Laser marking and engraving is fast becoming a very attractive business for many people in recent times.
Not only have traditional businesses become increasingly aware of the potential of this technology, but the use cases have continued to emerge as a result of improved laser techniques and ever reducing costs of owning laser marking machines.
Wherever you are on this earth, you will find business opportunities around you that laser marking technologies can unlock.
In this article, we are going to unlock the best way in which you can start a laser marking and engraving businesses at ridiculously low capital and operating budgets.
But What Is Laser Engraving?
Laser applications in marking and cutting are so varied in practice. It is a versatile business idea that can be scaled in an interestingly high number of lucrative directions.
In case you are wondering, laser is used to cut, mark or etch into many types of stock materials, including metal, rubber, leather, wood, ceramic, glass, plastic and mirrors.
It is a wide range of materials that have different physical and chemical characteristics, and laser is a great choice of marking and cutting because of the varied types of equipment that have been developed to work on them and deliver excellent marking and cutting options.
If you want to be in this industry, it is imperative therefore that you map the different types of materials you intend to be working on so that you can determine the best equipment to purchase.
This technology has historically been used in industrial applications like vehicle part marking, but it is gaining popularity for smaller applications as the variety of laser tools and ideas for marking, cutting or engraving widens.
Let’s check what you need to start!
This is a fantastic opportunity for you to become self employed.
But obviously, you don’t want to get into a business which is never going to scale, and in which you are going to lose money.
You have to ask yourself several questions that allow you to qualify yourself before you splurge on the machines and other business start-up requirements. Let’s ease you into this!
Understand your customer
Business is about what you can do for society. Not about making quick money.
It’s about solving niggling pains for your potential customers at ridiculous prices.
You should provide well thought-out solutions for seemingly impossible problems at a fraction of what they are currently paying for poor quality.
You must identify your customers very clearly, and what they need from your laser business.
So you must have technical skills to work with your laser cutter, and deliver beautiful pieces.
It doesn’t matter how straightforward your sellable items are;
You need to have an insight.
Get into your prospective customer’s mind and understand their likes, fears, dislikes.
And, most of all, always pre-empt your customers’ needs.
Know what they can possibly need before they ask for it, and always strive to be there to provide it!
The Product, Yes, The Product!
What you are selling to the customer is of paramount importance. Half the time, your customers do not know that they need laser products. Can that school benefit from 600 high resolution badges for their school cardigans? It is you to demonstrate they do!
Hell, not until you present your solution will most customers make a buy decision!
If you are into engraving, marking or cutting designs into trophies;
Cards, for anniversaries and weddings,
Artistic designs for furniture and interior design, personal mementos, personalization of property;
Or simply artistic expression;
You can decide the kind of customers you are targeting based on the materials you intend to work on, the products you will make, the prices you will offer, time commitment and the advent of pure art that is needed to bring your art to life.
Basically, you are limited by your own capabilities to read the mood of your customers and give them products they may not even know that they need.
So, create the samples. Create marvelous pieces and showcase them to your prospects.
Buying the right machine, allows you to engrave the materials you want, the way you want.
As a general rule, the bigger the allowance for work surface, the better the options you have to create pieces with varied dimensions and for many applications.
A good equipment allows you more room to scale, do mass production, and outpace your competitors. As your confidence and your experience with different designs increase, so will your orders.
Machines with 12 x 24 inch or 12 x 18 inch beds are considered standard and could be great first choices as you dip into the industry.
Laser marking is currently possible with five types of marking technologies depending on the types of materials you want to work on. There is Fiber laser, green laser, UV laser, CO2 and Mopa laser solutions for different applications.
For more details on the capabilities of each, please check out our recent post on this topic.
You may need to work with optimal power consumption, so look for machines with a minimum 20 watts, with air assist and compression.
Understanding the legal environment
Legal and statutory requirements vary from country to country, so you may want to do a little research on what it entails to start a small business for your country. Some of the more common requirements include, but are not limited to;
- A business registration, either as a sole proprietorship or a limited company.
- Tax compliance certification for the business.
- An operating license
- An approval from a local authority to use your selected site.
Why it’s a Great Business
People are increasingly looking for high quality personalized items for leisure, home decoration or even for business. Lasers afford computer aided printing and engraving with high precision on the selected materials, making them the ideal choice for these applications.
What the profits look like
Because of the existing novelty in using these personalization technologies in emerging markets, this technology is bringing healthy profits for those who venture because of the high appeal the pieces made with laser marking and engraving bring to discerning customers.
For example, if you are using a stock material you bought using $50 to make a piece, you could factor in your costs to arrive at a production cost of, say, $75, and still sell the piece at, say, $125. That is a whopping 40% margin, and depending on your market study, you can escalate this even more!
Logical flow of the steps to follow
If you are convinced that you have a viable business idea, let us look at what you must do to get your business to life.
By now, you have studied the market and you know that there is money to be made.
