By Lars Lofgren
Printing is a great industry to start up in. There is a wide range of options when it comes to printing services which means you can specialize and find your corner of the market.
But setting up a printing business is no small venture. It requires a large investment and astute planning.
So in this post, we’ll guide you through every step to make sure the process runs smoothly from conception to launch.
The Easy Parts of Starting a Printing Business
It’s worth noting that printing services remain in-demand, despite the advent of the digital age. In fact, the commercial printing industry is forecast to grow in the next five years.
You might think that setting up a retail establishment is particularly difficult, especially as opposed to setting up a digital business where most of the work and/or transactions are completed online.
But the truth is, getting your hands on the hardware and software you need to take payments for a retail business is surprisingly easy these days. There are many affordable and easy-to-use Point of Sale (POS) systems on the market.
For example, you can get a free card reader and free POS software with Square. Or use the tool to turn your own phone or tablet into a card reader.
We recommend Square as it’s easy to get set up and the company offers transparent fees on each transaction.
The Difficult Parts of Starting a Printing Business
Printing is rather an expensive business to start compared to some other industries. This is due to the need for specialist equipment. Depending on the type of printing you wish to do and the scale of your operation, you may need tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in investment.
Naturally, that means you’ll need to acquire funding. So you’ll likely need to think about how you’re going to attract investors or appease lenders from the get-go.
This means you’ll need to put a ton of energy into creating a strong market offering, as well as carefully researching and planning every aspect of the development of your business so that financiers are happy to get involved.
But of course, it isn’t impossible. And if you get the planning stage right, you’ll be off to a good start.
Step 1: Plan and Research
19% of failed startups don’t make it due to a flawed business model. Thus, it’s crucial you create a detailed plan for success plus have a firm understanding of your offering and how you’ll finance the whole thing.
Choose Printing Services
Choosing which services to offer early on is vital as it will govern many of the next steps. For example, what kind of printing equipment you need to purchase and who your target market is.
It’s a good idea to choose a particular sub-sector of printing rather than offering general printing services. Choose a niche market and you can determine your ideal customers and target them more successfully. Plus, you’ll benefit from less competition.
There are many areas of printing to choose from, such as:
- Publishing – books, magazines, journals, newspapers, etc.
- Business – branded materials e.g. letterheads, marketing materials e.g. brochures
- Signage and banners
- Promotional items (e.g. mugs, bumper stickers)
- Garments (e.g. T-shirts, sweatshirts, bags)
Research Your Target Market
Each type of printing service comes with its own target market. In other words, customers with particular requirements, pain points, and values. To sell to these people successfully, you need to understand them.
To start with, you may wish to create an ideal customer profile. Base this customer profile on hard evidence rather than conjecture. For example, you might conduct surveys or access relevant databases to find the information you need.
HubSpot has a handy Make my Persona tool to help you create the profile. It includes items such as demographic traits, industry (for those seeking B2B customers), challenges, responsibilities, and the like.
Create a Business Plan
A business plan is an essential roadmap for growth. When you outline your goals and the specific steps you’ll take to achieve them, you’ll be so much more likely to accomplish what you set out to do.
Your business plan should contain the following information:
- Executive Summary – A quick outline of your business, your mission statement, business structure, location, and high-level growth plans.
- Company Description – More details about your company, the value you provide, competitive advantages, and problems you solve for your customer base.
- Market Analysis – Competitor research, what differentiates your business, target market research, and trends.
- Service Details – The printing services you’ll provide, how services are packaged, equipment, and facilities you’ll use.
- Marketing Plan – Strategies for customer acquisition and promotion.
- Financial Plan – Financial projections, budgets, expenses, and how you’ll get funding.
If you hope to open a printing shop, you’ll likely need a large investment as there are many startup and ongoing expenses to consider. The investment needed depends on the scale of the business and the type of equipment you’ll need.
So, you’ll need to research your expenses carefully. Along with equipment, you must factor in rent or mortgage payments on a location, business management and accounting software, marketing expenses, payroll, and the costs associated with legally forming a business.
Once you’ve prepared a budget you can seek funding. You may be able to bootstrap the business which means using your own funds, for example from savings. You might consider applying for a bank loan or line of credit. Alternatively, you may seek out investors. These could be friends and family, or entrepreneurs/groups that’ll take a share in the company in exchange for funding.
Step 2: Legally Form the Business
There are certain legal requirements that every new business needs to take care of. These processes may require a lot of time and effort. But, they’re certainly worthwhile. Taking care of the legal aspects protects the personal assets of business owners.
