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How to Make Money with a Laser Engraver in 2023 – A Step-by-Step Guide

laser engraved key

I first made money with a laser engraver while in college, and it was a really fun way to make some side income and pay for drinks (I mean textbooks!).

Back then, I stumbled into it just out of my own passion for making things, and because I had access to the large CO2 laser cutter in the MIT Media Lab, I was able to make a lot of cool things.

Fast forward a decade or so, and I created Activated Art in much of the same way – by following my passions. Now that I’ve created a more established business using laser cutters, I’m much more aware of the variety of ways for how to make money with a laser engraver.

With the ability to create unique, lasting designs on a wide range of materials, a laser engraving machine offers a versatile and profitable business opportunity.

In this blog post, we will guide you through the ins and outs of how to make money with a laser engraver, exploring the different types of engravers, materials, and profitable business ideas.

By the end, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to embark on your exciting laser engraving machine journey!

Short Summary

  • There are two types of businesses you can create using a laser cutter: a service business where you trade your time for money, or a product business where you sell products that you created from scratch (or a hybrid model where you do both).

  • Invest in the right small business laser engraving machine to set up your business for success. If you have a tighter budget, there are many quality laser machines for under $500, and if you want the best lasers on the market, there are plenty to choose from at every price point.

  • In general, If you’re just starting out, you’ll want either a Diode laser for smaller products or a CO2 laser to make larger products.

  • It’s critical to think of the sales side of your business as much as your product. Leverage online marketplaces & social media promotion to maximize product listings & reach a global audience.

  • If you’re new to laser engravers and cutting, see our comprehensive guide for beginners.

Understanding Laser Cutting and Engraving

Laser cutting and engraving is an amazing process that allows you to etch intricate designs or markings onto various materials for a truly unique and lasting result. At the heart of this process is a powerful laser engraver, a machine that can create beautiful patterns by precisely removing parts of the material. Laser engraving machine software is essential for controlling the machine and creating your designs.

Choosing the right type of laser engraver and suitable materials is crucial to the success of your business. There are different types of laser machines available, such as CO2, fiber, and diode lasers, each with their own advantages and applications. They can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they can engrave and cut a wide range of materials, which are outlined below.

Types of Laser Engravers

Laser Engraving work station

There are three main types of engravers:

  1. Diode lasers: These are the most cost-effective option, capable of engraving and cutting a range of materials. They are ideal for small businesses and those just starting out.

  2. CO2 lasers: These are more powerful and versatile, able to engrave and cut a wider range of materials, including wood, acrylic, and glass.

  3. Fiber lasers: These are the most advanced and expensive options, offering high precision and speed. They are commonly used for industrial applications.

Diode laser engravers are a cost-effective choice for those new to the craft, with entry-level machines priced under $300 and higher-quality machines going up to about $2,000. A Diode laser engraving machine can engrave most materials, and they can also cut through materials, but generally only to thicknesses of a few millimeters.

CO2 lasers are more expensive than Diode lasers and usually offer a higher capability in terms of what they can cut. If you’re looking to laser cut thicker materials, even 1/8 or 1/4 of an inch, a CO2 laser is your best bet. For Engraving, however, CO2 and Diode lasers are pretty similar in terms of materials.

In my opinion, CO2 laser engraving machines are perfect for small businesses, as they can engrave and cut various materials and boast a longer lifespan than diode laser machines.

Fiber laser engraving machines are incredibly durable and can easily cut and engrave metals, making them an ideal choice for businesses that primarily work with metal materials. Note: if you’re interested in using a laser engraver for your business, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on the top laser engravers for metal.

Each type of laser engraver has its own unique advantages and applications, so it’s essential to choose the one that best suits your business needs and target market.

Materials Suitable for Laser Engraving

Laser plywood

Selecting the right material for your laser engraving projects is key to creating high-quality, profitable products. Suitable materials for laser engraving include:

Some top wood picks for laser engraving are plywood, alder, cherry, balsa, fir, and engineered wood, but you can also engrave unique designs onto glass, acrylic, leather, cardboard, paper, metal, rubber, food, and fabric.

