Print Branded Materials Yourself or Hire a Pro?

Most businesses now know that having the right balance of digital and printed media reaches a larger audience compared to focusing on the online space alone. According to a FedEx Small Business Survey, “while many small business owners plan to reach existing and potential customers online and through social media, more than half (5%) intend to use more traditional channels such as newsletters and direct mail.”

That’s great news for print. But if you’re like most business owners, the next question you’ll be asking is how can we be cost-efficient with print?

Self-promotion direct mail
photo credit: Behance

Business owners constantly work within a budget and they expect to get the most out of what they spend without sacrificing quality. Likewise, when it comes to printing marketing materials like business cards and letterheads, deciding whether to get it done commercially or in-house is a fiscally important matter.

The first and most important question you need to ask is: What marketing materials do you really need?

A few printed basics every business needs to have are business cards, branded envelopes, and brochures. Depending on your marketing strategy and how aggressive you want to promote your brand offline, you can also choose to print direct mail postcards, promotional items, or posters. A more aggressive marketing plan will have a better variety of printed media than one that is not.

Deciding whether to make an investment in printing in-house or keep sending your projects to the local print shop involves weighing several factors:

Cost & Print Volume

Especially when you need large quantities of printed media, printing your own materials can be a major money saver. Doc at ZDNet notes that businesses who outsource printing tend to order around 20 percent more than they actually use. Even if you’re getting a great price, that one-fifth that ends up in the recycle bin six or eight months down the road is pure loss–not to mention a waste of natural resources.

If you have the right tools and experts on hand, however, you can get the same type of professional results in-house without tossing money right in the trash. Determine how much volume you really need and print only that. If you need 15 or 20 cards printed, print them in-house. If you need to distribute 10,000 direct mail postcards, go commercial. Don’t print 1,000 business cards if you realistically will use only 200.

Plenty of brochures
photo credit: Airlie Beach Ambassadors / Flickr


When you produce everything in-house, you have utmost control over your imagery and branding. That means being able to print small batches to preview your look and tweak it until it’s perfect. This also eliminates situations where you’re stuck with six boxes of mediocre prints.


If you don’t have a designer on hand, it will be difficult to plan an effective layout for each marketing medium. Unfortunately, the stakes are pretty high when it comes to sub-par media designs.

Inferior-looking business cards and branded materials will do more than nothing for you–they will make you look unprofessional and unreliable. In many cases, whether or not you have easy and affordable access to a graphic designer weighs as heavily on your decision as the type of paper you’re going to use.

Toyota USA pop-up direct mail
photo credit: Behance


Printing your own materials means upgrades: better paper, an able printer, fresh supply of ink cartridges–the works. If you won’t be printing a steady stream of marketing media, the cost of upgrades will likely outpace the fiscal benefits of moving your print in-house. But if you plan on printing a lot of branded materials over a period of time, or you’re growing your team and need fresh personalized materials fairly often, investing on in-house printing makes sense.

If you decide that printing your branded materials in-house is the best approach, here are some important tips.

  • Unless you have a background in graphic design, don’t try to wing it when it comes to designing crucial elements of your design (i.e. logo). If you don’t have the budget for a dedicated designer, hire someone reputable on Upwork or Elance. Come to the table with some ideas and let them work their magic. The design behind your brand is perhaps the most forward representation of your company so it’s not something to cheap out on!
  • If you choose to design your own logo, Sarah Jacobsson Purewal at PCWorld suggests using a vector graphics program like Adobe Illustrator. Why? Because vector graphics, unlike raster graphics, aren’t made up of pixels and can be resized without significant image quality loss. If you’ve ever seen a pixelated logo on someone’s letterhead, you know how unprofessional that looks.
  • There are no shortage of online templates available to help make designing your marketing materials a no-sweat affair. For example, HP Creative Suite offers a range of easy-to-use Word templates that can save you time and prevent headaches. Starting from scratch can be daunting, and sometimes having a little boost really does move the process along.
  • Remember to include important web info such as your social media handles on all your print marketing materials.
  • Every element of your print matters from the quality of the paper to the sharpness of your printer. If you will be printing your marketing materials in-house regularly, determine the types of paper you will be using often and consider upgrading your designer printer to get pro-grade print quality.
Vladimir Gendelman
photo credit: Vladimir Gendelman

If hiring a print shop to take care of your needs, it’s important to make sure you’ve gone through the necessary steps to make sure you aren’t wasting money. Here are a couple suggestions to help you along.

  • Proof your work internally before you send it in. A typo or off-color logo doesn’t seem like a big thing… until you’ve printed it on ten thousand direct mail postcards. Run proofs in office to make sure everything comes across cleanly and evenly.
  • Always remember to ask for a printed proof from the shop before you do a full run. That way you can take a long hard look at your design before you make a big investment. Unfortunately, running proofs with online print services either takes time in postage or won’t be available.
  • Remember to ask around when shopping for a shop. Reading online reviews is important, but getting first-hand knowledge from trusted colleagues and friends is even better.

Print is an immensely valuable tool for generating leads and getting your name out there. For that reason, it’s something that should be used wisely.

For marketers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners who are unfamiliar with the printing process, knowing whether it’s better for your specific needs to do it yourself or hire a pro is the first step towards success. Once you have that locked down, you’re fast on your way to the impressive handouts, business cards, and letterhead that show your clients you mean business.