Entrepreneurship is one of the surest ways of making good money. And even though laser marking is anything but new, the laser engraving business model has been gaining a lot of traction of late. More and more budding, as well as seasoned entrepreneurs, are jumping into the trade.
But is a laser engraving business profitable?
The simple answer is yes. You can easily create laser engraved products in your garage and sell them on Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, or even on your own website. But the keyword here is sell. If you head over to Etsy and Amazon, you will see lots of successful entrepreneurs who have niched down to laser engraved products. Some are raking in thousands of dollars from their business and this should be enough proof that the laser engraving business is very profitable.
A laser engraving business should be taken like any other business venture. Do not assume that you will automatically attain success just because you have launched the business. And do not assume that visitors will automatically click the buy button as soon as you publish your products on your eCommerce store.
For you to succeed in your business, you must put in a lot of deliberate effort in marketing as well as differentiating your products. Most people who try to sell products online without some basic marketing skills fail. But once you get the marketing part right, the sales will start trickling in. We will look at this in more detail later but first, let’s deal with some frequently asked questions.
What you need to start a laser engraving business
So exactly what do you need to jumpstart your laser engraving business? The following are the four must-haves.
1. A laser engraver
Obviously, you cannot start a laser engraving business without getting a laser engraver. Laser engravers come in different sizes and with different laser powers. In fact, these are arguably the most important specs to look for in a laser engraver for your home-based laser engraving business. The size of an engraver is determined by the size of its bed. The bigger the bed size, the bigger or the more pieces you can cut or engrave.
Some laser machines have a fixed bed while others have adjustable ones. If you are looking for a laser engraver for working on different objects’ sizes, you want one with an adjustable bed. As far as laser power goes, the more the wattage of the laser engraver, the more powerful it is, and the more power you have, the faster you will take to engrave or cut through your material.
The next thing to look for before you buy a laser engraver is the kind of customer support the seller has. You can shoot them a quick question as a way of testing their customer support. Laser engravers are quite complex devices and it helps to have a responsive vendor in case you need further assistance after making your purchase. It is also a good idea to look for a seller that has tutorials – especially if you are a novice.
2. A laptop computer
You will need to connect your laser engraver to a computer from which you will manipulate the artwork before sending it to the engraver for “printing.” I put the word print in quotes because a more accurate word would be to engrave. The print analogy is just to remind you that the machine connects to your laptop through a USB cable and receives commands to process the file much the same way a printer does. You do not need a high-end computer in order to use it with your laptop computer. A basic computer will do just fine but it should at least have the minimum specifications for running good photo editing software like Photoshop. This means you need a computer that has the following minimum requirements:
- Intel core 2 or an AMD Athlon 64 processor (at least 2GHz)
- Microsoft Windows 7 or higher
- At least 2 GB Ram although 8 GB would be really good
- 1024 x 78 display with a 16-Bit color or more
- At least 2.6 GB of free disk space
It doesn’t have to be a new computer – as long as it is working just fine and has the above minimum requirements, you are good to go. Obviously, these are just the minimum requirements for running Adobe Photoshop so you may want to check for minimum spec requirements if you are using different software.
3. The material
This is the material on which you wish to make your laser engravings. Laser engraving can be done on wood, stone, stainless steel, gold, plastic, acrylic, glass, leather, bamboo, felt, cork, melamine, etc. You could use laser engraving techniques to come up with your own custom merchandise or you could also use the laser engraver to customize other items like wallets, wine glasses, watches, wall hangings, and almost any kind of novelty item you can think of.
You need to think about the material you will be using before you purchase your laser engraver. This will help you know which laser engraver is best for your job. For instance, the focal point of the lens determines how much thickness your engraver can handle. Therefore, someone looking to cut through thick cardboards will need a stronger lens than one that is looking to do some simple engravings on plastic materials.
4. Artwork/ vector images
This refers to the patterns that you will engrave on the material you are working with. There are three main ways of going about this – first of all, you can use Photoshop or software you are familiar with to come up with your custom design. Obviously, this is only for people who have some design skills. Secondly, you can hire freelance designers from freelance platforms Fiverr.com.
If you take this route, insist on seeing some previous designs from the freelancer just to be cocksure you are not hiring a lousy wannabe. Last but not least, you can download ready-made designs online. Here is a link to an article I wrote on the best places to download laser engraving vector files for free. This way, you can search for premade designs and only spend money on a design you like.
Marketing your laser engraved products
Whether you sell your products on Etsy or decide to set up your own eCommerce store, you will not make any sales without some marketing skills. Marketing is more than just placing some ads on Google and Facebook. Here are some tips that can help you to effectively market your laser engraved projects.
- Start from the beginning
Marketing is a well-thought-out process that starts with product development until the sale is realized. Start by doing market research even before you start making the product. You want to find out if the product you intend to make has a demand and if it will be a profitable venture. For instance, how much will it cost you to make the product and what is the projected selling price? Will your target market be willing to pay the price you intend to charge? Are there any competitors that are charging less than you intend to charge?
- Beat the competition
Contrary to popular belief, competition is actually good. Competition tells you that you have selected a niche that is making money for other entrepreneurs. All you need to do is figure out a way of beating your competition – and one easy way of beating the competition is adding some unique value to your products. For instance, you could offer customers free shipping or you could offer custom-made designs. Beating your completion is as easy as offering something else that your competition is not adding to the products.
- Use influencers
Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to get lots of sales without spending too much money on advertising. That is why big brands spend millions to signup celebrities to be their brand ambassadors. Since it is very unlikely that you know a celebrity who will be willing to endorse your products, just go with social media influencers.
Most Instagram influencers will happily do a shout-out for less than $50 and they are used to getting such requests so do not be afraid to ask. You could even offer to pay them with a free sample of your products. As a rule of thumb, always look for influencers that have over 100k followers because a very small percentage of their followers will actually convert. But still, it’s a great ROI. For instance, if only 1% of 100k people convert, you will get 1,000 unique visitors to your product page.
Marketing is a very wide topic and it wouldn’t be possible to cover everything in a single post. As a business owner, you need to learn as much as you can about the latest marketing techniques that you can use to increase your conversions. The difference between those who open successful engraving businesses and those who don’t is the information they have. And since you are probably good at making the engraved products, you need to invest more time in learning how to market and sell.
So in summary, it is very possible to start a profitable home-based laser engraving business. But if you are getting into it with a get-rich-quick mentality, you will be utterly disappointed. You will have to work extra hard to grow your business and it will probably take you some time before you start realizing sales. But hey, that’s true for any other legit business so do not let it dampen your spirits. Buy your laser engraver and let the adventure begin!