A laser engraving machine alone affords you numerous business opportunities. For starters, you can lend it, or learn how to operate it yourself.
Whether you want to establish a steady flow of passive income or risk a little to earn drastically more, it’s up to you. I’m here today to teach you how to make money with a laser engraver machine, so let’s start with the basics.
Step 1: Select Your Business Path
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide how you will use your laser engraver. There are two common ways to do so: offering engraving services or creating (and then selling) laser-engraved products.
Whichever you choose, know that your decision doesn’t necessarily need to be set in stone. You can switch from providing engraving services to retailing engraved products, or combine the two as your situation allows. It is, however, worth noting that a specific niche may benefit your brand image and recognizability.
Option 1: Providing Engraving Services
Customizing and personalizing items for others is an excellent way to create a sustainable income. The type of orders you will be engaged with will vary depending on whether you’ll open a B2B company (corporate) or work on a smaller scale, usually for locals (commercial).
While engraving different items every day may be a bit more entertaining, you will be able to earn considerably more money by working with established companies. Let’s dive deeper into corporate and commercial engraving services.
Corporate laser engraving services
The process is quite simple – you find a company that produces and sells products with special laser engravings, and you offer your services to them. In most cases, the firm you’ll partner with will have its own set of designs and logos, so once you learn how to etch them into the products, the rest of the work goes quite smoothly.
The main drawback of this line of work is its “grinding” nature. You will mostly be doing the same thing over and over, as it is not as creative as creating your own designs and choosing the objects to etch them into.
There are numerous benefits to corporate laser engraving services, the most notable being the constant inflow of cash you will receive each week or month.
With repetition comes perfection; as you become more familiar with the designs and establish your daily routine, you will need less time to engrave bulks of products, allowing the job to become less labor-intensive.
Commercial laser engraving services
If you open an engraving personalization shop, you will be your own boss. You will get to choose your dealings, but you will also have to find your clients.
Establishing long-term connections in the commercial laser engraving business is slightly more challenging, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding gift shops, pubs, or restaurants that need engraving services frequently.
One of the best things about offering commercial laser engraving services is that you won’t be limited to working with a set number of clients. In comparison to corporate engraving services, you won’t be engraving hundreds of products daily, so you will have more time to find and cater to the needs of other clients.
Option 2: Producing and Retailing Engraved Products
Most laser engraving businesses are flexible, but none more so that a company that produces and retails engraved products. Although this is considered harder than providing engraving services by many, it is also an opportunity to learn something new every day and put your creativity to work.
The flexibility of this type of business is one of the main reasons why so many people choose it. You can create pretty much anything, and there are minimal limitations to what your business should be doing.
Whether you’ll sell customized belt buckles to fashion shops, personalized mugs to cafes, or unique keychain holders to Amazon drop shippers, you can expect quite a bit of money if you have a solid plan.
Laser Engraving Production Materials
Virtually all materials come in cheap and expensive variants, and your choice should be informed by your budget and clientele:
Below are the materials you will want to consider if you are just starting out or just want to keep your production costs low.
Poplar is the cheapest, but flimsiest wood while white oak is a sturdier, slightly more expensive alternative.
Iron is dirt-cheap but it is not the easiest to work with and requires a pricier engraver machine. Carbon steel and aluminum are far more engraver-friendly.
Plastics are usually quite affordable, but some are a bit more dangerous than others. HDPE & LDPE (high and low-density polyethylene), as well as PP (polypropylene), are the safest to use.
Finding quality glass for cheap is extremely difficult. It’s best to order finished “blank” products instead.
If you plan on engraving leather, you are lucky that cowhide is both very sturdy and widely available. Goatskin is a bit more robust and flexible, but it is more expensive as well.
Below are the materials you may want to consider for your engraved products if you have a bit more capital and want to target clients with a higher budget range.
For wood products, black walnut is the cheapest type in the high-quality range. For special occasions and when your budget permits it, consider koa wood and ebony but know that these can cost from $40 to $80 per board-foot on average.
Zinc is typically more expensive than aluminum because of its low availability and it is actually quite brittle. Lead is super-strong but hard to work with. The best-quality metal for laser engraving is unalloyed steel.
I don’t recommend using plastic for high-end engravings. If your customers demand it, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is the best.
Hand-blown glass is the ideal type of glass material for boutique laser engraving products. It may be a bit more difficult to work with, but the results are unparalleled.
If you can afford exotic leather materials, I recommend snakeskin, deerskin, and ostrich skin for premium-quality, unique laser engraving products.
Low-Cost Engraving Products & Ideas
If you’re starting with a constrained budget, you should start with cheaper materials and simpler designs, so that you can save both money and time.
