Wow has the CNC industry changed a lot since 2008. Back then, when I founded CNCKing.com (then WoodMarvels.com), people were just HAPPY to have access to professionally tested and working files they can download and use with their laser, 3DP or router. Now? FREE FREE FREE. What changed?
Race to the bottom
As with many industries, there has been a constant and consistent race to the bottom. From manufacturers sending their product development and eventually their whole businesses overseas to designers being unable to find a way to generate revenues for their passions in the CNC field (and business in general) so they just make their work free in order to gain some traction. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t get ask one of two questions.
- How do I make money selling my files on the internet?
- Can you send me some free files?
Ironically, I believe that these two questions are completely related. As mentioned previously, DIGITAL has no value… it’s now a commodity. Look at book sellers who ran to Amazon.com to get their digital books in the marketplace, now they are having difficulty making enough revenue and cannibalizing their print sales.
Now that I run a CNC laser business, I also see first hand the pressures on many of my customers, they are under continually and constantly race to reduce production costs… a few customers have figured-out that this leads to opportunities to a race to the top though. Eventually, if you want to make things cheaper, it means job and payroll cuts and that’s the vicious cycle we’ve seen for the past 20 years here in North America.
Race to the TOP
So, if you are a graphic designer, don’t bid based on price, bid based on quality of output. Make an AWESOME portfolio and then some! You need to WOW customers! As for CNCKing.com, it’s the same philosophy, sure, I could make a lot of FREE stuff on the site but that’s a race to the bottom… if anything, once I start designing for the site again, I’m going to be charging a premium. For two reasons.
- I want to attract and retain customers who value my time, expertise and most of all, have a sustainable business that is going along the same route as me, race to the top. CNC machines aren’t cheap, especially if you buy top quality stuff… what I’ve found is that shops that are prospering have NO PROBLEM paying for files. It’s the shops that are barely breaking even as they are undercutting everybody including themselves… and I’m not going to help them push the industry even more into a race to the bottom. If you aren’t making money in the CNC industry, it’s time you figure-out why (I wrote books to help you) and either invest in quality equipment and expertise or get out of dodge.
- I do see tremendous opportunity and value in the digital realm, hopefully all the people who love not valuing their expertise and hard work get out of the market will fizzle out. Look at me… from the VERY FIRST FILE on CNCKing.com, I charged for it. Yes, I only had one design (now North of 200) but even then, almost 10 years ago, I valued my time and wanted to only do business with those who also did. I think this will return once people get over all the problems they have with cheap and free.
Visit support forums and you’ll see many interesting patterns, the people with the most PROBLEMS are the ones who bought Chinese lasers (and routers) AND what’s worse, are very proud of the money they saved. What? You bought a piece of junk off ebay that’s giving you nothing but headaches for you and your business and you think the decision was a good one? I bought a Trotec Speedy 400 flexx, not cheap, but do you know how many headaches I’ve had? NONE.
In my opinion, if you tried to get into the CNC industry on the cheap and are undercutting people who invested time and resources into their business… you deserve all the headaches you are getting and then some. The CNC industry is full of people willing to work for nothing… and it’s the reason why it has such a bad reputation with things breaking or not working once you put the power ON.
I think the Walmart philosophy that has entered far too many businesses, where they price things based on undercutting others instead of bringing value to the table, is something that can’t die off soon enough. Yes, people can always do things cheaper, and in the long run, you end-up with unprofitable businesses without any money to invest in their communities, clients and worse, themselves.
How do I make money selling my files on the internet?
Work hard and value your time. If you don’t, nobody else will… then what will you be left with? NOTHING. Look at me, I started from NOTHING back in 2008 and BECAUSE I charged people for my designers, I was eventually able to purchase the best damn laser engraver on the planet. There is NO reason you couldn’t do the same… regardless of your field. You also have the advantage of access to resources I never had! The “free guys”, well, if they didn’t get tired of it, are still making no money and have nothing to show for their work.