Ready - Blindfold - Go!
If reading instructions is not your thing, this might not work...
Let's face it, nobody likes to take on a complicated and unfamiliar task without instructions. Chances of failure and loss may just be too high to justify the invested time and money. While that seems to be the eternal truth, many people would still engage some unknown person from an unknown culture and hand over hard-earned money. Hoping in exchange, a tangible product of decent quality will be reciprocated. Of course, this is jumping ahead to the end of the story... There are still many other chores that fall in between the time of purchase and the time of receipt.
The one and only reason that some people would even consider buying directly from overseas is the potential savings. There's no dispute for this fact. However, the "potential" savings could quickly evaporate when other factors are taken into consideration. For instance, time. Even if one knows all the ins-and-outs of exporting and importing, it would still be a very time-taxing exercise. For those who have never done it, it is no less daunting than to climb Mt. Everest.
The biggest issue here is lack of knowledge and experience. Assuming that the overseas factory is of decent ethics (and that's a big assumption), one is likely to have to handle all the logistics issues from the port of China all the way to the final destination. For printing, assuming the buyer is somewhat experienced with print, he might already have his hands full in making sure that the product quoted is indeed the product he's looking for. And after all the back-and-forth, the same buyer will have to find and negotiate with various logistics service providers in order to bring the shipment back to state-side.
Most Chinese factories will quote buyers FOB China. That means they'll deliver the shipment to the port of export, or more specifically, to the customs broker you specify at the port of export that's closest to the factory. Buyer will be responsible to find and engage a customs broker in China to handle all the export paperwork, permits, and fees. Ocean freight will become the next hassle to deal with. Once the shipment lands, the same buyer will then need to get an U.S. customs broker to clear import customs, and lastly, get a trucker to bring the shipment from port of entry to the final destination.
If reading instructions before you assemble that Ikea furniture is not your thing, DIY overseas printing may not be a good fit for you either.
Obviously, we are over-simplifying the steps. But these are the basic steps that nobody, including the factory will be sharing with the buyer. Each step along the way can very easily develop into many finer hassles that the buyer has to deal with. At the end of the day, unless one is prepared to make a living off international shipping, time invested to experience the logistics-hell is hardly worthy. To further compound the matter, whichever logistics service provider one chooses for each link in the chain "should" be familiar with the product being exported/imported. As customs officials on each side are likely to pick on those seldom seen names, it'd be best for the buyer to have someone who can really help to negotiate the shipment along. All in all, for the inexperienced, it just may not be worth the effort and resources. The buyer will most definitely get a much better return on investment by going through companies such as ourselves who make a living on ensuring all parties work together smoothly.
In essence, "overseas printing" is really two very different industries joined into one. On one hand, there is the technicalities of printing itself, many people have decades of printing experience and may still find themselves helpless when dealing with a foreign factory. On the other hand, there's international trading with the many, many different logistical vendors that the buyer will need to deal with. Each industry is distinct and very technical; just as there are people who specialize in printing and people who specialize in logistics.
If reading instructions before you assemble that Ikea furniture is not your thing, DIY overseas printing may not be a good fit for you either. As with this particular venture, there's no instruction. Even if the heart desireth one.