I'll be finishing school soon (this summer), and am considering starting my own printing business. With this economic slump, are any of you noticing a significant drop in business? There also seems to be an influx of new letterpress printers these days in general, which adds to the competition for work (not necessarily a bad thing). Are any of you looking for other ways to make ends meet, and do you think this is generally a good or bad time to start a new letterpress business?
We are doing about the same amount of business as last year at this time- My boss has been a letterpress printer since she was 14 and owned her business for 17 years, so our client base is good. They are ordering less and our new customers are asking for discounts and that is new for us. But we do what we need to do to keep the presses running. Are you going to print for designers and event planners or are you designing your own work?. Are you going to set type or use digital files, film and polymer plates to produce your work?
I think I would create a business plan and do a fair amount of research before jumping in. In the mean time- keep printing- the more you print, the better you will get and the more confident you will be. I'm a prepress tech, graphic designer, and run the presses when needed. I am happy to answer questions and If I don;t know the answer, I can bet my boss does. Good Luck to you and enjoy
I second Bev--it's key to research and ask questions, and the value of getting started, messing up, and learning from those experiences is impossible to exaggerate. You also have to keep going through the days you don't want to continue, or are discouraged or fed up, since, cliche as it sounds, the rewards are worth it.
The key to a successful business is first doing research. Do you have any shops like yours in the surrounding area? Will your shop be catering to a special niche? Price points? Do companies and consumers around you need a service you are providing? Know you won't get rich anytime soon being a letterpress printer, long long hours doing anything and everything to get orders out. The glory is design and letterpress but then there's also invoicing, estimating, ordering and keeping track of supplies, keeping the presses and equipment you have well conditioned, the cost of materials (which are skyrocketing). If you are planning to do commercial letterpress printing or custom - do you have a pr plan? How will you get the word out? What if you get a lot of orders in a small period of time, can you get full or part time staff to help? Do you have enough experience to start a printing business? We're on the Letpress list and see too many times where new printers get a job they can hardly handle on their presses and then asking for help at the 11th hour. Sorry to be such a downer but these are all legit questions to ask before you start a business. It takes a lot of labor, stress and money to build a successful business no matter how small.
To answer the rest of your questions...
There are an influx of new letterpress printers out lately, which is great for the letterpress industry. You can compete still, it's such a small % of printers as a whole, if you are creating something that people want to buy and they're buying it, you don't have to worry much about competition. There is still a lot of room for great design printed letterpress. We shop the gift and stationery stores and you can clearly see good design from everything else. In this nasty market, it's more than slapping a vintage graphic on Lettra and selling it for $5/card.
I think it's a good time to start any business when there's a need for your product or service in your area. As long as you have enough capital and have a good plan, you're already half way there.
Good luck with everything and let me know how we can help you on your journey!
I agree with all that has been said. It sometimes feels like the market is saturated with letterpress printers right now. But I also feel as though there is never too much good art out there. So if you have your own style to put out there and you're willing to put in a LOT of time and elbow grease, dive in!
Maybe pick up a copy of Meg Mateo Ilasco's Craft Inc. book published by Chronicle. She has a lot of good "starting a craft biz" tips.
Best of Luck!