Salesman or no salesman

Many people in this world can sell ice water to a person on a ice cold day. I am not that person.

I started my printing operation about three weeks ago. Email many of my friends, and posted a link to website on three website.

Not one person contacted me about work.

Not one person asked about printing.

Not one person asked me if I was crazy.

Not one family member called to ask how I was doing in my new shop.

So, I guess I need a salesperson that can go out and talk to people.

Are, was I totally crazy to think out of many friends and family that need printing, they would call me?

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If you are strictly a letterpress shop then I would sadly say yes.

Many of my family and friends know what I do, but I don’t truly believe they “know” what I do. And I don’t even really do what you probably do as I am more the commercial end of the letterpress business.

I think you need to give it a little more time to get your name out there. Unless you have quite a bit of $$ to pay a salesman to drum up work for you I’d give it a little bit and see how things go but don’t rely on family and friends.

That is just my thoughts and I wish you the best and hope you can make a go of it!


aaron, i’m not a salesman either, so being all letterpress i visited all the local printers and asked about their numbering, perforating, die cutting and any other small jobs they could farm out my way, it all takes time, it didn’t happen over night, but after 10 years of doing it part time it grew so that we went full time.

No one I knows that I am letterpress shop. I just passed the word that I was a printing business.

I was going farm out all offset work and get a small mark up for doing it.

So, if no one knows I am a letterpress shop, you would think someone would have asked me to quote on something.

Some people have a way of saying the same thing I said, but they do it better.

Are you in an area where there is a weekly farmers market? You could display samples that you do and or makeup for note cards, invitation etc. Show samples and prices. If you have a small hand press take it with you to the booth and demo your work. As above it takes time.

We get more inquiries than we can handle. Finding the help to run the machines seems to be the real challenge.

Three weeks? With Summer coming on, this isn’t really the time of year that people are buying printing. So far as family and friends go, they don’t buy printing, or might expect you to make something for them for free.

I think the challenge will be getting people to find printing relevant in their lives—who’s buying stationery, much less writing letters?

Salesmanship, while not the strong skill for most of us, is the most important skill to have in business. If you are confident in what you do, that will translate when you are talking to others. I have a pretty good customer that I picked up when I was visiting her shop about a press that she had. It turned out that her uncle had done the printing in house with hand type, but she converted everything to digital. The catch was the output device was slow and I wound up picking up the printing job (lots and lots of little envelopes).

Unless you have a portfolio, you’ll need to build one, if for no other reason than to sound out your abilities. With that in hand, you have something to show potential customers. If you hire a salesman, you have to convince that person that you have something to sell, and sell enough to make it worth the while of the salesman.

Give yourself three months, or three years to build your business, then consider getting a salesman. Good printing doesn’t happen overnight.

re starting a printing shop:

In this country the government offers a small business course, at low cost.

Of those who have done the course, if they start a business, about 90% succeed; of those who do not see any need to do a course, somewhere between 75% and 90% fail; I saw a motor mechanic give up after 2 weeks.

It has been said that many who do the course decide that managing a business is not their cup-of-tea (not their preference in life), so continue to work as wage-slaves.

With Australia’s mining boom, we now have the problem of a two-level economy; even then some earning high wages, which I would have thought too fantastic, are declaring bankruptcy, not understanding money. When I started my apprenticeship, I was paid one pound ($2) a week; now my sons look at > $100,000 a year. I never imagined money would change so much in value during my lifetime.

A letterpress printer has a wonderful opening, printing his own promotional leaflets, arranging with a young person to deliver them to mailboxes (but check if they are actually delivered). However, I had printed a thousand copies of an 8-page “newsletter”, had only one comment come back to me, and that was from a non-typical citizen. However, it was a lesson in how to make use of very limited resources.

I also researched setting up a type-setting service with a linotype, circa 1964, not quite enough to be viable; wasn’t I lucky!

I saw a young man start an electrician business with a bicycle, grew quickly to have about 4 employees, moved his office to the liquor bar, lost the lot.

Compositor from newspaper retrenched when computer-assisted typesetting took over, opened a health-food lunch eating place near a large number of offices, has been OK for at least 10 years. But health drinks were her obsession.

I have been astounded at the number of businesses declaring bankruptcy here. Woolworths (Australia) bought a successful electrical-goods business as a sideline, now trying to sell it, several similar businesses have gone into receivership.

We are very short of housing, but land development and building companies are declaring bankruptcy; cash flow problem?

It’s a jungle.

Some say to find a niche market, then decide how to supply the demand, after finding if the demand is large enough, and to determine if the resources are proportionate. A friend (where there turned out to be a large customer base) started a business for his retirement, sharpening rotary slitter knives for printers, thought he would have enough demand for one day per week, found he had enough for 40 hours per week, then sold the business.


If you are going to be die-cutting on this press (judging by your other post, I assume you are), then I would do a few interesting pieces to learn how well you can do them.
Then go around to local printers, show them your work and ask them to think of you when they get requests for small letterpress or die cutting jobs. No doubt they will be pleased to have this resource locally as opposed to having to ship the work someplace out of town to get it done. Concentrate on small digital shops, not complete full service offset printers. Once you get you name out there you’ll find some friends and advocates.
Good luck

Unfortunately, for traditional letterpress business in Houston, Aaron is up against stiff competition.

There are many really good commercial letterpress and finishing shops in Houston. Both high end and low end. Most have large Bobst, Heidelberg cylinders, Kluges, or Windmills already servicing trade.

The only way to make it in Houston is burning some serious shoe leather if you want to be a “traditional” letterpress shop.

Two similar long standing businesses with this business model have failed in the the last six months…

Aaron, I hate to be a pessimist, but I wouldn’t quit your day job at the Herald just yet.

word of mouth vs snake in the grass
better word of the mouth.
best james

make up some samples and drop them at wedding shops. you are up against the internet on this but some people still like having work done locally.