We’ve talked at length about starting a business with a laser cutter before, in several different posts – but when we’re talking to people that are thinking about investing in a laser cutter and starting a business, we hear loads of reasons and excuses as to why they haven’t made the move to get that business off the ground. While there are some very valid reasons to not use laser cutting as the basis of a brand new business, if you truly love laser cutting, the myths we’re talking about in this post should definitely not be the reasons to not go after your dream.
Why start a business with a laser cutter?
If you’re thinking about starting a business with a laser cutter, it is most likely because you’ve caught the bug for it – you love design, and let’s face it, laser cutters are just plain awesome. But, in case that isn’t reason enough for you to get started, there are some great reasons to start a business with a laser cutter.
Your costs are clear and easy to understand – you’ll have the initial purchase of your machine, but after you’ve purchased your laser cutter, your outgoings will be simple to calculate and to understand. Materials, electricity, consumables, postage, advertising costs, and material storage will make up the bulk of your outgoings.
You can create products on demand – if you don’t have a lot of money to invest in your laser cutter business, then the need to buy stock upfront might be putting you off. But if you’re planning to sell mostly online (at first at least), then you can buy small quantities of stock to create your products as customers purchase them, and then buy more as sales come in – after you’ve received payment for the order.
You can customise your products – customers know exactly what they can get on Amazon and eBay already, and there’s a lot of generic products out there. When they’re shopping for something more special, they’re going to be looking for unique products that can be customised for their needs. For these customers, you’ll be able to offer customisation – and even offer them the ability to create their own designs, such as using laser photo software.
A laser cutting business can fit around your life – whatever you want your laser cutting business to look like, you can create exactly that. It might be that you love your current career, and you want a small creative outlet on the side that can earn you some money. Maybe you want to create a highly successful business that will replace your current salary completely and then some – either is possible, or you can hit the sweet spot in between. If you have family demands that your work needs to fit around, a laser cutting business is perfect for you to be able to fit your work in around that too.
Customers become loyal – although customers have a huge amount of choice available to them today, if you’re creating beautiful things and they know they’re going to get exactly what they want and need from you, they will keep coming back to you. And with that kind of service, customers share their experience – so they’ll talk to their friends and family, as well as their social media followers about your work.
How do you start a business with a laser cutter?
We created a whole post about starting a business with a laser cutter a while ago, and so we won’t replicate that here – this post is about busting the myths about starting a business with your laser cutter, after all! Head to that post for more details at each step, but here’s a quick roundup of the steps you’ll be taking as you get started.
- Identify your niche – the category and types of products that you want to create
- Create your business plan – so you can stay on track and hit your targets
- Start creating your designs – if you don’t already have a bank of them, of course
- Find the suppliers for the materials that you need – be certain to compare costs
- Compare postage costs – you’ll need to identify costs for weight, size, and the convenience of using different services
- Get your support in place – so that should your laser cutter stop working, you can get back on track quickly
- Identify where you’re going to sell – your own website and marketplaces are usually the first to consider
- Set your prices – based on costs, whether you include shipping, and the profit you want to make per item, and how much competitors are charging for their work
- Create and manage your product listings – whether on your website or on a marketplace
- Start your social media and marketing – so your business can reach more people
These steps are just the start of your journey creating a business – and since each business is different, you’ll need to work out what is right for you. But suffice it to say, there are loads of ways to grow a business with a laser cutter.
Myths that aren’t true about starting a business with a laser cutter
We’ve heard many of these in person, but some of these myths do the rounds regularly on discussion boards. Maybe those spreading the myths are people that are building their own business with a laser cutter and they’re trying to keep their competition from increasing, or maybe it is people who simply don’t know enough about the industry. In this section, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the more common reasons that we hear people using for not starting a business with a laser cutter – even when they would really like to.
Laser cutters are hard to use
Everything is hard to do until you know how it works, but to say laser cutters are hard to use is absolutely not true. What is true is that there are different types of laser cutters to know about, and there are most definitely some hard and fast rules about what you can cut with each type of laser cutter – and breaking these rules can get you into trouble.
