How to start a laser engraving business

Use your craftsmanship to launch a successful laser engraving business.

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Launching your own laser engraving company is a good way to capitalise on the rising demand for personalised products. Keep reading to find out the key steps involved in opening your own venture.

What is a laser engraving business?

A laser engraving business specialises in personalising products with laser marking or laser cutting. Popular products for laser engraving include laptop and phone covers, photo frames and jewellery.

How to start a laser engraving business

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Find your target market. You will need to decide what products you want to sell and who your target market is. On Etsy, there are many sellers offering personalised laser engraved products in categories like wedding accessories, water bottles, pens, wallets and mugs.
  2. Develop a business plan and products. Write a business plan that takes into account market research, estimated income and expenses, and pricing for your products.
  3. Create a brand name and a logo. It's a good idea to create a business name that reflects what you do. You should register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), unless you're planning to run the business under your own legal name. You may also need a logo to promote your business. If you don't have the budget for a graphic designer yet, you can use these graphic design tools and services to create your own logo.
  4. Get the right equipment and software. You will need a laser engraving machine and graphic design software. If you're offering customised products, you will also need products to engrave on such as wine glasses, water glasses, key rings and mugs.
  5. Choose the right structure for your business. Operating as a Sole Trader or Partnership can be simple and cost-effective ways to run your laser engraving business. However, there are advantages of registering your business as a company if there are external investors involved or if you wish to better protect yourself against the company's liabilities.
  6. Consider legal requirements. You may need to get legal document templates such as a refund policy. You may also need legal advice on consumer law and intellectual property.
  7. Market your business.Your marketing strategy will depend on what your products are and how you plan on selling your products. You can sell your products directly on your website, but in order to grow your business you may also need to work with ecommerce platforms such as Etsy.

Skills needed to start a laser engraving business

A laser engraver needs to have a creative eye and an artistic mind to produce beautiful pieces of work. Without these attributes, you may find it difficult to produce engraved pieces that can be sold to the public. You will also need graphic design skills, good hand-eye coordination and a careful approach to your work.

Aside from your design skills, you'll also need to have good customer service and business skills. In the initial stages, this includes establishing a business plan, sorting out the legal paperwork and marketing your services to your target market. Later on, you'll also need to consider human resources and tax management.

Courses and qualifications

worker controlling laser engraver

You don't need formal training to run an engraving business. However, you'll need to know how to use graphic design software such as Adobe Illustrator and be familiar with using laser engraving machines. If you don't already know how to operate a laser engraving machine, you can do practical courses in your local area. Alternatively, you can teach yourself by using YouTube videos or similar resources.
A few key skills you'll need to know before you start your business include:

  • How to use a laser engraving machine
  • How to engrave different materials like glass, metals and leather
  • Working knowledge of the different types of cutters and which cut to use
  • How to use engraving software
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    Equipment and software needed to start a laser engraving business

    Buying all of the necessary equipment and tools to open your engraving business will be one of your biggest investments.
    Here's a quick checklist of some items you might need:

    • A laser engraving machine
    • Air assists
    • Vector cutting grid
    • Rotary attachment
    • Hand engraving tools
    • Graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop
    • Items to engrave onto, such as mugs, plaques and jewellery

    In addition, you may need:

    How to structure your laser engraving business

    Before you're ready to take the plunge and open your engraving business, you'll first need to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and decide on your business structure. This will determine how you pay your tax and who has control over the business. For an engraving business, you can choose between a Sole Trader, Partnership or Company.

    Here's a quick run-through of what each type of business structure can offer you:

    Sole Trader

    When you register as a Sole Trader, you'll be solely responsible for the business. This includes making key decisions for the business and being liable for any financial wins or losses.

    Partnership

    If you want to open up your laser engraving business with a friend or family member, then you'll need to register as a Partnership. In this case, both partners will share responsibility for the business's key decisions and financial implications.

    Company

    If you're planning on growing your business and getting external investors involved, you may want to register as a Company. Companies are more complicated and expensive to set up, and are controlled by a group of shareholders.

    It's important to get your legal documents right so you're protected. Key documents for a laser engraving business might include:

    • A Refund Policy. If you're selling laser engraved products that are made to order, it's essential that you have a well-drafted refund policy to protect your business. This is because most of the time, once the product is customised, it will be difficult to re-sell it to other consumers.
    • A Privacy Policy is necessary if you're collecting any of your customer's information online, such as their name or email addresses.
    • An Employment Contract will be required if you're taking on any staff to help run your business.

    You might also need to speak to a lawyer to make sure your business is legally compliant. The types of lawyers you might need include:

    • Small Business Lawyers. Small business lawyers specialise in helping people set up and run a business. They can advise you on how to structure the business, how to negotiate contracts and whether you're complying with any relevant consumer laws.
    • Intellectual Property Lawyers. If you're using images such as a cartoon figure in your engraving business, it's a good idea to get advice from lawyers so you're not infringing any IP laws.
    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month
    Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    Sprintlaw
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $599 (with fixed fee services starting at $99)
    $599
    Some documents are free to download. Get access to all documents with a membership.
    Unlimited lawyer phone consultations, free updates to documents, exclusive partner offers & legal discounts.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    $4.99 per month
    $59.88
    Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
    Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $49 + GST per week
    $2,548 + GST
    No
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
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    How to find customers

    If you're selling laser engraved products, you can sell directly on your website. This will involve building a professional website and you can use it to showcase your skill and products.

    In order to grow your business, you may need to work with third party platforms such as Etsy. The advantage of using these platforms is that they are targeted at design-conscious customers who are looking for unique products. However, you will need to pay Etsy a fee to use the platform.

    Social media is also a great way to get your brand and services out there. Joining community groups on Facebook, as well as setting up your own pages, will get you a good way of securing your first customers.

    Once you get some traction with your business, you can invest more time and money into your marketing, and explore options such as influencer marketing and search engine ads.

    How much should I charge my customers?

    Pricing is very important for any business – you don't want to put customers off due to high prices or run your business at a loss. Pricing your engraved items will depend on the materials you use, your overheads and how long it takes to complete the piece.

    As well as taking your own costs into account, it's crucial to scope out your competitors to check out what they're offering and how much they're charging customers.

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    Frequently asked questions

    How much does a laser engraving machine cost?

    Some laser engraving machines cost at least $13,000, but on Amazon you can also get affordable laser engravers for less than $700. The cost of a laser engraving machine will depend on the size of your work surface, power output and efficiency.

    What is the difference between laser engraving and etching?

    While engraving and etching may achieve similar results, they process materials differently. Engraving is a physical process whereby the engraver uses a sharp tool to cut into a surface. An etcher, on the other hand, uses acid and other chemicals to burn lines into a surface.

    Is there a lot of money in laser engraving?

    Laser engraving is a great way to add value to a simple product. In order to be profitable and bring down your startup costs, you could consider purchasing an inexpensive laser engraver.

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