How to make money at home with a laser engraving machine?
Once you've gained experience with your OMTech laser cutter and created a few items for friends and family, the next question many people ask is whether they can be successful with a home-based laser engraving business.
As we all know, crafts from home have become very popular in recent years and some people have achieved great success in it. Laser engraving machines provide the perfect tool that allows you to think about starting your own small business with comparatively low investment.
Can you make money with laser engraving?
Yes, you can absolutely make money with a laser engraving business. In fact, every laser engraving machine owner is probably trying to make money from it.
The advantage of the laser engraving cutter is that it can transform inexpensive items into valuable products quickly, precisely and easily. Understanding this is crucial to knowing what, when and how to create a variety of gifts that will sell profitably.
A great example of this is simple slate coasters.
You can find slate drink coasters at your local home goods store for less than a dollar. They are perfect for engraving on your OMTech laser engraving machine, and you can create a simple template and engrave about a dozen of them in one go.
Now you might be tempted to create some interesting random designs to turn your coasters into something unique.
My advice? Do not do that.
Look around at various craft fairs and gift shops and you'll see hundreds of these generic designs, many made in the Far East and perhaps only slightly more expensive than your original plain coasters.
I know some laser engraving shop owners who sell these types of items at craft shows. But they literally have hundreds of them in stock and only sell a few each weekend. Some will never be sold. That's a huge investment in time and inventory for probably only a mediocre return.
So, how do you really make money with a laser engraving business from home?
The secret to making money with laser engraving
What do people love more than anything else?
The secret to making money with your laser engraving machine is PERSONALIZATION.
You can take your Euro coaster and engrave it with a person's name, a personal message, or the brand logo, and suddenly the coaster becomes a $10 or more sale!
So you've found the key to making money with your laser engraving machine.
The advantage of creating personalized items is that they are usually produced in small quantities, so you won't get bored trying to set up a production line. Personal, unique items leave a lasting impression. The word spreads and they generate excellent customer satisfaction and feedback. Nothing is as special as seeing your name or a personal message on a gift.
Starting your laser engraving business from home
Now that you understand the first principle of how to get your laser engraving business idea off the ground, how do you get started?
Well, first of all, there are some boring aspects that need to be taken care of depending on where you live. It is impossible to cover every jurisdiction in this article, but some of the things you will need to check are business registration, taxes, insurance and obligations. Once you are satisfied that you understand and have followed through, we can move forward.
When you start a business with paying customers, as opposed to friends and family, you will accept different terms and conditions from those customers, mainly related to timing and quality.
Timing means that when you accept an order, you will promise to deliver the final product on a specific day. Only you know how busy you are, how much time you can allocate to work, and when the delivery date should be. But then there are various things that can go wrong and you need to plan for buffer time and do everything you can to minimize the problems.
Things that can go wrong include issues like power outages and weather conditions. These are beyond your control and this is what time buffering is for. An extra day or two can allow you to recover from such disasters. Other things like machine breakdowns, low inventory, design flaws, etc. These are things you can control and therefore minimization includes keeping an extra laser tube, laser mirrors and spare focus lenses on hand at all times as well as ensuring you have enough inventory to to cover the order and any material tests or rework.
While we talk about things that can go wrong, one of the prominent problems with small home laser operations has been design errors, particularly spelling errors. I have seen laser engraving companies create designs and even have them approved by the customer that had serious spelling errors. Now, although in similar situations you might be tempted to say, well, the customer approved it - I guarantee you this will be the last order you get from them. So always have someone else check your work before handing it over to the laser.
What do I need to start a laser engraving business?
Of course you need a laser machine. OMTech offers a wide range of CO2 laser engraving machines and fiber laser engraving machines suitable for small home businesses. A good entry-level small business laser engraver that fits well in your garage or craft room is the 60W CO2 laser. The 80W and 100W machines can provide a larger work area and faster laser cutting if your space allows.
Now you need to think about storage. You need a place to store your laser machine spare parts and accessories, label them well and keep them easily accessible. Also, make sure you know how to change the spare parts and remember that maintaining your laser machine will be especially important at the end of each day/week.
Since you will be storing a good amount of raw materials for laser engraving, they need to be stored properly, whether it is wood, glass, slate or any other substrate. Make sure you understand the effects of temperature and humidity changes and store your materials accordingly.
After you have laser processed the items, you will need an assembly area - a clean workbench is ideal where you can assemble, clean and package your finished items for the customer. Of course, these must be stored safely and carefully as soon as they are ready for shipping or collection.
A clean, temperature-controlled environment will help you enjoy going to work every day, which is especially important if you plan to run your laser engraving business full-time.
What can I sell with a laser engraving machine?
Of course you can sell anything you can make, but just because you can doesn't mean you should.
I highly recommend that you shop around in your area and see what other laser engraving companies are selling. Visit local craft fairs and talk to people. And then distance yourself from what they are doing.
Seriously, laser engraving machines allow you a tremendous range of possibilities, and trying to compete with someone who has created their own niche is a recipe for failure.
Find out what others are NOT doing and research the items that no one else is offering in your area. Of course, it's possible to find almost anything online, but when it comes to personalization, the personal touch remains extremely important. Ordering a personalized item online always involves some risk. Although the customer may save a few dollars, a real connection is built when they can talk to you about the design and product.
