How I Lowered The Costs Of Creating A Corporate Identity

Corporate Identity - Business Cards CubeBusinesses are created every minute of every day, and to one degree or another, they all need graphic design work done.

Business cards, invoices, letterhead, envelopes, a website; the list goes on and on. But as a graphic designer are there things we can do to minimize the stress our clients are feeling when they go live with their new enterprise? I think there are.

First of all, what are the bare necessities for a new business?

  • Business Cards
  • Stationery/Invoices
  • Website

For most of us, we went through the same dilemmas when we set up our own business. No matter what the business is that the client brings you, they will need the bare necessities. The difference is in the prices you will pay for these products and services.

I recently set up a corporate identity for a friend that was opening a new medical office. He wanted something classy and professional. I found a wide range of prices to set up his printing needs, some offering better quality while others offered faster service. With a little care and a lot of research I saved my client over $600 on the job. Here are some of the numbers I received for the services I asked for.

I investigated the cost of doing the work in my office at home as well as sending the work out to be printed.

Business Card Stock

The client requested a specific color which meant I had to be very careful with what I chose. While some places offered to send two or three sheets none gratis, others requested fees of up to $10 to cover the shipping and handling. In return, some offered coupons to be used if you purchased within a specified amount of time. It didn’t take long to figure out I could spend a fortune on samples.

However, I did find one place that had affordable paper and I could purchase sample books at a reasonable fee. offers a wide range of paper stock in a variety of sizes to fit every need. This was the only place I found the custom color I needed.

If you decide to use their service and have to order samples, make sure you have at least 5-7 days for it to get to your destination. It comes by regular USPS. Shipments on the other hand are fairly quick, 3-4 days by FedEx, rush service is available for a higher fee.

My cost for enough stock to do 10,000 cards was $125.00 plus S & H (another $20)

Printing, Cutting And Packaging

This left me with the dilemma of printing that many cards as well as cutting and packaging them for delivery in my small office. When I sat down and figured up the price of toner as well as the time to hand cut that many cards, this avenue became cost prohibitive.

My investigation then let me to consider outsourcing the work to a reputable company. I checked several local places that offer custom printing services. The two best ones were Office Depot and FedEx/Kinko’s. And I was really surprised at the difference in price and services.

Office Depot:

  • Business Cards 10,000
  • Turn around Time: 5-7 days
  • Custom Color: Will match as close as possible.
  • Thermography was not available
  • Price: $350.00

I took a copy of my files in to get the quote and it was emailed to the company that actually does the work to see if a color could be matched up. I suggested an email or phone call would be fine to let me know if they could match it and any price adjustments necessary. I still haven’t received a follow up and it has been over four days. I would rate their service as mediocre with poor follow up. Too bad!


  • Business Cards 10,000
  • Turn around time 1-2 days
  • Bring in my paper or match to theirs is fine.
  • Thermography available but expensive ($80 per 1000)
  • Price: $265.00

I took the same copy of my files to get the quote. A manager took care of my request and I was given a price while I waited. The custom color my client wanted was not a color offered but was told if I purchased the paper, they would do the set up and cutting for even less. I would rate the service as excellent and extremely good follow up.

It Has To Look Great And Consistent

Part of creating a corporate identity though is making everything look like it belongs together. You can throw something together and it will work okay, but if you want to project a professional appearance, it has to look great! For that reason, I wanted the company letterhead, envelopes and invoices to use the same papers with the same colors and textures.

Have A Back-Up Plan

Working with the same premise of the custom color on the business cards, I quickly found out the color my friend was so fond of was not available in professional stationery nor were the other items on my list of necessities. That is not a good thing to find out with a short deadline. You have to create a back up plan or take up magic tricks. I had to pull a bunny rabbit out of my hat.

Since the amounts of stationery and envelopes were relatively small compared to the business cards, I started looking. Short runs were a possibility for my own equipment and would save the client money too. But I checked all the avenues anyway.

If I did the work at home:

  • stationery: 100 pc.
  • Turn Around Time: 1-2 days
  • Cost of paper: $10
  • Set up Fees: $27 (1 hr)
  • Envelopes: $7.50/50
  • Turn around Time 1-2 days
  • Set Up Fees: $27(1 hr)

If I sent the work out:

  • stationery: 100 pc.
  • Turn around time: 1 day
  • Cost $20
  • Envelopes: 100
  • Turn around time: 1-2 days
  • Cost $20

Doing It Yourself Is Not Always The Cheapest

So what I found out was that doing the work at home in my little office is not always the cheapest route for me or my clients. If I expect my clients to come back or refer me to their friends, I need to be as competitive as possible, and they need to know when I can save them money. That way, if I have to charge more for a product or service, my clients know I gave them the best price I could.

My original quote to the customer was $947 and included design work, layout, 2 revisions, print and delivery to his office. With the new prices I located through local businesses, I adjusted the quote to reflect the savings at $657. By shopping around some and comparing the services I wanted, I saved my client $290 and still made a profit. (remember this was for a friend)

Be Competitive And Get Repeat Business

Maybe I won’t get rich by working this way. And I’m sure I could have left the price higher and put the extra profit in my pocket, but if I were starting a new business, I sure would want to deal with someone that would take the time to get me the best deal in town.

My clients know I work as an independent and I shop all the places that offer the same or similar services to get the most competitive pricing for them. I also try to be competitive with my shop rates. I do not have a problem calling various shops in the area posing as a client to check rates every two or three months. If I see a trend in the area businesses shop rate, I adjust accordingly.

Where do you find the best deals when you need printing services? Do you shop locally like I did here, do you find better deals online or do you do it all yourself? Share your own tips and tricks and best deals here in our comment section! :)

Lois Knight


About the author: Lois Knight has been a freelance writer and graphic designer for the last two years. She designs predominantly for small start up companies and non profits in need of design services that could not afford them otherwise.

She has a background as an entrepreneur for over twenty years and has dedicated herself to educating people interested in graphics as a career. She also wrote an ebook titled: I’m Tired of Being Broke A Freelancer’s Guide to Working at Home

Support independent publishing: buy this e-book on Lulu.

image in this post: Randy Cox