Turning Your Woodworking Hobby into a Side Business - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

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post #1 of 23 Old 04-11-2016, 09:35 PM Thread Starter
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Turning Your Woodworking Hobby into a Side Business



Woodworking can be a very fulfilling hobby. Not only are you creating something unique, but in many cases you’re also making something functional. Other people may start to notice your work and you might even get asked if you take commissions. While it’s easy to regard this question as a fluke the first time you hear it, don’t sell yourself – or your skills – short. After all, if one person is willing to pay for your work then it’s entirely possible that others might be interested, too. While you may have been considering woodworking as only a hobby, there’s definite the potential for extra income there. Before you rush into anything, though, take some time and figure out just how you want to approach this opportunity.

Are You Ready?

The first thing to do is to honestly appraise both your skills and dedication in order to figure out if you’re really ready to do work for other people. There’s no shame in deciding to wait if you’re not yet confident enough in your abilities. That doesn’t mean you should give up on the idea of making money off of your work right off the bat; if you’re happy with your work, selling it is a perfectly viable option – just make sure you don’t get in over your head because you moved forward too quickly.

Sales Locations

When you’re ready to move forward, you’ll need a place to sell your work. Chances are you’re not going to rent a storefront, except possibly at a flea market; instead, look for retailers around town who are willing to display some of your work. They’ll likely want a percentage of each sale, but it will save you a lot of hassle compared to making sales yourself. Don’t forget to leave a supply of business cards with each retailer so interested parties can contact you directly in the future.

Getting Noticed

Having a few pieces of your work on display or renting a flea market booth will only take you so far. If you really want to make some money off your woodworking, you have to get your work noticed. Consider using flyers, advertisements and other marketing techniques to let people know your hand-crafted wood items are available for sale. Once more people discover (and buy) your work, some invaluable word-of-mouth advertising will undoubtedly kick in. This is the point at which things can really take off, since potential customers will see your work in a pressure-free environment and will begin seeking out pieces for themselves.

Taking it Online

Advertising online is also an option to get your work out there. You can take out locally-targeted online ads, but an easier strategy is simply to post pictures of your work in online communities centered around the area in which you live. You can use this to advertise the work you have on display, take orders from people online and even pick up commissions if you’re willing to do custom work.

As your side business grows, you may even want to put up your own website, where you can display pictures of your work, provide pricing, even accept online orders.

Knowing Your Customers

Keep track of what sells and what doesn’t. If you notice that certain items sell better than others, try to keep a few of your more popular pieces in stock. Giving customers what they want is a great way to get people coming back for more diverse items. This also ensures that consumers who have seen your work can purchase the item that first caught their attention.

Custom Work

Doing commissions and custom work can be difficult, since you’re making things based on other people’s specifications instead of your own. It can also be lucrative, however, since you can charge more for custom orders and most people are willing to pay extra to get exactly what they want.

Other Considerations

Make sure you keep track of both the money you make from your woodworking and the amount that you spend on wood and supplies. Even though you’re not drawing a regular paycheck, you’ll still have to report the income on your taxes and possibly pay taxes on what you earn. On the plus side, the cost of your materials and other related factors should be tax deductible. As a fledgling entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to take all of your work-related records to a tax professional for help sorting it all out.
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post #2 of 23 Old 04-11-2016, 10:15 PM
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Woodturning is how I got into the woodworking business. I took a woodworking class at an Art Center and theer was a lathe. So I got on it and the instructor showed me how to turn bowls. I was immediately addicted. I lived alone in a 4 bedroom house and so I took one of the bedrooms, cut out the carpeting and bought a new Delta Lathe. I think it was about $400 in 1980's prices. I turned all day long every day i was off. There was no internet so I had to buy books andmore books on woodturning. I lived out in the county on 60 acres so I had all the trees I needed. Within a month or so, I outgrew the lathe. So I bought another Delta lathe. This one had indexing pins to make things like fluted legs for tables and chairs, was very heavy and most importantly, had variable speed. I think it was about $1000, back then. Anyway, I started selling bowls at work and also through art galleries. I thought paying 40 to 50% commission was kind of high. So i did what any other Electronics Engineer would do - I quit my job.
I rented a nice space in a shopping center and opened up a shop. Nice gallery in the front with a big window (4' X 6') right by the lathe. Obviously, I hadn't really thought this whole idea out. There was no way to make enough money for the rent, utilities, my mortgage and child support. What the **** was I thinking. Panic set in. So I expanded the gallery to take in any kind of art work and anyone elses turnings. The gallery like wildfire. Then with my 11th hour luck, people started come in to ask if i could fix something. Then could I build something. then giving damage claim estimates. Then doing damaged furniture repairs for 2 moving companies. The I needed even more space and so the woodworking business expanded and the gallery just faded away.
Anyway, even when I had the woodworking business take up most of my time, every night before I left the shop, I would turn 1 bowl to relax.
BTW, I expanded to giving woodturning classes. I had people flying in from all the country for my 3 day course. It took some expensive advertising in Fine Woodworking Magazine, but it paid off.
I still love turning.