Once you have decided what you want to make and sell, you should also consider what complementary items can be added to increase the size and value of the order.
For example, using the coasters example, you can sell a set of 4, 6 or 8 personalized coasters. Now think about how you want to package them. It is easy to create a design template for a wooden box to store them in, which can be engraved and personalized by yourself. Your 20 euro order for four coasters could now become a 30 euro order with the accompanying box.
Once you've decided what you want to do, you need to find your customers!
Advertising and promotion
Build it and they will come" may have worked for Kevin Costner, but in the laser engraving business it's important to get your name and what you do out there.
But there are many ways to do this the wrong way.
First of all, you MUST have a website. These days we're all connected online, and many people will use a website to find out what you're doing before they ever pick up a phone. You can easily create beautiful websites for free using tools like Wix, and there are usually plenty of local experts who can give you advice if you need it. However, initially all you really need is some personal statements about what you do, some good photos of what you have/can create, and your contact details. Things like e-commerce can come later, but it's important to create something. A domain name and a personal email address using that name will also add prestige to your new home business.
You may be tempted to promote your website to attract visitors to it. However, this is a mistake you can make early in your business and will likely cost you wasted money. Your website should tell people what you do and give them the confidence to reach out. However, the people you want to reach will be close to you. You can attend trade fairs and exhibitions, take your business cards and talk to people. Explain the personalization options - a selection of small samples can say a lot. Remember that your personal touch will make all the difference. Later, the same people will take your card and visit your website - they are much more likely to interact with you, and no advertising expenditure is required for the website.
Also think carefully about what type of customers may use your services. It's not just people who need a gift for a friend or relative - they tend to be either individual purchases or casual buyers at best - but think weddings, for example. Now, approaching the bride might get you a nice order for personalized table decorations, but again, that's just a wedding. But if you can get to the wedding planners, this could be a regular source of orders.
Personalization also works very well in the business world. Companies always need promotional items to give away, but there is no point in targeting big companies as they will have contracts with big companies that will undercut you. Instead, look for small shops. Small businesses do not require a minimum order quantity of 1000 pieces from large suppliers. They can offer smaller quantities that can add value to their business and yours.
To get started with local advertising, you can search for local clubs, small doctor's offices, amateur sports teams, antique shops, craft stores, local restaurants and cafes, etc. Clubs and small businesses like these are always in need of promotional items, plaques, trophies and memorabilia.
Tip for laser cutting business:
To get your laser cutting business off the ground and attract new customers:
Almost every city has a downtown area that is home to small local businesses. Walk around this area of your city and make notes of any local business that might need your laser engraving services. When you get home, check out the stores' websites to become more familiar with their businesses. Extract the logo file from their website and engrave it on a product that suits their business. Attach your business card to any product and surprise the shop owner with your quality craftsmanship. This free sample is an excellent way to make your first business connections, and with a little luck and sales skills, you will get your first orders.
Avoiding business growth pitfalls
When building your business, it can be tempting to accept every customer order request, and this will inevitably lead to you having a wider selection of items to sell. Saying "sorry, no" to a customer is probably the hardest thing to do, but it's something you have to learn if you don't want the business to spiral out of control.
Imagine setting up your coaster engraving business with a nice supply of coaster blanks and various wooden materials for the boxes.
Now one of your good wedding planning clients suggests that you could do engraved glasses, which sounds like a great idea. However, to engrave the glasses you will need to reconfigure your laser machine to use the rotary device. This can take an hour or so to get everything set up, aligned and adjusting the settings. Once you have completed this job, you will need to reset the machine to engrave coasters.
This now puts additional pressure on you. It can affect your order delivery time, and if something goes wrong, it can affect the relationship with the customer. Sometimes it's better to say, "Sorry, I can't do that right now."
However, it is possible that during your travels to trade shows and markets you may come across another laser engraving business owner who specializes in engraving glassware. Perhaps this can be the start of a referral business where you sell items to each other or simply exchange referrals. Business growth can take many forms.
Timing of your laser engraved products
If you pay attention in supermarkets, you will notice that Easter items arrive in February. They were probably made shortly after Christmas. This applies to every holiday, and fortunately we know exactly when they will occur. However, many people prepare only a week before a holiday, but in store you cannot afford this. You need to follow the same model as the supermarkets (after all, they are the experts) and plan both your inventory and customer orders well in advance.
You may need to explain the holiday rush that will occur and that to guarantee delivery you need the orders early. Leaving it late will again add pressure as you will need to process orders received late in a timely manner so as not to upset the customer.
Make money with laser engraving
Making money with laser engraving is a joy if you are careful about how you start and set your expectations. You must first work hard to attract an audience and familiarize them with what you can offer. Don't quit your day job until you're earning a regular, reliable income from it. Maintaining your laser engraving machine needs to be something you plan on a daily basis, and identifying and fixing problems when they arise should become second nature.
Remember that using your laser engraving machine is only a small part of your home business. If you want to be successful, you must plan well, pay attention to detail, and commit to achieving timely deliveries of quality products.
Don't compromise or spend more money than necessary. A million visitors to your website may bring you some sales, but building a relationship with a wedding planner or local business group can create a steady stream of orders that will keep your laser engraving business thriving.