Starting a Desktop Publishing Business

Combining your design and writing skills, this business is the perfect blend for people with an eye for the artistic and an ear for the written word.

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If you have a feel for design and the ability to edit what other people write, you may find your way to a homebased business doing desktop publishing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics declares desktop publishing to be one of the fastest-growing vocations, forecasting the number of desktop publishers will grow from 38,000 in 2000 to 63,000 in 2010, an increase of 67 percent.

Desktop publishers produce print and electronic documents, such as catalogs, manuals, directories, brochures and resumes that are ready to be posted on the Web or go to the printer. For each publication, desktop publishers produce a design, lay out the pages, format the text and add images. Sometimes desktop publishers also write the copy for their clients based on information they're given or otherwise obtain.

In addition to the ability to design and edit, you also need:

  • to be able expertly use the software you'll be employing. As one of the pioneers in desktop publishing told us, "If you can't do better than the clients can do themselves, they won't give you the business."
  • communications skills, in order to obtain and satisfy clients to get their work. Often clients have difficulty clearly articulating visual concepts, and so drawing out of them what their objectives are is an everyday part of what you do.
  • patience, because clients often change their minds once they see what they thought they wanted in print or on the computer screen.

Desktop publishers charge by the hour, by the page or by the project. Brenner Books conducts national surveys and posts hourly rate ranges of desktop publishers by state at Clients often prefer "by the job" pricing, so being able to estimate how long a project will take can be crucial to whether you can run a profitable business.

As with many service businesses, you'll obtain clients through contacts you make through networking. Some desktop publishers are bidding for work on sites like and Others bid on government work. Of course, you'll need a Web site for prospective clients to see examples of your work.

To learn more about desktop publishing and make contact with desktop publishers, check out the many forums for desktop publishers online. You'll find is a portal for desktop publishing and a gateway to forums.

Paul and Sarah Edwards are the authors of Best Home Businesses for the 21st Centuryand 14 other books.

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