Printing terms and conditions…..which are the biggies?

termsI have a question for print buyers out there: when you see an invoice with a gazillion words on the back about the “terms and conditions”, do you read it? You should. There might be many things in there that can be important, particularly to your accounting department. Now, I will confess that after 30+ years in print, I’ve never read those terms and conditions either! However, there are a few that you SHOULD make yourself aware of, and some of these do not apply to just that mile-long legal mumbo-jumbo.  Let’s look at three areas where printers REALLY want you to pay attention.


When a printer provides you a quote letter, this is based upon the specifications that you as the client provide. Quite often, the client is still in the design mode, and has not come up with final inks, or page counts, or size, but is looking at a price for budgetary purposes. If the design, or any other aspect of the job comes in different than quoted, it will need to be requoted, and that price presented to you. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve gone back to clients with new pricing, and they’ve not understood. In addition, printers price jobs to WIN jobs, assuming that the files require little or no work, and that there will be no changes after the final proofs. So, as a buyer, be aware that even if you make a slight change to the specs, or corrections/alterations at proof stage, there will be a change order. And the nature of the change – particularly if it requires new proofs – can add up significantly. So, in short, make sure you have good files, expect that any changes will incur additional charges, and that the job is the same as per the provided quote. TIP: I know of some clients that KNOW they will be making changes, so they have extra rounds of proofs and prepress time added to the quote up front.


6a00d834517f9d69e20120a812d1d5970b-800wiThe proof tag affixed to your proof states that you as the client need to review this carefully, and that once you sign off on it, any responsibility for errors is removed from the printer. Printers use this to protect themselves in case a client misses an error, and the job is printed, and then the client comes after the printer. Now, I know of NO printer who will throw that back into the client’s face, but they won’t reprint the job for free if that is required. This also is where change orders come into play, because printers will included a phrase in the verbiage stating that any changes will be done and charged at the industry rate. That rate varies: some printers are a la carte, meaning the labor and proofs are calculated separately, some charge changes by the page. However it’s done, the proof tag is important for both the printer and the client.

TERMS (I.E., NET 30, NET 45, COD)

Every business has issues with cash-flow, and printers certainly are no different. Printers,net-30-accounts however, have certain accounts payable issues that they are bound by, and so they are quite concerned when a client – who may have been approved for terms at net 30 – are 45, 60 or even 90 days out in payment. So, what are the things that make printers nervous when they don’t have client invoices paid on time:

  • Paper – paper companies invoice electronically, and often within 24 hours, and they set printers at net 15 or net 30 – but nothing more! And, if a printer gets behind on paying for paper, they can actually find their terms and finance rates changed, or worse yet, not be able to order paper until the account is paid up to date. That may impact YOU when you want to get a job printed, and you’re 60 days out, and the printer cannot secure paper.
  • UPS – UPS is very firm on their accounts receivable, and demand payment in just a few days, not 30. When you ship a job via your printer’s UPS account, they have to pay for that freight far in advance of you paying the invoice, even if you DO pay net 30. A good solution is to have the printer use your UPS account.
  • Salaries – the bottom line is if you don’t pay your invoice, the printer has a tough time paying employees, which is their first and primary outflow of cash. Printers may have to dip into a line of credit to make payroll, or put off paying for the ink, paper or other supplies necessary to run a shop.

The terms and conditions printers use are to protect them, and to communicate expectations to the client, just as clients communicate expectations to the printer. And most printers will be happy to work out solutions with a client if the unavoidable or unplanned occurs. However, knowing why the printers ask for what they ask for can go a long way to securing a good and beneficial relationship between you as the client/buyer, and your printer.

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About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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