The Best Small Business Printing Options - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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Pros and Cons of Using a Commercial Printer

The prime advantage of using a commercial printer over using your own small business printer is that you don't have to figure out the printing specs like you do with every other printing option, including MagCloud and your own printer. For example, MagCloud has a "tips and tools" section on its website to deal with issues such as trim and bleed because such printing problems are common among users. But those problems exist with nearly every online printing service.

And who hasn't scanned an image upside down on their own all-in-one printer or been stuck with a white border when you wanted the color or image to bleed all the way to the edge?

Enter brick-and-mortar commercial printers to the rescue. They can turn your primitive sketches into something that actually turns out like you envisioned it.

"Using a local, experienced print shop gives SMBs convenience of access to your print projects and customer service representative," said Deborah Simpson, president of Multi-Craft, a family-owned printing operation in the Cincinnati area.

"Additionally, it allows a small business to develop a strategic partnership with its print vendor and customer service rep so that they can develop a top notch project [with] the rep providing solutions for their marketing and collateral needs," she added. "If there are any issues in production, it is much more likely for a local vendor – with whom you have an established relationship -- to correct any error, quickly and at no cost, than an online vendor."

Beyond traditional brick-and-mortar print shops, business centers such as a local FedEx store can help with your printing needs on the fly.

"Not only are they conveniently located, I can also email them the print job, including instructions, e.g., four copies; coil-bound; clear cover; blue back cover; four black-and-white and one color, etc.," explained Asturias. "Plus, although they are no longer a 24-hour operation, they're open weekends and late on weekdays, so I can often finish a project at 10 pm, email it to them, and pick it up the next day on the way to a client or prospect's office."

"In addition, they often have supplies that I need to finish the job, such as a proposal cover," she said. "Most of the time I can be in and out in less than 15 minutes and on my way to a client."

But, yes, you guessed it; there are drawbacks to this option, too.

"It can be inconvenient having to pick it up, especially if I'm running late," said Asturias. "Most important, it can be very expensive, especially if you're printing in color. I once spent nearly $100 on four copies of a full-color proposal, including coil-binding and cover."

How to Choose a Small Business Printing Option

Enter nearly any brick-and-mortar print shop, and you'll likely see a yellowed and tattered poster that says "Good. Fast. Cheap.  Choose Two."  That pretty much sums the situation up.

Decide which printing option to use for any given project based on the quality you need, the cost you're willing to pay, and the speed with which you need it. Those parameters will help you quickly narrow down the options to those most effective for your needs.

Also consider the the following factors:

  • The size of the project, both in terms of the unit's physical dimensions and also in volume. For example, if you need an over-sized point-of-purchase poster, a heavy-weight paper stock, or 1,000 bound copies of an eBook or presentation, then printing it on your desktop printer isn't really an option
  • If you will be printing from a mobile device, then consider compatibility and conversion issues to narrow your printing options
  • If you need to print to paper and print digitally, then look to options that allow you to do so in one command
  • When considering costs, be sure to include the value of your time in the computation
  • Lastly, don't forget to plan ahead so you can take advantage of pricing deals from free shipping to bulk-buying breaks

Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on August 22, 2012
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