Becoming a professional woodworking or not

a1jim
4,480 posts and 35 followers
1453 43 0

As a professional woodworker many times over the years I’ve had a good number of people ask how they can become a full time woodworker,the answer is not simple. Most of the time my response to their question is “don’t wreck a wonderful hobby by turning it into a business”. I feel their persistence to still become a professional woodworker in response to my suggestion really tests the person to see if they are passionate enough to pursue the woodworking business. Beyond being passionate enough it is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many things to consider while going into business any business near enough the woodworking business. Let’s think about some basics like “personal economics, skill, where, when, what and how” part of the equation.
Personal economics
Are you financially solvent enough to acquire insurance, licenses, bonds or permits variances, to buy any required necessary equipment and or to rent or build a shop, plus financially survive for perhaps 2 years without income?
Skill
Do you have the skills to build woodworking products that the types of customer you’re looking for will deem exceptional workmanship. Are you skilled as a business person in such things as advertising, customer relations, employee relations, book keeping, cost analyzes (if you’re making a profit or not).
“Where”
Is your geographic area and economics of your area right for the kind of woodworking you want to do? As an example if you want to build an item that requires lots of myrtle wood but the only source is thousands of miles away,does it make sense to have it shipped where you’re at or go pick it up yourself? Will your product have buyers where your located or will it have to be shipped? As an example would you make snow shoes and live in an arid location? Is there an economic basis for your product where you live? You may wish to make high end furniture but live in a economically depressed area where few people have enough discretionary income to purchase your products? Are there woodworkers in your area selling products at or below cost.

Where are you going to do your woodworking ? Do you have a shop or a place to develop a work space? If the only space you have to work is affected by the outdoor temperatures will this prohibit how many days out of the year you can produce a product?
When
When is it right for you to go into the woodworking business for yourself ?Will it be after you gain more skills, retire, build a shop, after you put your spouse to work, just before a holiday season, after a family member graduates so they can help, after you move to a more high income area?
What
What product or products will you make?
How
How are you going to make your product? What machinery or tools will you need that you don’t have? Will you need employees? How will you find sources for your material.

Like any business you can do all the right things and not succeed, or you can totally ignore all of the so-called ways to succeed and have a great life long career in woodworking, it all may be luck or the passion and tenacity you have for woodworking and business whether you make it or not. If you decide to try woodworking as a business good luck otherwise enjoy woodworking as a fun and rewarding hobby.

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

That covers it up pretty well Jim.

If someone were to ask me that question, my initial response would be “are you nut?”

Just looking at what folks sell on etsy and the price they sell it at, I think it’s a loosing business.
Catering to the custom made crowd still has some money to be made but like you pointed out it takes time to develop that kind of business.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

For me woodworking is a hobby . A very relaxing , enjoyable hobby . Just me and the project , music from the 70 s , no hurry , no dead lines , when it’s done , it’s done . Trying to come up with a unique idea .

Wheaties

Very well written and thought out piece Jim, thank you. I have come to realize that selling my work takes a lot of enjoyment out of doing it because of deadlines, the insurance and trying to get a fair price for the customer and myself. I find much more joy in giving something to a friend or a family member than selling it. So as of today woodworking has become a hobby again and I feel really relieved. Thank you.

Jack

woodworking is a art if you love working you never work a day in your life I have made about everything there are in wood to make I make furniture crafts made money its in your blood .jim do what your heart feels you are the one who knows what you can do

jim

I have been working in wood all my adult life for my living, working in custom cabinet and wooden boatbuilding shops. It has not been the easiest road to travel on, but has been very satisfying. I opened my own studio 8 yrs ago and it is indeed the hardest thing I have ever tried. I believe in chasing your dreams but be determined and beprepared for hard work. Great topic Jim

Thanks gang for your input .

Yes Lanwater
it does seem many folks that sell products on places like etsy seem to have products that have a very minimal profit.

Bruce
even though I have a decent shop and a customer base I many times long for the fun of woodworking as a hobby. In the future, I’m sure I’ll be able to spend more time on projects I’d like to make.

Thanks Jack
we all have to evaluate whether or not woodworking as a business works for us. My post was not meant to discourage those in the business or even those considering woodworking as a living,but just to point things to ponder if you want to take the plunge . If you think it’s time to just be a hobbyist enjoy.

Yes Jim
you have made a vast and wonderful array of projects ,I’ve really enjoyed viewing many of them.

Plansandrails
I think you have used a few of terms a person in the WW business should think about,being very satisfying , knowing it may not be the an easy thing to do ,chasing your dreams and being determined and prepared.

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

Good post. Wood-working is now a hobby,and will stay that way.

Madts.

Tor and Odin are the greatest of gods.

Thank you for your wonderful insight in your own experiences. Well written Jim. If I could I would like to add a few things… In any business venture a person must answer a few key questions before starting that will help make informed decisions. Have you done market research until you have exhausted every single angle to properly estimate revenue. As with any five year business plan, how much do expect to pay out with no income for a full two years. This must include a lot of normally hidden costs. Like a donation to a local charity that may provide some hidden marketing. It also has to include every known expense and account for increases every year, nothing goes down in price but their is always increases even in the water bill. A good business plan takes at least a month to research, at the end of which you should be able to determine if this venture will allow you to carry forward as a full time job, or maybe just part time for a period of time. I have made a half dozen business plans for people over the years, everything from hairdressing, to hotel ownership. Any way you proceed you must consider yourself an artist that is trying to make a business doing something you love. For some just breaking even is reward enough. For the majority of us we do it as a hobby with a few tools being paid for among the way and loving every minute. Having done it both ways I can say each has its own challenges and rewards. I wish anyone willing to try the best of luck, and remind them to do the research as it will answer questions without going thru complications.

CHRIS, Charlottetown PEI Canada. Anytime you can repurpose, reuse, or recycle, everyone wins!

Thanks Mads Enjoy!
Very good information and suggestions Thorreain thank you for the adding some great ideas to help folks who may consider WW as profession or even those who are currently engaged in the WW business.

woodworking classes, custom furniture maker

Jim
What you said is very true and some good advice .
I have done wood working for many years and still love it but to make a living doing it will most likely be a struggle for many .
I have seen guys come and go over the years and it is always the same story of high expectations but not enough business knowledge leading to failure .
For me it’s a hobby now in retirement and I love it having fun and giving most of my projects away to deserving people and I get great satisfaction from that .
Klaus