17 best business, practical and technical tips from
DTP Success that have stood the test of time


Business Tips

*Underpromise and overdeliver. If you're ahead of schedule at half-time, don't revise your public deadline. You could still run into trouble and need all the time you first projected. If you do stay ahead, you can deliver early. (p. 179)

* Write "Net 10 days" on your invoices. That signals your client's check-writer to put your bill on a faster track than the standard 30 days. (p. 235)

* Toot your horn in-house. As soon as you're up and running, market your new DTP center inside the company. Produce some high-visibility documents. Have a high-level exec introduce you in a company-wide memo. Profile the center in the first issue of a full-circulation in-house newsletter. (p. 308)

* Collect samples of your work. Hang on to intermediate and final proofs to simplify explaining the DTP process to clients. Get at least five or 10 copies of important projects to give out without worrying about getting them back. When you find a job you feel shows off your capabilities, increase the print run by 100-500 copies; pay the incremental cost. Then send your sample to your house list. (pp. 43-44)

* Increase your visibility. Often a grateful client will thank you in a newsletter. Even better than that one-time notice is a regular credit in the masthead, or a small tag line with your credit and sometimes even your phone number on flyers, posters, and annual reports. (pp. 48-49)

Practical Tips

* Cultivate flexibility as a state of mind -- and as a way to react to unpredictable developments. Carry around a printout of all your clients' names and phone numbers so you can reach them if you're stuck somewhere. Keep your subcontractors' numbers there -- including the one person you most trust, who has a key to your office and your OK to take over if you're knocked out of commission. (pp. 53-54) And back up your designs. If your client is unhappy with a layout, pull out some printouts of approaches that occurred to you along the way, which you saved for just such an occasion. (p. 56)

* Take a small stapler to trade shows to clip exhibitors' business cards to their brochures on the spot. (p. 58)

* Make a technical notebook. Keep the things you'd put on a bulletin board with a pushpin if you had a big enough slab of cork. Include technical support phone numbers, software version numbers, and serial numbers; special macros and shortcuts you've assigned to your keyboard; special tricks you can almost remember but keep having to look up; and typefaces available in your system. (p. 145)

* Keep the crates. When you get new equipment, hold on to the original box and packing material. There's no safer way to transport your hardware or return it for service. Plus, that cardboard will increase your gear's resale value. (p. 111)

Technical Tips

* Map out new jobs. Start big projects by making a list on paper of each stage, including lots of crossouts and arrows. Slow down enough to really think about what you're going to do -- and when. Sometimes you'll find you put a step too early, making more work for yourself later. (p. 124)

* Preview real layouts. For books, magazines, newspapers, and newsletters, at some point before the finals, show your client spreads, or facing left and right pages. Trim and fold page proofs to resemble the final printed result. For brochures or cards, cut, paste, or tape your laser printout back-to-back, then fold it appropriately. For a window envelope mailing, fold the letter down and deliver it in an envelope. Include whole and torn off versions of return coupons. (p. 176)

* Complete all editorial corrections before changing any layouts. This may mean returning to a page twice, but it's the only way to be sure you don't overlook some of your client's changes. (p. 128)

* Use paper proofs for editing. Never edit only on screen. You'll always catch more errors looking at hard copy. It's easier on your eyes, and leaves you with a valuable paper trail of who changed what. (p. 132)

* Make templates. Keep a library of files with styles for elements like drop caps, rules above lines, or complex tabulated material. Most DTP software allows you to copy single or multiple styles from one document to another, through a menu command or by selecting a block of type with the styles you want and pasting it into the next document. (p. 134)

* Plan for complexity. When you create a publication, make sure your design accommodates the most extended example of each element. In your text, find the most wordy titles and subheads. In tables, find the longest headings or categories, or numbers in columns. Use them in the prototype, along with average and short examples, to show how it all works together. Your sample may prompt the client to rewrite or reorganize the material. And the earlier they do that the better. (p. 145)

* Scan unwieldy photos sideways. If you get an eight-inch tall by 10-inch wide photo and your scanner can handle only an eight-inch width, scan as if it were tall. Print it out at 66% size, and rescan the smaller printout. Unless your scanning software easily rotates an image, it's a quick route to a workable original. Even better, use a reduction photocopier to bring the size within scanning range. Either way, because you're copying the image twice, quality will degrade -- but it will still work as a For Position Only image. (p. 146)

* Use placeholders. In body text, replace the TK that veteran writers and editors use -- or question marks or other symbols that indicate text to come -- with characters that stand out. It's hard to miss bullets [for this html document, bullets replaced with asterisks] -- here's what a phone number to come looks like: (***) ***-****. (p.146)


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This page (http://www.nlightning.com/dtpstips.html) was last updated 29 May 1995