The type of material you choose will depend on the product you want to create and the market you’re targeting. For example, if you’re looking to create stunning wooden wall hangings or beautiful wooden boxes, you’ll want to choose a high-quality wood that will showcase your intricate designs.

By selecting the right materials and tailoring your products to your target market, you can ensure your laser engraving business is both profitable and successful.

How to Make Money With a Laser Engraver

While there are a multitude of things you can make and sell with a laser business, there are ultimately two types of businesses you can create: a service business or a product business (or a combination of the two).

A Laser Engraving Services Business

hand shake

As a laser engraving services business, you will essentially be leveraging your laser machine in order to make products for other people, typically businesses. You could be making something as simple as a sign for a business, you could be making a prototype for someone’s business idea, or you can provide services like rust removal.

You’ll make your money by charging an hourly rate, and from what I’ve seen and depending on your location, this could be anywhere from $75 to $150 an hour for your time.

The pros of this kind of business are that there are plenty of customers who need to purchase laser cutting and engraving services, depending on your location.

The cons of this kind of business are you don’t create any equity in the products you are making. This means you’ll always be trading your time for money and will be tied to your business.

Product Laser Engraving Businesses

successful chart

With a product laser engraving business, you’ll actually be creating new products from scratch and selling them to customers, either businesses or more likely consumers. Most laser-cutting businesses fall into this category because it’s much more scalable than a service-based business.

The pros of this kind of business are that you can create real wealth if you stumble upon a product that many people want to buy.

The cons of this kind of business are that it’s much less likely to succeed – a lot of people try to create and sell new products and don’t find any traction. If you are starting a product business, you’ll want to ensure that you have the business side of it figure out, and that you iterate quickly on your ideas without getting too attached to any one product.

The more quickly you can iterate, the more quickly you’ll find the right product that you can make money with.

Profitable Laser Engraving Business Ideas

There are plenty of opportunities to generate money with a laser engraving business, especially when you consider the diverse range of products you can create and sell.

From customized gifts and accessories to signage, art, and home décor, and even industrial and corporate applications, the possibilities are endless for a laser cutting business.

To make the most out of your laser engraving business, it’s essential to choose business ideas that are not only profitable but also align with your skills, interests, and target market.

By focusing on the right products and services, you can maximize your profits and ensure the long-term success of your business.

Here are a few product ideas to make your laser engraving business profitable:

  1. Art

  2. Customized Gifts and Accessories

  3. Signage and Home Decor

  4. Wedding Favors

  5. Selling Digital Laser Engraver Files

  6. Industrial and Corporate Applications

Art

Lotus laser engraved and laser cut wall art mandala

I may be a bit biased here, as I’ve been using use laser cutters to create Activated Art for a number of years, but if you’re an artist and you love a good laser machine like I do, then the sky is the limit as far as what you can accomplish with your laser engraver.

My favorite type of laser machine art is beautiful mandalas, but you can also create puzzles, kinetic sculptures, and interactive games with your laser engraver.

You’ll be able to sell really cool art pieces for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars for larger, more intricate pieces.

Customized Gifts and Accessories

Customized gifts and accessories are incredibly popular and in demand, making them a perfect focus for a laser engraving business. With a laser engraver, you can create stunning personalized products such as laser engraving ideas for:

  • Jewelry

  • Phone cases

  • Keychains

  • Cutting boards

  • Wine glasses

  • Picture frames

And many other unique items.

The market for personalized items is huge, with people always looking for that special touch to make a gift extra meaningful. By offering customization, you can tap into this lucrative market and create a profitable laser engraving business that stands out from the competition.

Signage and Home Décor

Laser engraved home sign

Laser engraving can also be used to create stunning signage and home décor, offering a wide range of product possibilities for your business. From beautiful wall art and unique coasters to one-of-a-kind engraved furniture, laser engraving can help you create products that are both eye-catching and functional.

By focusing on this market, you can cater to customers looking to add a personal touch to their homes or businesses. With the right marketing and promotion, your laser-engraved signage and home décor can become popular and profitable products for your business.

