Legal Smarts for Letterpress

I have been thinking, if this hobby would ever grow into a business (a lot of things, some scary run thru the mind) I am wondering how a person can successfully navigate in this without being sued (the new tried and true get rich quick scheme for emotional damages…money curing all forms of hurts philosophy.)
Obviously you should be honest, reputable, willing to help at all times, good worker and for goodness sake spell everything right, but people are so strange these days in my observation, even if they say they like whatever, they change their mind and the vendor gets blamed for work both parties agreed to. I see this happening in wedding photography a lot. Didn’t know how it turns up in the wedding invite business, or any letterpress work.

I am curious if anyone wants to share some advice on the legal smarts of this business. What the elements of a good written contract would entail. How much liability insurance one should carry etc…..anything a potential person starting out should know before and ahead of time..

I have bought a couple books on letterpress business but I like to hear from persons as well as pages.


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What are you planning to print, that will get you into trouble?

Nothing….its just that sort of gut feeling you have about certain clients who are never satisfied with anything.

Fingers crossed, we have never been sued. We do carry liability insurance though.

I actually haven’t had an angry client since a long time ago (when I really deserved an angry client). Settled with her for 50% off, and I hear her rage-filled screams every time I fire up the press.

It may be that we select good clients, because when someone seems annoying I usually find a way to jack up the price. The top things I have found that keeps clients happy is good communication, meeting deadlines, and good packaging.

Quality-wise, our satisfaction guarantee offers reprints if you’re unhappy with the workmanship, but no refunds.

I have been in and around printing since the early 60’s. And, at times customers get upset. Just do your work the best you can. If you can’t meet the deadline, let the customer as soon as possible.

The reason a business has insurance is to take the worry of legal action. Insurance is cheaper than getting upset about everything in life. Your insurance agent can, sell you a policy that covers you, in case things go wrong.

Also, never take a big job, that has a short deadline. Example: Customer calls you, he needs 10,000 posters in three days, special paper he wants, and in printed in 3 colors of pms ink.

The fact you have to match 3 pms colors and purchase special paper should tell you turn the job down.

The reason: If you have any problems, getting the paper, matching the ink are just printing, you will miss the deadline and the customer will be SUPER upset with you.

Now, does this help you, with your question?

Thanks for your input Aaron! I appreciate it!
Printing Industry of America Trade Customs cover all the legal aspects of printer and customer relations. These have been around for years, since the days of hand-set type, with revisions as the printing process changes.

Always get a non-refundable deposit which covers your expenses. I send really picky customers to the paper store to buy the paper and envelopes themselves, so they have a vested interest in making the job turn out right. Avoid working for actors, musicians, churches and politicians; as none of them have money and will always try to get a freebee.


You should also take into consideration all things related to running a workshop - legal requirements of the zoning where you want to open up your business, noise and vibrations (neighbours might complain), and others such as health&safety, fire prevention etc.

Good luck!


Thank you all !


You have been given very good advice. Basically, set up as any other business. Conform to all legal requirements. Definitely get insurance.

In regard to getting rich, well, I don’t know of any letterpress printer who has gotten rich in a monetary way. Most of those who seem to be well off are well off for other reasons; it takes money to make money.

In regard to clients, pick and choose carefully. That, of course, is a calculated luxury. If you do it right, you will have an enjoyable and satisfying career.