How to Charge Friends for Laser Use Time



While Money is nice, you can’t really buy friends and good friends are priceless. friendships are built by working together and supporting each other.


Great bunch of varied thoughts and ideas here. Personally, the Glowforge is first and foremost for ME, but I know I will be delighted to share it with my engineer son-in-law, as well. In the beginning, when I first ordered, I had some grandiose dreams of eventually being able to offer some laser services here in my small town. I even did some research and to the best of my knowledge, there is no other service like that here. I also did a lot of research on what might be considered ‘normal’ charges for work done…and I bookmarked everything I found. I have a lot of learnin’ to do first though, so the dreams are still there, but just way down the line.


I went crazy for a while, submitting assignments using PageMaker, '86 0r '87.


I loved PageMaker. The running headers and footers were so cool. The switch to InDesign was a challenge because some of the things no longer worked and I no longer could afford it.


My plan for friends is “come over. Bring materials and food.”


but will you let them use the food as materials?


…Or Beer.
My 60th and all the friends and neighbors were seen walking to my house carrying beer.
Standard payment for my time and tools.

No, I don’t have one of those little bar fridges

The friendships though, That’s the real payoff.


I honestly couldn’t see charging friends for laser time. In fact, my girlfriend and I are planning to host a number of dinners and get togethers specifically for the purpose of showing them how it works and giving them the chance to play around with the tools.

I think our plan is to have some basic materials on hand, and if somebody wants to get ambitious and bring something fancy (wood, leather, etc) they’re welcome to do that.

We’ve done plenty of creative/arty nights over the years, sometimes we’re all working on a group project (art for Burning Man, for example) and sometimes we’re all just brainstorming and hanging out and enjoying (as well as benefitting) from each others’ company. Money has rarely (if ever) changed hands as a result (though guests often bring food or drink to share), but it’s led to great inspiration and collaboration along the way.


I love the way Aaron Draplin sees it in general. He’s done big money work which, in some part, lets him do the same work for his buddies. This is a fun watch all the way through, but starting at this point he talks about doing “friend” work. (Go to 5:42 - I guess the forum drops the start time.)

Another way to think of it is this: If I do work (or offer a service) that can only garner friends as customers, I’m going to end up with neither.


I have a few friends who are incredible artists, but who lack the motivation/time/materials/money to really create their visions. I am actively trying to push them to give me artwork to be recreated on the laser. I will not charge them for these projects, and will help in any way possible with material costs. The goal being to provide them with a finished, showable series of work that they could submit to art shows and highlight in portfolios. I have offered them opportunity to sell the items out of my shop, if they want to (I have dedicated the front room of my shop to being a gallery space). I hate seeing this incredible talent being wasted because the need to work multiple jobs leaves these guys exhausted and incapable of investing the time needed to realize their respective artistic visions.


And no, you wouldn’t WANT one of those, otherwise you could never store that much beer! We have a friend who is a Harley enthusiast and a good bike mechanic in his own right. Any time he worked on someones bike, a fifth of whiskey was built into his fee schedule.


This is such a kind and generous way to be with your artistic friends who do not have benefits of time, money, etc. It’s wonderful!


It really made me smile to read about how you value their creativity and wish for their success. You’re a good friend, and they’re lucky to have you on their side!


I’m enjoying all of the different perspectives and reasoning in this thread!

While I’m still learning to use my GF, I don’t intend to charge anything for friends and family projects. Once I become more proficient, I think I’ll try to establish a fair and affordable rate. I’m connected to quite a few different creative communities, so many of my friends are professional artisans and makers. Many would really benefit from access to a laser, and I love the idea of being able to help them boost their creative businesses … but I’m not magnanimous enough to do that for free. It should be a mutually supportive arrangement (I’ve found that anything less sets you up to be taken advantage of). I’ve invested a decent chunk of change into this tool/resource for my business; while I’d love to help my friends grow their businesses and prosperity, I’d hope that they’d want the same for me.

I love the idea of helping my friends and family to create one off creative projects, and I’ll certainly help create things like this “for fun and for free” as long as they supply materials. But if I’m helping people to create products that they’ll profit from, I would expect a reasonable fee for the use of my resource.


I will make items for my friend but I will not allow them to use my Glowforge. They can watch but no touchy.


You rock, @jbv !!


My approach would be to just share, within reason. If something was going to eat up a ton of my materials, then I would ask that they provide their own materials. I would also expect, especially for larger/complex things, that they bring a complete and ready-to-print design.


Yeah, I think this is important. If it’s a project that I’m interested in, I might want to help with the design side, but if not. (Of course, one of the nice things with the tracing/scanning we’ve already seen is that a lot of things that friends/acquaintances will want to make, at least at first, fall into the simple category.)


For me, I plan on making a business out of my Glowforge so all that being said, here is how I intend to break down usage:

-Gifts for friends: Free, they are gifts
-One off projects for friends: Cost of materials
-Production pieces for Artist Friends: Cost of materials plus Electricity.

-One off projects for “clients”: Cost of materials x2, Cost of electricity, plus per hour rate for project.
-Production projects for “clients” same as one off, but per hour rate is doubled.

-My own designs: Cost of material x2 OR a per hour rate if very complex.

Now these prices are going to be flexible, especially while I’m just starting out. But I think that this is a good starting point for me to work from.


As a business model, your plan is very reasonable.