July '21

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A W A R D S & C U S T O M I Z AT I O N 2 6 G R A P H I C S P R O J U L Y 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M Y O U R L A S E R A T W O R K | B O B H A G E L MAKING A HOME HOBBY INTO A BUSINESS M any readers began working with a laser or other personalization technology to make something for themselves or their home. It's fun learn- ing to use the new machine and crafting a new item. You may have pieced several cutouts from wood, plastic, or leather togeth- er with glue and perhaps painted some pieces. Friends saw the new item and wanted to know if you could make one for them. Or perhaps you posted a pho- to on Instagram and had a few followers that wanted one. Now you get enough orders that you are considering making a side or perhaps full-time business from this great new venture. Before jumping into a larger business commitment, spending some serious money on more equipment, or count- ing on your business income to pay bills, make sure you understand what this new business will require. Explore a few questions before even writing a busi- ness plan. These questions are directed toward what it will take to make a living from a business venture. CAN YOU MAKE A LIVING FROM YOUR HOBBY? If you have sold a few products, how much did you charge for them? If you have not sold anything yet, check out social media to see what similar items are selling for. Take the sales price and divide it by the estimated number of hours it took to make the product including your time to work with taking the order and perhaps shipping it. Convert this to dollars per hour. In an eight to 10 hour day, how much is the maximum you can earn if you had orders all the time? This exer- cise will give you some idea if making a large enough business from this hobby to pay bills is a worthwhile venture. You will likely need to find ways to shorten your production process, per- haps by half or more. Consider four to six custom products to sell and design- ing them in a way that you can pre-make some of the main pieces that will not need to be customized. Production ef- ficiency is important. Minimize gluing and painting, especially small intricate pieces. You may need to simplify your prod- ucts to earn a living. This advice may not apply to everyone; however, the meth- od of thinking will help you create a business regardless of what it is. Design products so you can make parts in batch- es. Remember, smaller is not necessarily cheaper. Miniature products and parts create challenges that require a lot of ad- ditional time. You may have more dis- carded parts because of the difficulty of cutting them out, gluing them together, or just breakage. Consider a product size that provides an easy production process while not over-using expensive materials. USING OFF-THE-SHELF PRODUCTS AND PARTS Many personalization businesses sell all or mostly off-the-shelf products that are personalized with their laser, full- color system, sandcarving equipment, or other method. Building a business with off-the-shelf products from industry A two-piece decor set. The entire product was custom cut, including the back of the sign. The small trailer required over a dozen pieces be cut and hand painted. The sign contains all cut wood pieces. Santa's hat is hand painted. This product is not a recipe for profits. (Image courtesy Kim Pyle; @roamcollective.kb)

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