If you’re brand new to laser cutting, then we recommend having a read of our guide to getting started with laser cutters. If you’ve just invested in your first laser cutter, then be certain to check our post about the different ways that you can completely ruin your laser cutter – so you can avoid those catastrophic mistakes that could put a stop to your business before it really gets going.
Too many people are doing it already
OK, so it might seem like there are a lot of people jumping on the laser cutting and engraving bandwagon. But the same can be said for so many other industries, and that doesn’t deter people from getting involved! As an example, during 2021 alone, around 1,824 sellers joined the Amazon marketplace every single day – and it is estimated that there will be 665,000 new sellers by the end of this year. Does that figure put people off, or do people simply think that they might as well give it a shot as there’s nothing to lose?
While we don’t have accurate figures to suggest how many small businesses have started with laser cutters in the UK (and there will be some overlap with businesses that are already in industry) there are certainly far fewer people jumping into a laser cutting business than are trying their hand at ecommerce. Saying that the market is overcrowded, or that there are too many people already doing it is an excuse to not take action – and if nobody is creating the sort of pieces that you want to create, then there’s a great chance that you can be successful even if the market is busy.
Learning how to use laser cutter software is hard
Starting to learn anything at all as a beginner is hard! Learning laser cutting and engraving software, and design packages can be tricky if you’ve never used anything like them before, but there is so much help out there now that saying that learning the software is hard is simply an excuse.
Many of the laser cutting software packages are completely free due to them being made available with open source licenses – and that means there are huge communities that are completely passionate about those packages. With that passion comes a desire to show how great the software is – and you only have to search YouTube to find video tutorials for pretty much every single process that you’d want to use.
Because there are so many laser cutting software packages that are available as open source, if you find you’re really struggling with one, it won’t cost you anything to download and install another. Which also puts paid to the argument that those packages are expensive too! To get you started, look at Inkscape, LaserWeb 4, or LaserGRBL, which are all open source and free to install and use – and you’re almost certainly going to find them less complicated than you might think, especially when you follow those YouTube tutorials that we mentioned.
My artistic skills aren’t good enough
While having artistic ability and inspiration is a major advantage when you’re building a business with a laser cutter, there are loads of tools that you can use that mean you don’t have to be an amazing artist to make a success of a laser cutting business.
We’ve just mentioned open source software that you can use for laser cutting, but there are design tools like Canva, Adobe Express, and Easil that you can use to create designs for laser engraving too. These tools allow you to download your designs in a range of different types of graphic files, which can then be brought into your chosen laser cutting software, so you can cut and etch onto whichever material you want.
Don’t forget that not all customers will be looking for intricately designed items – they might simply be looking for certain words or names engraved into products, or for a realistic design from a photo to be engraved onto a product. And if you’re about to tell us that you don’t have an eye for photography – well, there are enough free stock image websites that allow you to make use of photos from other users under the Creative Commons copyright licenses.
I won’t be able to find things to make with my laser cutter
With a whole internet full of creative ideas, this is definitely an excuse. While you don’t want to replicate other people’s ideas completely (we’ll get to that in a moment) to say you won’t be able to find things to make and etch with your laser cutter is nonsense. There are many resources that mean you don’t even need to create the designs, if you’re not feeling inspired right now, then browse online – sometimes seeing other people’s designs is enough to get your creative juices flowing. A few of the websites that host free laser cutter designs include:
Laser Ready Templates
These aren’t the only ones out there though – and it is well worth searching to find other hidden gems that host laser cutter designs.
Aside from dedicated websites that host vectors and designs for you to cut with your own laser cutter, you can find inspiration simply by searching marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, and scrolling through social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest. You won’t want to create exactly the same things as others already are – it won’t make your work stand out and encourage customers to buy – but seeing the sort of things that are selling well, and what other products are in the market will help you to identify where there are gaps in the market that you could fulfil.
