A Career in Woodworking?
Issue: Issue 3.01
Posted Date: 1/15/2002
After announcing that he hated his current job, this hobbyist asked for guidance. With a proven talent for making furniture and kitchen cabinets, he'd recently worked up a jewelry box/photo holder he thinks could be made and sold profitably. Could he make a living with a small shop, good designs, and good mass production system?
A professional suggested asking 1000 prospective customers if they'd want to buy the jewelry box. As a word of caution, he relayed his wife's position when he, too, was considering the big step: she understood what he was doing, why he was doing it and supported him in every way, but asked, please, just don't lose the house doing it. Then he asked the hobbyist to imagine actually building a hundred or even fifteen hundred boxes under deadline. Would it still be fun? He also provided the potentially discouraging news that he'd received a similar jewelry box, well-made and a gift, from his jeweler.
Undeterred, the hobbyist admitted not doing enough market research and that making fifteen hundred boxes wouldn't be much fun?but selling them would! And there was always room for competition, and he was going to make more than just jewelry boxes. Besides, he added, his favorite woods, pine and maple, were relatively cheap (under $1/board foot) where he lived. Declaring he was going to "give it a try," he requested more success stories.
He got one; sort of; from a woodworker who'd grossed only $441 dollars his first year making Renaissance Faire swords, toys and furniture?before expenses put him in the hole three grand! Now, three years later, he's making $2500. His obvious point? Don't expect overnight success. Then a couple of other hobbyists disavowed any idea of mass production or commission, fearing it would take away the "fun" and turn it into a "job." In reply, the original poster declared that he had cash stashed away to cover the transition and that he was looking for a job to replace the current detested one!
A veteran professional soberly noted that production type work requires hiring people, spending money on dedicated tooling, and a good workflow?not the kind of things that work in a home shop. In reply, the hobbyist affirmed hatred for his job and after reading all the posts, was even more excited about going pro. He admitted, however, that he needed to inventory his equipment and his current shop was way too small.
Other advice included:
- Discuss tool and health insurance with your agent
- Put together a business plan
- Expect a substantial pay cut
- Keep your day job (suggested by several) while you build your new business
- Expect an income of about $30K per year
- Check into local regulations about operating a manufacturing business form home