So far in this series, we have taken a broad overview of the two methods as well as a more detailed look at the pros and cons of printing in-house. I have mentioned that I choose to outsource the majority of my printing work. Although it has been a wonderful decision for me and my business, that may not mean that it will be the best option for you. As with most things, there is not a right or a wrong answer.
For the final post in this series comparing in-house printing to outsourcing, we will be looking at the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing.
Benefits to outsourcing your printing
It frees up your time
It is wonderful to receive your final approval from your client, send the print files to your printer, and then having a nice 2-3 week window where you can work on other projects and not really think about the printing until you receive a box in the mail with your beautifully printed piece inside ready to be calligraphed and assembled.
For me, it is almost always worth paying my printer to do this work for me because, for me at this stage in my life, my time is better spent on other things and there are many things that I would rather spend my time on than printing - be that business projects or just spending time with my daughter.
No fighting with machines
This speaks for itself, but if I send my files off to be printed and there is a problem with the printing machines, it is not me that has to deal with it or fight with the machines on order to fix the problem. As this is something that I hate doing. I love not having to deal problem printing machines.
As discussed in the previous post, my commercial printer can do so much more than I am able to do in my small studio. I do not have a letterpress, a commercial paper cutter, a die-cutter, a laser engraver, or anything more than relatively simple digital printing capabilities.
As I have moved into luxury stationery, more of my clients choose these methods and therefore I have to outsource all of these projects. Also, because I have a relationship with my printer, if there is something that I want done that he does not do, he always knows where to direct me and I am not left hitting a wall if a client wants to do something out of the box.
I will say that home printers have come a long way from where they were when I began over six years ago, but I still remember the first time that I picked up my first outsourced order. The qualithy was noticeable higher from my commercial printer than what I was able to produce in-house at that time. While it is certainly possible to create beautifully printed work in-house, I always somehow feel that the work from my commercial printer is just a tiny bit better than what I am able to produce. That being said, it can depend on a few factors and some commercial printers work is lacking so do your due diligence.
Drawbacks to outsourcing your printing
Like you, your printer has many clients and is not sitting around waiting for your files to be sent so that she can get started on them right away. When you send in your files, there will usually be a 2-3 week turnaround time and sometimes that is fine, but there are times - and we have all been there - where we are in a rush. You may have to pay a rush fee (you can choose whether to pass this on to your client, but that is another subject for another time) or you may end up in a bind and having to work very late to get the assembly and calligraphy completed in time.
Unfortunately there has been more than once time where my printer had a problem, like his studio flooding - twice! and that set him back on my project which in turn put me into the position of having to really rush to meet the timeline although it was not my fault. These things happen and when you are outsourcing, they are completely outside of your control.
May not print on certain items
Namely, I am referring to digital printing on handmade paper. Although there are a few types of deckle edge paper that are approved for digital printing such as Arturo and Rossi, most handmade paper is a challenge to print digitally and I have yet to work with a commercial printer who will do that. Some will not even accept the Rossi/Arturo. I have even heard that there are printers who will not work on handmade of any kind even for letterpress due to the irregular edges, however most do.
If you are set on digital printing on handmade paper, you will most likely find yourself printing them in-house.
Of course if you are working with a local printer then this will not be an issue, however many stationers work with non-local printers and therefore are subject to both shipping costs and shipping time to consider. My printer is out of state to me so I always have to remember to account for the 2-day shipping time when I am planning out my client timeline.
You will also be charged shipping form your printer that you will then be passing along to your client. Although this is usually not all that much, shipping has gone up so this will probably add another $25 - $50 or more so you need to be aware and make sure that your pricing accounts for these costs.
When you outsource your printing, you are adding an additional item to your product cost and therefore your profit margin will be slightly lower than if you are printing in-house. However, as previously discussed, you are also not spending any of your time doing the printing. The bottom line is that you may make a little more money per job on paper, but you have to weigh your time spent to see if it is really a better way for you.
Clearly there are many factors to consider in regards to your printing and there is no right or wrong answer. I have many stationer friends who print in-house and others, myself included, who prefer to outsource. I hope that this information is useful as you consider what type of printing is the best fit for you.
What have you found is the best printing method for you? Do you prefer to keep things in-house or do you love sending your files off to print?