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Best Tips for Getting Estimates from Your Printer

Print customers should remember that print is customized manufacturing. Every print job is unique, so a printer can no more quote you a price for a direct mail campaign over the phone than a contractor can quote you a price for a new house on the spot.

If you want a good estimate, printers need details. These details are called “specs,” which is short for specifications, and it’s your job to supply them to the printer.

Here’s what we recommend.

Always submit your specs in writing, even if it’s in the body of an email or in a Word document. Printing specs typically change as a job develops, so putting everything in writing is vital.

The following list shows you what a basic spec list for a printer should include, though every spec won’t necessarily apply to every job you print:

  1. Your Contact Information. Make sure you can be reached by phone and email. Supply your company name, URL and mailing address, too.
  2. Job Description. Describe the job you want estimated. Is it a newsletter? Catalog? Marketing brochure? Direct mail piece? Is it brand new or a reprint of an existing piece?
  3. Due Date. This is critical, especially if you need it within days or weeks. If the date’s set in stone, say so. Make sure your due date is communicated right away.
  4. Quantity. Ask for a few quantities, even if you think you only need a specific amount. Will this piece be a one-time only job, or will it be re-ordered weekly, monthly, or annually? This matters as well. A printer can plan for recurring jobs and determine your paper requirements for the long-term as needed.
  5. File Format. How will the file be sent? Which platform will you use (PC or Mac)? In what program will it be designed, and what version of this program?
  6. Finished Size. Give the final size of your piece – flat as well as folded.
  7. Total Page Count. If applicable, give the number of pages if known. This applies if you’re printing a book, catalog, magazine, newsletter, event program, or other booklet.
  8. Paper Stock. You may or may not know what paper you prefer, which is common. Ask the printer for recommendations. If you have a specific sheet in mind, say so.
  9. Inks. Is this a 2-color job (typically, black + another color), a 4-color job (the four process colors, CMYK), or something different? Will the piece need special inks, such as metallic? Does your company have a particular corporate color? Does the piece need typical ink coverage or is there a more complex design?
  10. Binding. Again, if applicable. There are several options for binding books, newsletters, and magazines, the most common two being perfect bound and saddle-stitching.
  11. Finishing. What kind of finishing does your job need, if any? Will it be laminated? Varnished? Die-cut? Embossed or engraved? Is there a special fold you want?
  12. Shipping Requirements. How do you want this job delivered? Do you know the shipping details yet? Will the entire job be shipped to one location or to several? Should the materials be packaged in any special way?
  13. Special Requests. If there’s any information about this job that might matter to a printer, please share it. Is it super important to your CEO, for example? Are you packaging up this printed piece with existing collateral? Will it be mailed? Do you need more services, such as database development, or mailing and fulfillment?

Even if you don’t know all of these details at the beginning of your conversation with a printer, share as many as you do have. Ask the printer to get in touch to discuss it in depth. He or she will ask you a few more questions to ‘flesh out’ the job.

Don’t forget to ask printers for their recommendations. They’ve produced millions of pieces and have the expertise to make suggestions that will enhance your job. As you submit specs for a quote, ask your printer, “Is there anything else you need to know, or do you have any ideas that would make this job even better?” You just might hear about something that you never thought of – or even knew about.

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