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There is a saying in marketing that “image is everything” and there is a lot of truth in that. Your customers, existing and potential, will expect you to present a professional image and your stationery is an important factor in creating your business image.

You should take time to consider what you will need and how you are going to produce it. The style and quality you will need will depend on a range of factors:

  • The type business you are in.
  • The type of clients you are seeking to attract.
  • Your budget.
  • Your preferred method of production.

For example if you are setting up as a plumber you won’t need the same quality or style of stationery as say and accountant or interior designer would. An accountant would probably not need, or want, the same sort of stationery as the interior designer either.

Whatever you decide on remember that all your stationery should have the same overall style, with matching typefaces, design and paper quality.

What Sort of Stationery Will Your Need?

Again this will depend to some extent on what you are going to be doing and what type of customers you will be dealing with. However the main items to consider are:

Letterheads

These give the main contact, and legal information, for your business and should be printed on standard sized A4 paper of an appropriate quality (see below). There are legal requirements which have to be bourne in mind – see them here.

Compliments Slips

These are a cut-down version of your letterhead, giving all the basic information (but omitting details like registered office) on a smaller piece of paper — usually the same width, but one third the depth of the letterhead. They are useful — and economical — for sending brief messages and cover notes.

Business Cards

To me these are vital. They give the basic information on your business, what it does, and who the person presenting the card is. So it should include the name, title (director, manager or whatever) and any relevant qualificatuions of the person. They should be given to people when you go to see them or when they come to youon business but should also be used as general adverts for your business. Don’t skimp on them. You can buy DIY cards to print on your laser but they can only be printed on thin card and look and feel cheap. For me you should always use printed cards on good quality board. They are not expensive and as they usually are the first piece of stationery prospective customers see – make sure they give a good impression.

Invoices, Statements, Receipts

Invoices, receipts and statements may be needed by the handful or by the hundred, depending on your business.  If your business only issues these occasionally, you can use your letterhead paper, with an appropriate heading inserted below the letterhead.

However if you need more than just a few it is advisable to have them specially printed, with your terms and conditions set out on the back. Again there are legal requirements as to what a VAT registered business must have on its invoices. See them here.

Another option – though hardly suitable for everyone – is to have your name, address and VAT number (if registered) printed on labels or incorporated in a rubber stamp and use standard duplicate stationery than you can buy from stationers such as Viking (see advert on this page)..

General Design Issues

The law requires a business to include certain information on its letterheads and other stationery items. The main point to be aware of are that on letterheads you must include names of the sole trader or of all the partners in a business, or if a limited company the full company name, registered address and registered number. Businesses registered for VAT must show their VAT number on invoices. For full details of the regulations see here.

Graphic Design Issues

Designing stationery isn’t as easy and some people think. Different typefaces and colours can look good together whilst others look dreadful.

For some purposes you can get away with a simple word-proccessor design using standard typefaces with our without a graphic logo. Given the abundance of free “clip art” you can probably find something suitable quite easily. Most word processing packages have built in templates suitable for a wide range of uses and you can also find other free ones by Googling the web.

Alternatively you can overprint your details on pre-printed cards and paper but frankly I wouldn’t bother. These are not a cheap option and most people will recognise the design anyway – templates can be found in Word for example. Probably fine if you only need a few items and don’t mind being thought a cheapskate!

If you don’t feel up to the task yourself then there are people on the internet who will do the job for you for a small fee. Expect to pay between £20 – £60 for a good personalised design that you can either print yourself or give to a printer.

Printing

The cheapest option is to laser print or photocopy your stationery. Once you have the design for your letterhead, you pay only for the paper — say £3 a packet (500 sheets) for medium-quality 80gsm (grams per square metre) A4 — plus the cost of photocopying or laser printing. Personally I’d go for a better quality paper of at least 90gsm which could cost between £4 and £5 a packet. Indeed for some purposes I do use self-printed letterheads on high quality Conqueror paper which costs about £12.50 a packet. I don’t do it to save money but to be flexible in what I include on the letterhead. This is because I have different office and contact addresses etc.

You can buy printing on the internet or at local copyshops and printers you can find in Yellow Pages. Many such printers offer business ‘starter packs’. Prices range from £50 to over £300. A typical start-up might spend £100 for 200 letterheads, 200 compliments slips, 200 business cards and 200 two-part invoices.

Remember – “Image is All”. Not totally true but you do need to present an appropriate image to win and retain customers.

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