Wedding Favors

Laser engraved wedding favors

Have you ever been to a wedding that had beautifully intricate designs on their party favors? These could have been engravings on coasters or custom signage with beautiful cutouts.

Weddings have a huge budget, much of which is spent on decorations and favors for guests. This is a big market that you can tap into with your creativity and really figure out how to make money with a laser engraver.

Selling Digital Laser Engraver Files

One less common way to make money with a laser engraver is by creating and selling digital files for others to purchase and use on their own.

As an example, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of 68 epic 3D illusion laser engraved files that you can purchase and use on your own products.

The possibilities here are endless, limited only by your imagination. If you’re an artist, then you can create as many designs as you want and just put them up on Etsy to sell for passive income.

Industrial and Corporate Applications

Custom steel sign

In addition to the consumer market, there’s also a lucrative market for industrial and corporate applications of laser engraving. Essential barcodes, convenient QR codes, and identification tags are just a few examples of products that can be created with laser engraving for corporate and industrial clients.

By targeting this market, you can tap into a more stable and consistent customer base, as businesses often require ongoing services and repeat orders. This can provide a steady stream of revenue for your laser engraving business and help to ensure long-term success.

Setting Up Your Laser Engraving Business

Once you’ve decided on the types of products and services you want to offer, it’s time to set up your laser engraving business. This involves acquiring the necessary equipment and supplies, setting up a suitable workspace, and ensuring that you meet all legal and regulatory requirements.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss the crucial aspects of setting up your laser engraving business to ensure a solid foundation for success.

Equipment and Supplies – what should you buy?

Laser engraver rotary attachment

To start your laser engraving business, you’ll need essential equipment and supplies, including a laser engraver, a computer to run the laser engraving software, and the raw materials for your products.

Investing in quality equipment and supplies is crucial to the success of your business, ensuring that your products are of the highest quality and that your engraving machine operates efficiently.

If you need some guidance on what type of laser engraver to buy, we have a few guides that can point you in the right direction:

In addition to the basic equipment, you may also want to consider accessories such as a rotary attachment for engraving cylindrical objects, a panel to protect your work surface, and air assist for added precision. By investing in the right equipment and supplies, you can ensure that your laser engraving business is well-equipped for success.

Workspace Requirements

Laser engraver workspace

Creating a suitable workspace for your laser engraving business is crucial to ensuring a safe and efficient working environment. Your workspace should be well-ventilated to reduce the risk of fire and smoke damage caused by the laser engraving process.

Adequate lighting is also essential, allowing you to clearly observe the material you are engraving and ensuring accurate and precise results.

Additionally, your workspace should provide enough room for your equipment, materials, and any additional accessories you may need. By setting up a dedicated workspace that meets all safety and efficiency requirements, you can ensure that your laser engraving business is well-prepared for success.

Marketing and Selling Your Laser Engraved Products

Social media icons

Once your laser engraving business is set up and ready to go, it’s time to focus on marketing and selling your products. From online marketplaces and social media promotion to local events and partnerships, there are various ways to showcase your products and attract customers.

In the following sections, we’ll explore these different marketing channels and discuss how you can make the most of them to grow your business.

Online Marketplaces

Selling your products on online marketplaces, such as Etsy, Amazon, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace, is an excellent way to reach a global audience and increase sales. These platforms provide an easy-to-use interface for setting up your online store, listing your products, and managing orders.

To maximize your success on these platforms, make sure to:

  • Create high-quality product listings with clear, professional photos

  • Write detailed descriptions of your products

  • Keep an eye on your competitors’ pricing and adjust your prices accordingly to stay competitive.

By leveraging the power of online marketplaces, you can significantly boost yourbusiness’s visibility and sales.

Social Media Promotion

Promoting your products on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok, is another powerful way to increase visibility and attract potential customers. By creating captivating content and engaging with your followers, you can build a strong social media presence and establish relationships with potential customers.

To excel in social media promotion, focus on creating visually appealing content that showcases your products and tells your brand story. Consistency is key with social media; you’ll want to establish a specific frequency of posts (e.g., twice a week) and stick to it; it’s a long-term game.

