Anatomy of an Order Form

Hi everyone! As you can see, my plan to blog on the regular is proving a bit more difficult than I had hoped. But that's ok because I'm writing now & feeling pretty good about it. I digress.

For those of you NOT involved in the stationery industry, let me bring you up to speed. It is officially trade show season and no one is sleeping! The largest of the industry shows, The National Stationery Show, takes place next month in NYC and that's all that I can think about. Like most of my fellow stationers, my waking and resting thoughts have been consumed with booth design, new product ideas, travel logistics and last but certainly not least, plans to meet and greet both new and old friends.

Usually I have a good amount of time before NSS to plan for nothing but NSS. The business has grown quite a bit in the last 12 months so in addition to planning for NSS, we're also printing and fulfilling wholesale, etsy and custom orders. While grateful for the steady work, it's a little more challenging than in years past.

Soooo, to help myself plan (and maybe you as well) I thought I'd share a little bit of what's happening behind the scenes. That being said, say hello to my NSS Order Form.

As you can see, the who, what, when, where and why is pretty standard. Nonetheless, if you've never had to make one of these, I thought I'd point out a few things you may want to add or copy for your own. You should know that I copy my order form on a 2-part carbon paper form from my laser printer. I purchase the blank sheets here. I also attach each order form to a clipboard and usually have about 3-4 individual clipboards ready to go.

1. I fill in a few order forms ahead of time with the date and order number so that I know who comes first when it's time to actually fill the orders. My order numbers at NSS are usually something along the lines of NSS01, NSS02, etc. The ship date is also VERY important. Be sure to leave a space to write this. A simple check allows me to note if they want it asap, and if not then I write in the future date they prefer.

2. All of this is pretty standard, however I have added a box to check to let myself know if the order is from an existing or new retailer. This will help me see at a glance how many new shops I've gained at the show. Keeping existing retailers happy is a must but gaining new shops is always my goal.

3. I've recently added this section after accepting the fact that I suck at math. NSS is equal parts standing, talking and calculating. There's nothing worse than realizing you've miscalculated something when you review your orders or return home. It's always made me feel unprofessional. While I'll still have to add the final totals, this little cheat sheet allows me to know the costs of my products at a glance. My products range from $1.50 – $7.00 and most retailers order in qty's of 6's or 12's. This will eliminate some of the math for me along the way.

4. In the past I used to totally write out a short description of each product. That took up soooooo much time and in the end I was left trying to decipher my own chicken scratch. Now I simply leave a space for the item number and I'm good to go. All of my products have the cost and item number directly next to the product on the wall so it's never a question for myself or for those retailers who just grab an order form and fill it out themselves. NOTE: that will happen. Make sure your forms are easy to understand to those who may not know the ins and outs of your product, or all of your own special codes or markings.

5. Be sure to leave a space for any additional notes or instructions either from the retailer or from yourself. Possibly a note to send a sample, contact them before shipping, etc... I require a credit card for all orders at show time unless they are an established store and already have net 30 terms with me. Be sure to write every piece of info. that your CC machine or Square requires and always get a signature.

Once I have a finished order, I give the retailer their copy and then punch my copy and place it in my 3-ring binder. That binder, just like my children, NEVER LEAVES MY SITE. Not only is it full of all my hard work, it's also full of credit card numbers. I don't even want to think about what could happen if I lost that thing.

I hope you find this helpful, and if not, I hope I gave you something enjoyable to read while you took that much needed break from all of your hard work. Stay focused, get plenty of rest and take as many deep breaths as you need. See you soon enough!


  1. Awesome post, Lisa! Such a well thought out order form that makes it easy for you and your retailers! Look forward to seeing you in NY soon! xoxo -Katie

  2. Thanks so much for posting this! I never thought to put a price list "cheat sheet" on the order form...but since I also suck at math this is a really great idea.

  3. I so wish I'd read this before I ordered mine. Excellent post! Thanks. :)

  4. Lisa, you are brilliant for thinking of the cheat sheet math! I haven't printed mine yet for this year, so I have time to add in my own cheat sheet. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Lisa, you read my mind. This is my first year at NSS, and one of my waking and resting thoughts is what this form should look like...thanks!

  6. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and for sharing your expertise. This will be our first show. I hope I get everything done in time and that I don't forget anything.

    How many forms do you bring with you? How many orders do you usually write at the show? (This may be too personal but maybe you can give me a general idea.) I really don't even know what to expect. My goals are high though.

    1. Our company name is Paper Bandit Press. We are in booth #1351. I'm looking forward to meeting you.

  7. This will be my first show on the Stationery side also, although I've done Surtex a few times. I really appreciate you listing everything in such a cohesive manner and sharing so generously. I'll be in booth #2955 and look forward to meeting you also. Tammy
    Tammy Smith Design