I have great relationships with several printers whom I rely on to make my clients’ written materials look great. Here’s how you can develop a great relationship with a printer too.

1) Expect outstanding customer service. You deserve to be treated well. The printing industry is very competitive, so if your printer’s customer service people are rude or condescending, move on to someone else. Most jobs can be handled successfully online, which means you can use out-of-town printers, or even overseas printers, if you are so inclined. I FTP files to printers out-of-state all the time, and we overnight proofs back and forth to each other. It works out just fine. If you need to do a press check for some reason, then you obviously need to pick someone closer to home.

2) Be a good client. Once you find a good printer, keep up your end of the relationship by being a good client. Don’t expect miracles when you turn in sloppy digital files (or no digital files) or expect your job to go on the press immediately. If you don’t know how to preflight your files for printing, ask an experienced graphic designer to help you, or ask the printer for some guidance. They may charge you for the lesson, but it’s time and money well spent.

Build enough time in your schedule for printers to do their jobs well. I usually budget two weeks, which is usually enough time for the printer to get my files, produce a proof, make any last-minute changes I need (and pay for), print the piece, let the ink dry, fold or bind it, and get the copies to me or to the mailhouse.

3) Deal with Problems Directly and Honestly. If you aren’t getting the kind of service you expect, politely explain the problem and ask what can be done. A good printer will welcome feedback, as long as it is presented in a friendly manner. Printers live for repeat business, so most will do whatever they can, within reason, to address your concerns. At the same time, you have to be willing to accept your role in creating the problem. Ask what you can do differently next time on your end to avoid the problem.

When you and your printer work as a team, you save money, time, and frustration, and your print materials look much better for it.