Laser engraving has emerged as a popular method for customizing items like water bottles, plaques, glass products, electronics and even machine parts. Practically anyone can start their own business with training and an engraving machine— allowing them to create products for various customers, from individuals to big companies.
Here’s how to start a laser engraving business with the right planning and strategy.
What Is Laser Engraving?
Laser engraving is a popular technique for creating permanent marks on an object. Using the heat produced by a laser removes some material from the surface of an object, creating lasting designs. Engraving companies will use this technique to customize items for their customers.
For example, a business may want to provide branded water bottles as gifts to its employees. A laser engraver can engrave the business’s logo directly onto unmarked bottles.
What Can Be Customized With a Laser Engraver?
A laser engraver allows for customizing various goods and products — almost anything large enough and made from the right material.
Common services of laser engravers include customizing water bottles, various types of glass products, trophies, electronics, buttons, plaques and machine parts.
Engravers may provide services to individual customers, who may want just one or two items, and businesses, which may need several products.
Is Laser Engraving the Same as Laser Etching?
Laser engraving is sometimes used interchangeably with marking and etching. These are similar but different techniques for using lasers to create permanent marks.
Laser etching melts a small amount of surface material to create raised marks while engraving cuts into it to make deep ones. Laser marking is another technique that discolors the object’s surface, leaving smooth-but-visible marks. Etching and engraving remove some material, while marking leaves as much as possible behind.
How to Start a Laser Engraving Business
People who want to start their own laser engraving business should follow these steps to get off the ground and find success.
1. Start With a Business Plan
Behind every successful small business is a great business plan. It should describe the company’s structure, its goals, the services it will offer and the customer base. It should also include short-, medium- and long-term goals for making money and growing the brand.
People should research the laser engraving market in their area. They should also determine the equipment they’ll need and how much renting or purchasing it will cost.
2. Plan Marketing and Pricing
Entrepreneurs should also begin thinking about how they will market the business and price its services.
Effective marketing will distinguish it from any other laser engravers in the area and show customers what kind of services it offers. Channels like social media, web advertising, email and print advertising can reach potential buyers and convince them to consider the brand.
The market research done while creating the business plan will help determine how much the company should charge for laser engraving services and how it should approach marketing.
3. Source Laser Engraving Equipment
People can begin to source the equipment they’ll need once they’re confident the laser engraving business can succeed.
Every laser engraving business needs these four things: a laser engraving or cutting machine, training, a computer, and graphic design software. The laser engraver does the actual work while the computer provides instructions. The software is necessary to translate a customer’s design into a pattern the machine can engrave.
Training will teach how to operate the laser engraver safely and the industrial hazards that might be encountered. An individual laser engraving machine is much safer than many other kinds of industrial equipment. However, it should still be operated with care and only by someone with the right training.
People that don’t want to purchase a laser engraver outright can choose to rent it instead. Renting provides more flexibility and allows experimentation with different brands and types of laser equipment.
However, renting can come with some drawbacks — there’s no guarantee that a particular model of laser engraver will be available. In the long run, owning may also be cheaper than renting. Business owners should plan these purchases well in advance due to continued delays in the supply chain so they can open on time.
4. Register the Business and Get Licensed
Business owners must determine if the company needs to be registered with state and federal agencies. It’s not always necessary, but registration provides some significant benefits — like the ability to hire full-time employees, receive supplier discounts and apply for loans.
Certain business structures, like an LLC, will also provide a degree of separation between the owner and company. This separation can protect personal finances if the organization is sued.
A laser engraving business does not require specific licensing, like a laser engraver license. However, people should apply for the licensing and certifications that all small businesses in their area must have — like a sales tax permit.
Finding That First Customer and Growing the Brand
The company is now ready to put its marketing plan into practice and begin looking for its first customer. Channels like social media, local events and print publications are ideal for advertising the business and the laser engraving services it offers.
People can also reach out to local businesses or friends, asking if they need any laser engraving services. They may find that a company they’ve worked with some time in the past is interested.
Finding that first customer is often the most difficult part of starting a new company. Finding others should be easier once the initial sale is made. That client could also become a regular and provide an early source of reliable revenue, spreading the word and attracting more business.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine discussing the latest industry innovations and trends.
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