Ok so I have been printing now for about a year, I make my own plates, I mix my own inks and I do my own printing on a Heidelberg and C&P. All of this and its just a hobby. However to pay for this hobby. I take on a couple jobs once in awhile however I never really know what to charge for these jobs. That is the one thing I have not learned in the past year. Can someone please help me with this. I feel like my prices swing a lot. I could just use a popular press sites prices but I don’t do letterpress full time so I don’t think I should charge that much but I also don’t want to under cut the industry.

I print small runs of usually 100-200 sometimes someone wants like 20 which I don’t like
I always use lettra
I mix any custom color, and no more then two color usually

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Since letterpress is no longer a “commodity” type of printing, pricing is a very subjective thing that varies greatly from market to market and from niche to niche.

We price our work by how many man-hours it will take and the level of complexity. Generally we figure out how much it is going to cost us in terms of materials and labor (not forgetting to pay everyone involved) and then double or triple that price to cover overhead and profit. Rent, electricity, and equipment depreciation is not free, you know. Going this route we are never the lowest priced vendor. In fact, we are almost always the most expensive….. BUT if the customer wants the highest quality, he should expect to pay for it.

You should NOT try to compete with Zippy-Print or Klinkos on price. They have their offset presses and copiers…. and can snap out cards and letterheads far cheaper than you. If you try to lower your prices to their level, you’ll be out of business in a few months. Instead, price your work commensurate with the higher quality it represents.

The other thing I’d like to say is you should not discount your work based on whether or not you are part-time. IF it’s good work, it doesn’t matter whether it was made during business hours, or on the week-ends.

I’m in the same boat — just starting, doing this on the side and not sure how to price myself. I asked my friend who’s being doing this about 7 years and he said that he often looks to a shops in CA and NY and positions himself similarly. I think that is a pretty good train of thought — as an industry we need to keep similar pricing so that prices don’t get driven down. A lot of letterpress shop website have a pricing page with a calculator where you can price out all sorts of options, i.e. number of inks, paper, size, etc. Take a look at Inky Lips Letterpress. - Lilco

Hello lsmithkirkley,

I think that price fixing is a felony.

That said, I think it’s fine to look at other printers’ prices to get an idea of the going rate. But everyone’s situation is different. Some shops have multiple presses in a leased facility with hourly pressmen and an office staff. Others work solo on a single press in their garage. Some printers are trying to make a living at it; for others printing is a sideline with which the printer just hopes to break even on paper and ink. You have to asses your own situation and decide what sort of profit you need or want and how much your time is worth (if anything), then price accordingly.


It’s funny that this should come up now. I just completed a college-level course in Anti-Trust and Ethical Business Practices, and Barb is right: any discussion along the lines of “… an industry we need to keep similar pricing so that prices don’t get driven down……” is illegal in the United States.

According to the law, we cannot make any attempt to unify or coordinate pricing in any way. In fact, even discussing pricing at a trade organization or network meeting with potential competitors (which includes this forum) could be problematic. One case we studied involved a trade group that established “pricing guidelines”, and wound up paying out millions of dollars in legal fees, class-action lawsuits, and Federal penalties.

Now…. does this mean that such things don’t happen every day in the real world? No, it doesn’t. Such price fixing is common. Oil companies, airlines, and many sectors of the economy appear to engage in such practices dailly, and they get away with it. They typically get away with it because they are big, powerful entities who buy off congressmen and can afford to flaunt the law. Unfortunately, we are not in that position. We are just the sort of folks that over-zealous Feds love to “make examples of”.

So…. while the idea of not driving down the prices might seem appealing, I don’t think it’s a good idea here in the U.S.

Dose this include discussion on the value of the equipment we print with ?

no…. not at all. From my understanding, a discussion of equipment prices, prices of raw materials, and so forth is fine. We don’t control those things. What we shouldn’t discuss is our end-product pricing….. or more specifically make any attempt to coordinate our pricing systems.

As far as “pricing philosophy” goes, such as my original posting above….. I don’t know. What I DO know from the cases we studied is that any group discussion of final pricing can and will be viewed with suspicion by our friends in Washington DC.

DISCLAIMER: I’m only reporting what I learned in class. I’m not a lawyer, nor did I write the law…. so don’t get mad at me if you disagree. Write your congressman.

I feel like my prices swing a lot. I could just use a popular press sites prices but I don’t do letterpress full time so I don’t think I should charge that much….

Why shouldn’t you charge that much*? (*keeping in mind the discussion regarding price fixing) Do you think your work is inferior? You need to determine what YOU think your time and effort is worth…not price it in order to ‘get the business’. That’s how undercutting happens. If someone really wants it, they will pay for it; and if they don’t want to pay XXX amount, then you could offer them cost-saving alternatives (cheaper paper, one color vs. two color, etc) or work out some kind of trade or barter for the balance.

I print small runs of usually 100-200 sometimes someone wants like 20 which I don’t like

How about establishing a minimum quantity (like 100); and if they still want only 20, charge them the same $$ you would for the 100. They aren’t just paying for how many pieces of printed paper they end up with, they are paying for your time spent mixing ink, composing type, plate-making/lino cutting make-ready, etc.

My 2cents

I wonder about all this. For many decades the Franklin Estimating Catalogs have been sold as a guide for printer’s pricing (the letterpress version was discontinued around 1995); now such desk-books are mostly replaced by computer-based estimating systems.
Would the use of a Franklin Catalog be felonious?

oho! I forgot about those pricing catalogs! We used ‘em in the small print shop I used to do typesetting for (back in the mid ‘90’s).

Well, aside from the legal issues, printers often advertise the prices for work they specialize in. So an attempt to meet or better their price may mean that you lose money. Each situation is different, as BarbHauser says. Basically, you want to recoup your costs and tack on a charge for profit margin. What makes this difficult is the occasional nature of part-time or hobby work: the expenses may be ongoing though there is no work. If a printer is inexperienced, it may be unfair to charge a customer for the training or education of the printer. So much of our high-end work is unique—we are uncertain how much work and time it will take. Some thoughts—
It helps to keep a record of the time and materials used on each job. At first, one’s pricing may be way off, but experience improves one’s abilities, and records are very useful for this. When in doubt, charge more, not less. Tack on a percentage for all buy-outs and brokerings. Don’t try to compete with commercial lithographers or quick printers. Charge more than the competition and provide excellent service and reliability. Try to find a niche that you can occupy that allows you more or less to standardize your product and help you price consistently.

Best of luck, Brian

You can state your price,make a price list etc. based on your costs and profit margin. You can discuss ways to keep your prices down i.e. miantenance ,materials and methods used. But other than being illegal and unethical price fixing can also force you to do work at a loss of profit or sales. There are enough sources available to find out what someone else charges so that type of discussion is not required. As far as part time hobby or full time business goes you can do a job for a friend or relative at cost but if you are doing good work you should allow yourself a fair profit for your skills.

I have to add a point about part time and hobby shops. They can charge much less than going concerns because of overhead etc. however they may need and often get help from regular businesses in the way of leftover ink stock equipment and advice.I would not advise anyone to take on trade work to make less than a fair wage as you will surely lose in the long run. Another point is many commercial printers are no longer letterpress capable and are your potential clients.