Starting a Desktop Publishing Business — Where do I start?

by Kim G on November 6, 2010

desktop publishing business checklistPart 1 — Assess Your Skills

So, you are thinking about starting a desktop publishing  business?  Perhaps you are good with computers, or frequently do presentations and documents that contain graphics and special formatting.  Maybe you are a hobbyist who creates great looking projects using your computer and printer.  Or maybe you just need some extra cash and are trying to figure out a way to make money  using your computer and printer?  Well, all of these scenarios are good reasons to consider starting a desktop publishing business.  But where do you start?  We will begin with several questions about your computer skill set to help you started planning and organizing a strategy for starting your business.  Answering these questions will be a bit cumbersome, but it will really get you thinking about the best way to start your new business.  Let’s begin.

1.    What software programs do I know? List software such as word processing programs, presentation or desktop publishing software, graphics and video software, spreadsheet and database applications.  List the versions that you are most comfortable with.  Don’t leave anything out.  It is important to know your complete software skill set.

2. What kind of publishing projects have I done at work, school or for personal use. The focus here is on the types of projects you have worked on.  Think any projects such as creating graphical presentations, printing invitations, creating flyers, newsletters, making printed programs and booklets or crafting projects.

3.  How much practical experience do I have creating publishing documents and creating projects for others, both paid experience and volunteer? The focus here is on the different people, businesses or  organizations that you have worked with.  List any experience from work, school, your kid’s school, or any organizations that you may be associated with.  Any experience counts.

4.  Am I familiar with common desktop publishing and printing concepts? “Typography”, “kerning”, “bleeds” “separations”…these are common terms in desktop publishing and printing.  Knowing these formal terms may not be necessary in the beginning, but you should begin to learn the lingo and concepts of desktop publishing and printing.  This assessment will help you understand what kind of training you may need to get.

5. How much do I know about graphics and images? Are you comfortable working with photos and images from digital cameras, scanners or stock image websites.  Can you crop, resize and do basic image clean-up and manipulation?  Are you familiar with the various graphics and image file formats?

6.  How comfortable are you with design concepts? How much design theory do you know?  Are you familiar with the elements of design, such as textures, lines, shapes and colors, and design principles such as balance, alignment and contrast.  This may not be very important initially, but eventually you will want to develop your design knowledge.

7.  What is my comfort level with the Internet? Almost every business has an internet presence.  Whether it’s a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter or a host of other Web platforms, clients will probably need to provide the desktop publishing projects in some kind of Internet format.

Now that you have done a comprehensive review of your skill you can now have a better understanding of where your skills and talents lie, and what kind of projects and clients you may want to start with.  For instance:

  • If most of your skill set is in word processing applications, you can target business that may need help with word processing projects such as producing long documents and reports or mail merge projects.
  • If you worked with presentations, target companies that may not have in-house resources for creating presentations.
  • Reviewing the companies and organizations that you have worked with will give you clues about your potential target market
  • If you are unfamiliar with design concepts, consider targeting smaller business that need help, but can’t pay a full-fledged designer.
  • If you haven’t worked with printers, focus your efforts on companies that only need short run publications that your can produce on your own equipment.

These are just a few suggestions to help you get going with pinpointing your niche and your market.  As you get business, and work on more projects, you can begin to broaden your skills and client base.  Just remember…GET STARTED!

Whew!  That was a lot.  You may be overwhelmed and maybe even discouraged.  Don’t be.  The important thing to remember is that you can begin your business with minimal skills…you just have to find the right market.  You may be saying to yourself, I only know Microsoft Word, but there are many people who will pay for that skill set.  Again, the key is to know your skill set, and know where to find people that will pay for that skill.

The other benefit of reviewing your skill set is so  you can begin to identify training that you may need to help you develop your skills and talents.  You may not be familiar with advanced desktop publishing concepts now, but that’s no reason not to learn.   In our next post, we will assess our computer equipment and software needs for starting a desktop publishing business.  Stay Tuned!

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