Another issue is bad graphics. Sometimes it may be less expensive to print the file on a higher priced output device. For example, it might be more expensive to output a file to a digital color printer than to print it on an offset press, but the additional costs may be less than the cost to have the prepress department fix the file.
One technique that is used to price customer created files is to charge a 30-minute file handling fee. This gives the prepress person 30 minutes to get the file to print. If it cannot be output within 30 minutes, the job is stopped and the customer is told that the file failed to print. The customer is then given the option to either make the correction or let the printer fix the file for a certain price. How long it will take to fix the file is easily calculated since the prepress person already knows the problems.
Some printers object to this procedure because “they have already given a quote on the job.” If the job was quoted based on ready-to-print, customer created computer files, then the customer hasn’t completed their part of the agreement for that quoted price.
Printers who want to eat the charges should take a close look at the profit margins for the other production tasks. In many cases, the extra time used and not charged for by the prepress staff isn’t recovered in the selling price for the rest of the job. That is how the prepress department becomes the “black hole” of printing. It sucks profits away not only by not covering the prepress costs, but by taking profits from printing and bindery functions.
Design work is more complicated and has more value. This is a job where the designer is creating something for the customer. He is designing a newsletter and giving it a professional look. He is designing a corporate identity (business cards, letterhead, envelopes, and logo). Here you add value with the creativity and experience of the designer.
If the customer asks why it costs so much, tell them you are creating original work for them. If they want a lower price, they can put something together and you can typeset it for them. They pick the typeface, size, stock logos, etc., and you put it together so it will print. If the designer is using his creativity, then you are adding value and you should charge for it.
Freelance designers, ad agencies, and independent desktop publishers charge for the value of their creative skills. Why don’t printers? Designers charge for the time spent thinking about the job. They charge for research, meeting with the customers, telephone calls, and anything related to the job. Printers must approach design services in the same way and communicate to the customer that they are doing custom work with talent that the customer can’t get anywhere else.
If printers can segment their prepress, typesetting, and design work into different categories, they will be easier to price, manage, and make profitable. A printer should know how long prepress and typesetting will take and what the market value is for those tasks. The only real opened ended work will be the design work, where price should be less of an issue since the printer is providing value through the creative experience of the design staff.
If printers added just a few dollars to every order that touches the desktop publishing department each day, they could make money in prepress.
What’s Next After QR CODES?
You may have started noticing more and more QR codes popping up around you. Since we started talking about QR codes more than a year ago, the little squares are going mainstream. This trend is expected to continue as more people purchase smartphones with the ability to read the codes.
Now start watching for AR (Augmented Reality) codes that allow a viewer to see a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated sensory input such as sound or graphics. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.
If the AR code is viewed through a smartphone or a computer connected camera, the viewer sees something different. A business card becomes a three-dimensional object. A street can have an overlay of digital information over the scene that allows the user to find out more about what he is seeing. Characters and scenes can rise out of the pages of a children’s story book and dance across the pages. The possibilities are endless. Hallmark had special AR cards available during the past holiday season.