Digital Original: Six Tips to Improve Your Prepress Department

Making money in printing doesn’t come from the big things. It happens because owners pay attention to the details and do the little things to make their business profitable and productive. A few of the following tips relating to technology may put some dollars in your pocket and make your shop run a little smoother.

Tip 1: Training Resource

Take advantage of Youtube training. There are thousands of hours of video training on YouTube that address almost every task performed in a print shop. Whether it is a video about an InDesign procedure, fixing an image problem with Photoshop, or showing how to create a database with Excel, the free advice can make your staff more productive.

It is up to managers to remember to schedule time for training as part of their daily production schedule.


Tip 2: Backup Often

Invest in an offsite backup system. Recent malware cyber attacks have crippled a number of shops by locking up files throughout the network and making them useless. The printers who were backing up to another hard drive attached to the network saw all of their files become worthless over night. Offsite backup is cheap insurance when you look at the estimated value of your customers’ files.


Tip 3: Increase Sales with Research

Use the Internet to learn about your prospects and your competitors. Now that almost all businesses have some sort of presence on the Internet, it is easy to learn what you need to get a competitive advantage. What services and products are your customers advertising online that need print and mail services? What services are your competitors selling? Is their website more impressive than yours? The clues offered by these websites can give you a selling advantage.

Tip 4: Go Beyond RIP 101

Learn about the features on your digital presses’ RIPs. Many RIPs have features printers don’t realize are there. Some, such as variable data software, allow printers to offer a new line of services. Other features let users automate many of the repetitive tasks with hot folders for imposition and other chores. There is no need to pay the big bucks for a high-speed color digital device and not use all of its capabilities.


Tip 5: Backup Some More

Protect your applications, serial numbers, and passwords. Computer disasters happen, but how a printer prepares for the situation could mean a world of difference in time and money spent getting the computers back to normal.

You may have your files backed up, but what about your applications? If you have your applications, do you have your serial numbers and key codes? Do you have all your passwords, including the ones to get you onto your software supplier’s website to get support? Twice a year you should review of all of your serial numbers, key codes, and passwords. Write them down and put them somewhere safe.

Whether it is a computer failure or an employee who resigns, you don’t want to have to figure out how to access something you need to run your business just because you lack the password.


Tip 6: Evaluate & Update Pricing

Review what you are charging for typesetting, design, and prepress services. Most printers fool themselves into thinking they are making money by saying they charge a high hourly rate. Then that rate is never applied to the job.

Regularly compare what the customer was charged with the actual amount of time it took to do the job. If you think you have too many small jobs to do that, institute a minimum charge of $25 to $50 for work that takes less than 15 minutes.

If a job is going to take more than an hour, the prepress staff must track the time to make sure the selling price covers the time put into the job. Keeping records also takes time and is part of the cost of doing the job, so your costs should cover the recordkeeping time. Don’t be one of those shops that pay their prepress department staff more than what is generated in prepress sales. The work is valuable and you should be paid for it.

These simple tips can add dollars to the bottom line. They save time and improve efficiency. Use them to help run your business rather than letting your business run you.


John Giles is a consultant and technology director for CPrint International. He is the author of “12 Secrets for Digital Success” and “The DTP PriceList”. Contact him at 954-224-1942 or You can also find John on Twitter at @JohnG247 and LinkedIn. Read his blog at Order John’s books from Crouser & Associates (