Laser engraving can enhance items ranging from wedding bands to sports trophies to industrial signs; because of this, it is a field where there is room for many different types of engraving businesses. This does not mean, however, that it is a business you can jump into without significant planning and preparation.
Hold onto your current job or obtain a full- or part-time position. Setting up a laser engraving business takes a large investment in time before you are ready to sell a single piece.
Make sure that you are familiar with the software that most engraving machines use, such as CorelDRAW, AutoCAD and Adobe Photoshop. Knowing how to run the graphic arts programme your laser engraving equipment uses is key to a successful engraving business.
Take classes or pursue other areas of learning. Even if you have some background in graphic design, it is a good idea to update your skills by taking classes at your community college. If the idea of going back to school does not appeal to you, purchase-or borrow from the library-manuals and books that you can use to educate yourself on both graphic design and running a business. You should also consider taking courses through Laser University, a website dedicated to teaching the skills required for laser engraving.
Decide what type of engraving you want to do. While your engraving machine will be able to work in several different media-glass, wood, stone, leather, metal etc.-concentrating in one particular format or niche, such as wood gift items or items for golfers, will help you organise your business and target your market.
Choose where your business will be located. While many people run their engraving businesses from home, keep in mind that it will require enough space for your laser, computer, worktable, the storage of your supplies and all of the general office equipment needed to run a business. You will also have to deal with the noise and often smell from the engraving process. If you live in a one-bedroom apartment where your neighbours say, "Bless you" when you sneeze, it is probably not a good idea to attempt to start your business from home.
Write your business plan. Even if no one else ever sees it, you need to have a business plan. If you are not seeking financial backing it does not have to be a formal proposal, but it still should include your business description, marketing plan, operating budget and long- and short-term goals.
Obtain the required business permits and licenses from your local and state agencies.
Purchase your laser equipment. Research the various manufacturers, such as Epilog Laser, Universal Laser, LaserPro and Gravograph before choosing a machine to purchase. Do not be afraid to ask questions; with a price tag ranging from 8,000 to 20,000 dollars(or equivalent), your laser-engraving machine will be a substantial investment.
Purchase your general business equipment. You will need at least a dedicated phone line, fax machine, printer and storage for both files and supplies.
Find suppliers and vendors for the materials you want to work with. Industry journals, like Awards and Engraving Magazine or The Engravers Journal, are a good resource for companies that wholesale products that you can engrave.
Make samples of your work. It is not enough to tell prospective customers what you can do; you have to be able to show them finished products that they would be interested in purchasing. Rodney Gold, owner of Toker Bros LTD, suggests that people who are new to the engraving business spend two to three months making samples and perfecting their skills.
Market and Advertise your business. You engraving machine is just a business tool; you will have to spend the majority of your time designing and selling your products or your individual skills. You will need business cards, brochures describing your products or services, sales letters, a website, your samples and an extreme amount of persistence.
Continually update your skills and knowledge by attending trade shows, subscribing to industry magazines, taking additional graphic design courses and networking with other engraving professionals.
When you purchase your equipment think about the work you will be doing-not only now, but also a year or three years from now. You do not want to have to buy new machines every time your business expands and grows. The type of engraving you choose to do will affect where you run your business. If you want to sell gift items, for example, having a store-front instead of working from your home may be your best bet. Have a computer that is dedicated solely to your engraving business so that the graphics programs can run at their optimum performance levels.
Do not purchase or attempt to use a computer that has an Intel Celeron processor for use with your engraving equipment. These computers cannot function fast enough to run the needed graphics programs. Do not ever tell a customer you can engrave something that you have no knowledge or experience in doing. For example, if a potential client wants wedding glasses engraved and you have only worked in wood and haven't the faintest idea if you even have the right attachments to work on glasses, saying "yes" to their request would be a mistake. If you are planning to buy items wholesale to engrave and then resell, you have to get appropriate tax coverage.