Inventables Community Forum

Tips for starting a CNC Side Business with an X-carve/CNC

I would love for this to be a longer term thread, but what has been folks experience for starting a business with their CNC? If willing, could you include the wise decision and the mistakes.

I would love to make a little extra money on the side with my CNC and I am curious on other peoples experiences.

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  1. Competing on price with mass produced junk is hard.

  2. Showing people what I can do. Building a portfolio. Has cost me $$

  3. Its easier to sell somethings if you have it in hand. This means building inventory. This cost time and $$ and may not ever get sold.

  4. Doing custom jobs is great but the going back and forth colaborating with people who may not be able to articulate or are overwhelmed with the task of telling you exactly what they want. While at the same time making me design it and redesign it over and over to get it right. Its like they dont know exactly what they want until they see it in front of them. V carvs preview pics help with this. Sometimes I wish they would give me a drawing or pic. Or just give me an idea and let me run with it.

So figuring out what people will pay. What people want. Proving to people what I can do for them. Having things on hand. These have all been challenges.
My advice.

Put in the time to hone your skills and learn your software. Everytime I do a project. I try to find some part of it I have never attempted. Like a vcarve inlay. Or multi paint colors or 3d etc… challenge yourself.

Dont sell your self short. Just because hobby lobby sells wooden letters for $2 does not mean you should.

Keep customer relations good. Word of mouth and good rep are key. If you have to re do something or even possibly loose money on a project. It may be worth it in the long run. I like to know with out a doubt that my customers will recommend me to anyone.

Network. Get to know peoe who own buisnesses or people who need what you do.

Good luck

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Pretty much everything Devin said.

I’ve only had my machine a couple months. Still learning so I haven’t gone full speed with what I’ll sell or make. Don’t want to get ahead of myself and instantly kill a reputation because I can’t deliver on promised goods.
Making crafts or whatever with the machine is a very competitive thing, so don’t expect to get rich or make a ton right off the bat…or maybe ever. Have fun with it, like anything else, or you’ll burn yourself out.

You’ll possibly hear “I found ____ on etsy/Walmart/hobby lobby/some random craft show for $3, but yours are $10. Will you sell me one for $3?”. I’ve heard it a dozen times ALREADY and that’s without even offering a product, just people asking if I’ll make something for them after a friend/family member shows what I made. The answer is always a polite no. My reason is because I’m a small time shop and my time is valuable to me.

I actually had someone ask me today if I’d like to put some of my stuff in their store, so I’ve got to sit down soon and figure products and prices and an agreement with them. I’ve wanted to make money off the cnc since before I bought it(already selling some woodworking items) but went in with the understanding I may not even make enough $ to pay for the initial cost of the machine. I’ve made a ton of cool things for my son(who is 5), so honestly it’s been worth the cost to me already.

Have fun, enjoy what you make. Take your time and don’t get discouraged easily.

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Ps. Yes none of this advice promises that you will make money. I would like to someday at least pay for my machine and tools. But that might be a few years away at least just to technically break even.

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Make something epic, original, that you can’t get anywhere else, set it out and let the people come. There’s a guy on here that makes custom, personalized camping signs he hangs on the tree at the front of his campsite and has gotten tons of orders for them. I made some killer beach style Adirondack chairs that I take camping and every time I go, people ask me where I got them.

It doesn’t take long to pay off an XC1000 with all the bells and whistles. It was harder to convince my wife until she actually witnessed me sell custom brew tap handles to the owner of a microbrewery one night while out for happy hour. She was amazed at both my salesmanship and my technical skill. All I was doing was talking about a project I was excited about.

P.S. “Set it out” could mean literally or figuratively on Facebook, etc.

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I run a Crafting group on Facebook for CNC produced items, blank crafting supplies.

If you want to produce things on a massive scale like those in my blank shapes group… Looking at X Carve and Carvey, no - it’s not possible with these machines as their work spaces are too small, you will not be able to keep up with the mass of orders. Plus, if you are living in the UK; there are about 100 other businesses to compete with and you cannot copy their designs.

If you are looking to make bespoke, personalised, customised, one off items, then yes it is a possibility. But you are probably looking in the £30.00+ region in terms of price, and not everyone can afford £30.00 items.

