Buy Local in the Global Village

There is something fascinating about being part of a culture that is truly embracing globalization. My client base is no longer restricted to my base of operations. With a phone call or video chat I can be connected to somebody in Hong Kong and, other than giving them a handshake, it can be as if they operated down the street.

However, at the same time we’ve seen the bumper stickers, originated by the farm/food industry, that scream at us to “Buy Locally.”

As freelancers, we can become part of the “local” movement.

The idea of working locally doesn’t mean we have to lose our ability to tackle the market beyond our immediate vicinity. As a graphic designer, I have clients who are several towns away and even several states. When I talk about thinking locally, I specifically mean think about what is local to you and what is local to your product’s destination.

I have a trusty online printer that I used to utilize for small jobs. The product, while saving money, travels from Ohio to Massachusetts. I factor this into my overall “green plan” when tackling a project. But after seeing the impact of transportation on the environment, I decided to look locally.

Sure enough, I found a local printer who satisfies all my requirements and after working with them for a bit, I started noticing they would cut some of my prices as a loyalty incentive. It ultimately worked out in my favor. They’re extremely handy when I have questions about making my designs more sustainable now that I have a working relationship with them.

So what about my client a few states away? After talking to my local printer, they said something that made me respect them quite a bit, “You’re looking to do the sustainable thing, so find a printer near your client.” The moment he said it, I thought, “Wow, I missed the obvious.” I could use this global system in a local way.

I contacted a printer who operated a few miles from my client (as opposed to my printer’s 600+ miles) and started ironing out some details. I even received recommendations from my local printer (apparently they know their competition quite well!) For a smaller print job the savings were negligible. However, a much larger print job is in the works and the savings on shipping will not only raise my bottom line, but it’ll reduce environmental impact.

For all designers, especially those who are new to the industry, printers can be intimidating, especially if you’re not confident in that aspect of the field. (I only learned once I toured a few printers and asked a lot of questions.) I assure you, they’re helpful and friendly. Plus, think of how scary it is for our clients who have never utilized a designer. Find your local printers and set up consultations with them on a project. They’ll pitch to you and hopefully you’ll find one who is not only interested in your money, but in building a long-term professional relationship.

One thought on “Buy Local in the Global Village

  1. Anne C. Kerns, AIGA

    Good advice. I’ve done the same thing. Found a printer in California for a client in Calfornia; Found a printer in Minneapolis for my client in Minneapolis. I’m in Maryland, so it’s quite a shipping distance saved.

    You can usually find referrals for good printers in other areas by looking at local AIGA chapters and either contacting their board of directors or even their supporters page. It also supports the companies that support our industry; tell them where you heard about them. Ask for references and talk to other designers. Reach out via Twitter for recommendations, too.