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post #3 of 23 Old 04-11-2016, 10:22 PM
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I do some woodworking for hire. I really don't like to do it, but it pays pretty good and I'm broke. Whoever said "the fastest way to ruin a good hobby was to turn it into a job" was correct. I mostly do small custom work that most commercial shops wouldn't mess with.
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post #4 of 23 Old 04-11-2016, 11:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hwebb99
Whoever said "the fastest way to ruin a good hobby was to turn it into a job" was correct.
A genius and philosopher.

I worked at a tire shop for a little over a year and now I don't like to work on cars anymore. I used to love it.

I do a little commission work but, not to sound like I'm too big for my britches, I never give a timetable (unless it's for Christmas or something), and I don't do micromanaging. They give me a vague idea of what they want and I take it from there. My pieces are more artsy so I figure they're paying me for my creativity. A lot of this stuff they can buy at Hobby Lobby for a lot less.

I just sell stuff to support my power tool habit. Champagne taste on a beer budget.

I hate signatures.
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post #5 of 23 Old 04-12-2016, 12:13 AM
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I just sell stuff to support my power tool habit. Champagne taste on a beer budget.
Ive considered selling some stuff just for this very reason. Just for more tools for my shop.
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post #6 of 23 Old 04-12-2016, 03:04 AM
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I do woodworking as a hobby in my spare time, and work mainly with hand tools. I make whatever I feel like making, and can spend months making them to my personal satisfaction, so the things I make are mostly custom pieces. I don't know if I could sell them, and even if I did the price would never be right for me.


I just can't make myself work to a customer's requirement. If I had to do so, it will take all the fun out of my woodworking. So I guess perhaps unless I am really broke or something, I won't get into business.

Keep thy axe sharp.
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post #7 of 23 Old 04-12-2016, 07:53 AM
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In my previous posts I gave the short version of how I got into the business. I was totally unprepared for it. I had never owned a business nor was I ever closely aligned with anyone that owned a business. So, not only did I have no experience with a business, I had no experience with woodworking. This was a disasterous first year but I survived. The biggest hurdles I had to overcome were A). Not having the nerve to ask for high prices for my work and B). never knowing when to stop working on a piece. The second hurdle was the hardest to overcome. You are your own worst critic. There is always that "just one more thing". A piece is never done. I would spend countless hours trying to correct things that no one would ever see. It took over a year for me to get past this.
Life changed when I hired Frank Ferraro, the best all around artists I have ever met. Including a BS artist. In addition to woodworking, Frank could oil paint, restore fine oil paintings, work in marble - not only sculpt but also repair plus many other skills. Frank had a Fine Arts degree from CCNY. The BS part was his best skill. When a potential customer would come in the door and ask if we could do ......... Frank would always say "of course we could, let me call you in a few days with a price". After they left, I would say, "I didn't know you could do that". Then he would say, I can't but we have a few days to find someone who can". That led to a montra, which is best left out of this post. LOL
Now my other secret montra is "Strive for excellence but settle for completion". This also led to "never hire a perfectionist - they never complete anything".
Furniture Restoration somehow got in there, also by accident.

