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How to Learn Important Skills and Tools for Desktop Publishing

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

It can be tempting to start a desktop publishing business because it offers the ability to set your own hours, work from home, and engage with a variety of exciting clients. However, in a challenging market, only the most talented DTP professionals can make a living.

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    Assessing Your Own DTP Skills and Potential

    There are no cookie-cutter tools to DTP success, and many entrepreneurs that try to launch companies on the backs of consumer software or templates find themselves hunting for new careers quickly.

    If you already have experience with desktop publishing tools and design principles, it will be easy to launch your own DTP business. If you are totally new to desktop publishing, you can assess your potential by asking yourself a few key questions.

    • Are you able to sell your services confidently to new clients?

    • Are you capable of managing multiple projects simultaneously?

    • Do you notice tiny details in magazines and on movie posters?

    • Can you identify high quality designs and put your own spin on them?

    • Can you deliver what a customer wants, even if it doesn’t totally fit your artistic vision?

    If you can answer “yes” to all five of these questions, you have the potential to become the owner of a successful desktop publishing business. A variety of online and in-person career training programs can help you build the tactical skills necessary to serve your clients.

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    Choosing a Platform

    Depending on the niche you have chosen to pursue, you may need to select computer hardware and software to handle tasks for your clients. Desktop publishing is a highly processor-intensive computing task, so your choice of tools can mean the difference between completing many projects quickly at high rates or using unbilled, overnight time for slower processing and rendering tasks.

    Most desktop publishing professionals start off by specializing in tools from Adobe or Quark. Some clients may specify the platform on which they want work delivered. In some cases, clients may even provide you with existing files to improve or update. Although both platforms offer some degree of interoperability, the best work happens when designers start and finish using the same tools. Getting clear about the platforms you support can help you avoid problems with clients later on.

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    Finding a Mentor or Coach

    Successful desktop publishing professionals understand how to tap in to the abundance of work in the DTP field. Therefore, it’s important from an early stage to gain the support of an influential mentor. A mentor works as a peer to help you grow your business, sometimes by subcontracting parts of projects to you in exchange for discounted rates. A coach earns an hourly or monthly fee for troubleshooting marketing or customer service elements of your business. In both cases, these personal relationships can jump start your fledgling company.

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    Committing to Constant Professional Development

    Veteran DTP professionals understand how quickly technology and the marketplace can change. Although desktop publishing is just a few decades old, it has already gone through numerous phases of platform preference and technological demands. As tools evolve and as clients demand more sophisticated work product, the best DTP professionals engage in ongoing training and development. Career training centers, colleges, and professional organizations all offer valuable classes and workshops to keep you on the cutting edge.

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