How to Charge Friends for Laser Use Time

Hey guys, I think this has been touched on briefly, in passing, but I wanted to see if I could consolidate this information in an easier to search topic.

When we get our GF, I’m sure many of us have very creative friends who will want to use our Lasers and get to play around with it. In your opinion, what is a fair way of negotiating cost?

For instance, charge $x per hour? per job? per piece? per “visit”?
Do you make them do all the design on their end? Do you charge to “proof” it before lasering the design (Kerf adjustments and many other “easy mistakes”)?
Do you provide the material? Do you make them bring the material to laser onto?

I’ve never even been in a Hackerspace to see how they do things. I’m specifically NOT referring to professional use of lasers (customers walking into a store and can get something lasered onto an item that they purchased in the retail section).


Im probably just going to ask they cover any material costs. As long as they aren’t making money off me.


Do you make them supply the material, or would you expect to reimburse you for stuff from your stockpile?


Depending on the friend and their experience with lasers, it might be best to expect them to reimburse you for materials. My concern would be the laser-ability of the materials friends want to engrave. Otherwise, you’ll have to verify the product is safe before letting them put it in your Glowforge.


I’m going to take a very different approach as these are my “friends” and friends share. Most of my friends have other cool toys they let me use and I let them use my toys. While the idea of charging for usage and or materials is a reasonable question, I don’t expect to change anything as long as they are sharing with me and not expecting to use my Glowforge more than me.

I also expect I will gain value from what they are doing as I’ll be learning new techniques and designs from them.

By the way, the maker space I used to use charged a membership fee or a day pass fee to use any of their equipment once you had taken and passed the safety training class for that piece of equipment. Only the water-jet cutter had an additional per minute cost for cutting. Users provided their own materials. In the case of the laser cutters / engravers there was a list of recommended materials and if you wanted to put anything else in the laser you had to provide proof the material was safe in a laser and the shop supervisor had the final say if it was okay or not.


My plan for pricing is as follows:
My time per hour
Laser time per hour = my time per hour /2
Materials x 1.25

So lets say I set myself a wage of 30 dollars an hour, I use 10 dollars worth of materials and I spend an hour building something out. I would charge 45 dollars + 12.50 that works out to 62.50 retail for one off pieces. Lower for stuff I run multiple times.

For a friend I would drop my time down (especially if they gave me the images/vectors) so it is just machine upkeep (the 15 an hour) and materials


I use a pretty simple formula for this.

Close friends. We barter in material. i.e. simple job? Double the material. One to use and one to keep. If DTP is required- Then an additional piece of stock. (This is usually not the case as these folks are mostly cosplayers and have already done the leg work on the CAD/Graphic side of things) If the material in question something one off (i.e. a top of a table or whatever) then the default stock is 1/4" Lexan and a size/qty I specify. (Something cheap and readily available at depot)

Friends of a Friend. Same system but ‘Labor & DTP’ is a flat ‘fee’. For context for the next statement, I use this for my CNCs. That fee is a common consumable. A downcut or an upcut endmill. Both sub 15$.

This way, i’ll have a healthy stock of stock for personal use and to help them later on if they are in a jam.

I’ve been doing this for 8+ years. It seems to work as I get requests almost weekly (daily around the holidays)


When I am learning how to design and use a laser, I expect to not charge my friends anything as we learn what we are capable of doing with the Glowforge. But once I get to the point where I “Know” what I’m doing, I feel like it would be appropriate to charge for Laser time and materials since they are a consumable.

Definitely up for Bartering instead of payment though. Actually prefer a Barter system.


sorry, what is DTP? Design-to-Print?


Desktop Publishing.


I’m with @Just-Maken-It, friends will respect the fact that it’s a limited use resource and we all help each other out. You find out pretty quick who’s abusive and it’s not a guaranteed not a friend any more but it’s sure a red flag. I expect excitement over hey it’s a laser and all the things that got me excited about the Glowforge specifically.

They all know not to start a business on my equipment and I on theirs. And just like borrowing tools, you treat them better than you would your own or replace them. It’s just all about respect and friendship.

On the other hand if I wanted to sell Glowforge time then keeping me form using it for making money or putting yourself in a customer vs. a friend role would end up with some sort of renumeration. Again though friends know all the right bribes to get “free” laser time out of me.


I’m considering a “don’t touch my Snap-On, Don’t touch my Glowforge” approach lol, but then again I wouldn’t trust the majority of my friends with a screwdriver, let alone a 5000 dollar piece of finely tuned equipment…

P.S. I’m too cheap to own any Snap-On :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Most of my friends aren’t makers, so I’m in a different position than quite a few of you. In this case if it’s just a one off project they want to try, then friends help friends. I will expect them to provide their own materials, or reimburse if they use mine. They would have to start treating it like a business, or doing a lot of cuts for me to change this. Now for someone wanting to use it in a professional sense, I’m interested what you guys would charge and how you would handle that.


Still not familiar with this term. If you are publishing onto your desktop, how is that using extra stock?


aka Fusion 360 or Illustrator.

Basically if they hand me something hand drawn or describe what they want and is not already in a digital ‘ready-to-cut’ format.


THANKS. (your extra explanation was better than the wikipedia article…)


isn’t it funny how the term “Desktop Publishing” has changed. In the beginning it meant you had an inkjet, or for the fancy, laser desktop printer and you could “publish” all on your own. Now we can “Publish” 3d objects via 3d printers, laser cutters, CNC routers, etc. The world may have had more natural beauty in the past (less pollution and destruction) but I’m content to be living now.


If you are planning to start a business about this or not yet, usually your friends will be the your first customers.

So maybe you could first let them print something and just charge them the material as a demonstration. But if they are interested in continuing to use it if you should start a business of it as you should also include the wear of the laser.

Here is a handbook made by epilog about how you can start a business about this

but always remember business is business and family is family.


You learn who your friends and by how they treat your things. There are always friends that you just know can’t use your things because they just are not responsible to take care of them. As @ihermit2 stated, just because they’ve proven they can’t use your things doesn’t always mean they are not a friend, just no longer a tool borrowing / using friend.

Snap-on tools are for professionals who use then everyday to earn a living. There are plenty of other really good tools for the do-it-yourselfer that wants good tools. Then there is harbor fright for the rest.


Yeah. Back in my yout’ I was a graphic designer for OfficeMax then later the local paper in my hometown growing up (mid 90s early 00s… Wow. I just realized far back that was.) Then later on when I had my own computer repair store, I had to crash-course learn AutoCAD to help a local cabinet company use their CNC. Which then exposed me to CAM packages back in the day. I fell those experiences gave me a huge leg up on things like Fusion 360 and Illustrator.

But yeah I guess I should used the word ‘Post Processing’ vs. Desktop Publishing. Thou in my mind they mean the same thing. But PP would make more sense and would be easier for people to understand the context of what I was trying to convey.