How to Keep Your Print Project on Budget
Have you ever planned a project based on initial estimates only to be surprised with a larger invoice at the end? It’s frustrating and can require some circus-worthy moves to get your budgets back in line.
We understand that print budget is often the most important part of a project for our clients. In our experience, the best way to manage a budget is to ask lots of questions and gather as much information as we can up front. Sure, things may change along the way, but nailing down key details in the beginning helps us accurately scope and price projects—and increases your likelihood of sticking to your budget. If you are finding that your estimates are wildly different from your invoices, it could be because you’re not asking (or answering) the right questions.
The first things to consider are your timeline, overall budget and project goals. Because print is so customizable, having this information helps us offer suggestions that meet your needs while staying within your print budget. Once you have this project information in place, you can drill down to the details. If you’re new to printing, check out our Print Specs 101 to understand the basics.
Size can affect both price and timeline, so it’s important to know (and stick to) the overall size of your piece when planning your project. Here are a few key things to consider:
- If your mail piece folds, it is helpful to know both the flat size (unfolded) and the finished size (folded).
- You need at least a rough idea of your page count along with the final page size. Reports, catalogs, and other booklets need to have a page count that is divisible by four. Adding or subtracting a few pages won’t completely throw off your pricing, but if you go from 32 pages to 64 pages, that’s going to make a difference. Page count also plays into your options for binding—more on that later.
- If we are mailing your piece or producing packaging, it is important to know what materials are going into the kit, along with the size of each component. That way, we can suggest the best envelope or box size, taking into account the final delivery method.
Your piece might be full color, black only or have additional PMS colors. Knowing the color requirements up front will inform pricing.
The quality of digital printing has increased tremendously over the years, and PMS colors can usually be matched across our equipment. This is helpful when running campaigns that may require different pieces that range from signage to personalized mailing pieces.
Let us know if you have particular brand colors or a previous print sample, and we can work with you to match your brand colors.
Your target print budget is often the biggest factor when it comes to the materials we recommend or use for your project. With a near endless variety of paper types, colors, weights and finishes, costs can run the gamut.
If your piece is mailing or shipping, we need to take the weight of the material into consideration because it can affect postage and shipping rates. For large format projects, the end use of the piece (whether it is temporary or permanent) and location (whether it is interior or exterior) all play a part in deciding the best materials to use.
Quantity makes a difference, as it affects unit cost. Our equipment capabilities differ based on quantity and physical size of a piece. For example, a small quantity of a personalized piece will run on different equipment than a high quantity of a generic piece, and there may be cost implications to that.
There are also potential price breaks as quantity increases. Having an accurate quantity in the beginning will help you avoid price changes along the way.
You can use data in a variety of ways, from simple personalization to using data points to vary your content. But you need to decide early on how you plan to use your data, as it will inform the file setup during the design phase. Data can also add complexity to a project, which can mean additional cost, so it is important to figure out your data needs at the start of your project.
Bindery refers to how your piece is finished. This can be as simple as cutting a postcard or flyer to a particular size all the way up to more complicated bindery options.
If your project is a book or report, it could be saddle-stitched, perfect bound or coil bound. Depending on the page count or end usage, we can recommend a binding that best fits the project. Keep in mind that, for perfect binding, you need to have a minimum page count of around 32 pages.
How a piece folds can affect pricing as well, since machine folding is less expensive than hand folding. A brochure, for example, could fold in half, in thirds, or more—the more folds you have, the more important it is to specify how the piece folds. Is it an accordion fold or a roll fold? Does the piece have a short fold, meaning one panel is shorter rather than all panels being equal size? This info helps us determine if the folding can be done by machine or not.
Special finishes (coatings, die cutting, embossing and foil) are all add-ons, and pricing varies depending on the design.
For die cutting shapes, foil and embossing, the size and intricacy of the design determines the price. If the die cutting also includes a pocket or folding, we need to determine if the glueing and folding can be done on a machine or by hand, which can greatly change pricing.
For these types of finishes, seeing a mockup of the design helps us provide a more accurate quote. We can also point out if you need to adjust your design to achieve the look and finish you’re going for.
Thinking about the end use or delivery of your project at the beginning is essential, as postage is often the biggest line item in a direct mail print budget.
For signage and installation projects, consider the application of the signage and if it is interior or exterior—is it temporary for an event or for long-term use? This will inform not only the material we recommend, but the final installation as well.
If your piece is mailing, there are various postage rates based on when you need it to arrive and also the size of the mail piece. You could be eligible for additional discounts if your company is non-profit. When mailing with the USPS, there are guidelines for the size of the piece and location of the mail panel; your designer will need to follow these guidelines so you don’t incur additional postage surcharges. We are happy to consult with you to make sure the piece is designed to fit within USPS rules.
When mailing in large quantities, presort mailing is a popular option as it offers a discounted rate. And again, quantity plays a role here as well. We can provide an estimate of postage, but we cannot guarantee final postage until we have processed the final list.
This is a LOT to think about—we get it. But trust us when we say it is 100% worth the time and effort to figure out these details in the beginning rather than riding the print budget roller coaster. And we’re here to help guide you through the entire process, just drop us a line.