Making a nice living with CNC - Page 2 - Router Forums
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post #11 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 02:05 AM
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One of my friends - the first I knew to have a CNC, was retired from being a general contractor for commercial buildings. Bought a $13,000 Legacy Arty with a 24 x 54 cut area, just to do hobby woodworking. As word spread that he had the machine, work found him. One job was 4 carved panels for a set of double doors - not the whole doors - just the carved panels. $1000 per carving. Paid for the machine in less than 18 months. Upgraded last May to a $16,000 Legacy Maverick with 36" x 60" cut area (Legacy offers 100% trade credit when upgrading). This year he has already ordered Legacy's newly announced $26,000 4' x 8' machine. One way he has made money is hosting weekend training seminars for Legacy at $200 - $300 a head, and he also gets a commission when people buy after seeing his machine. He does not seek work at all - does not advertise, and has as much work as he cares to do. He is obviously very fortunate - I didn't even mention that he lives less than 2 miles from Precise Bits and Ron Reed likes to come over and gives him new bit designs to test.

Some lucky hobbyists make money. Many of the people in the CNC group I am part of are similarly retired and making at least some money using their machines, none have approached it as a full time job.

I built my machine in hopes of making some money, but am not quitting my day job just yet. I appreciate the advice that building a CNC business is usually about selling more than making. I enjoy both.


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post #12 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 03:21 AM
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Originally Posted by DesertRatTom View Post
@JOAT I promise I won't show up in your shop and force you to sell a thing. But there are people who want to make some money with their $5,000 and up CNC mills. This post is for them. I have made a good living for decades simply by putting my good work up where potential clients can see and read about it. That's about what I'm suggesting here. Cold calling, overcoming objections, hard sell, arm twisting, sales techniques don't work very well anymore anyway. Business people aren't sold, they choose to buy. I get it what Honest John means, it's why I don't sell frames. It's a hobby. But my suggestions are for the few that want to do this kind of thing for income. Relax.
Hi Tom. Yeah, I realize that. But, went thru this thread again anyway. And I think I will buy that $10 book you recommended. I don't have a CNC, don't plan on getting one, but I do plan on selling a few canes and banks, and I'm thinking I can get more than $10 worth of information out of that book. Way I see it, even the little guy can use some help in selling. I don't figure on getting rich, but a few bucks extra every once in awhile will be me some warm fuzzies. Cane making for me is a hobby, as you said, but it's nice to be able to make something a bit different that will help someone, and put a couple of $ in my pocket at the same time. So, Thanks.
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post #13 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by BalloonEngineer View Post
One of my friends - the first I knew to have a CNC, was retired from being a general contractor for commercial buildings. Bought a $13,000 Legacy Arty with a 24 x 54 cut area, just to do hobby woodworking. As word spread that he had the machine, work found him. One job was 4 carved panels for a set of double doors - not the whole doors - just the carved panels. $1000 per carving. Paid for the machine in less than 18 months. Upgraded last May to a $16,000 Legacy Maverick with 36" x 60" cut area (Legacy offers 100% trade credit when upgrading). This year he has already ordered Legacy's newly announced $26,000 4' x 8' machine. One way he has made money is hosting weekend training seminars for Legacy at $200 - $300 a head, and he also gets a commission when people buy after seeing his machine. He does not seek work at all - does not advertise, and has as much work as he cares to do. He is obviously very fortunate - I didn't even mention that he lives less than 2 miles from Precise Bits and Ron Reed likes to come over and gives him new bit designs to test.

Some lucky hobbyists make money. Many of the people in the CNC group I am part of are similarly retired and making at least some money using their machines, none have approached it as a full time job.

I built my machine in hopes of making some money, but am not quitting my day job just yet. I appreciate the advice that building a CNC business is usually about selling more than making. I enjoy both.


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Ha! I know who that is.. Say hello to Doug from Dave in MN. I stopped in to see both Doug and Ron when in CO a couple of years ago. Two very knowledgeable people and not afraid to share it.

Doug helped me with my very first 3d project for my daughter's wedding.

Dave
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post #14 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 10:23 AM
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Default Building a Woodworking Business

Love this thread.

I'm weeks away from buying my first CNC. Yes, I'm going to sell stuff. More stuff.

I'm currently making cutting boards for the craft fair circuit, and I'm at capacity. I think. And then I got a job to make 84 pieces for a country club. And then another job with 8 pieces for a start-up food company. Last night, I quoted 2 jobs for 26 pieces for a restaurant. I got 3 orders from my sole brick & mortar boutique retailer that carries my stuff. And, I scheduled a meeting for next week to finalize 12 pieces for a realtor.

The first 2 jobs were both referred to me by my engraver, who is now actively selling my services as a complement to her own. When I get the CNC, she'll offer those capabilities as well.

Is it a living? Nope. But I can see that idea from here, truly. I'm not committing to anything other than driving my production as far as I can while having fun. That's key: I'm selling stuff. I'm making stuff. But I am SO having fun. As I frequently say, it's all about finding the pretty, and that's my goal in everything I make.

My wife and I recently completed our 100th event in our 3+ year run as Mrs M's Handmade. I summarized a lot of what we've learned in a blog post, which is humbly submitted. Read that post, here.

I also review every craft event that we do, and talk about our experiences as vendors under the series title, "The Board Chronicles." Our latest event, the California Strawberry Festival, is reviewed here.

Here's my current, favorite, prettiest end grain cutting board offered for sale. It's $325. I've carried it to about 10 events so far without selling it. It'll sell ... eventually. Also shown are a pair of the signs made for the country club ... that order was almost $4 grand, and I only carried the sign to the client. The leverage is to do fewer events and more business to business sales, I know. Getting out and selling those B to B projects is the thing I must do to grow revenue, I know.