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post #8 of 23 Old 04-12-2016, 09:58 AM
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I'm just starting to sell some small things, mainly to support my tool addiction like Mort said. This is strictly a side job that I do nights and weekends. If things go well I may try and do a few flee markets this summer as well. I definitely struggle with a lot of things that Tony B has said. I am never completely happy with anything, so I waste a lot of time trying to perfect them and I'm afraid to charge more for my work. I'm slowly working on that though.
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post #9 of 23 Old 04-12-2016, 01:12 PM
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........... I am never completely happy with anything, so I waste a lot of time trying to perfect them and I'm afraid to charge more for my work.....
We used to make joKes in the Gallery when we had a piece for a while "If it wont sell for $50, then maybe it will sell for $70. Often times it actually did.

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post #10 of 23 Old 04-12-2016, 10:31 PM
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I made friends with a fellow I met at the local hardwood supplier.

He loved the idea of woodworking but had no experience and lived in a small apartment.
He was looking at the exotic woods in the store. I asked what he was going to make.
"I want to make a wooden marking gauge." he replied.

I happened to have an antique making gauge in my truck---
That led to an invitation to my house/shop --and a long friendship---

He was fascinated with my lathe--so I gave him an old mini lathe I hadn't used in years and a big box full of scraps to practice with--
For over 10 years he had free use of my shop--he wore out my lathe--and an old Delta he bought--and moved up to Jets biggest lathe.

That fellow was a natural---he made the usual candle sticks and bowls--but realized in short order that there was not a good market for selling those items.

We brainstormed and hit on a few items that sold well---tools---
He became renowned for his awls----I taught him the basics in metal work--shaping and hardening,tempering.

Some other products that sold well were coffee tampers with matching trays--and the biggest surprise--ball removers for black powder pistols.

It took him a while to figure out that the more he charged, the better the sales----let's be real, a person that buys a custom version of a $5.00 awl is looking for bragging rights---not a 'bargain'---his awls sold for $75.00 to $150.00 each--and some customers bought several---
He was a frequent guest at woodworking shows ,became friends with other well known woodworkers and was written up in magazines ---

Not bad for a music major---

He passed away about a year ago---a good friend and fellow wood worker---
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Last edited by mikeswoods; 04-12-2016 at 10:34 PM. Reason: spelling
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post #11 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 12:15 AM
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I'm a really free woodworker
Free, as free can be
I don't work to please no customer
I'm only in it for me
I make things for no one, woman or man
I work for myself, and make what I can

Keep thy axe sharp.
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post #12 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 07:26 AM
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^ That poem says it for me.

I have been in the construction trades for 38 years, as an architect/builder/building commish/r.e investor. None of which were hobbies.
When I take on a hobby, it must pay for itself plus some. I do professional nature photography and make live edged furniture and also am a car nut. My tools to those trades as well as those of my construction business were all covered by sales of items I produce.
What I won't do on the hobby side is "commission" work. If you see something I've built or photographed, I'll likely sell it at top dollar, but don't ask me to make something you want. If you don't like what I have up for sale, move on.

Now I do have an upcoming "mini home" like business. It's in it's infancy. It is not a hobby so I go after that with customer options and the likes. It's not what I would prefer to do with my time, but the bills and life needs paid for, so we go about it.

If you turn a hobby into a business, be prepared to get overwhelmed and disgusted with it.
If you turn something you like to do into a business, it's a different thing all together.
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post #13 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 08:21 AM
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I have a full time job, and I want to keep it that way. Woodworking is my hobby, and true passion. I want to keep it that way. I have had my fill of serving the public. It is much worse now, than when I started. I have been told many times that I could sell my woodworking. All of this from people who do not do woodworking. I know their intentions are sincere. But they are not there with me every step of the way while I am making my end grain cutting boards. I do it for peace of mind and relaxation. It would be like, if I played golf and was really good at it and someone would suggest that I go pro. You can make money at that. It sounds good from where they are standing.

