introduction to stationery

Letterheads, compliment slips, business cards and invoices all influence how others see your business. You should present a high quality business image. This is not necessarily expensive (much of it you can print yourself if you don’t need vast quantities), but you need to be consistent and stationery must provide certain information, depending on whether you are a sole trader, partnership or limited company, to stay within the law.

So how do you use your stationery to develop your image? How do you decide what you need and how much you should pay? How do you find a printer? What must sole traders, partnerships and limited companies legally display on stationery? There are different regulations for each type of business and you need to know what you must display. Should you use coated or uncoated paper? How can you support the environment without paying more? Is recycled paper any good and can it help your business? Duport’s stationery guide provides the answers.

business image
Stationery speaks volumes about your business. Your aim is to provide a high quality image that displays attention to detail, which suggests your business will do the same. After all if your stationery looks sloppy what will that say about the rest of your business? All stationery items should match and reflect your marketing material.

Consider the effects certain aspects of your stationery make on your customers. For example:

  • specific typeface
  • logo and letterhead design
  • text to include – phone number, business slogan, legal requirements
  • colours to use – eg bold or muted. Monochrome?
  • paper weight – heavier paper is more expensive, but can indicate quality. Some recycled paper appears cheaper but may endorse your environmental credentials and gain approval of certain customers. Think about what matters to your business
  • professional bodies. If you are a member of an industry association, federation or institute, you can use this to give kudos to your company. You must check with the professional body that you are allowed to use it and are using the latest logo.

what do you really need?
Most businesses need:

  • letterhead paper. A4 stationery which contains your logo and contact details for correspondence
  • compliment slips. Small slips with letterhead paper details, useful for attaching to documents, cheques etc.
  • invoices and receipts. Generally created as a template for computer printing, but can be as a duplicate or triplicate book to be filled in by hand. Go with what suits your business
  • business cards. Essential to give others your contact details
  • envelopes or envelope stickers. You may need various sizes, but these can be ordered cheaply and can be blank.

When you start up in business there will be many uncertainties. If you might move offices or change phone or email details in the near future, consider ordering or printing small qualities. Larger print volumes work out cheaper, but not if you have to dump it all in the near future. Consider using your own computer to create your own basic letterhead which can also serve as an invoice receipt etc. This is particularly cost effective if you only need a small number and can print from pre-designed template documents that include your logo or letterhead. Costs of ink cartridges etc would quickly mount for high volumes.

You can order envelopes etc. cheaply on the internet. Once the business is up and running and you understand your own requirements you can develop a relationship with a printer and become more sophisticated in your requirements.

essential information to include on your business stationery
Obviously you need your company name and address, telephone numbers (landline and mobile), plus fax number, email address and website address if applicable.

legal requirements
Since January 2007 certain legal changes meant more information has to be provided on stationery.

Sole traders do not need to register a business name. They can trade under their own name or choose a different business name. However, if as a sole trader you choose something other than your own name for the business you must by law include your own name and the business address on all business letters, orders and receipts. Invoices must state your VAT registration if you have one.

Partnerships must state on letters, orders, invoices and receipts the names of all partners and the address of the principal office or otherwise indicate where a list of partners may be inspected. Invoices must state VAT registration number if there is one.

Limited companies must show on letters and order forms (both paper and electronic forms, so that includes any websites etc.) the name of the company, the place of registration, the company registration number, the address of the registered office and the address of its place of business (if different). Furthermore if the company is to be wound up this fact must also be stated. Company directors do NOT have to be listed, but if you want to list them you must list them all. Invoices must show at least the company name and VAT number if applicable. If it is the case that the limited company is exempt from using the word “limited” in its name, it must state the fact that it is a limited company. Whenever an email is used where its paper equivalent would be caught by the stationery requirements then that email is also subject to the requirements.

how do I choose a printer?
Ideally, get a recommendation, or ask someone whose stationery you admire. Otherwise make a list of your own specifications. Maybe working with a local printer whom you can build up a relationship is important, or perhaps being able to order cheaper stock online is essential? Draw up a shortlist and look at examples (which companies will happily supply). Choose someone you are comfortable with and who can help your business. Make sure the price is competitive, be prepared to shop around, but if your local printer charges a bit more but can be relied on to help in a crisis, maybe cost isn’t everything. Check printing and delivery times as some internet companies printing offshore can have delays of several weeks.

how much will it cost?
Printing costs vary enormously. Higher volumes and a limited number of colours bring the costs down and the quality of the paper is also a deciding factor. Of course reprints will be cheaper than the first run. You are looking for a good print quality at a reasonable price with a firm you can rely on. Remember to check what costs will be for reprints and additional work (e.g. business cards for new employees).

Typical prices for 500 letterheads, (including VAT) are around £130. Order a large batch and the cost of each letterhead reduces substantially. Business card prices vary enormously depending on what you want. Depending on whether you want full colour, spot colour, embossed, glossy or basic black and white will greatly influence cost. Have a quick look on the internet and before you buy to get a general idea and make sure prices include VAT, free delivery and there are no credit card charges.


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