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The chief mistake I made when I was running my own print business was not to charge enough for work. I had the basic estimating costs right, and I built in overheads and everything else. My mistake was not to allow for expansion. And holidays. The prospect of employing someone else to do the printing. Or moving into larger premises. Consideration of all these things means you should charge more than the basics for your work. Whatever that is.

The print industry is often driven by price however, and there are always others willing to undercut yours. That makes life difficult, especially when you are starting out and don’t have the goodwill or a portfolio of quality work behind you.

After the experience of self-employment, when I became an employee in a print company, funnily enough as an estimator, I could see that I had been doing all the right things. The difference was that I was now working in a specialist market – the continuous stationery business – at a time when that was taking off. Everyone was buying dot matrix printers and running off invoices and statements. The shipping industry was churning out six part Waybills by the 1000’s. And no-one knew what the right price was. We were a trade printer dealing with brokers. They were putting 50 or 100% on the job. We were putting 20 – 50% on the prices to them. And we were still getting lots of work!

My other problem when self-employed was not aiming high enough. I concentrated on small companies: estate agents, other local start-ups who didn’t really have a lot of cash. With hindsight now I would do a mailshot to bigger businesses, get larger contracts. Charge more. Value myself, my work and experience more highly.

Postscript: The print industry is a strange thing, in what other industry can you do a job and not expect to get paid for 30, 60 or in some cases 90 days? That’s madness. Would you go into Sainsbury, take out a trolley full of shopping and tell them you’ll pay for it in a month or two?