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Just need to have a quick angry vent. I just saw the “jumpstart your small business” video on the top of this web site. A good promo video I guess. But I just go. Ahhhggguuggugg. What am I doing wrong. I believe one example is hundreds of orders. Another is first year we had 90 sales. Next year we had 300.

I am lucky to get 10 sales a year. I share on social media. I opended an etsy store. I get the word out. I make sure customers are happy. Everyone always has positive feed back. They see the pictures and say. “Wow thats amazing. Or oh wow I need one of those”. But then nothing. Its like ev everyone likes and wants the stuff I make they just dont want to buy it. Ugh. Like I said. Just needed to vent. Slow sales are frustrating as I am trying to take buisness more serious. So. Pardon my manors for being negitive. Just wish I knew what I was doing wrong.

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P.S. I have been wanting to add a laser for sometime but cant bring myself to spend the money knowing that I have been at this for over a year and still have not made a profit really. I want that laser though. And I convice myself that I could sell more if I had it. Or maybe I just want itm. :-):laughing:

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Ive been posting more stuff on the facebook market place lately and selling the heck out of things. Been hard to keep up the last few weeks. I’ve got a bunch of stuff I need to put on Etsy, but I won’t have time before Christmas so I’m just going to wait. I’ve put it off this long, so oh well. I’ve sold as much through word of mouth as I have on facebook. I do the same for friends Robert, just a bit over cost, and they spread the word like crazy. Part of my delay in putting stuff on Etsy or FB marketplace is I am OCD about my work. A friend stopped by just to watch the cnc run and hang out. He saw my “scrap” pile and asked if I was crazy throwing some of the things in there. I’m REALLY bad about scrapping things due to the paint finish, that comes from my years doing auto body paint/repair.
The main thing for me is I’m having fun, and making a little money to fuel the hobby. I’d love to have this as a full time job, but I don’t ever see that happening so I’m not going to worry about it or let it stress me in any way.

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Here’s a secret that I’ll share that you don’t want to hear:

Etsy sucks.

Seriously.

The marketplace is incredibly saturated for most products, their paid advertising is horrible, their interface is lacking, their listing fees are outrageous, their search engine is subpar, their community is ALL about “Oh I like this but I’m not going to buy” or “Oh my gosh, everyone look at how awesome this is but don’t buy” or “I like this, I’ll do it myself.”

I had been on Etsy since August 2015 (I put my shop on vacation a few months ago and never bothered to reactivate it). I’ve sold a decent amount on the site (61 orders, $1k…not CNC stuff). I’ve made that many sales in 2 days on Amazon Handmade. In 2016, I had $544 in sales on Etsy. I had a single day on Amazon that beat that amount. Same products, same pricing, just different marketplace.

And guess what? I’m not the only one that has this opinion. Etsy has lost its appeal to quite a few sellers.

Facebook Market does well for people. That’s a market I’ve yet to tap into but I probably should look into it. I primarily do custom things but for non-custom stuff, I think Facebook will sell quicker and better than Etsy.

I’m about to start posting some custom CNC items on Amazon Handmade and I’ll let you know how that goes. I’ve only posted a few CNC items on Amazon and sold like 3 or 4 of them but I’ve only posted like 4 or 5 CNC items. It’s hit and miss sometimes.

I speak highly on Amazon and it can generate some sales and traffic but just a word of caution, they will boot your ■■■ REAL quick if you miss shipments, get bad reviews, etc. Etsy could care less and people have gotten screwed over buying from Etsy and Facebook may not be as bad. If you sell 3 things on Amazon and miss a ship date or get a bad review or have a claim filed against you, they don’t hesitate to restrict your account. Amazon is a place to sell, not a place to “like” and “share” like Etsy.

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Thanks for that info Justin. I honestly hadn’t heard about Amazon Handmade, but I will definitely check it out.

I don’t know what the wait time is but there is/used to be an application process to get access. My wait was about a month 2 years ago (I joined November 2015 when it first was opening)

Currently they are waiving the $40/month fee but that could go into effect at any point. Luckily I sell enough on there with my vinyl to cover the cost of that fee and make it worth it.