But will I do what I know I must do? That's the question.

As a wise man once said, nothing happens until somebody sells something.
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post #15 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 10:25 AM
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Figured some here might recognize him. He is one of the featured owners on Legacy's site . http://legacycnc.wpengine.com/galler...t/doug-pinney/
The carved door panels are the middle photo in the top row. Super friendly and helpful guy, and as you say, very talented as well.
He was one of the original 3 founders of the cnc user group (Colorado CNC User Group) I am part of. Great way to learn from a bunch of talented, helpful people. Networking online is great. Much of what I have learned about CNC is from online forums, having people you can see and talk to in person is better.

While I personally think Legacy's machines are overpriced for their build quality, their level of support is first rate. What Vectric does in support of its software is what Legacy does in support of its machines. Most of the members of the CNC group own Legacy machines. Almost all know John and the other principals at Legacy on a first name basis from personal contact. I have my own take on the fact that they all do.
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post #16 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 10:32 AM
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This is just one old guy's slant on the subject; now retired but spent the last 35 years with either my own sign shop or employed in one. Originally acquired/built a CNC (2011) to add to the capabilities of sign production. With that being said, I have to go with Desert Rat Tom's philosophy. If you have hopes of making a living selling your craft, you have to market it. Every successful business I've observed has done so. At this point in my life I really enjoy making and creating only what I want to, instead of what someone has sketched out on a napkin and expect you to create it for the same cost they have into their napkin sketch, (you'da had to been there, lol ). I do take in 2 or 3 jobs a week on my CNC making parts for items that other people sell. It helps supplement my income, is really easy and keeps me in tune with operating a CNC. It is NOT creative by any stretch of the imagination. I do sell the occasional 'created' item but rarely realize a profit. Okay, I know, enough with the boring post! The point is, IMHO, if you go into business with a CNC, one needs to market and be prepared to make and sell anything and everything that justifies your being in business. Just my $.02 and your mileage may, very well vary.

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post #17 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 11:22 AM
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This is great, I need to re-read and take notes. This applies to other business ventures, not just CNC.

"Do not make the mistake of competing on price." This paragraph is GOLD!
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post #18 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 12:05 PM
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This has been a great thread with a lot of information and views from both sides. Tom said he wrote his original marketing piece for a couple who wanted to make a living with one machine. Some feel that it isn’t possible to make a living with such a small set-up.

Having worked in the marketing arena for many years I fully agree with Tom’s views. And, at the same time, I’m aware of how challenging it can be with just a two person operation. For 13 years I was the creative part of a two person graphic design and marketing studio. The only way a small company like that can succeed is if one person is constantly doing the selling while the other is busy with production. Someone needs to be out drumming up business and meeting with clients every day to keep jobs in the pipeline and the other needs to be meeting the production deadlines.

Can you make a living that way? Yes you can if you go after the right clients and develop relationships with them. Our little two person operation had some Fortune 500 clients as well as smaller regional businesses. In Tom’s example, since it is a couple, they can probably make a living doing something they enjoy. Will it be a “good living”? That is very subjective because we all have different needs and goals.

As always, one of the secrets is to avoid making commodity products that have a lot of competition. If you can focus of creative solutions that are a cut above the others you can demand more for what you produce. For example when I look at Etsy for carved wood signs I’m astounded at cheaply some are being sold. But when you take Tom’s example and create signage for hotels where every sign includes the hotel logo you have moved beyond simple signage and into the world of branding which is easier to sell and produces more revenue.

As for me, I don’t want to be in business again either. I do think it can be done on a small scale if you keep things in perspective and are willing to work at it full time. It’s tough to take vacations in a two person company.
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post #19 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 12:19 PM Thread Starter
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This is great, I need to re-read and take notes. This applies to other business ventures, not just CNC.

"Do not make the mistake of competing on price." This paragraph is GOLD!
Thanks for getting the point. My consultation costs $24,000, every time I raise my price, sales go up. I think the problem is lack of imagination and fixed thinking. What most people think of as marketing is hard sell. But that doesn't really work very well. And yes, my suggestions apply to many businesses. Here's the link to the best online marketing approach I've ever read: https://www.amazon.com/Your-First-Co...oding=UTF8&me= Although it is about book publishing, it works for nearly any business, and certainly does for mine.
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post #20 of 81 (permalink) Old 05-26-2017, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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This has been a great thread with a lot of information and views from both sides.... It’s tough to take vacations in a two person company.
Hi Oliver, If you love what you do, its like being on a vacation, and that's why I suggested centering the business on the laptop, you can even do work on vacation.

You and I have led some pretty interesting lives.

My email list just hit 617, small, but every one is a serious prospect, generated mostly from facebook posts and shares. I use the method in that little book and we gererate a client about every other mailing. Never do cold calling, never do hard sell, just give out informaiton and invite people to take action. We are in the top 10 percent of open rates on Constant Contact. We chose that service because they do everything possible to avoid spamming, and people know that ethical businesses use that service.

What that means is that our business marketing is mostly done on laptops. My daughter and I share information via dropbox, so it hardly matters which laptop we use. We don't even have to be in the same state, any her daughter (my granddaughter) who lives across the country, is now becoming part of our family business so I may be able to retire before I'm 80 LOL.

As a retired person, making an extra $2K per month would be nice, as a working couple, think $6-12K per month. Very doable if you actually work, not just nap and goof off. Take your vacations around the holidays. Mast of the clients I'd pursue for CNC are inactive at those times.
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Last edited by DesertRatTom; 05-26-2017 at 12:40 PM.
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