Choose an Organizational Structure
Choosing an organizational structure for your business will influence how the company operates. It also allows you to form a legal business entity, which prevents you from being personally liable for any legal or financial problems the business may incur.
An informal structure such as a sole tradership or general partnership may put you at risk. Forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a better option. It’s a simple business structure in which the company is owned by members whose personal assets are protected.
A Corporation is a more complex structure where the business is owned by shareholders. But, it may be the right choice if you need to attract investors for the business.
Register the Business
If you decide to form an LLC or Corporation, you must register the business at the state level. It’s a legal requirement. However, it also has benefits such as securing your business name and intellectual property.
Speaking of the business name, it’s strongly recommended that you perform a local business search before you make a final choice. This is to ensure your business name is distinguishable from others in your area.
The procedures and fees involved in registering an LLC or Corporation vary from state to state. It will involve filing legal documents such as Articles of Organization, which you can usually do online.
Visit the Secretary of State website for your region. You must read and carefully follow the rules and regulations laid out in order for your filings to be successful.
Register for Taxes
Another legal requirement is, of course, registering for state and federal taxes. You must do this before you start doing business.
To register for taxes, you first need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. You also need this number to open a business bank account and to be able to hire employees.
Apply for your EIN using the IRS’s EIN Assistant. It’s free and you’ll receive an EIN immediately upon completion.
Open a Business Bank Account
A business bank account offers a corporate veil. This means you separate your personal finances from your business finances and therefore protect your personal assets. Opening a business bank account also makes accounting and filing tax returns a lot simpler.
In some cases, it may be easier to open a business bank account with the same bank you use for your personal account. But, it’s always a good idea to shop around to find the business bank account with the best services to meet your requirements and the lowest fees.
You may also wish to seek out other benefits in a business bank account such as introductory offers, good interest rates, and low transaction fees.
You may also wish to consider insuring your business to mitigate risks. It’ll help your company survive in the case of losses, unexpected events, or legal issues.
There are various types of business insurance. To start off with, consider general liability insurance. This covers the company in claims of bodily injury or property damage that occurs in the workplace.
Another type of coverage to consider is workers’ compensation insurance. This helps to pay for medical care, lost wages, and other benefits related to workplace injuries.
Given the nature of a printing business, you may also consider taking out commercial property insurance to cover your location and the equipment inside.
Step 3: Set Up Shop
Setting up shop and actually launching your printing business is exciting. But, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Once you take care of the practicalities, you’ll need to create a memorable brand and put strategies in place to acquire customers.
Find a Location
The great thing about opening a printing business is that you don’t necessarily need a high foot-traffic location to attract customers. Potential customers are more likely to research printing businesses online before visiting a store.
When choosing a location, think carefully about the needs of your business and its customers. For example, you’ll likely need to find a location with warehouse space and easy-access parking, as well as a storefront.
After bagging a location, be sure to register your business address with online directories and Google My Business so that customers can easily find you online.
Having the right equipment ensures the smooth running of your business.
Naturally, the equipment you require depends on the printing services you offer. For example, you may need a screen printer for textiles or a flexographic printing machine for packaging.
Remember that, as well as printing equipment, you need further facilities to get your store going. One of the most important pieces is, of course, your POS. As mentioned above, we recommend Square as it’s a flexible and transparent payment system. Plus, you can get started for free.
Create a Brand
Creating a memorable and trustworthy brand is everything. 59% of consumers prefer to buy products from familiar brands.
There are many aspects to building a brand. But, some key things to consider are creating a brand that makes you stand out from competitors and one that resonates with customers and their values.
Create branding guidelines that not only outline design elements but also what you stand for and hope to portray as a business. Then make sure your online presence, marketing, and customer service reflect these things.
Promote Your Services
The only thing that’s left to do is to acquire customers. Putting a strong marketing and sales strategy in place is important to help you develop repeatable processes that’ll help you grow your customer base consistently.
The first step is to make sure you thoroughly understand your target audience. The reason is that different marketing materials appeal to different people. Then create your marketing and sales plan with this information in mind.
Every printing business will require an online presence. Set up an easy-to-use, clean website. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to find the information they need, e.g. contact information, and make purchases from you.
Then, using your research, target your audience specifically where they hang out. For example, if your services are B2B you might secure contracts via LinkedIn but for B2C you may find customers through Facebook ads.