There comes a time when every small business owner thinks, “Why not just buy our own label printer and do our own labels? How hard could it be?”
From there, the search begins, as you search for guidance and reviews on the “best label printer for small business,” with the expectation that owning your own label printing equipment will save your business money and let you produce labels in any quantity, whenever you want.
But…buying your own label printer may not be as wise a decision as it initially seems.
There are certainly a few advantages to an in-house label printing operation. But we encourage you to consider your options carefully. Are you truly prepared to take on the challenges and expenses of printing your own labels?
As you’ll learn in this article, printing your own product labels comes with its own set of challenges – and there may be some you weren’t expecting. Our goal? To make sure you have all the information you need to make the label printing decision that’s best for your business.
The Downsides to Purchasing a Printer to Print Your Small Business’s Labels
When you consider just the cost of the printer itself, a label printer for small business may not seem like too much of an expense, especially because it means no longer paying an outside provider for labels. But the costs of being a label printer owner can pile up.
Keeping Materials in Stock
First, you will still have to buy labels – only “blanks” instead of fully printed labels. There are plenty of suppliers out there that will happily provide you with stock blank labels, but if your label’s dimensions are even a little bit outside the norm, you may have to pay extra for custom blanks.
Next, there are the consumables to budget for. Consumables include ribbons, toner, and ink cartridges, all of which must be continuously replenished.
Keep in mind that some printer manufacturers will void your warranty if you purchase supplies from other companies. These strict rules can make you dependent on the manufacturer’s
timeline and stock availability.
Maintaining an adequate stock of label printer consumables requires setting aside storage space. With the way real estate prices have been headed lately, every square foot counts. (Not to mention, the printer itself takes up space. Not all label printers for small business are tiny, and those that are, are typically only for light household or crafting use.)
All these things may only be minor quibbles if you have plenty of storage space, a standard-sized label, and fairly reasonable volume.
But the real challenge arises when you run into a tricky printing situation.
Managing Maintenance & Personnel
When you bring your label printing in-house, you lose access to all the skill and expertise a custom label manufacturer would typically provide.
Getting a printed image to look the way you want it to look involves understanding the nuances of artwork file types, colors, fonts, and other design assets. If you plan to print your own labels, you will need to make sure someone on your team is trained to program and maintain your printer properly (and also has the time to troubleshoot any problems that may arise). If you’re printing labels at a high volume and frequency, managing the printing and upkeep could require you to hire dedicated in-house personnel.
In short, printing in-house is akin to doing your own home renovations. If all you need is a paint job or a new faucet, you’re probably fine with a DIY. Anything more complex? Unless you’ve got an expert team on hand (which small businesses typically don’t), you might find yourself spending far more time, money, and effort than you anticipated.
Are There Any Upsides to Printing Your Own Labels?
To be fair, there are a few situations where purchasing a label printer for your small business might make sense. Depending on what you’re printing and the type of printer you choose (along with the consumables that go with it), an in-house label printer can be cost-effective.
For example, if your small business involves low volume custom work, and all you really need is a handful of shipping labels and logo stickers, having your own printer will let you print just a sheet or two of labels at a moment’s notice. (Volume is one of the major factors influencing the cost of custom label printing.)
But, what if that’s not the case?
Some small businesses have found a hybrid approach that works wonderfully for them, combining the on-demand speed of an in-house printer with the extended capabilities of a custom label manufacturer.
Here’s an example of how that would work: You could ask your label manufacturer to print a batch of 50,000 “generic” labels that include your company logo in full color – while leaving blank space for you to add variable information, such as lot codes, in black.
This arrangement would allow you to benefit from bulk pricing with a professional-looking label that meets your on-demand needs. It would also help you save money on your printer and consumables, opening you up to affordable options such as thermal printing technology.
The Benefits of Working with a Custom Label Manufacturer
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know all about the many different decisions that can go into creating a high-performing, great-looking label.
Whether your label’s role is to attract customers, instruct users, or get your packages to the right places, your label has an important job to do, and it must do it well.
Label disasters can (and do) happen, and when label disasters strike, they can hurt your brand’s reputation, risk your revenue, and endanger your employees and customers. And unfortunately, many businesses that attempt to handle their own label printing wind up committing costly label errors.
For example, if you choose the wrong materials for your label’s typical environmental conditions, your label could peel, fade, or disintegrate into an unsightly mess in the hot sun or driving rain. If you don’t know how to print a QR code correctly, you could render your high-tech smart label unreadable.
Not the kind of situation any small business owner wants, really.
But when we really get down to it, the number-one reason to work with a custom label manufacturer is because you’re not paid to be a label expert.
No offense intended – we know you’re brilliant at what you do. But unless you’re actually in this industry, there’s simply no reason you should be a label expert. Your focus should be on what your business does best, not the chemical properties of different adhesives or how plastic vs. glass application surfaces impact performance.
That’s why small businesses outsource to professionals. Doing it all yourself will not only strain the boundaries of your expertise, patience, and time, it’ll distract you from the things only you can do – the things that will actually grow your business.
The best label printer for small business isn’t just another vendor or another piece of office equipment. A good custom label manufacturer is a partner, with the knowledge, experience, technology, and patience to guide you safely through all the complexities and pitfalls of label printing.