Printing Business – Guide On How To Start A Successful Printing Business

The printing business is a highly lucrative business aspiring entrepreneurs should begin to give attention to. The printing business is not a new business, it’s been in existence for decades and it keeps evolving.

Over time, the printing business has proven to be one of the businesses that cannot go into extinction anytime soon. Individuals, government, and corporate organizations need printing services at one point or the other.

Therefore, anyone considering venturing into the printing business is not mistaken. But, you must note that printing is not one of the businesses you dive into without prior knowledge of the basics of the business.

A certain level of expertise and experience is a huge plus in this line of business. Printing is wide and this is why some tertiary institutions are beginning to offer it as a course of study.

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This article will enlighten you about the basic knowledge you need to begin but nevertheless, a practical knowledge is advised. You need to know the type of printing you want to specialize in and plan accordingly.

To begin, let’s define printing business.

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What Is Printing Business?

Basically, printing business is a type of business that involves printing on a commercial level. In other words, printing business involves the use of machines and equipment’s to get artworks out on paper or other type of substrate.

What You Need To Start A Printing Business

Printing business is resource oriented and the needs vary depending on your niche. You can either start small or on a large scale. However, here are the major cost you’ll incur when starting out

  1. Rental
  2. Overhead bills (Office equipments, electricity bills, etc)
  3. Machineries/Equipments
  4. Salaries
  5. Registration

Printing Terms To Be Familiar With

1. Pre-Press

This is a term used in printing industries for the processes and procedures that occur before printing is carried out. The procedures include graphic design, proofreading, lithography, digital or computer color separation, paper cutting, and so on. Some focus on the pre-press aspect of printing, actually, not everyone in the printing industry runs a printing press.

2. Press

This is the next stage after pre-press is done. This is where actual printing is done. So, projects only go to press after they have passed the pre-press stage.

Any mistake at the pre-press stage will automatically affect the actual printing which can result in costly reprints. Another set of printers focuses on the press stage.

These are people that operate a printing press or operate printing machines. If you can operate any printing machine, you can choose to offer the press aspect of printing.

3. Post-Press

Post press is a crucial part of any printing process and it takes place after the actual printing is completed. It helps in determining the final look, shape and feel of the printed product. Also, there are people in the printing industry who deal in the post-press aspect of printing.

Steps To Take In Starting A Printing Business In Nigeria

These steps are basic guidelines to follow if you are starting a printing business.

Step One: Find A Printing Niche

To become successful in the printing business, find a niche rather than joggling different types of printing. As explained earlier, you can either choose the pre-press, press, or post-press aspect of printing but if you have the capital and required resources, you can invest in all three.

Here are some of the niche to consider.

a. Offset Litho Printing

This is one of the pre-press niche to consider. Offset printing is a form of printing where artwork (graphic file) is transfered to a metal plate and then from the plates to a rubber blanket.

Thereafter, the inked blankets will be used to run the printing on paper. It is called offset printing because of the different procedures involved.

Most times, offset printing is used when large volume of printing is required. Some printers are majorly trained to carry out this processes. They are called Lithographers.

Professional lithographers are usually needed because any error in the offset process will automatically affect the final output.

b. Digital Colour Separation Printing

Digital colour separation is another pre-press printing business to invest in. Usually, a graphic file contains maximum of four colours (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). And except one is printing on digital image machine, the four colours need to be separated before sending them to press for printing. This separation can be done on computer, which is called computer separation.

Computer separation is usually done by graphic designers but most times, it is not always as sharp as digital color separation. Statistically, most people prefer digital colour separation. To engage in this business, you will need to buy the digital color separation machine.

c. Large Format Printing

Another alternative is to purchase a large-format machine. Large format machine is very big and carries out direct printing on flex, SAV, custom banners, backdrops, window graphics, roll up banners, vehicle wrap printing, and the likes.

A large-format machine has a small and big size. You can get one for about N 2.5million. It’s a very lucrative niche considering the number of churches, organisations, and government agencies patronizing large format printing.

d. Screen Printing

This is another printing niche that has been around since early 20th century and is used for printing on fabrics, wood, glass, signage, etc. This requires training as well.