Whatever I make won’t be unique
Well, if you out and out copy other people’s work, then of course it won’t be – but there are loads of ways to make your work unique. Even if you find you’re inspired by something another creative has made, and you’d like to make something similar – you can make it your own.
Let’s take an example. There are loads of products like drinking glasses, coasters, and photo frames with laser engraved designs that are very popular on marketplaces like Etsy at the moment. Some of these are really similar to others, but if you spend a bit of time looking at them, there is definitely room for other designs – whether you simply change the font, or you add a different inspirational quote, or create a whole new design for your customers.
If you’re looking to create something completely different – one-off, bespoke pieces, then you might allow customers to send you their own photos to be etched onto a product, or you can look at taking commissions to create something completely different. While the numbers of customers that will be looking for such as service will be far lower than for those that want to buy pieces that are ready to go, you can offer this as a service, and charge higher prices accordingly.
Laser cutting is just a hobby and won’t be able to give me a salary / there isn’t enough money in laser cutting
This is another one of those guesses that people make when they are worried about failing. Although there are some hobbies that won’t make you money, your laser cutter and the products that you can make with it definitely isn’t one of them.
Although some people will say you have to be lucky to make a laser cutting business successful, whether your laser cutting business becomes enough to replace your current salary is well within your control. Starting out knowing the sort of products you want to make – such as a wedding business – and knowing the customers that you want to target will be enough to help you create a plan and do the research you need to get going. And once you have that plan, and you build your social media following, there is absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t be able to make your business a success that can give you a salary.
Scaling your business up might involve you creating more designs, or it might mean creating products for different niches – but if you have the time and the effort to put into building your business, then it is almost certain that your efforts will pay off in the long run.
Selling my products is difficult
There are so many different ways to get your products in front of your target customer these days, this is definitely an excuse – because there are loads of ways to start selling your laser cut and engraved products.
Selling on a website has become much easier since companies like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Wix emerged with their ecommerce options. In many cases, with website builders like these, you don’t need to know code – you’ll simply use their drag and drop functionality, templates, and easy customisation to create the look you want for your online store. Getting customers to your website takes time though, and so while your website is ranking on Google, there are two other things you can be doing to get your products to customers.
Adding your products to marketplaces is another option – although you’ll need to do your research, since the Amazon and eBay marketplaces are already flooded with products that are cheap, and you won’t want to compete with these otherwise you won’t make a profit. It is well worth looking at Etsy and Amazon Handmade though, since customers head to these types of platforms when they are looking for unique quality items – which is exactly what you’re creating.
The other option is to build your social media following, and make your products available to buy through your Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest – and whichever other social media channels your customers might be on. There are more ecommerce options being released on social media all the time, so you can start selling right away.
While selling online is going to be the easiest way to reach more customers, there are definitely ways that you can make money offline too. If there is a big arts and crafts, or handmade scene in your local area, then there are certain to be seasonal fairs that you can get involved with – Christmas, Easter, and summer are prime times for these events. You’ll probably need to think about how you can take card payments, but these are becoming quicker and easier than ever to organise, with some card readers costing as little as £29.
I can’t afford to buy a reliable laser cutter
OK, so a laser cutter is going to set you back some money, sure. But there are definitely ways to buy a laser cutter that are more affordable than you would think – and if you create a great business plan, and stick to it, you’re likely to be able to cover the cost of your laser cutter in no time.
When you’re thinking about starting a business with a laser cutter, it can be tempting to buy one from eBay – some of the no-name ‘from China’ laser cutters get decent reviews, and can have a much cheaper initial outlay than those from UK businesses. But if you’re building a business, you’re taking a huge chance when you buy a generic brand laser cutter, since there will be very little, to no support – and that means if something goes wrong, you’re on your own, and your business is stuck. With long delivery times from China if you were to order a replacement, there’s a good chance your customers aren’t going to wait, and you’re not going to get great reviews either.
