|Desktop publishing is a business that offers real opportunities - and can easily
be set-up in a home office. Learn the rudiments of starting this home business -
it just might be your ticket to success.
An Exploding Market
According to recent estimates by business consulting firms this market has
grown from roughly 3 million in annual sales in 1985 to almost 3 billion in
1991, and there is no end in sight. One of the real opportunities and challenges
of this business is the fact that there are still millions of clients out there
that as yet do not even know that they need the services of a desktop publishing
Desktop publishing is a term used to connote a new way of publishing
documents - using desktop computers as against the traditional method of
mechanical, real metal type, and scissors and glue. The personal computer has
revolutionized the entire publishing industry, creating a tremendous opportunity
Virtually any business use desktop publishing for some purpose. Desktop
publishers prepare graphic materials such as: brochures, flyers, full-page
advertisements, business forms, Web pages, logos, CDs and cassette covers,
catalogs, newsletters, books, proposals, and much more.
Some desktop publishers also perform word processing services for their
clients. While some desktop publishers prepare almost any kind of graphic
material, many specializing in one or more, such as newsletters.
While prior computer knowledge is a plus, anyone who has a desire to learn
the operation of a computer can acquire the ability to become a desktop
Identifying Your Market Niche
The key to a starting a successful small-scale and home-based operation is to
find a niche where you can excel. Your niche can be a specific service offered
(e.g. web design) or a business quality (e.g. fast service). Your choice will
depend on the existing desktop publishing marketplace including kinds of
services and prices offered and prices in your locality and by your competition.
Louise Kursmark, in her book "How to Start a Home-Based Desktop
Publishing Business" identified eight possible niches for a desktop
1. Graphic design. If you have excellent design skills and
knowledgeable in using desktop publishing software, you can focus on the
profitable and successful market niche of graphic design. Your task will be to
communicate effectively your client's message in the design of logos, graphics,
brochures, newsletters, posters, signs, and any other type of visual
2. Typography and layout. One good area to focus is the more
specialized field of typography, which is the design and use of typefaces from
calligraphy to the ever-developing use of digital type. You may create
letterforms or select typefaces and arrange them on a page layout. This is a
niche for those with a great eye for type details, overall page layout as well
as skills in proofreading and editing. You can work based on this
specialization, and you can also secure subcontract work from other desktop
publishers needing this kind of expertise.
3. Fast service. Another strategy for breaking into the crowded
desktop publishing market is to focus on providing speedy turnaround time. Many
clients need to have their materials (brochures, newsletters, etc.) as quickly
as possible. You can market your business as the service that delivers high
quality work in the shortest possible time.
4. Low rates. You can enter the market by offering a lower rate (e.g..
"Introductory pricing") relative to your competitors. In a tight
market with many competitors, you may be able to attract attention by offering
5. Technical expertise. If you have skills in the high-end aspects of
desktop publishing services - manipulating complex graphics, preparing
multi-media presentations - you can leverage that for your start-up. You can
attract both regular business clients and other desktop publishers needing your
6. Large project specialist. Big corporate accounts provide large and
complex projects that can provide you with significant work for a lengthy period
7. Small business specialist. There are opportunities in specializing
in "Main Street" retailers or the small businesses in your area. While
they may have relatively smaller budgets, you have a large number of potential
clients. Some of the smaller-scale projects that you will be focusing for this
market will be business forms and invoices, stationery and business cards,
brochures and sales flyers.
8. Internet-related business. The Web has grown tremendously in the
last few years, opening vast opportunities and creating new markets for desktop
publishers. You can design web sites, create graphics for the Web, and prepare
Web-ready multimedia presentations.
The success of your desktop publishing business will depend in a large part
to your equipment, arsenal of software and proficiency in using them to create
the quality graphics that your client needs.
The basic equipment and supplies needed in a desktop publishing business
include high-capacity computers, various desktop publishing software programs,
laser and color printers, and scanner. You also need to have a disk back-up
system, virus protection program, CD writer (CDR/CDW), font software, and clip
Prices of computers have steadily decreased in the past few years. However,
the computer system that you will use for desktop publishing requires more
sophistication than one configured only for word-processing or other basic
tasks. You will need a system with large memory to load all your software and
provide more data storage for large files. The monitor must be high resolution
to display graphics properly; the printer must have a substantial amount of
memory for downloading fonts and graphics. Hence, your computer system will be
more expensive than the average computer with less capacity.
In purchasing a computer system, you have two choices: get a Macintosh or an
IBM personal computer (PC). Both can run most of the desktop publishing
software, but Mac seems to be the computer of choice of most desktop publishing
professionals. Mac tends to be easier to use and set-up, with greater similarity
across programs and compatibility among software. The PC, on the other hand, is
cheaper with more widely available peripherals and software.
You must arm yourself with a variety of software (and be an expert in all of
them!). The must-have software include: Adobe PageMaker, Quark Express or Corel
Ventura for page layout and typesetting; Adobe Photoshop or Corel PhotoPaint for
image editing; Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw for illustrating. You do not need
to buy everything all at one time; the key, though, is to buy the tool most
capable of meeting your needs now and in the future. It is recommended that you
buy the most powerful program available in your chosen field to give yourself
some growing room and provide the capabilities for future as well as present
Who Are the Customers and How to Find Them
Almost any company and organization - from Fortune 500 to one-person
businesses -- is a potential customer. Depending on your specialization, you can
also find customers in the non-business (consumer) marketplace, depending on
your field of specialization.
