How can I earn money with a laser engraver?

You can easily build a successful laser engraving business, regardless of whether you work from your home, or have a workshop with a storefont. The demand for customized products is growing, and you can add significant value for your for your clients by adding designs, logos, and lettering to different workpieces.

The uniqueness of these products also allows you to earn high margins for your services.

Establishing a Price List

Customized products generally demand a higher premium in comparison to their generic, mass-produced counterparts. We recommend establishing prices based on several variables:
  • Workpiece Market Price: Materials that tend to be more expensive to source, such as genuine leather or precious metals, can yield higher margins
  • Cutting and Engraving Market Price: See what other engraving shops are charging clients 
  • Labour Input: The longer it takes — or the more difficult it is — to complete a cutting or engraving job, the easier it is to justify a higher price
You may also add a set-up fee for each unique design your client wishes to have engraved on one or more pieces. Another fee you may charge is an artwork conversion fee to optimize a client's design for laser processing. 

Example: Laser-Engraved Ballpoint Pen

High-quality metal ballpoint pens are a popular gift item, and they can be purchased for as little as CAD $5.00 per pen. Typically, suppliers will incorporate quantity discounts into their price lists. Therefore, the higher the quantity of pens purchased, the lower the unit price. As a general rule of thumb, a laser operator's per minute laser processing cost is CAD $1.50. Oftentimes, metal ballpoint pens are sold for CAD $20 or more. Even when accounting for labour costs, high margins can be realized.

Assuming that the engraving on a pen is limited to 20 seconds (i.e., to engrave a name), the total cost for each personalized pen is CAD $5.50. A Speedy 400 laser system can fit all 150 pieces on it's 24" x 40" work area, and you therefore don't need to engrave the pens in multiple batches. In addition, the Speedy 400 can more efficiently process a single batch of 150 pens than it can each unit separately. Where it would take approximately 50 minutes to engrave each pen individually, it would only take 15 minutes to engrave all of them! The entire job would take only 30 minutes, given that it takes you an an additional 15 minutes to position the pens in a jig and remove them when laser processing is complete.

Laser engraving ballpoint pen: 150 units
Purchase price of 150 ballpoint pens: $750
Engraving duration for 150 units: 30 min
Engraving costs for 150 units ($1.50/min): $45.00
Labor costs ($40/hour) $20.00
Retail price with engraving per order at 150 units: $3,000.00
Profit per order at 150 units: $2,315.00/order at 150 units
Laser engraving ballpoint pen: 1 unit
Purchase price of a ballpoint pen: $5.00
Engraving duration for 1 unit: 20 seconds
Engraving costs ($1.50/min): $0.50
Labor costs ($40/hour): $0.22
Retail price with engraving per order at 1 unit: $20
Profit per unit: $14.28/unit

Growing Demand for Customization

In recent years, the demand for personalized products has significantly risen, in part due to the increased availability of engraving services. A broad range of products such as drinkware, leather goods, jewellery, picture frames, pens, notebooks, and even clothing can be customized.

However, laser engraving is not limited to business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions. A sizable number of Canadian companies place small- and large-scale engraving orders for products such as data plates, metal components, as well as indoor and outdoor signage.

Personalized Products

Market research suggests that modern consumers are placing greater value on customized goods, which is a market shift that benefits engravers. Due to their durable mechanical components and JobControl®'s many processing features, Trotec lasers are able to achieve intricate, high-quality results on a wide range of materials. For instance, users can create personalized pop-up cards, branded wine glasses, monogrammed leather goods, and initialed wooden cheese boards.

Metals can also be marked with a Trotec fibre or flexx™ system. Therefore, you can add a message on a metal pendant, watch, or on the inside of a ring (with the use of a rotary attachment).

Despite the variety of workpieces that can be processed using a laser, it is important to note that certain materials that are hazardous to cut or engrave.

Read More About Suitable and Unsuitable Materials

High-Volume Production

Not only are operators able to easily laser cut and engrave individual workpieces, but large quantities can also be efficiently processed. Additionally, processing large workpiece volumes can provide higher profit margins, as you incur lower labour costs per unit. By using JobControl®'s template function and a workpiece jig, you can substantially reduce unit cutting and engraving times.

Example: Ballpoint Pens

Engraving a company logo or name on a single ballpoint pen takes approximately 20 seconds. By extension, it would take roughly 50 minutes to engrave 150 pens. This quantity can be easily processed in a single job with the help of a jig, which also eliminates the need to position and remove each individual workpiece.

Create a Custom Jig

General vs. Specialized Engraving Services

You may consider whether is it more profitable to provide engraving services for different types of workpieces, or to only offer services for a specific set of materials or clients. If you are uncertain as to how to launch your engraving business, we suggest offering generalized customization services. This strategic approach will allow you to capture as much demand as possible in your market, and therefore maximize your potential short-term revenue. There are benefits to limiting the scope of client projects you accept, however. If you master working with a particular material or using a specific technique, you can minimize set-up times and offer clients top-quality results.   However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to operating your business. In particular, the competitive situation in your market will influence how you develop your business with regards to pricing and which projects you wish to accept. As an entrepreneur, you should carefully consider your business model and weigh the advantages and disadvantages for yourself.

Discover the Speedy Series

Speedy laser systems offer users unparalleled performance and reliability. What's more, highly detailed cutting and engraving results can be achieved with Trotec's laser software.

All Speedy models can be equipped with Trotec's patented flexx technology™, which incorporates both CO₂ and fibre laser sources into a single machine. This versatility allows users to process a full range of materials, such as plastics, metals, woods, and glass. 

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