One of my bosses recently asked me if I could somehow get an engraving of Spider-Ham onto a Pop-Socket for his son.
I have just the thing I thought… so I did some work, modified the image so it would be better for engraving… ended up actually vectorizing it in a couple of different ways and overlapping to create two different engrave actions that had different settings. In the end I ran 4 or 5 test engraves before coming up with the final. At 5-6 minutes per engrave, my total cost would be roughly $16-$18. The final product was engraved onto maple veneer so he could just peel and stick it to the Pop Socket. He loved it and wanted more to give as favors to his family for his son’s high school graduation. He wanted 60 total (after I figured how many I could fit on a sheet of veneer), 30 with his family crest and 30 with his wife’s family crest.
I did some math and (incorrectly) guessed at the engrave time. I have a material/laser cost of $0.77 per unit. I quoted him $3/unit to cover my time, markup, etc… He responded that he thought it would be cheaper than that, and his only question was “what is the material cost?” I thought that was pretty rude, as if my time weren’t worth anything. I ended up stating that the material wasn’t all that significant and the laser-time was what really accounted for most of the cost, but I offered $2.50 per unit and he accepted.
Once I got the file set up I found that the actual engrave time was 2.5 hours instead of the 1 hour I had originally estimated. My cost per unit bumped up to $1.53. In the end I spent maybe 15 minutes setting up the file, two test-engraves and then the 2.5 hour engrave-session. Then, I had to weed 60 1.5" diameter circles, which, had we been focused on just that would have been about 1-1.5 hours.
All that to say that he was happy with the product, but the whole time we were weeding, my wife and I were also marveling that this little stack of disks was worth $150. It got me thinking about how much I would pay for one though. A 1.5" diameter, sticky-backed veneer with a custom-engraved logo on it. If I saw it at a Target I would expect it to be priced at $5-$10, then show up on clearance racks for 1/3 that when it didn’t sell (and it wouldn’t be custom). But if I saw it at a craft fair or the like, I wouldn’t want to pay more than $2-$4 for it (which is partially why I chose $3). But then you think about it, and this is a piece of real wood that is custom engraved. The material is relatively low in cost, but not insignificant, but the time spent to set up the files, the laser-time involved, particularly when doing them in mass quantities is very significant, and then there’s time to put on the finishing touches (like weeding). I think $5 is probably pretty reasonable, though I wouldn’t want to pay that myself for one.
Sorry I don’t have an image of the finished product… Maybe I’ll do another with my own custom engraving on it so I can get a good photo.
Anyway, That was very long-winded to essentially ask what you would be comfortable paying and/or charging for something like that? And, for those of you doing paid work, are you finding that people don’t value time and effort and really think that these things should just be the cost of the material?