Meet My New Best Friend

We recently bought a Glowforge — here's what went into our decision process and our comparison to other laser cutters. From Wanderlove Calligraphy + Design.

If my best friend could be an inanimate object, then I think the Glowforge might get the title. Since we got him (Ronald Raygun, for anyone wondering his name), I’ve spent many late nights in his company.

I’ve gotten quite a few DMs on Instagram about my Glowforge buying experience and my initial thoughts, so now that I’m a few months in I’ve decided to compile my answers here on the blog.

Our decision to invest in a laser came down to a lot of research, number crunching and a bit of spontaneity thrown in for good measure.

What Our Process Used to Look Like

Before-Glowforge (BG) we worked with a partner to outsource our laser cuts. I would hand letter and draw everything, digitize it, make my files laser-ready, and send them over to be cut. This worked well for a while, but had some major drawbacks:

  • Every time I submitted a file, I needed to make sure I was using every inch of the wood to ensure I was keep my per-sign costs down. If I could bulk 5-6 signs on a piece of wood this was more cost effective than sending one file at a time. However, doing this meant that I had to pre-plan what inventory I wanted on-hand.

  • Each time I had a custom order to submit, I needed to weigh timelines + costs + what other orders were in the pipeline. It was a tricky dance. I didn’t want to submit files only to have more to submit the next day (and therefore more shipping costs to pay!), but I wanted to make sure I was meeting my turnaround times.

  • BUT… my turnaround times were LONG. They were always quoted at 3-4 weeks. This meant there were quite a few jobs I needed to either turn down or tack rush fees onto (and therefore the client turned them down).

  • I couldn’t price for wholesale, which was a bummer for the few inquiries that I got last year and the dreams I had for this business (more on this in an upcoming post).

Inside Our Glowforge - Wanderlove Calligraphy & Design

How a Glowforge “Fixes” This

Let’s be honest, all my business challenges aren’t suddenly fixed by buying an expensive piece of equipment; it really just shifts my challenges around. I knew that no laser cutter was going to be perfect, but some of the thoughts that went into the decision:

  • I tallied up the material expenses (cutting + material fees) and less tangible fees (cost of my time) in outsourcing cutting. Over the course of 6 months, I covered approximately a quarter of the cost of outright buying a laser.

  • Cutting my turnaround in half (and giving me the ability to do rush orders) gave me the opportunity to look at all the inquiries and near misses from last year (which I keep track of in my CRM tool, Dubsado) to project further income potential.

  • One of my goals for 2019 is to grow and expand my business through wholesale. I had a few wholesale accounts when I was primarily selling greeting cards, and would love to get back to this. By cutting down my costs, I can better price for wholesale and retail sales.

Why Glowforge?

This could be (and will be) a post of its own, but ultimately the decision came down to ease-of-use and my budget. My disclosure is this: There are better, faster, and much more expensive lasers out there. There are cheaper ones that are a lot more versatile and powerful. I know this. My goal was to find a machine that I could easily get up and running, that wouldn’t need a ton of tinkering, that I could run from inside my home office, and would reliably cut wood. For me, and the lasers that I researched and added to my list, the Glowforge checked all these boxes.

So that’s the quick overview. I’ll be tackling lots of your questions, my tips, and more this year so if there is something you have a question on (lettering, laser, or life related), let me know in the comments below.

PS. If you’re looking to get Glowforge of your own this link (or any of the ones in this post) will get you up to $500 off! Full disclosure that this is a referral link and I do get a small something if you use it.