Raise your prices

I’ve been printing for years, always in somebody else’s shop. About a year ago I started my own shop and now I’m finding out why so many people advised against it. I’m very comfortable on the press, but I’m a lousy businessman.

One area I struggle with is pricing. I never charge enough. Never once has a customer hesitated to pay the full invoice price I present. Now I have scientific proof that I need to charge more. It turns out that if I tell people my work is worth lots of money, that makes it true. And higher price makes the client experience more value and satisfaction.

Here’s a link to the research.

And here’s the AP article link. (I promised AP that I wouldn’t redistribute the article. It’s not really worth the $1.50 for the whole thing anyhow.)

Log in to reply   3 replies so far

John, I agree. Pricing is a serious problem area for small print-shops nowadays. The problem is that there are so many fast, efficient processes and machines out there that printing has become a commodity. A letterpress or small offset shop simply cannot compete nowadays in terms of price… especially for everyday items like envelopes, letterheads, and invoices.

The salvation for my shop was when I switched from being a “printer” and became an “Artisan”. I quit printing routine materials entirely, and concentrated on work that the more modern shops could not (or would not) produce…. and I began charging according to how much effort and material was involved, NOT according to what my competitors were charging.

In my case, I began printing political, Mardi-Gras, and pop-culture posters using woodcuts and/or lino cuts and wood type….. in collaboration with a few local artists. A friend of mine made a similar transition, and began concentrating on the very highest-end of personal stationery. He now prints the best letterheads that money can buy. He also charges the highest prices in town but has a waiting list of several months.

My point is that trying to compete in the comodity end of the business, against automated machinery, is a rather futile endeavor. The prices that one must charge are so low that you’ll starve to death. BUT…. by stressing QUALITY above quantity, and charging accordingly, one can make a good living in letterpress.

I feel your pain. I run a fairly good size and busy commercial shop, and you have to charge what you have to charge to make a living, and you can’t apologize for it. I consistantly lose work to hobbyists who charge much less than I because their families don’t depend on their presses to bring home the bacon, but my family does. I log in hour after hour of quoting only to be gasped at by many clients. The answer is simple to them, letterpress is expensive, and might not be for you. You can’t worry about the jobs you don’t get. You have to worry about the ones you do get.
Education is important and should be a part of sales, because the more the clients know and appreciate letterpress, the less they are shocked by the price.

Winking cat turned the tables of perception by calling himself an artisan, not a printer, and it has worked for him.
Personally I am not an artist, and will not call myself one. I am a blue collar printer, son of a printer, and I let my work do the talking for me. I am a pressman and a businessman like the generations before me, and am content with that. I echo winking cat. You can make a good living in letterpress, but it is not automatic. You need to be a good pressman, a good businessman, a good marketer a be willing to work and work and work and work.

To John of Waldwick Printing, well answered.
Winking Cat has the idea.
In my case I manage a progressive A3 digital and small offset shop in Sydney, Australia call Online On-Demand Printing, deep into the internet for sales and marketing, see
Our approach is that there is work out there, but we do it for our price and our set of costs and profit margins. We are continually at the edge of communications marketing and evolving the printing aspects of our business. We add serious value to our services. We have no letterpress.
My own background is as a compositor and machinist having done my “time” in 1969.
Today, privately, in my letterpress shop, I follow the path of Winking Cat and their ilk. Its a prestige thing with my private clients, my work makes them feel good and special. Thats worth money, thats entertainment.
William Amer, Pressed Letters, Australia
Hand and Machine Compositor, Printer