In screen printing, the image or artwork is transferred to a fine mesh. Then, any area that needs to remain blank will be covered with a substrate.

Basically, the printing process involves pushing ink through the openings in the mesh onto the end material. It does not cost a lot to start.

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e. Sign Printing

Sign printing deals with the printing of signage, the big banners you see on the expressway, and the likes. You can partner with companies to handle their public signage and big banner jobs. It is a lucrative niche of printing that you can rack in millions from.

f. Lamination

Lamination is another post-press niche to explore. Once the entire printing process is complete, then the laminating process begins.

Some customers want to have their brochures, paper bags, and jotters laminated. Hence, you can purchase a laminating machine, secure a shop, and offer laminating services.

This is also a lucrative area if your shop or office is located close to printing presses or printing environment generally.

g. Finishing

There’s another niche called ‘finishing’ in printing. This also deals with post-press activities. For instance, if you want to produce a jotter, the printing press will only do the printing for you but there are some people whose job it is to fix the spiral bind at the edges of the jotter. These people
handle the finishing aspect.

Another example is affixing ropes on paper bags, folding, binding and collations of programme booklets, etc. This aspect of printing is cheap to start and you need little knowledge to begin.

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Step Two: Familiarize Yourself With The Printing World

Printing requires a lot of color separation, color match and color recognition. This is not something you want to guess your way around. In addition, you have to be familiar with the processing of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) which is the four primary colors in printing.

The best way to learn these is to go to a printing environment and learn how it is done. But, if you have prior experience in the printing industry, you can skip this step

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Step 3: Register Your Business

Once you find the niche you want to play in, the next step to take is to find a suitable business name and register it with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

There are several benefits attached to registering your business. One of them is that it will save you from building on someone else’s identity. More than that, you will be able to secure a credible and trustworthy relationship with your customers. This is because most clients trust structured business.

To register your business, visit the CAC portal, and follow the required procedures. However, aspiring entrepreneurs find it difficult to register their businesses themselves. So, I’ll recommend you get the service of a lawyer or get a legal firm to help you out. One of the firms you can trust is ReDahlia. With as low as N20,000, you can get your business registered through them, regardless of your location in Nigeria.


Step 4: Research The Right Equipment You’ll Need

Before acquiring your equipment, research your competition and the equipment they use. Don’t forget that printing keeps evolving. A trending machine this year may become obsolete in the coming years. Hence, you need to always keep yourself abreast of the latest development. Once you discover your target audience, visit the printing presses that are currently catering to that audience and observe the equipment they use.

Not only that, also find out what they lack, so that you can include it in your service offering to attract customers. Offering what your competitors don’t have will give you a competitive advantage. If you cannot visit all the printing presses, a faster route is to check out their websites for the information you need.

Normally, there are several printing machines and they differ in size, and quality.

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Below are some of the commonly used printing machines

a. 201 Impression Machine

201 machine is used for running printing impressions on A4 and ledger sized papers. Most starters begin with this machine. You can use this machine to print one colored or full colored jobs. The cost of 201 machine is between N800,000 to N1,000,000

b. Cutting Machine

This machine is used to cut wide papers or card to required sizes. Most times, papers come in A1 size. Hence, if you need to print an A2, A3, A4 or A5 sized jobs, there’s need to cut the papers to suit the sizes.

Furthermore, cutting machine is also used to trim the rough edges of printed jobs. This is to maintain a neat finishing of the job done. The machine cost is between N2 – N3million

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c. Kord Machine

While 201 machine prints on A4 and ledger sized papers, Kord machine prints on bigger sized papers or cards. A good Kord machine should cost around N5million

d. Direct Image Printing Machine

This is also called a DI machine. With a DI, one can print from small sizes as A6 to bigger banners. But, the machine is quite expensive. If you cannot afford it at the beginning, you can make do with 201 and Kord machine. DI machine costs about N15million or more.

The difference between DI and other machines mentioned earlier is that you don’t need color separation to print on DI. But, before you can print on 201 or Kord machine, you will need to first separate the colors into Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. So, the machines runs each of the four colours separately. DI on the other hand sends the graphic file from your computer system and prints the four colours at once.

