Anyone here have a profitable woodworking business?
Most of the people I have run into in that situation,just don't understand. Pick a number any number. If they are making $30 an hour they think you should only be charging $25. What they fail to realise is their employer probably has to charge at least $90 an hour just to break even. Workmans comp, social security tax, building and office help and on and on for a long time. They have never done it and just don't get it. It can be a difficult job to educate them.
Employees can be tough on that front too. They are charging xxx/ hr, I make xx/hr. They don't see all the overhead that goes into getting the job and servicing it.

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.
-Jack Handy

mine comes and goes.   in the last year I made something like 10 or 12 tables for a couple of fancy picnic companies ...picnics I couldn't afford.  Once they bought enough tables they didn't need anymore.

But it was decent money while it lasted.

I had another guy that had me making things for a house he was building, living in then planned on selling when it was done.  Then he started wanting me to make things for less and less, so I stopped working for him.  that's my price take it or leave it.

also small random stuff people are looking for off FB or Nextdoor or whereever, but that's just now and then.

And some handyman work here and there.

it pays for new tools and other toys I proly wouldn't buy otherwise.

Good thing I have a good paying full-time job.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. - Philip K. Dick


I've replied to this thread already....three and a half years ago. I think the world is very different now than even then. Realistically, with global supply chains (present day excluded) and cheap labor elsewhere, it is quite difficult to compete with mass-produced furniture available. Make no mistake, there ARE clients who want handmade (and American-made) furniture - or, for that matter, handmade furniture from their home community or country. I know we have a few overseas forum members and I'm sure the sentiment is the same there.

Many of us have built larger or more decorative pieces. Cabinets, dressers, chests, cribs, you name it. We can speculate as to their market value, but regardless of what we come up with it's almost certainly going to be at least ten times what a similar category thing costs at Ikea or Target. Again, there are clients who will pay for that, but they are orders of magnitude fewer than those who buy the flat pack alternative.

I think as a rule what makes the most money are the "boring" things - for me, that's cutting boards, cheese boards, serving trays, charcuterie boards (all the same thing, really) and small turned items like bottle openers or wine stoppers. It's far easier to quantify labor time and materials cost to determine a profit margin.

In any case, what I meant when I said that the world is very different now is a guy like Cam with Blacktail Studio. He makes primarily epoxy tables as far as I can tell, and he works with massive and incredibly beautiful live-edge slabs. I know his tables sell for quite a bit, but they do take a fair amount of time and the materials are not cheap. He has to pay to work with a commercial shop's wide belt, and transporting and working with things like that will eventually take a toll on your body (ask me how I know). But he's good at making videos (his wife was in marketing, so that probably helps) and he documents with professional-quality videos what he does on each video. After a few years on YouTube, this translates into over a million subscribers and roughly $500K a year from YouTube alone. So he might make money doing woodworking alone, but the vast majority of his income at this point is from YouTube - and that channel doesn't exist unless he makes the tables. It's hard to really grasp for me even though I have - you make some amount X from selling the fruits of your labor, but you make 5X or 10X from chronicling and sharing the process.
What makes many fail when they turn their hobby into a business is the idea that what they like, their potential clients will also like.

I think that if you want to make money from woodworking, you have to do something really spectacular, otherwise you won't have a market for your cheap products.

It's about identifying a gap, creating a niche, and bridging it with something truly unique.

To do this, you will most likely need money, lots of money.
For someone who doesn't have them, there's the chance to apply for a business loan. Here you can learn more about business loans.

But of course, before that, a deep analysis is needed, mainly of the market to identify for which wood products there is a demand and it is not fully satisfied.
Definition of coplaner: It's the guy on the outfeed side of a planer handing the stock back to the guy on the infeed side.
(08-14-2021, 05:31 AM)2Goober Wrote: I tried woodworking as a business about 30 years ago and was shocked how little people thought your time was worth. 

Someone said that on here about 15-20 years ago and I took that to heart. I always figured a way to circumvent retail customers but started selling one by one to individual people. Really hard going and by the time you mess around with them making choices and changing their minds for a week, there wasn't much profit.  

When I got traction with the crematoriums about 10-12 years ago, profit began overnight. Its a TON of work though.

Once Favre hangs it up though, it years of cellar dwelling for the Pack. (Geoff 12-18-07)  

It can be surprising how the market values your time!
There is a wide spectrum of potential buyers in every market. I don't begrudge anybody for filling a void or taking market share in any part of the market. Low end to high end. I also don't begrudge anybody for purchasing low end or high end. I did auto-body and painting for commercial customers for 16 years. It took me 2 years of non stop sales and marketing to get enough repeat business to eke out a menial living. At about my 4th year, it finally dawned on me that I was doing everything wrong. I busted my hump for 4 year to deliver excellent work. As good as any body-shop. My clients loved it but excellent work takes a lot longer to do and has a much higher cost of goods and labor than acceptable work. Commercial clients need their cars back fast. Time is money. One or two days tops. That is what they were buying and what they wanted to buy. Fast turnaround, not excellent workmanship. That isn't what I was selling. I was selling my idea of what people should want.
So I started cranking out "acceptable" work a lot faster and volume went way up and I was turning around jobs faster. So fast that I could easily justify raising my prices. I raised them a lot. nobody blinked. Customers were lined up at my door. Finally I was making a good living. By selling people what they actually wanted to buy, not what I wanted them to buy. I took a stab at custom painting motor cycles, hot rod flames etc. I could charge a lot but that segment of the market is so tiny, I couldn't make a decent living of it. just not enough customers. Back to knocking out 10 bumpers a day and paying myself.
Like Packerguy, I sold wholesale to car dealers, rental car companies, tour bus companies etc. After all, they have a bunch of vehicles. Just like mortuaries have a bunch of dead people. Retail customers only have 1 dead person. Their job was to sell retail. If I sold retail, I'd have to market and sell to every single customer every day for every job. That takes time, more people and a big bankroll. I'm not making money when selling and marketing. I'm making money when cranking out jobs. I only had to get my foot in the door once and they fed me every day. Much more efficient business model. I had 6 total every day clients and a few more that only gave me a few jobs a month. That's all I needed to stay busy and pay myself well. Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm.
A lot of people unwittingly confuse a hobby with a business and run their business like a hobby and don't understand why they fail. They think other people appreciate and desire the same things they do. They don't.
Ikea is a great product. Sturdy, consistent quality, reasonably priced and a huge market. Maybe not to a woodworker who really appreciates the finer aspects of woodworking, but how many of those people are there really?
Neil Summers Home Inspections

I came to a stop sign and a skanky tweaker chick in a tube top climbed out of the brush and propositioned me.  She looked like she didn't have any teeth so I counted that as a plus.

... Kizar Sosay

The only people I have ever heard of that turned their hobby woodworking into a lucrative business have all been YouTubers.
Any free advice given is worth double price paid.
When someone says "woodworker" this usually means something that looks like it came from a high school shop class.  This thread has replies from several successful business owners, including artists (carvers) and another from a successful business that sells urns made from wood, but I would not call these folks "woodworkers."   

It seems like many really good furniture makers that seem to make most of their money from woodworker classes (Paul Sellers, David Marks, etc.)

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