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How to Start a Packaging Business

Written by:

Edited by:

Reviewed by: Daniel Javor

Published on June 15, 2022

Updated on October 17, 2022

How to Start a Packaging Business

Disclaimer: Step by Step Business’ content is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional legal or tax advice. All of our articles are thoroughly reviewed and fact-checked by our editorial team. Read our editorial guidelines for more details.

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Fast Facts

Investment range

$4,750 - $11,700

Revenue potential

$83,000 - $229,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 - 3 months

Profit potential

$75,000 - $149,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

How to Start a Packaging Business

When deciding what to buy on a shopping trip, it’s packaging that often catches the eye. Unique labeling and packaging helps build brands and sell as many products as possible. 

If you’re thinking of starting your own packaging business, now is a great time – the industry is worth nearly $10 billion and poised for steady growth in the coming years. 

But before you start designing labels, you’ll need to learn what it takes to launch a business venture. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide has all the information you need to put your new packaging business on the road to success. 

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Before starting a packaging business, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. 

Pros

  • Creative Work – Design creative packaging and build brands!
  • Good Money – Charge up to $100 per hour for design services
  • Flexibility – Set your own working hours

Cons

  • Crowded Market – Compete with established packaging firms
  • Skills Required – Need marketing and graphic design skills

Packaging business industry trends

Industry size and growth

packaging industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends within the packaging industry include:

  • Highly customized product labeling and packaging is becoming the norm. Companies that work closely with their clients to create unique, customized designs, inserts, and boxes are more likely to attract today’s hottest brands over companies that offer limited, “one-size-fits-all” choices. 
  • Many top packaging firms focus on the design process and partner with a separate company to handle production. Overseas manufacturers are better suited for high volume orders while local businesses are better equipped to handle more personalized products.

Challenges within the packaging industry include:

  • In some industries, product labeling and packaging is becoming more important than the product itself. This means packaging companies need to make significant investments in creative design talent to stand out from the competition. 
  • The cost of raw materials like plastic, paper, and adhesives is on the rise. This could make procuring these items expensive and challenging for packaging businesses.
packaging industry Trends and Challenges

 What kind of people work in packaging?

  • Gender 39% of packaging specialists are female, while 61% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/packaging-specialist-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education The average packaging specialist in the US has obtained a bachelor’s degree.
  • Average age The average packaging specialist in the US is 44 years old.
packaging industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a packaging business?

If you’re looking to start a packaging business that focuses primarily on packaging design, startup costs range from $4,800 to $10,700. Main costs include website setup, design software, and marketing and advertising expenses. 

If you plan on starting a packaging business with onsite manufacturing capabilities, startup costs will be much higher and include facility rental, equipment purchase or lease, and materials. 

To brush up on your graphic design skills or learn how to create packaging mockups for clients, there are plenty of online courses available. Websites like Udemy offer several courses for under $100 that can be completed in just a few days.

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your packaging business, including: 

  • Website
  • Computer
  • Packaging design software
  • Prototype materials
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Licenses and permits$100-$300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Website$1,000-$3,000$2,000
Computer$800-$1,600$1,200
Marketing and Advertising$2,000-$5,000$3,500
Packaging design software$500-$1,000$750
Prototype materials$250-$500$375
Total$4,750 - $11,700$8,225

How much can you earn from a packaging business?

New packaging businesses that specialize in design services typically charge an hourly rate of $40. Assuming you aren’t manufacturing packaging as part of your business, aim for a profit margin of around 90%.

In your first year or two, you could work from home for 40 weekly hours at $40 an hour, bringing in $83,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $75,000 in profit, assuming that 90% margin. As your company gains recognition, you could charge $55 per hour and double your business. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial space and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to around 65%. With annual revenue of $229,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $149,000. 

packaging business earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry when it comes to starting a packaging business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Drawing clients away from established firms
  • Building a reputation for powerful designs

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a packaging business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research packaging businesses in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a packaging design business that offers in-house printing services. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as cosmetics or food packaging.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your products or services

Packaging companies provide design services for products in a variety of different industries. Some packaging companies also have production capabilities and create the actual boxes, mailers, and inserts in-house. Focus on a specific product niche to attract and grow a loyal customer base. 

How much should you charge for packaging services?

Packaging businesses that specialize in packaging design services typically charge an hourly rate between $40 and $100. Your rate will largely depend on your level of expertise and reputation in the industry. You may be able to charge more if you offer brand consulting services. If you produce packaging in-house, you could charge $.50 to $3.50 per package, depending on size and materials. 

If your company just provides design services, you’ll have very little recurring costs, so expect a profit margin of around 90%. If your business includes onsite production, your margin will be around 30%.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be retailers looking for assistance with designing and manufacturing packaging for their products. Advertise your services on the platform LinkedIn and connect with business owners and companies who may be interested in partnering with you. 

To target small businesses and social media influencers looking to create their own products, focus your marketing efforts on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office or a production facility. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
packaging business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, like “custom packaging” or “packaging solutions”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.

what to include in a business plan

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to packaging businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your packaging business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

types of business structures

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a packaging business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a packaging business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your packaging business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as CHILI publish, iC3D, or Box It Now to design packaging prototypes, share designs with clients, and manage inventory.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Marketing

Some of your business will come from word of mouth or online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Book Now”. This can sharply increase potential clients.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include: 

  • Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events 
  • In-Person Sales – Offer your packaging services at local markets, trade shows 
  • Sponsor events – You can pay to be a sponsor at events that are relevant to your target market
  • Post a video – Post a video about your packaging business. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
  • Email marketing/newsletter – Send regular emails to customers and prospects. Make them personal. 
  • Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients. 
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Influencer marketing – Pay people with large social media followings to promote your packaging business. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
  • Testimonials – Share customer testimonials about how your packaging business helped them

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your packaging business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your packaging business could be: 

  • Eco-friendly packaging for earth-conscious brands
  • Draw customers with eye-popping package designs
  • Custom labels and inserts personalize your product lines
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a packaging business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in packaging for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in packaging services. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a packaging business include:

  • Packaging Designer – Design and create prototypes for clients
  • Administrative Assistant – Schedule client meetings, create invoices
  • Marketing Lead – Manage social media accounts, run advertising campaigns

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Packaging companies all over the world work hard to make their clients’ products as attractive as possible so they fly off the shelves. The industry is seeing steady growth, which means starting and running your own packaging business could be a rewarding and lucrative venture. 

Now that you’ve done your homework on what it takes to launch a business, it’s time to get out there and start designing your vision of success. 

Packaging Business FAQs

How much does it cost to start a packaging business?

If you focus on designing product packaging, you can start a business for around $4,700. If you plan on opening a business that includes packaging manufacturing, your costs will be much higher.

Is a packaging business profitable?

Yes, packaging businesses can be extremely profitable. The key to success is in how unique your packaging designs are and the number of clients you serve.

How much should I charge for packaging services?

Businesses that offer packaging design services charge between $40 and $100 an hour. Your rate will depend on your industry reputation and level of experience. If you decide to manufacture packaging, you could charge between $.50 and $3.50 per item, depending on materials and size.

Do I need a license to start a packaging business?

You may be required to obtain specific business licenses to run your packaging business. Check with your state and local governments and visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.