I know eventually I will sell some of my boards. When I retire, in the next few years I want to be able to do woodworking when I want to and not just on my days off. I stay very busy, and do not want to be hounded by the public anymore at that time. In my current job I am not dealing directly with the public. I have served the public directly for 22 years, I'm done.

This is just my story. I admire all that take on challenges, and turn their passions into thriving businesses. I also love to hear about them. Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories. The best of luck, happiness,
and much success!

Ellery Becnel
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post #14 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 08:59 AM
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Woodworking was never a hobby for me. In 1988 I went bankrupt. So in 19989 I was taking any job I could get, mostly a laborer on construction jobs. The last job was for a retired union shop steward from up north. In his world if you clocked in by 8:00am: the pay started at 8:00am. Work did not start until he finished his coffee: But he might be drinking coffee until 9:30 or 10:00!
He had some hobby level woodworking tools and equipment that I started playing with: A lady that lived nearby needed some ducks to tole paint. So my first "woodworking" project was for money. When the remodel job ended he let me continue to use his equipment in exchange for cutting/splitting/stacking firewood. In the summer of 1990 I was able to build my shop and by a Craftsman 12" bandsaw and 15" drill press paying cash.
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post #15 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Tony B
We used to make joKes in the Gallery when we had a piece for a while "If it wont sell for $50, then maybe it will sell for $70. Often times it actually did.
That's no joke. I had a piece for sale for $75, didn't sell. I added a minor embellishment and sold it for $125.

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post #16 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 09:47 AM
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That's no joke. I had a piece for sale for $75, didn't sell. I added a minor embellishment and sold it for $125.
I used to date a psychologist at the time, and no I was not her pet project. LOL
Anyway, we discussed this very thing. She explained it this way: There is always an eye and brain connection that has to be resolved. If our eye makes us see a $70 price and our brain sees a value of $120. This has to be resolved. The 2 choices would be for your brain to think "hmmm, what a bargain" or, and this is a big 'or', maybe something is wrong with it. I am looking for art at an art price, maybe this is more like craft work and I aint payin' $70 bucks for a craft item".

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post #17 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 01:38 PM
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I don't seem to have the mental discipline to stick with it.

I wanted to see if I could sell some sort of wood carvings. By sheer coincidence, I was able to buy some beautiful birch.
After a little market research, I began to carve kitchen prep spoons and forks. My goal was 100 spoons, to sell at $12 each,
they took approx 90 minutes to finish each one in batches of a dozen or so. A single $5 birch plank made 15 spoons.

I quit after 70 spoons and 30 forks, my heart just wasn't in it any more. Maybe half sold over several summers.
Every last family member got them as gifts. I still have a box of them.

I'll carve what I see in the wood. You like it? I'll measure it and give you the price. Seems $10/inch is about right.
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post #18 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 01:53 PM
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Sever years back, Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast. Lots of trees down. I knew a guy from a local woodworking club that was making spoons from downed trees from that storm. He sold hundreds of them starting at $25 each and going up to$50. I don't know if the spoons were that good or just because it came from trees downed by the storm. I havent seen him in a long while so I dont know id he is still doing it.
Anyway, maybe you are not charging enough to be taken seriously?

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post #19 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 05:36 PM
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Tony, I carved several differnet shapes/designs and handed them out to locals who cook for charity and in local eating places.
They all wanted a very heavy/thick handle for heavy dough (pie crust/pasts/pizza/bread dough. OK by me.
Then I asked about price. $12 - $15 what the collective opinion so I went with that, as well.

Man, I just got tired of doing it. Other carvings were calling me as well.
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post #20 of 23 Old 04-13-2016, 11:46 PM
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I turned my woodworking hobby into a career early on when I found I had a knack for cabinetmaking. Many years ago I parlayed my love of music and the cabinetmaking into a "side" business of building home/auto speaker cabinets, equipment racks, speaker adapters etc to support my own audio habit. That (along with selling audio gear online) has now overtaken cabinetmaking however I still enjoy woodworking as a "hobby" (especially with my nephew) when I find time to do it.
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