Anyone here have a profitable woodworking business?
You know, my brother's wife and I were just talking about this. I don't know that I've ever sold anything that I've made - they've all been gifts. Sure, people like them, but they're all friends. Also, as has been pointed out, most people aren't very good judges of quality or durability. She tried to suggest that I should try to start a business, largely because of the prices they pay (and the prices woodworkers command where she lives). The problem is they live in Hoboken, and the NYC market is insane. People there have LOTS of disposable income, and they like to dispose of it. She showed me pictures of the things that people had done - wainscoting in a bedroom for $15K, a new kitchen for $250K, a platform bed for $7K - and mentioned that they had just paid $6K for two very simple built-ins. They picked the contractor they did because he was the only one who bothered to respond. She said most said they had no availability for 6 months and wouldn't even bid it, while the others said they don't even consider jobs that small.

There are wealthy people around here too, but I don't think there's a market quite like she described. I think what has been said in this thread is true - you can make a name for yourself (good luck) and cater to the very high-end clients who don't care what it costs or how long it takes. You can also find your niche, but even that isn't going to be a niche. Right now, "rustic" furniture is hot, but trends shift and it won't be for long. I made a thread complaining about the prices a shoddy construction lumber "farm table" commands at "rustic" markets. That won't last forever. There are always pens, humidors, cutting boards, wine racks, and stuff like that, but I would imagine that would get boring. Could I churn out a dozen cutting boards a day and come close to matching my current salary? Maybe, if I sold every one of them. But that takes time too. Would I be happier? I don't know the answer to that. My idea of woodworking fun isn't mass-producing the same thing for other people. I'd prefer to make pieces that fit the space, look for nice wood, be creative - that's what the hobby is to me.
My brother does and does extremely well.  He does high end stuff and he has a waiting list.  I get a lot of his overflow.  I do his a lot of his repair business. He doesn't like doing it and I do; he does the finishing - he's really good,

Always use the right tool for the job.

We need to clean house.
I make hundreds of dollars every year!
(04-10-2018, 05:45 AM)badwhiskey Wrote: I make hundreds of dollars every year!

You're doing better than me! I keep giving my stuff away which is satisfying to me. I have a good job, make a good living and do woodworking to unwind. I don't think I would want to do it as a business.

To the OP, some good advice here IMHO. If you think he is going to incur a huge debt maybe say something. If he has a reasonable plan and can afford to try it give him all the support you can.
I use my woodworking as a small sideline, so I wouldn't exactly call it a "business."  (Don't worry; I declare the income on my taxes.)  I enjoy doing it occasionally, but I think if I had to do it all day, every day it would quickly stop being fun. 

I have one acquaintance who became a full-time woodworker after he lost his regular job.  He made good stuff for a while, and he did all right.  It took a lot of work, but even in a small city he was able to make ends meet.  His stuff looked really good, and it was well-made.  He began by making simple things, like Adirondack furniture, and eventually he branched out into tables and cabinetry.   I've never talked to him about how he found his customers, but he did.  Eventually, though, the zoning board got after him for running a commercial shop out of his garage, and he had to move on to other things.  So now he's a shop teacher. 

Point being, if they want honest advice, it depends on how far he is into the business and how much he already has invested.  The biggest two issues are probably going to be the paperwork side of things (licenses, taxes, insurance, accounting) and the marketing side of things.  I'm sorry to say that you can sell even poorly designed/built furniture if you know how to dress it up and talk it up.  If he's talented at business and/or sales, he'll probably do okay if he can just keep making stuff and improving his skills.  But if not, well, it won't last long whatever you say.      

And since this is his mom asking, I don't think I'd say much beyond "best wishes."  Is she asking because she is genuinely proud of him?  Because she is a little worried about her boy and is hoping you'll validate her his decision?  Or is she asking because she hopes you'll talk him out of getting in over his head before it's too late?  If he asked directly, it would be a different story.  You might ask some pointed questions and give some candid advice.  But not to his mom.
Steve S.
Tradition cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour.
- T. S. Eliot

Tutorials and Build-Alongs at The Literary Workshop
I am starting to make some money with it.  It has been a long time coming, but word of mouth is helping and now I have 4 commissions lined up.  I use the income as supplemental income and for tool buying 
Smile I am still employed full time so I do this for fun money and because I love to make things for other people. But I could see a day in the future that if I retire from my full time job I could use the shop to make ends meet.
Formerly known as John's Woodshop
Have decided to not reply to her email.

Hopefully that should be message enough.

The quizzical thing is that times have changed and
the industry and marketing has changed. When I
started there was no Internet so I had to enter many
juried craft shows, put stuff in local galleries, and
work on getting nationally published.
A laid back southeast Florida beach bum and volunteer bikini assessor.

I have had an attempt to get into the woodworking business, however ... it was a total failure!
Holy thread resurrection! 
(04-06-2018, 08:41 AM)packerguy® Wrote: Its funny, when I started making urns over 10 years ago, most people would laugh when I said what I was doing, especially when we had four kids in toe. 

But a decade of working really hard I make a nice profit now, and to the point where in the next 4-5 years my bride is going to get out of her six figure healthcare job, in her early 40's and work full time with me.

Some people still are really baffled when they learn what I do, and make money doing it. They cant figure it out because they are so conditioned to the lie that America doesn't make anything anymore. 

Your take might be right, but you would be shocked how many people that have grown up in the ikea/screw together particle board furniture generation will buy something, if even poorly built if they save substantial money. Some people just dont know the difference between good and shotty construction too....but if it were me, sounds like a pretty seasonal product that is completely at the mercy of the economy and many competitors. Not a good stand alone woodworking product IMHO.

Fun thread to dig up.

3 years later, still profitable, and growing and moved into a commercial space now.

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


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