How to Charge Friends for Laser Use Time

The first one’s free. :slight_smile:

If it’s something that’s explicitly a gift, and on a small scale, then free. If it’s something bigger but a project I’m also interested in, then some share of materials and running time (same as if a friend were asking me to help them with some home-construction project, they wouldn’t expect me to spring for all the nails and lumber). If it’s the kind of project they would otherwise take to a vendor (except with GF there probably isn’t one nearby), then time and materials, but maybe a nicer rate and more careful use than for someone I don’t know/like. That will also be modified according to how much I have to be in the process. If I know someone is well-versed enough so submit a clean svg/pdf/whatever, I’m probably not going to charge them for the time getting it from their source to the glowforge, for example.

I already deal with this when someone asks me to look at some text they’re writing. Friends definitely help friends, and one of the ways to help a friend is to pay them the going rate for professional work you ask them to do…


@ernesto.a.ramirezr, very true, and if leasing out your laser is the business you are going into then figuring this out is important. The part I’ve always struggled with is the appropriate amount for wear on the unit. Every cut is one cut closer to the end of the devices lifespan. Had part with this particular device is lifespan is at best a theoretical concept right now and we won’t know till they start breaking down - heaven forbid! I’ll bow out of the conversation at this point since that’s not my focus. I’m planning on making and selling things myself and am not intending on doing a lot of “work for hire.” Keep the conversation going, though, I may need it later on. Best laid plans and all that.


This is mainly my approach with my woodworking. If someone wants to learn how to use the tools, I’ll usually give them some scraps and a small project that I’ll walk them through. But if they are coming to the shop to make a gift for someone else, I’m expecting them to at least provide the materials. If I don’t know them well enough I’ll add a per hour charge. So far I haven’t felt comfortable enough to just leave someone alone in my shop while they work.

This will probably end up being something similar.


I also want to start a business by producing and selling the things I do :slight_smile:. But we can not rule out that there is a need for personalized things that people will want to use your machine or you do things to them.

I recommend you to read the pdf of epilog you can download it for free in the link of the previous comment. It is a good manual for the beginner who wants to see the use of their glowforge as a business. And it show you how to charge :wink: which I think it is the most difficult thing to know :sweat_smile:

guide.pdf (4.4 MB)

But never forget :wink:


Sigh! I won’t be able to charge for laser time. :disappointed:

I know this because I have not been able to charge for the print jobs I get begged to do because they’ve got this “once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity, and if I’ll just help out, they’ll be able to afford to send their kids to college”.

So I smile and do the design work and the print job, for their kids’ sake, and it takes several days of my time, and the neighbors involved have yet to follow up with that golden business opportunity, and I did my part back in January.

(And I’m still just a touch sore about it…is that coming across?) Chuckle!

So I’m actually pretty careful now about who I let know that I’ve got a machine that can be used to craft things.

(If I could just get my dearest husband and mother to not talk about it to everyone they come into contact with…neither one realizes it can take days to create a design that works and can be 3D printed.)

As far as letting anyone else use the machine…no.


‘Friends will ask for discounted prices. True friends will pay full price to support your time and your work’

That maybe true. My friends work with shoestring budgets. If I slapped them with my ‘full price’ fees. None of these projects would not come to be. I wouldn’t be a good friend if I was the roadblock on getting their projects done.

My payment in that regard would be watching their vision come to life.

At any rate, I think my business model is different.


I’m with Kennethclapp on this, my friends are not makers. Heck I don’t consider myself a maker. I like to tinker around with CNC stuff and build things I need to use. Most of the fun for me is in designing and building process.

I jump at the chance to make something for friends with the skills I have. Be it stickers, cards, garden work, making them woodworking items or in this case lasering stuff. I never bother to calculate cost of materials or time. 100% of the projects I do for friends I can manage with leftover stock from my own projects.

If I have to put in a lot of design time I always welcome to challenge. There is always something new to learn in the software side of things. A shortcut or some new tool. I need to use illustrator at least once a week or I will start forgetting things.

My laser is not for a business. It’s for me to create stuff!


Excellent Point! Just downloaded the pdf. I think I actually downloaded it once before–while I was still looking for a laser in the pre-glowforge days.


