Going rates for printing

I’m just getting started printing invitations, menus, etc. Is there any accepted “going rate” for set up and printing? Any parameters would be helpful.

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Nope, and it’s kind of dangerous to price according to others’ business models.

Overhead for the year + Labor + Materials. Throw in profit. Estimate with an hourly price in mind and run from there. Keep notes on projects and adjust as you gain more experience. I’ve met plenty of good printers, but some of them have had an awful time getting this step down.

That said, a common price point people charge seems to be $200 per run, but there’s a lot of fluctuation. Sometimes this is an inclusive price, sometimes its not!

Good luck,

James Beard
Vrooooom Press

I agree with overhead + labour + materials. You’re gonna have to project a reasonable amount of time you could be working, and how much you need to make each hour you’ll be working to stay afloat.

What you can take home after that mostly depends on geography: Depending on how expensive it is to get equipment and supplies, cost of goods sold, real estate, supply and demand etc. you’re hourly rate will go up or down quite a bit.

$200 is a pretty common minimum I see, but it doesn’t make sense to just charge $200 a run.


As someone who’s been doing this for a long, long time…. starting back when “real” craftsmen were expected to be altruistic and earn very little printing socially meaningful posters …. then working later when we all wanted to make a killing without doing any real work…. and into today’s business model of being highly skilled Artiste’s / Craftsmen ( or Living Treasures.. HA! )… I’ve adopted a very simple pricing strategy:

I charge prices so high that the actual cost of producing the work is inapplicable.

My philosophy is this:

1. Cheap stuff takes too much work for too little profit….. so I normally do work that is either very difficult, or can’t be done by very many people, and thus is very expensive.

2. I’ve been doing this since Tricky-Dick Nixon was President, so my customers are NOT paying me for my materials and labor. They are paying me for years and years of experience, AND superb finished products that come from an attention to perfection. They can’t get this work at Zippy-Prints, Office Depot, or at “commodity” prices.

3. Life is short… so why waste it printing boring, or uninteresting things? The boring stuff should be done by offset litho… and fine hand-work should be reserved for interesting things.

4. Low prices inevitably lead to low quality when it comes to hand-work (or to bankruptcy).

5. Some people will pay a good price for superb work. Others won’t. So I deal with those who will, and don’t care what the cheapos want to purchase. Besides, they are cheapos, and not deserving of the best, anyway.

6. the number one cause of small printing shops going out of business is not for charging too much…. it is for charging too little.

I’m sure that all of the above probably sounds like a very arogant rant, but it’s not. It’s realistic. I deserve to make a good living just as much as a Jeweler, a CEO, a Real Estate Baron, a Stock Market Guru or a Crooked Politician. Actually, since I work with my hands and produce something real and tangible, I think I’m MORE deserving than some of the above mentioned people…. AND so are a lot of our fellow letterpressmen.

So…. after saying all of that, here’s what I’d do if I were just starting out: I’d stay away from cheapo work, and only do really nice stuff. (leave the low-end work for Zippy-Prints) I’d find out what others are charging for really nice stuff in your market, and double, triple or even quadruple the price…. Then I’d WOW the customer with samples that blow the competition out of the water. If the customer doesn’t “get it”, he must be an idiot anyway.

Now… I know that someone is going to comment and say “Well Dave… I can produce superb work for half of what you charge!” and they may be right. Maybe they can. BUT…. should they? If I can get twice the money for the same labor / materials / overhead that they do….. isn’t that an indication that they are undercharging for their work?

A lot of what you say is very important, Winking Cat, but it does start with “someone who’s been doing this a long, long time.” A lot of people here, even though they are producing fine printing, will need to cater to lesser work because they don’t have the skills to produce superb work. This isn’t to say they are doing a bad job, but there is just a certain amount of experience you need to gain before you can really wow people with great work, especially in a world where there are lots of letterpress printers offering services.

Winking Cat Press..I couldn’t have said it better myself. Those are real “WORDS TO LIVE BY!”

Well you’ve got to price somewhere, and the worst tendency is to under price your work. What can be useful is to figure a net yield of at least $30-40 an hour, which will yield and actual net wage of $15-20 an hour. Don’t forget to keep an eye on office time (invoicing, proofs, consultation etc). Even if you find that you have a process that would allow to you reduce your pricing, it is well to not do so, as you still have to consider the capital costs of your shop and the ongoing depreciation and replacement/repair costs that have to be kept up on.

Remember, somebody can always do the job cheaper than you can, but not everybody can do the job better than you can for less. That said, build your skill set, try new things and be willing to work on projects that might otherwise be a PITA. Eventually we’ll all make it to the level of Winking Cat, or we’ll find our vocations elsewhere.

Buying printing is like buying oats. If you want good, clean, oats you have to pay a fair price.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind oats that have already been through the horse, they come a lot cheaper.

@linegauge: hahaha!

This was a great thread because I am just starting out. I have a degree in printmaking but that doesn’t mean squat when it comes to actual printing and the business side of things, where I am totally lost. I’m trying to decide on some introductory prices as I now have people asking me, and I was shooting low, but now after reading this (and being surprised that that is a trend or common mistake) I am reconsidering. Although, I need to start somewhere, like @modernman said.

Anyhow, thanks for all the input… and I’ll continue to stumble on in the dark hoping to strive for winking cat’s expertise someday


I understand wanting to charge less when just starting out - I was definitely guilty of that decision & sometimes when trying to woo a customer dropping the price to get the job is tempting but it rarely pays off. Example : the last job I did I had the cards cut by a local printer who ruined them so I had to print more and then have them cut again by a different printer - who charged more than the first guy; I had to make new plates to run the second set after the first ones were a bit worn out; I had to ship priority to the customer (at my expense) as he had a deadline. None of these situations are the customer’s fault so I couldn’t exactly ask for more money half way through the job!

Take your time figuring the costs-don’t leave anything out and with experience you will be able to anticipate potential extras that may come up in a job and add to your costs.

@winking cat press

bravo. It is certainly is refreshing to hear that point of view from someone in this industry.

Thanks to all… you’ve set me on the right track: create a unique product whose quality is immediately apparent and charge a price that reflects those qualities.