Woodworking for income - Router Forums
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post #1 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 06:30 AM Thread Starter
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Default Woodworking for income

I’ve read off and on here for several years now and I know the theme of this site is not focused towards making money from shop creations, but rather the sharing of information and promoting advancement in this field of work (I started to use the word hobby but that just doesn’t quite sum it up considering the level of advancement some people achieve).

All that said, what does everyone think when it comes to making items to sell as their primary motivation for woodworking? Obviously I know some of y’all do it at times. I admit in the beginning I was attracted to woodworking with delusions of turning out products for pennies and selling for big bucks. I was rolling in imaginary money before I ever held a router.

Fast forward about 7 years and I’ve spent thousands of dollars in tools and hundreds of hours in the shop and all I have ever made was $100 from one item made and sold, a fishing rod rack. But in that time I’ve filled my house with items I’ve made for my wife and myself, and have made and given away many more as gifts. Many many more! I’ve also made parts and repaired things that I never could have done had it not been for the woodworking tools and knowledge that I’ve gained that goes beyond basic home owner or handyman tools and skills. Hmm, if you think about it I may have saved a few bucks along the way on all those gifts that I made rather than bought, and also in the repairs, but I’m sure I turned around and spent that on more tools, so it’s probably a wash.

Still, even after 7 years I’ve never been able to abandon the idea that one day I’ll turn out some kind of desirable product that will keep people coming back. I’m actually now thinking of making bench top router tables for sale. I know I could make something better than what’s sold at Lowe’s for the price they want. Or maybe solid 2x4 work benches with pipe clamps built in.

But product aside, I just wanted to ask, because when I first began woodworking it was exactly with this general idea in mind, and I began reading several different forums and saw where a few others had the same idea but were quickly shot down by the forum elders and reprimanded pretty harshly for suggesting it. It put the idea in my head at the time that it was generally looked down on. Maybe it was because those people, like me at the time, had not yet paid their dues and were trying to get ahead standing on the progress of others that they wanted just given to them freely. I don’t know, but if so, I like to think that I’ve somewhat paid my dues in the last 7 years in taking the time to learn the craft, and always striving for the best possible result no matter who or what it is intended for.

Thoughts?

EDIT - One thing I’d like to add. Maybe two things. First, this site is not the one I refer to when I said that the elders were reprimanding of the newer members. Actually, this site has become the only one I ever visit and has been now for several years due to the overall warm welcoming nature of its members. Second, I used the words “primary motivation” when referring to woodworking for the purpose of making money. As I typed this, I was aware that that was no longer my primary motivation as it once was. Now it’s because I get a sense of satisfaction as well as relaxation when I’m in my shop. It’s like nothing else matters right then. But yet there’s always the idea of “wouldn’t it be great if I could do this and actually sell the things I make”. In thinking about that, it’s now as much if not more about being able to continue doing it as it is about bringing in the money from it. There’s no denying this “hobby” is costly, and wood alone is costly to say nothing of the tools. If it would at least fund itself then that would be enough, but I sure wouldn’t mind to make a little extra.
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Last edited by Duane Bledsoe; 12-20-2017 at 06:50 AM.
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post #2 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 07:50 AM
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Duane going in business to make money in my opinion would be a big big challenge. In my opinion it would take years of doing without other things to make a living woodworking.

Here is a quote from your post and you may not really mean what you said.

"All that said, what does everyone think when it comes to making items to sell as their primary motivation for woodworking?"

If your primary motivation is money. I think your primary motivation should be working with wood and making people happy with your work. There is a man on Youtube that is a very good wood worker and he has been working with wood a long time and he still has a day time job.

As for me I am 75 years old and love wood working but I am retired and through making money. I love making stuff and giving it away. Also I am not good enough. I am truly not trying run your idea down but pointing out that it's not easy. Good luck.
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post #3 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 08:12 AM
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Duane, I too thought that I would like to make money, not as a living, but to at least cover the cost of my equipment and materials. That was a pipe dream. I started out like many with the same idea, only to realize people are not willing to pay a fair price for your work, no matter how good you are. Several craft shows and advertising on local shopping forums yielded little income. I wound up making things for family and friends as gifts and an occasional piece if it is commissioned. No more shows and such for me.
I too am retired and find woodworking is a way of relaxing and keeping my mind focused. It cost me money in the long run, but the joy of giving something to family and friends that they will cherish is rewarding enough. And who's to say that giving this way may actually save money since most items purchased from overseas are garbage anyways.
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post #4 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 08:57 AM
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Whilst not an easy thing to make a living, making items to sell is possible, in the past there were a couple of very experienced wood turners on this forum who sold their work through galleries but they take a BIG cut. A close friend of mine who recently retired is not only an excellent woodworker but a superb turner who sells all he can make BUT he knows lots and lots of people who in turn recommend other people. His latest big seller is this coffee mug which is shorter than ones he has produced in the past so that it fits under commercial coffee machines. By the way, this friend has been selling his wares, which he made in his spare time, for several years.
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post #5 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 09:59 AM
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Certainly it is possible to make a living from just woodworking. Carpenters do it all the time. I know a retired college professor, who makes nice, very nice, wooden boxes. He used to hit craft shows, and did well, but apparently they took a fair chunk, and were kind of a PITA. Now, most, if not all, of his boxes are sold in consignment stores (by request of the store owners), or special order. No advertising, just word of mouth. He doesn't actually need the money to live on, but he generates a goodly sum, sufficient to buy a sailboat, I think a 32 footer. Me, I don't need the loot to survive either, but have woodworked on and off since I was about 7. Considering that I just turned 77, that means I've been woodworking all week. Primarily right now I make canes. I sell some, give some away, lose a few. Right now I am still totally revamping my cane designs, so not making any. And when I get to where I can start making them again, I do intend to start seriously selling them, along with my piggy bank, and monster truck, designs. In the meantime I'm researching the whey out of pricing on these various items. I don't have near as much invested in tools and all as some of those here, but certainly more than adequate for what I make. If I never made another dime from woodworking again, well I'd still be making things out of wood.