Our of likes, so here you go :thumbsup:


As you say sometimes your friends will need special discounts and off course you will give it to them :wink: ( if you at the end will give it to the customer why not to friends :wink: ) but there are some people who will ask for a discount (almost free) then you can use this image :stuck_out_tongue:


Ah, Harbor Freight: my secret Orientally sourced lover
Harbor Freight


One of my friends says their moto should be “when failure is an option”. We both buy and use tools from Harbor Freight, knowing it could fail at any time.

Sometimes the tool for a single project just has to come from the cheapest supplier.


I doubt I’m the only one who empathizes.


@kennethclapp I found it in the same way, long time ago but with this topic I remembered and I had to found it hahaha

@darkdesign for me this will be very useful to make gift in christmas, birthdays, etc. and my friends will be very lucky as they will get a lot of the things I do :wink: but as some of us will use this business some times you will know which and when give it for free, there is not better advertise as a happy friend :wink:

@Jules maybe helping a little bit wont hurt anybody, but you will learn who is really grateful and who is only willing to take advantage of you. So at the end we learn who we can help and who don’t. :wink:


Personally, when it comes to friends, my laser time and my software time are free. They’re responsible for the the cost of the materials (if it’s expensive enough to even worry about). Other stuff, like glue, finishes, sand paper, um… masking film, etc. are free as far as I’m concerned as long as we aren’t using copious amounts. If something like those needs to be bought (maybe they want some paint or something) I would expect them to buy all of it and then I’d encourage them to leave the leftovers with me.

Commercial endeavors are a different story. I have a friend that is involved with a Kickstarter campaign. If it gets funded, he’ll be borrowing my laser cutter and then he’s going to pay me $0.75 a minute to use it. I think that’s a fair price and it seems like he agrees. I basically don’t really want to lend-out my laser cutter at all, but the 75¢ per minute will soften the inconvenience of not having access to it. (The material he’s cutting will benefit from the high speed of my current laser cutter. 75¢ a minute might not have been appropriate if the cuts were likely to take longer.)

And also all the things @paulw said (much better than I could (and I tried for quite a while))


I do a lot of woodworking and get a ton of “friend” requests for stuff. For me it doesn’t come down to the money but my time and interest. I do the woodworking as a hobby and to scratch my creative itches. With requests they tend not to scratch any interests and cut into my hobby / fun time. And I only have so much time so “sorry but I just don’t have the time” is a fairly common answer.


Xerox Ventura Publisher running in DOS / GEM circa 1990 — my first professional gig in DTP. Good times!!!


My thought is if its onesie twosie small things, I probably won’t charge them. If they need a lot of material, I might charge them the cost of the material (or they can buy lunch next time or something).

Now if they want to make something and they want me to help them design and fabricate it, that’s a different story. I would take that as a case by case basis, but most likely charge them a small fee ($15-50 depending on the size of the job) + material cost.

This is just for friends. Friends of friends or random people, I would probably say no, or charge them a usage fee on top of the material cost, even if there was no design work.


I’m a bit of a softie but don’t intend to charge friends for a lot, or even what time is worth. Trading in the intangible is mostly what I’ve got going on now. For example:

Friend A promised me a new couch for the basement animancave/glowforge workshop, and has given me a large donation to buy me a new furnace and computer when both went out in the same week. I’ll be making him gifts for life.

Friend B lent me a miter saw for a few days while I laid an approx 400 ft^2 floor. He bought some thin basswood and we found designs online for firewalls and control horns, small thin components of foam airplanes. The cuts were free. It only took a couple minutes for the laser to cut, so I could see running a few sheets for him without charging.

Friend C asked me to make him a custom video game display chest… Like a treasure chest to hold his favorite game. This guy helped me cut and remove sopping wet sh!%-water carpet, and I told him no charge. He insisted to pay me something, so a similar sized deck case is the price we went with.

We will have different friends and different arrangements for each, and I think that that concept is natural.


THIS is my preferred method to “do business with friends”. While money is nice to buy more nice things with, experiences and shared skills are worth FAR more in my estimation. (you were thinking of me and my wants/needs while you designed and built this? WOW)