You have researched the equipment you could use, and its costs.
You understand the legal environment you will operate in, and all the other initial costs you need to consider.
Let us now look at the steps to starting your laser business:
STEP 1: Establish your business plan
Having a clear plan is essential for your ultimate success as an investor. Some of the things you will be doing at the planning stage are as follows:
Business Context: Creating a company vision and mission that will translate into measurable and achievable goals, be they in terms of sales volumes, customer satisfaction or geographical reach.
Capital Costs: Estimating, through objective research and analysis, what your initial and running costs are going to be.
Product and Market: Establishing and profiling your target market, their preferences, pains and the opportunities they present, and your offerings to address them. For example, if you are targeting schools, what are the pain they have with, for example, school badges, trophies, attire and kit tagging etc.?
Budget and Cash Flow: Financing and cash flows are also an integral part of the planning stage. You need to accurately map your capital expenses, your running costs, your inflows and your statutory obligations. This allows you to estimate the initial capital and when you expect to break even.
Brand Identity: The name of your business, your business brand, your team (even if your team is just you!)
At this point, you may want to check whether your chosen brand name is available as a web name, and probably buying the domain to secure it for your future website.Top of Form
STEP 2. Form a legal entity
If everything checks out, then establish a legal business entity.
A limited liability company is a great option for many countries. LLCs remove the possibility of you being personally liable if your business has problems.
You can hire a legal consultant cheaply to ensure your privacy is protected as your business remains legally compliant.
For example, if you are in the US, you can follow this guide when it comes to choosing a registered agent to manage your registration for an LLC.
However, it is still possible to start a small business on sole proprietorship in most countries, as you seek to establish a foot print, get your first few customers through the door, and then probably establish better structures as you go.
STEP 3. Become tax compliant
Your legal agent should be able to guide you on the legal requirements for paying tax, including the frequency, how to keep your books, how to submit tax payments and returns and the documents you need to prove your tax compliance.
Get the taxman off your back before you make your first piece because illegal operation will spell a death knell to your business before you can realize any profits.
STEP 4. Separate your Finances from the Business
Keep books of accounts. Separate your personal accounts you’re your business.
The business is supposed to have its own financial identity and independence from you, whether you are a sole proprietor or not.
Recording your expenses and inflows because it is critical to understanding the financial flow of your business.
STEP 5. Embrace Regulatory Compliance
Understand the licenses and other permits you need for your business to be allowed to operate.
If you need environmental audits in your country to open such a business, then obtain them.
You don’t want to incur hefty fines and possible closures because you ignored some licenses of compliance documents for you to operate.
STEP 6: Access suitable Insurance options.
You are buying laser machines, setting up facilities and basically starting a business that could have risks that you need to insure. Research and access relevant and suitable insurance options, and build the insurance remittances into your business running costs.
This will allow you to mitigate calamities, protect major investments and allow you to expand your business without having to worry about the risks you insure against.
STEP 7. Brand your business.
As we have stated, your brand can spell success or doom to your laser marking and engraving. Define the signature for your art and how you will put it out there.
Create your business philosophy and stick to it. Some customers will buy from you because you have a vision, values and goals much easier than if you don’t.
STEP 8. Hit the Web… Hard
A business website is almost a must have in this day and age. Without it, you will not get organic traffic. People you don’t know, searching for what you offer and getting your product offerings from search engines like Google.
Create a blog for your product, your business story and your products. Write fantastic product reviews. Optimize your content for search engines to ensure that proper keywords relevant to your business are part of your metadata on your website.
Carry out proper site analytics to ensure that you have adequate and optimized web presence.
STEP 9. Do traditional marketing
The personalized item business is largely a localized endeavor. If you are aware of local social events, especially those organized by your target customers or entities that will attract your prospects, participate whole-heartedly, even if you don’t expect to make any sales.
So, for example, if a school festival is in the offing and you reckon you have an offering you need many school heads to learn about, make your samples, prepare your pitches, apply for exhibition, get your merchandise, and go to that fair prepared to net a few orders.
Good news for you:
Many laser etching machines have stable prices in the last few years. It means that you will not research a machine’s availability in terms of price, and then find it has hiked in price by the time you decide to plunge into the business.
A laser-engraving business could be just the thing for you.
Yes, you need to decide what type of engraving you are interested in doing.
You will need to understand your target market, their pains, preferences and the opportunities that laser marking technologies present.
You need to research what type of machine will help you address your customer needs, or even exceed them, at optimum cost and maximum return.
You need to comply with the law.
Lasers, whether you choose Fiber Machines, UV Lasers, Mopa, CO2 Lasers or Green Laser Machines, with their speed and precision, are definitely the future of personalized offerings and many industrial operations.
And nowadays, getting laser machines from countries like China is possible with manageable lead times and amazing savings on capital.
With stable machine prices, low business entry points and a largely untapped market, this is a great investment opportunity regardless of the country of your operation.