guide digital printing

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Digital Printing

By Hayley Thornton

Starting a small business can be both exhilarating and stressful. After all, there are so many things to think about and prepare for. Fortunately, one area that has become substantially easier for smaller businesses over the years has been the rise of digital printing.  

Being a small business owner, you will understand that paper is not something you can really get away from. Whether it’s business cards, letterhead, brochures, notepads or menus, printed materials are vital to getting your brand noticed.

A few years ago, off-set printing was generally the go-to printing option for businesses, but now digital printing is on the rise. Traditional methods, such as lithographic or off-set printing, still require a time-consuming process where customized printing plates need to be made for each print run. This is a far cry from digital printing, where you can print at the literal click of a button.

That’s not to say that digital printing is definitely the best choice though. Traditional printing methods tend to produce better quality prints, and can offer better value for money depending on the size of the print run. Digital printing tends to win out when it comes to ease and efficiency.

Benefits of Digital Printing

Here we break down some of key benefits of using digital printing.

1. Cost

Digital printing doesn’t require specific plates to be produced for each run. This means there are no set-up costs, and the price is considerably cheaper. It’s also a lot quicker and easier, which saves you money in the long run as well.

Likewise, some digital printing services allow you to combine multiple print jobs into a single quote saving your business money on shipping costs.

2. Convenience

To use a digital printing service, all you need is a laptop and an internet connection. Once you’ve selected your chosen online vendor, you simply need to create an account with them, upload your artwork, customize it to your satisfaction and submit it. Easy, right?

Using an online printer is also a lot more convenient than having to go into a printing store yourself. It also enables you to use digital printers from around the world, rather than those localized to your region (which tend to cost more).

3. Speed

Digital printing is faster – a lot faster – than other printing methods. You don’t have to wait days for plates to be made or for ink to dry. The turnaround time is much more efficient, and some online printing services can even offer same or next-day collection.

4. Eco-Friendliness

Traditional printing methods often feature a minimum order quantity, meaning you end up printing more than you need. Digital printing has no such minimum quantity – you can pick and choose the exact quantities you need, meaning there’s no waste. Digital printing is therefore much more sustainable and eco-friendly than other methods.

Drawbacks

Now it’s time to consider some of the drawbacks of digital printing.

1. Online

While being able to print online offers a lot of ease and convenience, it can also be a disadvantage. This is because you miss out on being able to assess the paper quality before getting going with the print run. You also aren’t able to check how the colors work before the print run commences, so you could be left disappointed with how the final result looks. It’s easy to prevent this though, by requesting samples from your preferred vendor before placing your order.

2. Number of Services

Due to the rise of the internet, online printing has become a somewhat crowded market. Performing a simple Google search for ‘where to buy business cards online’ will come up with millions of different printing services for you to choose from. While you may think that level of choice is a good thing, it can make it difficult to know which vendor is best to use. Make sure to check out testimonials and reviews for each printing company, and assess for yourself the level of service you are likely to receive.

Things to Think About

Now we’ve established the benefits and drawbacks of digital printing, here’s another few things to think about before you get going with your print run.

1. Personal Touch

Printing companies now offer smaller print run options, due to smaller businesses’ requiring more of a personal touch with their printed materials. It’s important, as a brand, to stay current and informed to reach your customers. Printing smaller batches of prints on a more regular basis allows you to create materials with your customers in mind, rather than large print runs with clichéd corporate messages.

2. Paper Choice

Once you have decided on your vendor, you need to then think about the type of paper you want to use for your prints, and there is more to this choice than meets the eye. You need to think about the paper’s weight, type, size and coating, to ensure that your prints come out exactly as you want them to.

3. Quality > Price

Price isn’t everything when it comes to printing. While it’s obviously important, ensuring your prints are of a sufficient quality is more so. Don’t just go for the printing service which offers the best price. Look for the vendor who offers the best quality at the best price. Look at company reviews and testimonials to see what previous clients thought about their work.

4. Vendor Services

Make sure to look at the range of services that each printing vendor can offer. Choosing a vendor who can print more than one material could help streamline your printing tasks. After all, it could allow you to get everything done in one place, rather than having to divide tasks out among other vendors.

Final Thoughts

Digital printing has come a long way over the years, fast-becoming the go-to printing method for small businesses due to its speed and convenience. It may not provide the same level of quality as traditional printing methods, but it’s getting pretty close.

There are some key things to remember when choosing a vendor though. First, make sure they are reliable and offer a good range of services. Second, don’t just look at the price they offer – look at the quality they offer too, via client reviews and testimonials. Third, ask for samples of their work before going ahead with your run. You want to ensure that you’re definitely making the right choice.

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos
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Hayley Thornton
Hayley is a Brighton based writer and recent graduate. Hayley enjoys sharing her passion for business and design through her writing. Often keeping up to date with the latest digital design trends, she draws inspiration from established companies such as YouLovePrint.

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