Make sure to interact with your audience by responding to comments, answering questions, and encouraging user-generated content. By leveraging social media, you can effectively market your laser-engraved products and grow your business.

Local Events and Partnerships

Participating in local events, such as craft fairs and markets, and partnering with local businesses is another great way to expand your customer base and increase sales.

By showcasing your laser-engraved products at these events, you can build brand awareness and connect directly with potential customers.

When considering local partnerships, look for businesses that complement your own, such as gift shops, home décor stores, or event planners.

By collaborating with these businesses, you can tap into their customer base and gain valuable exposure for your laser-engraved products.

Local events and partnerships offer a fantastic opportunity to grow your laser engraving business and increase sales.

Pricing and Profitability

Pricing and profitability are crucial aspects of a successful laser engraving business. By taking into account factors such as material costs, labor, and market demand, you can make informed pricing decisions that maximize your profits.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss how to determine your prices and understand the factors that influence your profit margins.

Determining Your Prices

When determining your prices for laser engraved products, it’s essential to take into account factors such as material and labor costs, as well as competitor pricing and market demand.

To accurately calculate your material and labor costs, consider the cost of the materials used, any additional costs associated with the production process, the time it takes to produce the product, and any additional costs associated with the labor involved.

Researching competitor pricing and market demand is also vital for setting your prices strategically. Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Look at similar products on the market and observe their prices.

  2. Examine trends in the industry to understand what customers are seeking.

  3. Take these factors into account to set prices that will maximize your profits and ensure the success of your laser engraving business.

Profit Margins

Profit margins are the amount of money a business makes after subtracting all expenses from its total revenue, and they are incredibly important for indicating how much money a business is making and how much it can reinvest in its operations.

To calculate your profit margins, follow these steps:

  1. Subtract the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) from your total revenue.

  2. Subtract the Operating Expenses from the result.

  3. The remaining amount is your Net Income, which is your profit margin.

Various factors can affect the profit margins for laser engraving businesses, such as product type, pricing strategy, and target market. By understanding these factors and making strategic decisions, you can maximize your profit margins and ensure the long-term success of your laser engraving business.

Legal and Regulatory Considerations

It’s essential to thoroughly investigate and understand the legal and regulatory prerequisites for running a laser engraving business in your area. This includes registering your business, obtaining any necessary permits and licenses, and adhering to safety and environmental regulations.

By ensuring that you meet all legal and regulatory requirements, you can safeguard your business and minimize potential risks.

Conclusion

In conclusion, laser engraving offers a versatile and profitable business opportunity with limitless possibilities. By understanding the different types of laser engravers, materials, and profitable business ideas, as well as setting up your business correctly and focusing on marketing, pricing, and profitability, you can ensure long-term success in the laser engraving industry.

As you embark on this exciting journey, remember that the key to success lies in your creativity, dedication, and passion for creating unique, lasting designs that will captivate your customers and set you apart from the competition.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much money can a laser engraver make?

For service businesses, you can expect to make anywhere from $75 to $150 an hour. For product businesses, you can make anywhere from a few thousand dollars a year to 6 figures.

What can I make to sell with a laser engraver?

Create personalized jewelry, wallets, compasses, wedding ring boxes, bookends, coasters, tumblers, and other laser engraving and cutting projects to sell – the possibilities are endless!

With laser engraving and cutting, you can create unique and custom items to sell. Whether you’re looking to make a one-of-a-kind gift for a special occasion or a unique item to add to your store, laser engraving and cutting can help you create something unique.

Is laser engraving a good side hustle?

Laser engraving is an ideal side hustle, with a low start-up cost and a wide range of potential products you can create. It’s quick, easy to use, and generates a handsome income from the comfort of your own home.

You can get started with just a few pieces of equipment and a few hours of practice. With the right tools and techniques, you can create beautiful, personalized items that customers will love. You can even create custom designs for businesses.

What are the different types of laser engravers?

Laser engraving comes in three main varieties: diode, CO2, and fiber lasers, each offering different benefits for specific projects.

What materials are suitable for laser engraving?

Laser engraving is a great way to personalize items with a timeless finish, and it can be done on materials like wood, metal, glass, acrylic, and leather.

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