Some of the simplest and most cost-effective products you can engrave are, fortunately, all available on Amazon. You can order blank wine glasses and bottles, blank iron coins, blank tumblers, and so many other kinds of “canvases” for your art.
Ordering bulks of the aforementioned “blank” products is also an opportunity for you to practice. I warmly recommend beginners in laser engraving to go this route, even if they aren’t drastically limited by low financial resources.
If you want a completely immersive engraving experience and don’t want to engrave someone else’s products, I recommend engraving wooden products.
Wood is generally the easiest to work with, and you can buy cheap logs, stumps, planks, and pretty much everything along those lines. As for product ideas, even with a basic laser engraver, you can create:
Portrait frames - simple cuts, no curved cutaways, all the places are fairly easy to reach, and you can add as many small details as you want.
Custom keychain holders - with a single plank, you can create a dozen holders. With a bit of paint and sandpaper, you can create gorgeous pieces of personalized art and sell them to any gift shop.
Personalized wooden blocks - you can mold a wooden block into a custom trophy, a toddler’s toy, an educational tool for kindergartens, and so much more.
Welcome signs - they are as easy to create as portrait frames, only they usually sell even better.
Holiday ornaments - whenever there’s a holiday to celebrate, you will have an opportunity to create custom ornaments and sell them in bulk.
High-end Engraving Products & Ideas
If you are experienced, own a quality laser engraver, and want to make the most of it, you shouldn’t settle for pennies. In that case, I recommend applying a bit more complex designs, offering special personalization options to your customers, and using higher quality materials.
Snakeskin-made wallets and ostrich leather engraved belt products may not sell as fast, but they sell for huge amounts of money. Hand-blown glassware will stand out in prominent gift shops and you are almost guaranteed to score a couple of hundred dollars per item.
When it comes to metal, you may want to create a collection of custom coins made of better-quality steel instead of reworking the blanks you’ve purchased on eBay.
To optimize your chances of scoring the highest profits with high-end products, a combination of experience, quality equipment, and patience is required. This type of business may not be as dynamic as a firm that retails low-cost personalization items, but it has the potential to accumulate thousands of dollars monthly in the right market.
Step 2: Market Your Laser Engraving Business
The marketing aspect of any business is as important as the quality of its services, if not even more important. People need to learn that your company exists, what kind of services/products you offer, how they can acquire them, and how much they cost.
I would like to share a few marketing tips that could help elevate your business and increase your presence, be it locally or online.
e-Commerce – Physical Shop Hybrid
Opening an online store and running a physical one may cost you extra, but this is the easiest method to spread the word of your products like wildfire. The customers coming to your physical store will bring more customers through word-of-mouth while your online shoppers may post reviews and testimonials.
The combination of the two is guaranteed to succeed if your products or services are in any way different from the current offerings in the marketing you are operating in. This could mean better quality products, better customer support, better prices, or a combination of the three.
Social Media Marketing
Even though people usually use these channels for entertainment purposes, the majority of people are already accustomed to constant ads, so you’ll have to be a bit more inventive.
Invest in targeted ad campaigns, contact prominent influencers, and regularly post updates to your social media pages.
Let people know what you are doing and how your brand is different.
Many companies have managed to build their names through persistence alone while the quality of their products/services came second, or even third.
Giveaways, Prizes, and Special Events
Emerging brands are typically faced with competition comprised of established brands and players. You probably can’t beat their prices, and I’d wager they can afford a bigger team to man better equipment. So, how do you compete with them when nearly all odds are against you?
Your laser engraving company should enter the market with a bang. Make an online event or two; to ensure the attendance is as high as possible, I propose you organize special prizes for a certain number of lucky winners. Put in extra effort to create unique engravings with quality materials to show potential customers what you can do.
Step 3: Find Out Where You Can Sell Your Merchandise
You’ll have multiple options at your disposal when it comes time to sell your products, especially if you’ve followed my advice and made a hybrid shop.
If you don’t have the budget, team, experience, and equipment, you may want to start selling your products on social media – it’s practically free, and it will work in perfect synergy with your future social media campaigns.
Once you gain a certain level of experience and become more proficient, selling to local craft and gift shops (without pausing your social media selling efforts) could complement your profits greatly. Contacts are just as important as products in every type of business.
Selling on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and other online marketplaces is usually the most rewarding, but it also costs more than selling on Facebook, Instagram, or on your own website. I suggest making an Amazon FBA merchant account once you are ready to take the next step.
There are endless opportunities to make excellent money with your laser engraving machine, and the best part is that you can try them all before deciding what’s best for you.
I hope that this article has helped you learn more about what types of services and products you can offer with a laser engraver, how to market them properly, which marketing strategies to use, and where to display your products at the end of the day.
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