Another interesting thing is that the output of DI is always very clean and neat. DI allows you to send PDF or JPG files from your computer and print directly on the canvas, photo, paper, fabric, synthetics, cards, and other substrates.

Other equipment include:

  • Computer systems
  • Office equipments
  • Generator Set
  • Graphic design software
  • Accounting software

Step Five: Draft Your Printing Business Plan

A business plan is a document setting out your business’s future objectives and strategies for achieving them. This step is important because it
contains detailed information that can help you improve your business chances of success. More than that, it will help you achieve both the short and long-term objectives of your business.

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Here are the basic information your business plan should have:

  1. An overview of your printing business
  2. Executive Summary
  3. General company description
  4. SWOT analysis
  5. Market Research
  6. Your Strategy
  7. The Team
  8. A marketing plan
  9. An operational plan
  10. Financial projection
  11. An appendix

Step Six: Secure Funding For Your Printing Business

At this stage, if you cannot finance the equipment yourself, you will need to secure funding. Printing business is capital intensive, so, this step is very important. You can start sending out your business plan to banks or other establishments that support new businesses.

There are quite a number of initiatives that give grants to entrepreneurs. So, make good use of the opportunity. Nevertheless, if you have loose cash or savings to start, you can move to the next step.

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Importantly, you need to know that not all printers own a printing press. Some started as contractors and this is a cheaper way to start. You can source for clients, get a good graphic designer to do the artwork, then partner with an established printing press to carry out the printing, then deliver the job to your client. It’s that simple.

Actually, this is one of the best ways to start a printing business. This is because as a contractor, you will have the opportunity to learn the pros and cons of the business so that when you finally own your press, you will be well-grounded in the business.

Step Seven: Secure A Space In A Good Location

Actually, if you want to own a printing press, you will definitely need to rent a space where you can set up your equipment. The cost will differ based on the location you choose.

This step cannot be overemphasised because location plays a major role in the success of a printing business. Preferably, choose a location where printing activities are dominant is ideal.

For example, in a place like Lagos, Nigeria, the first two places that come
to mind when you think of printing are Shomolu and Mushin. You can begin from such locations and gradually expand to other locations as you grow.

In simple terms, choose a location that brings you closer to your customers. Once you secure a place, you can then set up all your machines and equipment.

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Step Eight: Employ Skilled Labour

Statistically, most printing business enterprises employ fewer than 10 people. As more business owners utilise digital printing equipment, fewer skilled technicians will be needed to operate the machines. That said, there are two major people you will need to employ for a start.

1. Graphic Designer

A good graphic designer will draw prospective customers to your business. Clients prefer to print their jobs where they can design their artwork and run their printing at the same time.

Hence, a graphic designer is a great plus to your printing business. Also, a graphic designer will help in the adjustment of images and colours before sending it out for final printing. The size of your business will determine the number of graphic designers to employ.

2. Machine Operator

Some people are trained to operate printing machines. Printing machines are expensive and should be treated with utmost care. Hence, always look out for experienced machine operators that will not mishandle the machines.

Step Nine: Market Your Printing Business

This is another very important stage to take seriously. Nobody will know about your business if you don’t advertise or talk about it. As a matter of fact, all other efforts will go to waste if this step is trivialised.

You can have all the best equipment in the world and all the best employees, but if you don’t have customers, you will go out of business.

Therefore, focus more on selling. Explore every available marketing options and don’t stop marketing even when it seems like you have all the customers you need.

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Here are some of the marketing options to explore:

  1. Social media marketing
  2. Paid advert
  3. Sharing of Handbills/Flyers/Posters
  4. Collaboration and partnership
  5. TV/Radio advert
  6. Offering freebies
  7. Referral marketing
  8. Word of mouth
  9. Email marketing

Final Thought

Without mincing words, the printing business is one of the ways to amass wealth. If you are interested in venturing into the printing business, the best time to start is now.

As you begin your business, pay attention to trends in the industry so, that you don’t become obsolete. As with every business, you need to work hard and be determined to succeed.

There you have it. Feel free to share this article with your friends. You can ask any questions you have in the comment section. Are you running a printing business? We will like to hear your thoughts also.

Are you doing something amazing in your industry and you want the world to hear about it? Reach out to us today to tell your story.

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