Get the prepress department involved in pricing. Remember that the prepress person isn’t responsible for sales. Some print owners lay the blame for low sales at the prepress department’s doorstep. Most prepress departments have nothing to do with what the customer is charged, yet they get the blame if the department looks unproductive when compared to sales. Owners will want to make sure that the prepress staff is involved in pricing the job. They should be tracking their time and making sure that time is reflected in the final selling price. The prepress staff should keep track of any jobs sold for less than what the prepress price should have been and report the variance daily to the owners.
Charge for author alterations. Many customers don’t know what they want, so they use the proofing process to start redesigning their work. The customer service representatives or sales people should let the customer know that changes by the customer during the proofing process will result in a higher charge.
Hold customers to proofing standards. Too many printers complain that customers fail to approve proofs in a timely manner and cause extra costs to the printers as they try to make the original delivery date. To stop losing money in this situation, a printer should either change the delivery date, or charge extra to make the original delivery date if the proof date is missed.
Track prepress sales on a daily basis. Do you know what your sales projection is for the month? Do you know what your totals sales are for the month? Your prepress sales? Since sales are the single most important part of a print owner’s job, sales should be tracked on a daily basis. The accumulative total can easily be calculated into the projected monthly sales. By focusing on your sales on a daily basis—in particular prepress sales—you will see a stronger effort by your staff to meet the sales goals. Printing is an important game and you have to keep your eye on the score on a daily basis.
Use outside services. If you can’t make money with your prepress department, then job out the services to an outside source. With the Internet it is easy to find third-party vendors who will do typesetting and design for the trade. Most of these companies provide 24 hour turnaround for a set, published fee. If you can buy it for one and sell it for two, you might be better off doing it outside the shop rather than losing money doing it yourself.
Compare rates with online services. Most printers don’t really know what to charge, but the Internet is making it easier to see what the market value of design and typesetting is in the world. Just use an Internet search engine and search for “logo design services” or “online print design services” and you will find hundreds of sites with pricing for a variety of work. Most printers will find their prices are much cheaper than the Internet printers for most design and typesetting work. Design and typesetting firms for the trade are very reasonable.
Don’t cut the prepress price when a job is repeated. Do you automatically lower the price of a repeating order if the last order contained prepress costs? When you consider the costs of maintaining and archiving files for customers, you may be losing money to pull up the old files. Most customers were happy with the first price and are happy to pay the same price for the reorder. Usually, a printer gets into trouble here because to justify his prepress prices the first time he offers to eliminate the price if the customer places a reorder. You will probably have to do something to the job when you call up the file, so keep the prepress costs from the first order in the second order.
Most printers see the prepress department as a necessary evil they have to deal with to get their printing work. Printers need to make sure they are making a profit with that department because in the future the entire shop will evolve around the prepress department. Almost all of the new products and services predicted to be offered by quick printers will originate in the prepress department. If printers continue to give away prepress activities as they do now, they will just put themselves out of business faster. The profits from printing in the next decade won’t be from the print side of the house. They will be from digital and prepress services and the management of content for the customer. Printers had better become comfortable in seeing larger prepress invoices now or they will be looking for an exit strategy within the next 10 years.