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Demand for printing services?

Hello! First-time poster from Canada here, looking for advice. :)

I recently got an incredible offer for a professional grade printer -- almost half off! I would need to sell 200-300 prints at $10 each to make back the cost, but I'd be able to print laptop skins, 17x22" posters, high-quality fine art prints, window decals, and more. Do you think there would be interest in the furry community? And what is the most that people would pay for shipping?

EDIT: Editing to say that I've read everyone's comments so far, and I'm doing some research as I reply. Keep the feedback coming! :D

EDIT2: It looks like I need to wait on this. It sounds like the printer might have major technical issues that don't show up for a couple months. Plus, I'd need to sell more like 400-600 prints to cover costs. On top of it all, shipping from Canada is about three times the price of shipping from the States. I can even ship from the US to Canada for less than I can ship from Vancouver to Toronto! :/

Thanks for your help, everyone. I'm glad that I figured this out before I bought the printer. :)

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( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
Well I can tell you right now, if you DO own such a thing now I would be interested in the near future. Especially now that Paper Forest/Printsess no longer does what their business name intones, I've been looking around for a one-stop shop for my own personal ease of mind (I'd prefer to get all that I need in one place instead of putting orders in everywhere, especially if its regarding print-works).

If you're gearing your model towards short-order runs, then shipping-wise, I'd say attempt to create a flat-rate. Personally I have no issues paying $10US for shipping on print works myself. It seems to be the common rate that I've run into anyway.
Jul. 31st, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
I'd also like to add, that I personally don't even sell prints geared towards the furry community - I stick with the weeaboos (anime nerds) we'd love such a service too!
Aug. 1st, 2011 06:14 am (UTC)
Anime would be fun too! In fact, I'd be fine with anything except adult material and fanart. I'm still not sure how I'll handle those.

It sounds like shipping could be a big problem, though. Shipping to the US from Canada would cost $18.50 at a minimum, from what I've seen, and that's assuming that the items fit in a 9x12" envelope. I could get an 8% discount if I register as a small business, but I wouldn't qualify for bulk discounts unless I shipped 750 orders per year.

That's extremely frustrating, because I could ship the same package from California to Florida for less than $6 if I used USPS's parcel post!
Jul. 31st, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
I might be interested. Please keep us informed!
Jul. 31st, 2011 07:26 pm (UTC)
Ok LJ, simmer down please and let me finish my reply before going off on me...

I do photos, cards, and illustrations so also keep us informed on what paper types you could do. I have not really been impressed with the local shop I use.
Aug. 1st, 2011 07:56 am (UTC)
The downtime is annoying, isn't it?
There's a *lot* to choose from. (Here's a sample.) I want to offer a matte paper, a glossy photo paper, and a self-adhesive vinyl at least, but I haven't decided on specific papers yet!

Special orders would be easy to do as well. Most rolls of paper sell for about $100, but there are cheaper papers, too. Epson's Velvet Fine Art Paper costs $33 for 20 8x11.5" sheets, for example. There's even a matte, acid-free canvas that costs $37 for a 13" by 20' roll! However, it's worth mentioning that 8x11.5" is the smallest sheet that the printer can use. Anything smaller would need to be cut by hand.

While I'm at it, can I ask why you didn't like your local printer?
Aug. 1st, 2011 07:59 am (UTC)
Re: The downtime is annoying, isn't it?
Sorry about that; looks like the link wasn't permanent. I think you can get to the same page by going here and selecting "Stylus Pro 4900" from the drop-down menu.
Jul. 31st, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
Have you done some research on this kind of printer? How much does the ink cost? I would be wary about this machine. I work at a copy shop, and these deals are nearly always someone trying to unload a machine that isn't working right, like colors are not printing right, or it stops half way, stuff like that. Can you have the seller demonstrate the machine? If you can, bring in a peice of art on disk and have them print a sample.
Aug. 1st, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
This is good advice. I've considered buying a professional grade printer for my own business, but this is exactly why I've been reluctant to actually put money down for a used machine.
Aug. 1st, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
Actually, that's great advice. It sounds like the rebate might be because of quality control issues: some of the printers have major issues with clogging. I missed it the first time around because I was relying on reviews which, apparently, were all based on brand-new models. The clogging issues showed up after 4.5+ months of use.

Replacement ink would cost $1300 including tax. That's not too bad for 11 200ml cartridges, but I wonder if I could sell an extra 130 prints to cover the cost. :/ (I could buy them using money from my day job, but I'd only want to if I could make it back.)

I'll see if I can get a demonstration, and I'll re-calculate the number of prints I'd need to cover *all* of my costs.

Thanks for the tips! :)
Jul. 31st, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
The print market now (at least for furry artists) is extremely weak. Even the popular artists are not seeing good print sales any more. Virtually all the art business at cons is custom art, either badges or sketchbooks, comics, or art CDs.

So that's a long way of saying you would have a difficult to impossible time recouping your expenses through print sales.
Aug. 2nd, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
I had a feeling. I'll take a look at other markets too. :)
Jul. 31st, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Be sure you are realistic about ink costs, service calls, parts, calibration, color matching, cutting (and so forth). There is a lot of expense to printing beyond the printer itself. The large professional printers are fantastic but if they get finicky it can cost a lot to get them running properly again.
Jul. 31st, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
I personally would not be getting printing service, I own my own ledger size scanner printer and have a friend who covers anything I need in larger scale.

My fiend actually does do printing in the furry community including decals. He got into the business because people said they'd be interested but then never followed through so he uses the machine more for local construction and business needs than for furs.
Aug. 1st, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
As far as I've noticed, the furry community seems weaker on prints and is doing better on custom art, as opposed to the general anime community (from my own experience at cons and such) prints do so much better, IF you have the things people want. If not, but your art is nice, custom art sells more. Hope this helps.
Aug. 1st, 2011 11:02 am (UTC)
Considering that you're in Canada, you could have yourself a nice little niche there. As far as I've seen, there aren't that many printers that are in Canada, and shipping internationally between Canada and the US is a pain in the ass.

It's also a service that you can offer to much more than just furries. :3
Aug. 1st, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
I hope you are considering software as well as hardware! I have no idea what your experience is, but you'll probably need to be "fluent" in InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and possibly Quark to successfully run a business. Part of a printer's job is fixing a customer's problems. A while ago I did custom stickers, and the print shop I was using had to call me about five times before I got it right, all because I kept just barely missing the cut sizes for where the laser cuts into the paper. Very annoying little mistake, but it took two days to correct. It was worth the trouble, though, and they were nice enough not to charge me extra for every time I resubmitted data. Another printer I worked with, but probably won't work with again, charged me 20 bucks anytime I had to resubmit a picture due to printing problem. I wish I didn't have to use online print stores...
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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