentations), contact foundations that support entrepreneurs, or use crowdfunding platforms.
- Do SEO and social media. Raise awareness constantly, not just at the start. Engage in advertising and optimize your website.
- Identify your target market. Choose a direction for both profitability and your interests. Focus on narrow niches and regions with a small number of specialized services where you can show yourself.
- Expand your products and services. It is perhaps the main answer to how to run a printing business. Do not stop, add new opportunities, enter new markets, and implement everything the digital world offers today.