Online vs. in-house printing services – How to choose?

Everyone at some point needs printing services to get stickers, labels or packaging for their events or ventures. You can print them yourself at home, but that takes a lot of time and effort and doesn’t necessarily save you money once it’s all said and done. [Online printing services can be more convenient, affordable and have all the tools you need to get your designs ready for mass production, but there are many services and the results vary between them all. Here are some considerations and questions you should ask yourself before choosing an online printing service for your business needs or opting for in-house printing.

What is your printing budget?

For budgets under USD 100

You may think that in-house printing is the way to go for smaller budgets or if you want to save money, but there really is no golden rule. Online printing service also works very well for smaller budgets and, after materials costs, can often be even cheaper than doing it yourself, and that’s before you even factor in the amount of time it takes.

However, printing at home gives you full control and allows you to experiment a little more than using an online printing service. So, no doubt, there is a give and take.

However, answering these questions can make the choice process easier for you:

Do you already have the printing materials (paper and printers) available?
Do you have free time to devote to printing?
Are you skilled in design?
Are you able to solve the technical problems that arise?
If you answered no to any of these questions, then, in all honesty, an online print shop may be the way to go. After the time, resources and technical know-how required to create a design and then print it, you may have spent more money on materials and a lot more time printing than you had anticipated, which only hurts your chances of getting a good result with your printing goals.

For budgets over USD 100

For budgets above this, the printing option is more inclined to use an online printing service. The costs and time involved become much more demanding with higher budgets, so unless you have industrial processes in place and the expertise to resize your print yourself, it would be hard to argue against using an online printing service for your printing needs.

What kind of printing services do you need?

Before you send your print job to the printer, you will need to select the type of paper, labels or stickers you will want to print. These choices will affect the price and turnaround time of your project. You can choose between glossy, matte, UV or uncoated paper. If you are printing cards, posters or brochures, you may also want to add a UV coating to your print job. This will help protect it from smudging and help it last longer.

If you want to use special or high-quality materials in your print job, the costs of sourcing a smaller quantity of these materials may not be cost-effective.

Some things you should be able to print at home in smaller quantities;

Printing on plain paper
Square or circular stickers
Personalised shipping labels
Colour photos
Heat transfers
Other things that will not be possible to print at home (regardless of quantity);

Personalised magnets
Personalised posters
Personalised packaging
Stickers, posters or die-cut decals (custom shaped)
Who will handle the design process?

If you hire a design company to print your stickers, labels, packaging or brochures, you can expect them to have their own in-house designers. They may have their own processes, so they may recommend specific printing services that they work with. The design process and costs will vary depending on the company you choose. If you are hiring a designer, you should find out about their process and pricing.

Most online printing companies will provide you with pre-made templates, while others will allow you to design your print job from scratch. Using pre-made templates from companies like Sticker Mule makes the design process much easier if you’re not a designer and don’t have the budget to hire a designer – it’s the best of both worlds for smaller print jobs!

How does the company handle printing emergencies?

Sometimes unexpected things happen, especially during peak season. You will be pressed with additional printing demands and your or your company’s ability to handle these situations will be put to the test. If you print in-house, these situations can be very difficult to overcome without experience. It is these kinds of high-stress situations that make large-scale in-house printing unfeasible. Even so, it is important to find a printing company that can handle your printing job without delay in case something happens. Some companies will charge extra for last minute printing, while others may not be able to handle it at all. At Sticker Mule we are proud to offer multiple printing and shipping options depending on how quickly you need things done.

Are there any upfront or hidden costs?

Some online printing companies will charge you an upfront fee for the design of your print job. If you need design services, it is important to ask about the design process upfront to find out how much it will cost you. It is also important to ask about the hidden costs of printing. Some companies charge extra for rush printing, postage and other factors such as the type of paper or binding you choose. Note that you can avoid hidden costs by choosing a company that offers free design services or ready-to-use templates.

How to make your decision

There are quite a few things to consider before choosing whether to print at home or send to an online printing service like Sticker Mule.

Printing at home is a great way to save money on printing when printing small quantities, while making sure your documents are printed exactly how you want them. By printing at home, you can avoid many of the costs associated with professional printing, such as postage, storage and preparation. Plus, you have complete control over the quality and appearance of your prints.

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