How to Start a Successful Printing Business with Minimal Investment

printing business tips
Image: Ms. Tharpe / Flickr

I always interested in design and everything that comes with it – this includes print design. I am actually considering starting a printing business, but I am still at research stage. During my research stage, I learn that, although the concept of printing business is rather simple, the business itself is complex and resource intensive. Read on to find out what I’ve discovered so far…

Printing business is easy – let’s do it!

Printing business is lucrative – it seems that you can make millions simply by answering to the market demand. Indeed, the demand is there.

So, I thought starting a printing business is easy – just buy a printer, printing software for digital printing, stock-up, and you are ready to start. The truth is, I search the web and found out what the been-there-done-that experts say: If you think printing business is easy, think again.

Of course, the potential is still huge, despite all the online media and such; there are always needs for printing… businesses still rely on brochures, business cards, banners and such for their branding and marketing campaign. They still adopt a hybrid approach to marketing, using both online and off line methods. All in all, the opportunities are there.

However, let’s not forget that because it seems easy to start, there are many budding entrepreneurs jump into the printing bandwagon. “Fortunately” many of them fail due to their misconceptions about the printing business – the same misconceptions I have, I must say.

Printing business challenges

Reading on printing forums and entrepreneurship sites, I learned that if you want to start a proper printing business, you need to have these:

1. Deep pocket

If you want to offer offset printing, you got to have to invest in offset printing machine – which is expensive. You also need to consider maintenance costs and budgeting for spare part – even printers – replacements. Doing so without strong financing will be disastrous.

2. Exhaustive business plan

“Just do it” might generally apply in starting any businesses, but I believe in business plans, as long as you are not stuck in the planning stage and fail to do anything else beyond that. From the online discussions I read, there is one common best practice suggested by experts: Do exhaustive business plan. Printing business is a long-term business, and you need to project your financials properly.

3. Prime location

Some suggest that you should start a printing business near business district and campus area. Doing so, even if you start small, your printing business survivability is “guaranteed” by the amount of “targeted” traffic you are getting. But then again, a prime location will almost always mean expensive lease and rent.

4. The whole suite of graphic design software

Adobe Photoshop is good, but to start a printing business offering digital printing, you need the whole Adobe Design suite. This also applies for other design suites like Quark, etc. And again, it’s costly, as you need to invest thousands of dollars to purchase a license.

5. Strong print design knowledge

Your ability to use Photoshop is useful, but to run a successful printing business you need more than that – you might even need to take design class and/or courses. Sure, you could hire someone with that knowledge, but again, hiring someone is costly, especially in the early stage of your business.

So, yes, if you are thinking about starting a printing business right from your home, you need to strongly consider and re-consider.

Indeed, the days of starting your printing business from your own garage are over; only a few doing so survive, but most fail – just “blame” it on the online printing companies like PrintRunner… clients can now conveniently order online and have their business card printing done in timely manner – it’s that simple, and small printing company many set at home cant’ compete with that… or not?

There IS a great low investment, high potential printing business idea!

Yes, if you are insisting to start a printing business, there is one of few ways you can do it with less investment and higher rate of success; here is my favourite business idea, as usual: start a printing business as a broker.

This is a good small business idea in many ways: As a broker, you don’t have to invest in printing machines. You don’t have to invest in human resources. You don’t have to acquire design software license. You don’t even need to have a location. All you need to have is a computer, mobile phone and Internet access.

Your role here is as an intermediary. Your job is to get clients and have the printing orders sent to your printing partners. You real work is maintaining a healthy relationship with your clients and printing partners.

Of course, there are some other things you need to consider to increase your chances for success:

1. Build a website

As you will likely to work from home or a smallish office, you need a “front desk” that are both appealing and effective in converting prospect into clients; you need a company website that actually allows your prospects to submit their requests online.

2. Use a virtual office

Just like businesses in other niches, in printing business image is everything. You need to look professional. Consider to rent a virtual office space with all the perks: Receptionists, mail boxes, and meeting room (if your clients insist you to meet in “your” office.) A decent virtual office in prime business district won’t cost you a lot of money.

3. Build portfolio

You need to build a portfolio. You might even need to work on projects free of charge to get your printing business name out. Consider this as an investment.

4. Crowdsource for ideas

You can offer print design ideas for your clients yourself, but if you don’t have the eye for design, you might want to consider crowdsourcing for design ideas. Sites like can help you with that cost effectively.

5. Promote, promote, promote!

There is no such thing as “just build it and they will come” in printing business. Market your printing services properly, and don’t forget, you need to create your own business cards, brochures and other printed materials for your printing business – it’s a great way to let your prospects know the quality of your work.

So, there you go – good luck in your printing business!

Ivan Widjaya
Printing business startup tips
Reference: PrintPlanet forums