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Make the most out of print brokering.
In episode 49 of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I talked about offering print brokering as a means to supplement your design business. If you do print design and do not offer print brokering, you’re losing out on a lot of potential income. I made over $1,000 from three different print jobs this past week alone. And that’s not counting how much I charged for creating the designs themselves.
One of those three jobs was reprinting an existing flyer for a client. It took me less than 3 minutes to find the print file, send it to the printer along with specifications for the order, including instructions to deliver the finished job to my client. Then I sent an invoice to my client. That 3 minutes of work earned me over $300 in print brokering commission.
What is print brokering?
If you are unfamiliar with print brokering, it’s when you act as the middleman between your client and the printer. In some cases, you mark up the printing price to invoice your client, and in other cases, you get a discount from the printer and charge your client the non-discounted cost, keeping the difference for yourself.
Clients like it when you offer this service because they don’t have to deal with the printer directly. Printers like this setup because they get to deal with someone who understands how things work. Listen to episode 49 of the podcast to learn more about print brokering.
Today I’m sharing ways to augment the money you make by print brokering. And not simply by increasing your markup. However, that is a way to do it. No, I’m talking about ways to improve your revenue, and at the same time, your client feels like they’re getting a better deal.
Upselling and Cross-Selling.
Let’s start with upselling and cross-selling. What are they, and what’s the difference between the two?
Upselling is when you offer more of the same thing. Think of McDonald’s when they offer to upgrade your medium drink to a large for only $0.25 more. That’s an upsell. You get a larger drink, and they get more money.
Cross-selling is when you offer an additional thing. When you order a burger and drink, McDonald’s will always ask you if you want to make a combo? That’s a cross-sell. In this case, you get something else, fires, and they collect more money.
Upselling and Cross-Selling Print Brokering.
How do you use these two concepts in print brokering?
You can upsell a print job in many different ways. But the easiest is through the paper stock and printing options. Printing on a specialty paper stock will improve the look and appeal of a printed job, which may interest your client. It will also increase the cost, which in turn increases your profit.
Printing using spot colours is a great way to improve the look of some printed pieces.
I have a client who is a lawyer. She insists on using spot colours for her business card. We could accomplish a similar result using CMYK, but she likes the flat look of the spot colours and is willing to accept the higher printing costs to get the look she wants. And in turn, I make more money on every print run.
Novelty stocks are a great upsell. Do you have a client who’s a window washer? Suggest clear business cards. How about a client in the construction or industrial industry? Suggest laser engraved metal cards. A client in the outdoor space may be willing to spend more on wooden business cards.
- foil stamping
- rounding corners
- Gilded edges
- specialty folds
- laminations or special coatings.
These are all printing options you can upsell to your clients.
Another way to upsell is to suggest larger quantities. Most of the operating costs in a print run occur in the setup stage–pre-press, printing plates, press set up, ink, etc. After that, all that’s left is paper and time. That’s why in most cases, the more you order, the less per unit the printing costs. Five hundred business cards may cost $50. Doubling the order to 1000 cards may only be $65. That’s an easy thing to sell a client on. They get more for their money spent. And you get more as your commission.
Like the McDonald’s combo, cross-selling a print order involves additional items.
When a client comes to you for business cards, you may want to suggest additional items such as thank you cards. If you’re asked to design invitations for an event, you could offer table cards or place cards. If it’s for a wedding, you could also suggest thank you cards and perhaps gift tags the couple can attach to whatever gifts they’re handing out to their guests.
Many designers offer stationery packs or bundles that include business cards, letterheads and envelopes. The bundle is less expensive than ordering each individually, which is great for your client. But it’s also usually more than what they initially thought to order. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve convinced a client to order envelopes to go with letterhead or maybe an invoice or other form. And it all means more revenue for me.
Another way to cross-sell is to suggest multiple print runs for various languages. I did this just recently. A client hired me to design coasters for a local campaign. When they gave the information for the coasters, I noticed it was all in English. Our local area is bilingual in English and French, so I asked if they would like me to design a French coaster simultaneously, which they agreed to. This doubled the print run and doubled my profit.
Create opportunities for more print runs (more profit).
So far, I’ve been talking about increasing your revenue by printing more at a time–either larger quantities or more items. But another way to earn more money from print brokering is by designing something that has an “expiry date” which will require them to be printed more often.
I have a client that attends trade shows throughout the year. He includes his prices on his flyers. Every year as he increases his pricing, he asks me to update his flyer and have more printed.
Some products change appearance over time. If you include a photo of the product on the printed piece your client may be more inclined to update the photos as newer models come out, requiring new printed pieces.
I talked earlier about how larger print runs can save a client money in the long run. But sometimes they just don’t have the budget for a larger run. Smaller print runs will allow them to get by until they can afford to have more printed. And you make money each time.
Include dates on recurring events. A yearly festival could get away with using the same flyer and poster year after year. But if you include the date or any information specific to this particular year, they are forced to print new ones each time.
Another great way to increase your print brokering income is by keeping track of your client’s anniversaries. Designing an anniversary logo for a client is always a fun project. Suggesting they include the anniversary logo on all their print material is even better.
One of my clients is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022. We’re in the process of adding the anniversary logo to the many print pieces they have. That means a huge printing order. All to showcase their special occasion. The following year they can continue using their current stock of printed material that doesn’t include the anniversary logo.
If you know when an anniversary is coming up, you can make the suggestion ahead of time and get the ball rolling. Your client will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and your business will appreciate the added income.
Two final tricks.
I want to share two more “tricks” with you that have helped me earn more money with print brokering.
I always tell every client who orders business cards through me, to never hand out just one card. Business cards are a networking tool. When you hand them out you should always give two or three at a time. You tell the recipient to keep one and hand the others out to anyone they know who could use your service. Clients love this idea. But it also means they run out of cards faster and need to reorder.
And finally, whenever possible, convince your client to include their photo on their business card. Again, it makes a great networking tool. A card with a photo makes it much easier to remember the person. It also creates a subconscious connection. When you see a photo of someone, seeds of trust start to germinate immediately. Knowing what a person looks like makes it easier to connect with them. Why do you think so many real estate agents put their photos on their For Sale signs? Because if you know who the person is, you’ll trust them more, regardless if you’ve met them or not.
But how does a photo on a business card help you as a print broker?
People change. Maybe it’s their hairstyle. Maybe they shaved their facial hair or grew some. Maybe they never liked their old photo. Whatever the reason, they may want to update their photo. And they won’t care if they have half a box of cards left. They’ll gladly discard them for new ones.
A couple of weeks ago one of my clients contacted me for business cards for a new employee. I replied back asking if any of their current employees wanted to update their cards with a new photo. That one order turned into four orders, which in turn, means more money for me.
If you’re smart about it. There are always ways to increase your print brokering sales. And not in a slimy salesperson way.
One last thing.
Make sure you follow up with your client after the fact. Following up lets you know if your client liked their print purchase. Hearing their comments is a great opportunity to learn what worked and what didn’t. And you can use those lessons when dealing with other clients.
How do you increase your profits from a print brokering job? Leave a comment below.
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I want to help you.
Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org