Holiday season so far has increased my sales about 2X to 4X per day in sales. Last year I did $10k in 3 weeks in vinyl decals…it was CRAZY but so was the Yeti fad and those Yetis needed my stickers to personalize/customize them :smile:

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Devin, I feel for ya. I was recently at a craft fair and everyone walks by and picks up my stuff and comments about how good it looks and how well done everything is, but then they keep going on by.

I had an Etsy store and made maybe 6 sales in a year… like you… good reviews, we shipped quickly and everything was packaged professionally.

Brian I have the exact same problem, I’m obsessive about perfection in my work… I have scrap bin that I carved a sign for “Burn Baby Baby Burn” My friends raid the bin all the time and give me hell for what I consider scrap for the burn bin lol.

The quote I keep in mind, better to finish a project than make make it perfect and never finish at all.

Facebook groups and sale pages have kept me extremely busy, I have the same idea, I sell things for a small profit and undercut the crafting wooden sign ladies in my area…

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I make exotic wood cutting boards and I see them online for $200.00 - $300.00 I don’t know how many they sell at that price, but I sold this one for $100.00 it sold on facebook in 2 hours. Materials were $30.00 and actual labour was 1 hour.

lower prices also stop customers from being nit picking little babies… when they see a little imperfection. I make alot of doTerra essential oil storage boxes for middle class house wives who they’re come to believe are just like the women of Real housewives or New York or something…super picky women.

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@LanceCameron I laughed at the “undercut wooden sign ladies” comment. I know the feeling man. I’ve dropped some prices just to move more simple stuff that I leave for the customer to finish, stuff that may take 2 minutes for me to sand off the tabs. These housewives at a couple craft shows I’ve done make things that are similar in nature on scroll saws. Talked to one that said she made the piece in 45-60 minutes, then another 20 painting and finishing. Cost $10 in materials and she was selling for $12. I couldn’t really think of anything to say lol, I’m not working for $2 or less an hour. The cnc cut mine in 12 minutes, and I spent 2 sanding off tabs. Buying in large sheets I’d guess my material cost for that specific piece was 50-75 cents and I sold them for $20 and up.

That cutting board is beautiful, I’ve got a couple glued up in the garage for gifts that I just need to plane then finish.

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We saw some people walking around the craft fair last weekend with these big gaudy wooden stars, ornaments, signs… you name it and can’t believe that stuff sold. They’re made out of what looks like pallet wood that has been sitting in the weather for years with splotchy paint thrown on top of it. I couldn’t bring myself to try to sell something like that.

I lowered my prices some and I guess it helped some. My biggest attraction was the US quarters map I made. I’m thinking of making similar things for the other continent. I’ll use the CNC to vcarve the internal borders rather than use a scroll saw to cut and then re-assemble. I ordered some bags of foreign coins and will sell those with it so I know how big to make the holes for each country.

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In my area Craft show painted wooden sign ladies are like a gestapo, they message me angry threats on FB now because apparently I’m taking marketshare from them and their sales are dropping “how in the hell are we supposed to compete with a CNC machine?”… I made this name sign for a customer (who originally was going to get a painted sign from someone till they saw my stuff) It was all MDF and plywood 5/8 thick, maybe 2 bucks in materials and took an hour to cut on the Xcarve…I sold it for $60 bucks…I got three more similar jobs the day I posted this item on my page lol.

The jobs are out there…I find custom name stuff sells really big…as for Planing cutting boards…I use the Xcarve to plane raw materials and cutting boards too. I’m so lazy I let that thing do everything I can think of lol

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the wooden sign ladies think if they make 2.00 that is great. they don’t seem to understand what there time is worth. been there and what i have found out over the last 10 years is sometimes it is better to raise your price. someone told me years ago never lower your price. i have used that theory alot and most of the time when you raise the cost you start making sales.

Thanks for continuing this thread. I just through two Tennessee signs on FB marketplace last night for $35 and they both already sold. Now I need to crank out a few more. Time for a little cold weather staining.

I am just thinking about time, but how are you getting your goods to someone? Are you doing porch pickup or meeting them somewhere?I am just thinking about how “shipping” factors into my time and price.