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No matter what kind of business you're in, you'll probably have to ship packages or documents. And you'll also have printing needs - whether it's simple business cards, a report that needs special binding or glossy postcards you include with your product shipments.
If you don't plan ahead, shipping and printing costs can escalate quickly. But by organizing your shipping and shopping around for print services, you can minimize costs while still getting high quality service.
Shipping Services - How to Choose and How to Save
Even in our digital society, business owners have to rely on parcel services to send and receive equipment, products and important documents. Fortunately, upgrades in technology have made this process easier and more efficient than ever before.
Shipping costs vary according to package weight, dimensions, delivery time and destination. And among the major carriers - the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx and DHL - you're likely to get different rates for sending the same package to the same destination.
All the major carriers now allow you to print shipping labels online and schedule pickup at your office or home. This avoids time-consuming trips to the post office or shipping center and allows you to comparison shop to find the best deal. To use these services, you'll need to invest in a postal scale, tape measure and the supplies you expect to use to package your shipments. Keep these shipping supplies where they're easy to access and use.
If you find yourself consistently using certain carriers, investigate whether you can obtain discounts by setting up an account.
Here are some other tips on saving time and money on shipping:
Working with Print Suppliers
While your office printer can likely handle your routine print jobs, you may need a print shop for large-scale projects, marketing materials, product labels, business cards and high volume print jobs.
Online print shops may offer steep discounts and easy ordering directly from your computer. Online shops typically offer many types of printed materials in an array of paper stocks and finishes, from business cards to presentation folders to postcards and brochures. Some online services will also mail your promotional materials and integrate with your customer relations management software, saving you time.
The downside to online printing is that you can't see the quality of the finished product in advance. And if you aren't used to working with printers and don't know what you want, an online shop may not offer the design services and guidance you need.
Quick print shops have actual storefronts and may be housed within office supply stores. They may offer a variety of services, including printing, copying and binding; some even offer special services for oversized documents. Quick print shops can be a good choice for large, specialized or oversized print jobs that you can't handle on your regular office machine.
Most quick print shops also print business cards, signs, brochures and other promotional materials, and you can evaluate paper or cardstock quality and view samples before you place your order. Some offer design and marketing services, and national chains may also allow online ordering.
Traditional print shops do still exist, though they can be more expensive than their online or quick print counterparts. However, a traditional print shop may offer more personalized attention, may have a designer on staff, and may be more willing to work with you on unusual or complex projects.
Other tips on working with printers:
Shipping and printing can be big line items in a small business's budget. It pays to plan carefully and shop around for the best deals. But don't lose sight of your basic goals in your eagerness to save money. Correspondence and packages must reach their destination safely and on time. And a client or customer's first contact with you may be through your printed materials. Make sure their quality projects the right image.