Should you be a full time professional woodworker?

So maybe you’ve done some soul searching and came to the conclusion you can be a full time woodworker. But just because you want to be a professional woodworker doesn’t mean you should. So before you waste countless hours, money and sleepless nights, read this blog on…..


Should you be a full time professional woodworker?

I must admit after 15 years of working with wood, I still love it everyday. Each morning with coffee mug in hand, I walk out to the shop, flip on the lights, and look at my surroundings. I’ve already mentally prepared myself for the tasks involved and worked out the steps and flow even before picking up a tool. But this does not assure a successful day or even a successful career. There are a lot of other steps that will keep me in business more than knowing my craft.

1. What is the income of where you live?

A good indicator of how successful you will be in your town depends largely on where you live and your city’s economic conditions. If you live in a middle class, factory working town, or in a rural farmers town, supporting yourself as a woodworker can be a challenge. It’s a good idea to see if where you live is supportive of local businesses, or if they tend to support large corporate mega stores. A town that supports the local arts, such as paintings, music, literature, and dance is a good indicator of how hand crafted woodworking will go over.

2. Who is your competition?

Your competition can be another fellow woodworker or that big mega store. If the item you are planning to sell is small and simple, you could have others duplicating your work, thereby cutting into your market and profits.  If your item is too large, you can be undercut by that big mega box store. Knowing what your are going to selling and finding your niche is key.

3. Do you build for others or for yourself?

You can partner up with a contractor, store owner, or even a homeowner and build the items these people will be requesting. These types of jobs can range wildly from simple to complex woodworking. Your woodworking skills should be highly refined for these types of jobs.

Working with a contractor or store owner means they will be marking up your woodworking. It’s hard to get top dollar for your work because they need to make a profit and still be in the target price range making it sellable to buyers. However, the upside is, contractors and store owners usually send you reliable steady work.

Keep in mind if you work with a contractor he will be playing the middle man between the homeowner and you. Some contractors will let you talk directly with the homeowner. Just make sure you have a good relationship established with the contractor so no issues arise between you and the homeowner.

Building your own designs can be much more rewarding and you can work in the comfort zone of your own skill level. You also can ask top dollar for your work because it’s unique and one of a kind. However, the downside is, it’s harder to sell and promote your own work. People have such a variety of different tastes, creating something that everyone finds appealing is hard to do.

4. Learn the laws, and codes of where you live.

Knowing how to work with wood is not all you need to be concerned with. Depending on what you are making and selling it’s good to find out if certain laws and codes are enforced on those items. Whether you are building baby cribs or fireplace mantels do your homework and find out what the laws and codes are where you live. This keeps you and others safe from errors and as a professional, it’s the right thing to do.

5. Image

Just having business cards, work shirts, and a good website are only the beginning of the professional image needed to present to potential clients. As a licensed contractor and professional furniture maker I do a large variety of jobs. The number one key for a good image is, “do what you say you will do.” From arriving on time to completing the job, keeping the client informed and keeping your word speaks volumes.

Other keys to a good image are having the right tools for the job. Completing a successful and quality project largely depends on your tools and how you treat them. Keep them clean and working properly.

Lastly I would say, for a good image, is the vehicle one drives. First impressions are everything. If you pull up to a clients house in a rusted out family wagon the homeowner will think you are not serious about your profession. They could think if a problem arises you will not be there in the future. If you show up in a sports car or decked out truck, they might think you overcharge and the money all goes towards your hobbies. My advice, a simple clean modest truck or van will usually be a good impression. And keep in mind, your vehicle is your most used tool, so treat it well.

Now that we’ve covered what it takes to become a self employed professional woodworker, my future blog will cover what one needs to expect when they are in business for themselves.

I will talk about the rewards and pitfalls commonly made whether one has been in business for years or just starting out. Stay tuned and keep your hands workin’ and your feet dancin’ !!!