What Print & Promotional Materials do Web Designers Need?


Back in the web’s infancy, some thought it held the potential to usher in a “paperless” world. Well, that hasn’t happened just yet. Printed materials are still all around us.

Of course, nobody said the same thing about other promotional items like clothing and assorted swag. If anything, they’re more prevalent than ever, with online services dedicated to letting us design and order our own gear.

And, despite the fact that we web designers spend the bulk of our days online, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invest in these items. They can come in handy when attending a conference, or having a face-to-face meeting with a prospective client. If you want to go really old-school, you might even send them via postal mail.

So, what printed and promotional items does a freelance web designer or small agency need? Much of it depends on the goals of your business. Therefore, some items will be more essential than others. But if you’re looking for ideas, here are some things to consider.

Business Cards

In a world with online portfolios and social media, you’d think society would have moved beyond the business card. But these staples of work continue to have their place.

We still hand them out at events and client meetings. And many of us collect the ones we receive from others as well. There’s just something about having that little card that’s comforting. Plus, they’re often one of the most affordable ways to promote your business in the physical world.

The only catch here is that, as someone who works in a creative industry, your card really needs to stand out. Whether you design your own or hire a graphic designer, the goal is to make them memorable. That can be achieved through great design, high-quality paper or other cool effects we’ve seen recently.

A stack of business cards.

Invoices, Contracts and Letterhead

This may be one area where we’ve made a bit of progress towards that paperless world. People are increasingly becoming more comfortable with online invoicing and even electronic signatures. Email has proven to be a great alternative. But not everyone is on board.

Some clients prefer, and might even require, physical copies of these documents. Therefore, it’s best to hang onto that office printer. It’s still a necessary evil.

The bright side of this is that it offers another opportunity to show off your design skills. Both invoices and contracts can be great ways to communicate your branding. In addition, they can be an effective way to get important messages to your clients – at least, those who tend to not read their email.

When it comes to letterhead, this simply looks more professional than tapping out a note on a blank piece of paper. Despite its simplicity, it’s one of those items that can make a small business look on par with the corporate behemoths.

What’s truly great about these assets is that you really can design and print them yourself. You can even level up by using fancy paper if you like.

A person signing a document.


Let’s start by saying that t-shirts aren’t a necessity. There is a little bit of financial investment required to have a supply on hand – which can be tough for the budget-conscious. Still, they can be a tremendous marketing resource.

Case in point: If you’ve attended any sort of conference or trade show, then you likely know that the exhibitors giving away shirts tend to have the busiest tables. Shirts are a promotional item that just about everyone wants to snag.

Plus, people do wear them. And, even if they only wear your shirt in public a couple of times, that’s still a walking billboard for your business. They create brand awareness both for the people who wear them and those who simply notice them while out and about.

This is yet another item you can put your own personal spin on. Even if you haven’t designed a t-shirt before, there are a number of mockup templates that can give you a fast start.

T-Shirts on a table.

Stickers and Magnets

Much like business cards, stickers and magnets can serve as handy reminders when someone wants to get in touch. And they tend to go places where business cards can’t.

Laptops, for example, are often decorated with a variety of stickers. It’s a very common sight in the design and development industry. If those folks are in your target market, a small investment in a few hundred sticky pieces of paper can really pay off.

Magnets probably shouldn’t go anywhere near your computer (at least not the hard drive). But they do go great with filing cabinets, office refrigerators and even cars. They can also be a nice alternative to stickers, as they don’t damage painted surfaces. That alone may make the ones you give away more widely used.

A woman using a laptop computer.

Those Unexpected Goodies

Sometimes, it pays to go against the grain when it comes to promotional items. Unique giveaways that catch people by surprise are often treated with more care than a card or brochure.

Things like USB sticks, water bottles, clocks or reusable shopping bags are more likely to be kept in a prominent place – thus promoting your business at the same time.

Of course, the downside to these types of goods is their cost. So perhaps it’s wise to reserve them for your high-end clientele or a sporadic giveaway here and there.

But if you’re looking to make a splash and have some extra budget, this could be a fun way to splurge. And it just might further endear you to a good client.

A USB stick connected to a computer.

Promoting Web Design in the Physical World

Maybe it is a bit ironic that those of us who work in the virtual world need to promote our businesses in such an old-school manner. But the reason to do so is simple: it works.

The exciting part of this is that you have a lot of flexibility on the items you invest in. Some, like documents, can be made on demand in your office. You have complete control of the design process and can print them out anytime. Best of all, they’re cheap!

More traditional goods may have a higher cost. But, if you shop around, you might be able to purchase them in minimal quantities. This ensures you don’t go over budget or, even worse, have cases of unused tchotchkes stacked up in your living room.

At the very minimum, a web designer should have business cards, along with contracts, invoices and letterhead. But why limit yourself? There are tons of unique items that can help spread the word about your brand.

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