There are a number of new products and services available for printing companies today. Variable data services, list management, website design and support, social media management, PURL marketing campaigns, and other services are giving printers new revenue opportunities. But sadly, the learning curve is steep on the new services and printers need to make money today. To make money, printers only need to take an honest look at how they are pricing their prepress and desktop publishing services.Pricing procedures are still the biggest problem in most print shops. What are your desktop publishing/design sales? Are you making more in that department than you are paying in labor costs? If you just break even in that department, you need to either raise your prices or close it down and job out the work. I recently visited a shop where the total DTP sales looked good because all the plate charges were given to that department. Take away the plates and the company wasn’t doing enough typesetting or design business to cover the prepress person’s wages.
Define the Process
Are you doing design or prepress? Getting customer computer files to print is the job of a prepress technician, not a graphic designer. Since, in most shops, the prepress technician is the graphic designer, do you price work differently because the task requires different skills?
There is a difference between prepress work, typesetting, and design work. If the salespeople are able to identify the different classes of desktop publishing work, then applying a pricing procedure becomes easier.
Prepress work is that work that is required to get a job to print. It has a standard price or value. If a task should take one hour, you price it for one hour of work. Typical prepress prices are from $75 to $100 per hour. The minimum charge for prepress is 30 minutes. Not adding or charging for prepress is like not charging for the paper on a press run. Prepress is a function of most jobs, so you will have at least a 30 minute prepress charge on all jobs. Prepress functions are those functions that have to be done to get a final job. You have to retrieve a file, make a plate, impose a file, send a file to a digital machine, etc. You can assign a price to each step and charge accordingly.
Then there is typesetting. This is when you replicate a job. The customer gives you a sample of the original and you recreate it. What is required from the operator is typesetting skills. They have knowledge of page layout and illustration programs and can create a printable file. Some jobs are more complicated than others. The only design usually done is deciding on the typeface, type size, line length, and picking a piece of art from the electronic clip art file.
For prepress and typesetting, you can easily apply a price to the work because it can usually be done within a certain time. You know how long it takes to make a plate or fix a file. You know how long it should take to typeset the copy provided by the customer.
Are you charging enough for the tasks that take a particular amount of time to complete? This is where most printers lose their money. They don’t charge enough for the task being done. They charge for 15 minutes of time when it takes 45 minutes. They forget a step that takes time and don’t charge for it. Printers must be more realistic in estimating the time it takes to perform the prepress or typesetting tasks and price accordingly.
It quickly becomes obvious that there is a pricing problem if the desktop publishing department is billing less than the labor costs, particularly if the work consists mainly of prepress and typesetting functions.
Some printers say that one problem is they don’t know how long it will take to get a customer’s file ready for print. This can be solved by having standards for how customers should submit computer files for print. Customers who do not follow the standards should be charged to have the files repaired. If a printer must fix a file, then the charge should be no higher than the cost to typeset the file. It is often less expensive to reset the file rather than try to fix it.