Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Small Business Printing -- when to stay in-house, when to go out-sourced

Here's the table that I created that accompanies the May Observations column in The Hard Copy Observer. I recognize this is just a start, and influenced by my personal judgement and the business experience of the management of PrintingForLess.com, and I welcome your comments/amendments/disagreements!


Andrew said...


Great chart!

I would only add that Commercial Offset (as done by PFL) becomes very compelling for all categories, even the first three, in quantities above 250 or 500. Once the setup is done (which has become very fast with modern equipment) the unit cost of offset is unbeatable. We charge under 8 cents a piece for each additional 8.5x11 brochure, 2-sided on glossy stock with full bleed, heavy coverage, and a trifold.

Flip side: if you need 100 today, digital is unbeatable. Period.

Anonymous said...

I would have to challenge your point at which you move to outsource.

For example, if you are creating a newsletter, the hardest part is setting it up. If that newsletter is four pages and your system has a saddle finisher on it, it will duplex and fold your newsletter for you. If your variable cost in house is $.15 per color (kind of high), it would take a lot of time waiting for the document to print before it would be worth sending out.

Jim Lyons said...

I am delighted to see some comments here, even if they don't agree with my table! Let's keep them coming. Remember that this is SMALL business so there's a leap from what they can typically do in-house (desktop or workgroup printer only) to what they need to go outside for.

Anonymous said...

I guess the in-house vs. professional printing decision is driven by different criteria for different people. One very important factor is the artwork. I'd be more inclined to go with whichever option if it's not overpriced and comes with a nice and free design I like. The other factor is ease of ordering. If I had to drag myself to a local printer, I'd rather skip it.

Andrew said...

Good point on the hassle factor, whether from design or schlepping around town. Our first impetus for going to an e-commerce model was to give people a low-friction way to get high quality marketing materials. Millions of small businesses have MS Office installed on their pc, including Publisher. Pub has literally thousands of professionally-designed templates, requiring only inserting your own copy. Most commercial printers don't like Pub files (for both technical and cultural reasons), so we carved out a niche by embracing Pub files, and making it even easier with a simple, 1-page pricing and ordering process.

Another template option is high-quality templates from StockLayouts: http://www.stocklayouts.com/Default.aspx?campaign=pid153

While templates are a great solution for many companies, it may be a good idea to hire a professional graphic designer for larger projects or ones where more customization is needed. Designers aren't free, but the results are usually worth it.