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Guide to Starting a Desktop Publishing Business - Setting Expectations and Testing the Market

written by: Joe Taylor Jr.•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 3/3/2010

It's easier than ever to start a desktop publishing business, as long as you have the right ideas and a strong plan.

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    Discover How a DTP Business Fits Your Career and Your Lifestyle

    Thanks to new technology, it’s easier than ever to launch your own desktop publishing business. However, any new business is a balance of risk and reward. Setting the right expectations for your new desktop publishing business can help avoid some of the most common causes of small business failure. Following through on the right plan can lead to financial stability and professional achievement.

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    Writing a Business Plan

    According to successful small business owners, planning your business and working your plan is the best way to avoid many of the common pitfalls of self-employment. Some new business owners launch their enterprises based on sudden external factors, like a job loss in the family, a desire to work from home, or a need to retain more control of one’s time. Writing a business plan for your desktop publishing business can help you set realistic goals and milestones.

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    Identifying Prospective Clients

    A major part of your business plan should be a realistic assessment of the clients you believe you can attract to your new desktop publishing business. Although Internet bidding sites and online classifieds may offer a handful of entry-level projects to help you get started, a long term plan for success requires cultivating leads from eager business customers.

    Personal relationships tend to make the biggest difference in establishing strong client connections. Although some small business experts recommend networking through family and friends, most successful business owners make clients out of their current vendors. Companies are far more eager to do business with providers that already do business with them. Therefore, you can start your list by examining the printed collateral at businesses you shop at every week. Restaurants needing help with menus and local service providers that need brochures are just two of the businesses you should include in your prospect list.

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    Setting an Hourly Rate

    Choosing an hourly rate for your new desktop publishing business can be challenging, especially because customers tend to drive DTP pricing in a particular region or niche. If you have an extensive skill set and experience as a desktop publishing professional in an agency or educational setting, you can often command a high hourly rate. Professionals that charge more money per hour tend to complete assignments using fewer hours, and clients are often happy to pay for quick turnaround. On the other hand, a newcomer to DTP may require more time to finish routine tasks, resulting in a lower rate.

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    Before starting a desktop publishing business, learn how to set your hourly rate and choosing your pricing plans.starting a desktop publishing business, entrepreneurial DTP, freelance DTP, freelance desktop publishing
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    Hourly Rates for DTP Businesses

    Looking at online job listings, reading DTP trade publications, and networking with other DTP professionals can give you a strong idea of the range of rates within the industry. It’s important to remember that any hourly rate should factor in time spent working on developing a business and locating new clients. If your goal is to make $200 in a ten hour day, you don’t want to set your hourly rate for $20. By choosing an hourly rate of $30 instead, you can reserve about a third of your time for marketing and business development. Over time, you can raise rates as your skills and networks both improve.

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    Choosing a Pricing Structure

    Desktop publishing businesses often choose between two types of client pricing structures. An hourly rate card allows you to set a fixed price for ongoing services. However, hourly rates don’t always communicate to a client the exact value that your desktop publishing business can provide. To make an hourly rate structure work for you, it helps to provide extremely clear project estimates that break down the typical number of hours it takes for you to perform requested tasks.

    On the other hand, a task-based or project-based rate card can give new clients a clearer picture of their investment in your services. Project rates often make it easier for regular customers to make repeat requests, since they budget for your services without ambiguity. You can choose a set of project rates by multiplying your desired hourly rate by the number of hours it typically takes to perform a task. However, a common pitfall of project-based rate cards can sap your profitability. Many clients try to take advantage of project rates by requesting numerous revisions. Therefore, be sure to build extra revision time into your project rates, while clearly communicating to clients the number of revision requests included in each package.

Starting a Desktop Publishing Business

Thanks to new technology, it’s easier than ever to launch your own desktop publishing business. Learn how to choose your niche, set your hourly rates, and avoid the most common pitfalls of a freelance graphic design career.
  1. Guide to Starting a Desktop Publishing Business - Setting Expectations and Testing the Market
  2. How to Learn Important Skills and Tools for Desktop Publishing
  3. Guide to Investing in Your Desktop Publishing Business
  4. Choosing a Niche for Your Desktop Publishing Business
  5. Different Phases of a Desktop Publishing Business: Moonlighting, Part-Time, and Full-Time