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.

By Paul and Sarah Edwards

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you have a feel for design and the ability to edit what otherpeople write, you may find your way to a homebased business doingdesktop publishing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics declares desktoppublishing to be one of the fastest-growing vocations, forecastingthe number of desktop publishers will grow from 38,000 in 2000 to63,000 in 2010, an increase of 67 percent.

Desktop publishers produce print and electronic documents, suchas catalogs, manuals, directories, brochures and resumes that areready to be posted on the Web or go to the printer. For eachpublication, desktop publishers produce a design, lay out thepages, format the text and add images. Sometimes desktop publishersalso write the copy for their clients based on informationthey're given or otherwise obtain.

In addition to the ability to design and edit, you alsoneed:

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

Desktop publishers charge by the hour, by the page or by theproject. Brenner Books conducts national surveys and posts hourlyrate ranges of desktop publishers by state at Clients often prefer "bythe job" pricing, so being able to estimate how long a projectwill take can be crucial to whether you can run a profitablebusiness.

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

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