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Building partnerships with designers

I hope this is the right place to post this message, if not please move or delete.

We as a business are looking to work with designers and design agencies accross the UK who want to bolt a print offering onto their business. We know that this can offer increased business as well as increased profit to both ourselves and design partners, but how should we do it?

In our trials, one designer was happy to invoice the client and they paid him for print and design. Another design agency was unhappy to do this as they felt it caused them to have much higher turnovers than they wanted. Some of the designers we worked with were not VAT registered so they were unable to offer the customer a VAT invoice.

How would you like to run a bolt on to your business? would you run a bolt on to your business?

We are looking for more designers to trial our system and our services, would anyone here like to get involved and help us to streamline our approach to market?

Hi Matt,

I would love to "bolt on" a printer's services but alas I too am no VAT registered (yet).

I have been thinking about this for some time and there is a possible work around:

I broker the printing of artwork I have designed for a client for a percentage fee of the printing cost ex VAT (say, 10% of the price before VAT). This cost is passed onto the client (who is fully aware of the arrangement from the outset). You then invoice the client directly for the printing services and I invoice the client for the artwork and the brokerage fee.

The 10% fee is to defray any costs I may have in relation to brokering the printing (phone calls, bandwidth etc) and to also to give me an incentive for using you as the printer.

I think that this would be the simplest solution...for me anyway...

Let me know what you think!

This is actually the way in which we have worked with a number of our designers, exept the designer invoices us for the 10% and not the client. This way the client is not paying anything extra for you to sort out the print element of their order, but you are taking the hassle out of the print buying process for them.

We would be interested in trialing your 10% system with you if you would like?


That way could work too...the pros of your way is that the client doesnt feel that they are paying more for something they could have theoretically done themselves... ie: taken the print-ready artwork that I designed for them and just sorted out the printing themselves by going to you directly.

My reason for passing that cost directly onto the client was to not mess up your margins and pricing structure...in hindsight however, doing it your way would be much better provided that we can come to some kind of agreement and that I can get quotes from you for specific projects.

I would be interested to hear what everyone else thinks!?

Our new system will allow to be able to issue any quotes to our resellers with the %age margin already factored into the price. There will be no maths on your side, your quote will show you how much we are billing the client, and how much you are going to get. All you then need to do is send us approval and go ahead for the job along with the artwor and your invoice for your percentage. Wherever possible we try to ensure that the price including you 10% is the best price that we offer in the open marketplace, in order to avoid us billing your client £100 and they be able to find it on our site for £90! this is not the way in which we want to operate! Obviously on a small order of say £50, a £5 commission doesnt seem like much, but it is £5 more than you would have got and all you need to do in order to get the money is make the introduction and invoice us!

I would like to hear everyones views on this, as the plan is for us to be a 100% trade printer working only with clients passed to us by graphic designers etc so that we know the artwork etc is going to be spot on and that they understand us when we talk about banking up brochures and bleed etc!

Just a general view on this from my perspective. I personally wouldn't entertain a joint venture 'bolt-on' with a printers. As a general rule I get quotes in from three or four printers that I trust to handle the job and let the client decide who they go with.

I would see little benefit to myself or my clients to enter into such an arrangement. Whilst cost is always a factor I will approach different print companies for different projects depending on previous experience of what they handle well.

Whilst it may be an opportunity for me as the designer to 'cream some off the top' it would add more complications then it would be worth as far as I can tell.

I think the VAT issue is one you would have with most freelancers as (correct me if I'm wrong) you don't have to register for VAT unless you're earning more than about £60K, and for most freelance designers there is little benefit in doing so voluntarily.

If we were traditional printers, then I would totally agree with what you are saying. However at Cheapest Printing Ltd, we have not got thousands of pounds tied up in machinery, we are not constrained to encourange your clients to buy what we want them to do based on what else we are printing.

Here are Cheapest Printing, we work with many printers throughout the UK who are all specialists in their own field. It is our responsibility to get you the cheapest price, the quickest turn round or the most complicated spec to the job, whichever is more important to you and your clients.

We are looking for designers and design agencies throughout the UK who already manage print buying on behalf of their clients and offer them the experience to test out using us as one of the suppliers that you ask for a quote, to show you just how easy and benificial working with us could be.


PS - the VAT threshold is based on turn over and not profit/earnings, so if a client asked you to handle a £5k print job once a month, chances are that you will get to the VAT threshold through the print alone


Active Member
Hi, You are a Print Broker or Print Management, not a Printer, is that correct?
If you are outsourcing your printwork and and makinging anything between 10-35% margin as you could, I can't believe another 10% is on the table, unless it's coming off your topline.
Buying print blind of a broker without knowing where and assessing the quality is a sure fire way for things to go wrong with the designer carrying the can. I'm not sure the risks v the margin is weighted in a designers interest. I have to ask, as broker, what are you doing for your percentage cut that a little bit of legwork from designers couldn't do? Reputation is integral in this business, quality of print and printers is vital for designers as when print jobs go wrong ( and they do, many times) the consequences are costly. A lot of designers can't spec up jobs for print correctly, bleed, crop, work and tumble, ink coverage, I'd like to know where you come in on that a bit more.
I can see the benefits, especially for those already involved in print buying on a large scale. But there in lies the problem for me. As a freelancer one of the benefits to my clients is a personal service. If I'm directly recommending or quoting for services including print I would want to be sure of the quality of the providers.

Whilst I'm sure you work with quality suppliers I would not recommend to my clients any printers who I didn't have first hand experience of working with, or come highly recommended from my peers. As Berry says I could see the client coming to me with any issues, me forwarding it to you, you on to your chosen supplier. Not a prospect I'd relish.


Active Member
We use Printers direct as well as Print Management. And I think the brokerage can be very beneficial, if the designers know who the printers are and understand the requirements and process. It can take a lot of hassle out of things IF the quality and management is spot on. But i would never let a client go direct to a broker or printer - 35 years on and I printers will still shaft you. So who is the quality control? The client? the designer? the broker? the printer?
Good points well raised.

We have worked with our printers for a minimum of 12 months to assess the quality of the work they produce. If you want a printer who will just screw the price down, I can arrange that. If you want a printer that will take the time to reset all of the machines and cutters to produce that slightly odd shape, we can sort that, if you are looking for a printer who wont get the presses in motion untill the colour is spot on to the clients specs, we can arrange that!

When working direct with the buying public, we find that it is all about the price....they want you to cut a pound here and there. However we have been working with artists, print makers and designers, and have realised that there are a lot of printers out there that can produce work that most designers only dream of!

We act as more of a vehicle to facilitate the print job instead of being what people think is a middle man! Our job is not to cream a percentage off the top, we manage a print budget of over £20k a month including the publication of 3 magazines and have a very good relationship with our printers as a result of this. We are not saying that we are able to do everything, we are not saying that using us makes everything perfect, what we are saying is we understand the importance of using the right suppliers and getting the right result first time.

I guess the bottom line is most people assume we are not able to help because they cannot see where we make our margins. Our margins are made from the volume of print that we purchase every month, and we pass these savings onto you.

The most important thing to us is that we work hard to ensure that your client is happy with the products all of the time. Customer satisfaction is great, but customer delight is what we deliver with each order. We understand your reputation is something that you cannot get back and will respect and maintain or improve levels of service always.



Active Member
Matt, you havn't responded to my PM last week regarding quotes requirements.
Will you be preparing and sending those costs to me any time soon?