How to charge for an odd project

Hey guys.
Someone just asked me a rate on cutting some rulers for them. I have the design and the logo for the back of each one. Here’s the crazy part. They want 300 of them.
Figuring just the laser run time, it would be about 75 hours of run time. That includes nothing for changing the material out, peeling tape, or any of the design time.
I’ll just say this… we’re seeing some companies saying they do 500 similar items for 350 and another place that sells them for .13 each. I’ll probably just refer them off but I wanted some pricing opinions in case they don’t want to go that route or if someone wants something they can’t just order so cheap offline.
What do you do with a 75 hour laser run time? Also… will I not be wearing out the laser head and need to account for that as well?
Thanks in advance.


I would say, rough ballpark would be $500-600 for the lot.

My (completely baseless) assumptions:

  • Charge $5/hr lasertime
  • Charge $80/hr your time
  • You can weed and clean 2 parts/min

That gives you $375 lasertime, and $200 your time (2.5 hrs). But, that’s just a guess. Also, if it’s not something you really want to do, I would add on more.

You shouldn’t be wearing out the laser head anymore than usual. You might need to give your GF a good cleaning afterwards.


Another option is to find inexpensive rulers that you can modify.

It might completely change the economics if you’re just engraving a small logo or phrase.


I would consider a few things:

  1. Will this project get you additional visibility / opporutnity for other jobs? If so, you may want to show a regular price, then a one-time discount, so that you are setting the customer(s)’ expectations and not establishing yourself as a low-price source.

  2. What about the cost of your materials? Don’t forget to include that (and include the cost / time / effort of getting those materials.

  3. Don’t forget that your “profit” needs to come after taxes, etc.

  4. I also try to build in a small portion / fee for the depreciation / recovery cost of the Glowforge. Your business should be paying for the captial components (glowforge, table, filter, tubing, etc.) over time.

  5. (possibly the most important) What is your opportunity cost of doing this, both in terms of other projects, or in terms of other (leisure, etc.) activities that you won’t get to do as a result of this project. Especially since you should be monitoring the Glowforge while it is running, I would never charge less than 10-15 dollars / hour of laser time, with a higher rate for the design time.

I hope these suggestions are useful.

Best of luck with the project!


It’s a good thing you are thinking about tape time, changing out materials and all. My first big project was to design table caddies for a local restaurant. They looked amazing (shout out to my wife if she ever sees this), but after spending time to get materials, taping/untaping, glue and assembly time, it took several weeks and we ended up making around $4 - $6 per hour after expenses.

It was a good learning experience and has gotten us more business from them, but I wish I had made more.


You might be able to reduce the laser run time by limiting your LPI to 195. That will give complete engraving coverage in the shortest possible time to reduce the load on the machine. (Won’t be quite as dark/deep though…there’s always a trade off.)


And be sure to look at the engraving times for different alignment on the bed. I tend to find engraving images that run horizontally are about 25% faster than the same image aligned vertically, so be sure to look at the engrave times both ways before committing to a full run.


…and so on. You can probably contact them and negotiate a price for blanks… or find out who is supplying them.

1 Like

I had someone ask me to do a large job right after I got my Glowforge. I decided early on that I didn’t have that kind of time and made the choice to use my GF for creative crafts not large productions. This tool can be, and is being used this way, but there are industrial machines that are better suited for speed on large jobs. If I were doing laser work as a full time job I might look into comparing speeds of different machines.


I have a tip I learned from doing a couple of large orders. The first 200 of a 1000 token order had to be weeded, both sides, which was terribly slow and tedious.
I saved many hours by pulling the mask on :proofgrade: sheets before engraving, and cleaning the smoke residue with full strength household ammonia. It worked much better than the alcohol that I used at first( I did need to do it under ventilation). :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
It took about 4 seconds to wipe both sides of each token.

I also cut the full sheets about in half so that I didn’t leave the unused edges. I chose :proofgrade: because the finish work was done, saving a lot more time.

The advice about refferal is spot on. The first 1000 were for my daughter who runs a non-profit, so I did it for the cost of materials. Days of run time that got really boring :expressionless:.
A gentleman in the same type of business saw them and asked a price. I sold him 1000 also. He returned 2 months later wanting 3000!
That’s when I discovered the ammonia trick after experimenting in necessity of lowering production time. I was provided the company logos, and only needed to do some text work around the edges (special thanks to @marmak3261 who helped me understand the design work).
As a result, 5000 tokens paid for the glowforge, my next tube replacement, and a few hundred left over.

I never intended to make any money with this thing, it was for personal enjoyment. So in spending a little of yourself in planting a seed with a nice eye-catching design, you never know how well getting your foot in the door will pay off.
Good Luck!


Run time on some ruler designs in particular can also be helped significantly by scoring instead of engraving the measure lines.


Here’s what I’ve been doing. It’s far from “profitable”, but it depends on how much you charge.

The basic concept is to get my money out of materials and to pay myself back for the Glowforge. After I pay myself back, I’ll be using that as my wage for the labor. I’ll admit, my labor costs aren’t in line and adding that line item messes with the spreadsheet. Based on my scenarios that I’ve run and pricing conversations with my sister (photographer), it’s an art to assigning costs.

Based on some other posts here, I created a “wholesale” and “retail” pricing. There’s also a place for putting in a static price.

I also took it upon myself to figure in taxes and payment processing. Apparently, in the great state of South Dakota, shipping accrues tax. You may want to check with your local tax guy regarding that. I don’t understand all of the tax pieces yet.

Anyway, feel free to gander.


You’re not factoring a number of important considerations… the machine is wearing out as you use it, the laser is a consumable. What’s the expected operating life of the laser tube? If it’s 1000 hours, 75 hours of run time is 7.5% of the useful life. You want to include that wear and tear in your cost estimate.

And of course, the rest of the machine is wearing out a little bit more with each job you run, too. Belts stretch and fray, bearings get looser. The machine gets dirty and you’ll need maintenance time to clean it to keep it running.

And the GF has a narrow operating temperature range. Long jobs tend to cause it to pause to cool down. Engraving seems to be the most problematic. This may extend the time it takes you to do an entire run.


Great story!


Highly situational. In my well climate-controlled workspace using a pro, I’ve never had a cooldown even in the hottest parts of Atlanta summer.

There are lots of ways to avoid overheating, thread after thread, so I won’t go into it here.


This topic was automatically closed 32 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.