Your potential customers could include a virtual assistant needing a web
site, restaurants that require menu design or a painter who needs flyer to pass
out. You can also get as a customer a legal firm that requires hundreds of
different forms, a hotel that needs brochures, a writer who needs a cover design
for his book, and hundreds of other clients.
Given the diversity of your potential clients, one important thing that you
should bear in mind is that some of these customers may not know that they need
a desktop publisher for their needs. They may not know exactly what desktop
publishing is or may not know that they even need it. Therefore, it is important
that you design your marketing campaign in such a way that you both educate your
clients about what service you can provide them; as well as advertise your
One of the most effective marketing arsenals you can use for your business is
advertising. In particular, Yellow Pages advertising have proven to be a
valuable mechanism in attracting clients and providing your business with the
visibility that it needs. Advertising in a daily newspaper, to a lesser extent,
can be worthwhile, although you may be able to get better results advertising in
a business-related publication in your community. Many local business
publications list the new businesses in the area. New businesses are a rich
source of desktop publishing work, as they need business cards, brochures,
letterhead, forms, and other materials.
Another way you can attract clients to your business is through the power of
word of mouth. Word of mouth entails keeping your business is front of your
prospects in a variety of ways, and strategies include media mentions, press
releases, customer referrals and networking. Word of mouth of a satisfied client
will go a long way and it will be your most effective advertising.
One of the best places to network is the Chamber of Commerce in your
community and surrounding communities. Participation in organizations like this
allows you to meet potential customers. Also, do not forget to network even with
your competitors. They may be having problems coping with too much demand, and
could subcontract part of their work to you.
Direct mail directed to businesses and organizations will also be highly
beneficial in most businesses, once you have found your first few customers,
especially the "first big one" it will be easier to find other
The quality and eye-appeal of your brochure and other sales material will be
of vital importance. After all you are a desktop publisher and therefore your
brochure should very professional looking. Clients will also want to see some
work ("your portfolio") that you have prepared for clients.
One of the best leads for new business will be the existing material of
businesses, even the never-ending flow of junk mail that you receive from both
local and out-of-town companies. You may set an appointment with the owner of
the company, and present your idea on how to improve their marketing or
presentation materials. You can gently and diplomatically suggest to a potential
client how much more effective their sales campaign will be with professional
looking material.. Since much potential graphic material is too expensive for
their budget they will be pleasantly surprised when they learn from you that it
can be prepared for $15 to $30 per page.
Operating Your Business
Most anyone without prior computer background, unless they are young enough
to have had computer instructions in high school, will be initiated by
computers. Yet slowly but surely computers are becoming as much a part of our
lives as automobiles. And if you consider how little most people know about the
operation of the automobile engine, but how well they can drive you will realize
how easy it is to learn the operation of a computer. While books, operating
manuals and even classroom instructions will be most helpful, the most effective
way to learn is through practice. Basic knowledge of most software programs,
including desktop publishing software can be acquired in about 20 hours. To
become truly proficient will take about 2-3 months.
This business lends itself well to be operated from your home. Since you will
be receiving clients it is important that your home-office be presentable and
well kept. As you business grows you can move to larger quarters in an office.
Your initial expenses in addition to the equipment itself will pertain to
basic office supplies, the preparation and reproduction of your sales material,
advertising, postage and miscellaneous expenses. If at all possible get a second
telephone line just for your office so you can insure it will always be answered
professionally. An answering machine or telephone answering service will
communicate with your clients in your absence.
Owners of new businesses will spend the majority of their time, during the
start-up phase on finding new business. Your new clients will be looking for
quality graphic material, which is prepared in a relatively short time span
(generally from 2 to several days depending on the project - larger projects may
take substantially more time), at a reasonable price. The cost of your services
are determined by what your competition charges which is pretty well determined
by general cost of living expenses in your community.
It will be a good idea if you do some snooping around and visit some of your
competitors as a "potential client". You will find their
advertisements in local business publications and the Yellow Pages.
Since you are selling a service most of your revenue will go to the bottom -
line and will become profit to you. Operating expenses will be relatively small
for general office supplies, paper, laser printer toner, etc. Of course, you may
have to finance the purchase of your equipment over a period of time. If your
credit is good, financing will be relatively easy to obtain through most
computer stores. Since new computer equipment is becoming outdated at an
ever-increasing speed it is best to buy equipment on the lower end of the price
range even if your budget can stand the higher outlay of capital.
Small businesses and organizations will be requesting credit extension. Your
care in granting this privilege is important. Nothing is more aggravating then
selling a service "your time" and not get paid. It is not at all
unreasonable to request payment up front with new and small business clients.
Once you have granted credit to a business or organizations set down strict
rules and stick to them. In general there rarely is justification to carry any
client beyond 60 days.
As you expand and require assistance to carry the workload consider hiring
"outside contractors" instead of employees. There are many individuals
who have the knowledge and equipment to free-lance with desktop publishing. You
will be saving the various benefits that are required to pay to employees and
which average about 20 - 30% of salary.
Books and References: