Press or work first

I had two printers tell me that you have to get work for the press before buying a press.

So, how do you get work from a customer for a press you do not have or know if it will print?

You can’t start getting work to print, and tell people someday when I come across a press you print their job.

I was going to purchase a press, set it up play with for awhile, and then tell people I could do their work.

But, these two print shop owners, tell me I am wrong.

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Hello Aaron

they are right
you are right

depends on what you want to do
for many commercial job shop owners
setting up and printing is the easy part
getting paying business is the hard part

they are not going to invest in equipment
that is not going pay for its self

but if you want to start a hobby shop
then hopefully learn and grow
you will need a press

yours truly


Some background. I have been a printer since the early 60s. Learned letterpress, typesetting and press work. Set many a line of hand set and thousands of lines on Linotype text over the years. Have run all types of letterpress presses from 10x15 to 12x20.

Owned my own letterpress business with, Intertype, Ludlow, press etc. Make money, but that is in the past.

Now, I want to do it start a shop again. But, working two full time jobs, and a part time job is getting me no place on paying my bills.

Was hoping to get a press and start building up customers, but the printers that are making money and have been in business 30 years or more, than me I have to have customers, before I can get a press.

And, the reason, I talked to them, was to rent shop space. Both have the extra room, But, rather I stay a worker for them right now.

So, I mentioned this to the group, because, I wanted other people input.

I just do understand how you can get customers before you have equipment to use.

i’ve been letterpress printing since the early 60’s too, i started out working full time and printing out of my mom’s cellar for years, then in the 80’s i went full time from the cellar. that was a good way to build up my business. I know another letterpress man who rents space in the back of a commercial offset shop in exchange for numbering and die cutting, it gives him a street address and the time to go out and find new customers.


I really for the words a person would tell a customer, when the printer doesn’t have a press.

Would he go around telling people one day, I am going to have a printing press can you give me work for it?

I just can’t see anyone giving a printer work, if the printer didn’t have a press right at that moment.

A common path is to get a press and put it into a cheap noncommercial space, such as garage or basement, and use it part-time while still working paying jobs. Build up a client base until a commercial space is sustainable.
I don’t see how specific work can be accepted or even estimated without knowing what press will be used to print it.

Hello Aaron

lets put it this way
most printers will not buy
some piece of equipment until
they know they have work for it

have worked in shops
contract was signed
then and only then was
equipment bought

yours truly

I want to thank everyone for their input.

The difference is that established printers already have space and customers and support equipment. Somebody with nothing at all (neither customers or equipment or space) can’t use the same strategy. To convince customers that you can take work that you cannot yet do is asking for trouble. And today’s customer is pretty vocal and unforgiving.

I know the shops I’ve worked will take in work they didn’t do in house, but sub’d it out to a printer with the right equipment. When they got enough of the work where it made sense to do in house they would start looking for the iron.

In my case, I bought presses and started doing work on my own. I started making cards and various other items, and put them up for sale online and at craft shows. That led to some income, and in traffic to my site and word of mouth, which then leads to other jobs.

I fellow I work with at my night job said, the reason they want me to have customers before purchasing a press, is they know it can’t be done and I will stop thinking about equipment.

Also, he mentioned if I had customers, but no press, shops I have been talking to, could talk me into letting them to the work for me. But, in doing that, the customers now will be the printers customers and I will be out in the cold.

Figure out what you want to print and that indicates the size of press you want.
Plenty of Folks out there who bought a press et al. and the business never really came together.
If you farm it out - find a printer and inspect his quality, ask for his Trade price, you have a Resale number of course.
You handle the client, charge for your services and the trade price of the Printer and your up charge. Client pay you, you pay the printer, usually than you pick up the goods.
You can build up clientel and learn at the same time, until you’re comfortable to step up.

Printing is a business, you buy a small Press and it doesn’t give you the impression you asked from the client.
You get a windmill and you’re out of your comfort zone.

You have to buy the press first. Every press purchase carries risk. That’s the way it works, nothing is guaranteed. It’s a leap of faith—-in yourself.