With all that in mind, if you’re building a business, the question becomes can you afford not to buy a reliable laser cutter? Depending on what you’re cutting or etching, one of our budget laser cutters could provide what you need – and because we’re experts, we’ll be able to support you if something goes wrong with it. Prices for our budget laser cutter range start at just £2,010.
If you have a little more cash available, then one of our second-user, or ex-demonstration laser cutters could be an affordable way to get your hands on a reliable laser cutter at a more accessible price. Before we make any of these available to customers, we complete a full inspection and service, replacing any necessary parts and ensuring the machine meets our high standards, so that you can be certain you’ve got a reliable laser cutter that will serve you for years.
I’ll need to employ someone to do the marketing for the business
As your business grows, maybe eventually you might want to employ someone to handle your marketing for you, but with a bit of time and a great plan, it is pretty straightforward to handle marketing for your business yourself.
To market your business, you’ll need social media accounts on the visual channels – so, Instagram and Pinterest are great places to start, but as you get a bit more confident, you can look at creating videos for YouTube and for Story posts. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours using Photoshop or a similar design package to create the artwork for your posts though! There are free online design tools such as Canva, Adobe Express, and Easil that you can use to create your social media posts, and as long as you know how to drag and drop, you’ll be able to create great posts with their templates, customising them to your exact needs, including your own colour palette.
You don’t even need to come up with post ideas either really – if you search online, you’ll find all kinds of lists for social media post ideas. Once you’re following these, things can get much easier, and you can schedule time to create a number of posts in one go so you don’t have to do them each day. If you do this, you can then use scheduling tools so that they are posted at the time you want them to be, without needing to be at your PC or on your phone to make them live.
Even when your business has grown enough that you need help with your social media and marketing, you don’t have to employ a full time person to handle that for you. Working with agencies or freelancers means that you can get the exact help that you need, and pay for exactly what you need.
There isn’t any support out there for small businesses with laser cutters
If you’re thinking that you’d run into trouble if your laser cutter stopped working when you needed it – well, that is a real worry, especially as your business is starting to become successful. But that’s why we created service plans with different levels of pricing, to ensure that businesses have access to the support they need.
For small businesses, our support plans start from £600 a year, which gets you one routine maintenance visit, with a discount on parts, and a 72 hour response time if you need an emergency call out. While this might seem like a large amount of money, when your business is working well and you’re selling a lot of products, then if your laser cutter malfunctions, your business simply stops – which is why routine maintenance is so important. With our support, very few of our customers with service plans ever need an emergency visit, and when an issue does occur, we’re able to resolve 95% of issues over the phone. If you’ve neglected to take this step, and you don’t have a plan with us, we may still be able to help you – we have emergency call outs available.
In addition to getting a great service plan for your business, there is a huge amount of support for small businesses that are using laser cutters online. There are plenty of discussion forums online – and there are some incredibly helpful groups on Facebook and websites like Reddit (the r/lasercutting page is incredibly active, with over 48,000 members) and Quora.
Starting a business with a laser cutter is easy
Despite the fact that we’ve just busted these myths wide open, it would be wrong of us to say that starting a business with a laser cutter was easy – because starting any business is a huge challenge and takes a lot of work. If you decide to go for it, some of the challenges that you’re going to face will almost certainly make you reconsider whether you should be doing it or not! But if you’ve created your business plan, and do the work that you’ll need to put in, selling on the best sales channels for your business and building your social media following, you’ll be giving yourself the best possible chance to make a success.
Our final thoughts
There are a lot of reasons that people put off starting a business with a laser cutter – and while there are some misconceptions about the industry, there are some myths that we hear that are simply excuses for people to not get started. If you’re ready to start your business with a laser cutter, and one of these issues has been putting you off, then now you know you don’t have to wait, because even if there is a potential pitfall, there are plenty of solutions available. The best time to start a business with a laser cutter is right now – so what are you waiting for?
Whether you’re just thinking about whether you should start a business with a laser cutter and want to buy one, you already own one but are looking for service and support, or you’re looking for the right materials to get you started, get in touch – our experts can help you.