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.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.
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post #6 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 10:02 AM
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Hey, Duane; great 'question'.
Too major obstacles;
1) foreign imports
2) domestic factory production, especially products and parts CNC produced.
I've mentioned before, a local craftsman up here produces custom chairs. All kinds of chairs and benches.
He was charging upwards of $450 per piece and finding price resistance.
He built a large CNC router and was able to reduce his prices to the $200 range. Every M&T joint is perfect. Every seat is perfectly carved. Every spindle is perfect.
He basically designs and program, loads his material, and goes and does something else while the router does the woodworking. I'm guessing the novelty wears off real quick.
Mike (MT Stringer) seems to have found a ready market for his cabinetry, and I think a lot of potential clients are out there looking for something other than MDF construction...
I used to have a book covering the nitty-gritty of starting and running your own business...all meat and no fat. Excellent book.
Anyway, I digress. One day I did something I never get around to doing; I read his 'Forward' (funny expression, that.). In it he explains that people that go into business, this type of business, are either ARTISANS or ENTREPRENEURS. Rarely both.
His point being that that the artisan takes pride in his work and is less concerned with getting rich. The entrepreneur, on the other hand, isn't generally speaking emotionally attached to his product. His focus is on building a financially successful enterprise, than selling it for a (large) profit, and moving on to start or rebuild another business. In other words his business is business.
We have several happy well adjusted entrepreneurs among our members and I'm guessing they do the hobby aspect of woodworking for pleasure not profit, although it's always nice to get paid for your product.
Incidentally the distinction between "hobby" and business isn't one of sophistication but rather whether it's supposed to actually make money.
One last thing. The son of a guy I know up here, builds ship models for a living. Now that's cool! (Marine Architects usually commision a model for new ships being designed.
Here's the interesting part; he's a meticulous craftsman. He has offshore competition...much cheaper...but the ship owners only go down that route once. The quality can't compare to his ship models. He's on occasion taken on a commission 'repairing' the crappy foreign models for the same guys that thought his were too expensive!
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post #7 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 10:04 AM Thread Starter
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Just so there’s no confusion, I didn’t mean making a living at selling woodworks, I just meant what are your all’s general thoughts on selling your work and being motivated by that as opposed to just doing it for its own rewards? I guess it’s sort of a mixed question. I started right out influenced to think that that line of thought wasn’t acceptable in the general wood working community and I guess I let that thought take root, and maybe I also built up this mindset by “labeling” woodworking as an admirable activity that’s passed on from generation to generation, and done with pride, father/son kinda thing, and that somehow the marketing of items produced cheapens all that.
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post #8 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 10:10 AM
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Why would anyone look down on someone else for not wanting to lose money?
I'm sure there are twits out there that frown on artists actually selling their paintings... *shock*
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post #9 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaninVan View Post
Why would anyone look down on someone else for not wanting to lose money?
I'm sure there are twits out there that frown on artists actually selling their paintings... *shock*
Well, I'm pretty sure this 'artist' that made this isn't planning on selling his 'art'. Not at $3500 a pop. But you never can tell, there are some rich idiots with room temperature IQs that would probably buy.
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"It ain't what you're told, it's what you know." - Granny Weatherwax
Fawkahwe tribal police SWAT Team
Some days, the supply of available curse words is insufficient to meet my demands.
.....Call me a craftsman, artisan, or artistic, and I will accept that. Call me an artist and you will likely get a quite rude comment in return. I am not a @#$%ing artist.
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post #10 of 59 (permalink) Old 12-20-2017, 11:01 AM
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I've spent 35 years as a specialized business consultant, and rarely met anyone who was motivated by money. I am definitely an entrepreneur, and do woodworking as a way to unwind, and I love seeing something solid come out of the shop since, essentially, I talked for a living, so I was measured by my clients' success.

But I can't help myself when it comes to thinking and writing about opportunities, especially when I see a question such as yours on The Forum.

There are several things you have to have to do to produce income, and first of all is that thought of producing something cheaper than similar items produced commercially. The second thing is that you don't want to be a salesman. Sorry, very few people do well unless they learn to market their work or services. Marketing isn't advertising or hard sell. It's everything you do to generate business income--customers.

You also need to get the word out about your product or services, and advertising is the most expensive way to do it. That is the reason you have to learn to use social media to generate awareness and business. Our consulting business, for example, generates most of its business from Facebook and the email list generated from our website, which we promote mostly through Facebook and for years, from articles in journals and then reposted through facebook shares.

Our basic fee is $24,000, and smaller amounts for workshops--which also produce new clients.

How does this apply to making some money from hobby woodworking? Ah, there's the rub... Look first to your attitude. When a client thinks they know how to make their business successful, they blind themselves to all other approaches and fail to see the opportunities that are around them at all times. I've got to go feed my wife, I'll be back with more if you're interested. In the mean time, go look up the last year of posts by Gaffboat (Oliver), who is doing it with CNC.

The more I do, the less I accomplish.
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