For those who try to sell what you make.... - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 06:41 AM Thread Starter
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For those who try to sell what you make....

Is your area market "fluid" in what it wants and what it is willing to pay? If so, how do you "stay up" on what sells & what doesn't? I get near daily tire-kickers, but few sales.

For example, I make kid-sized picnic tables. 2 years ago, I sold 7 of them in 3 weeks for $125 each. This year, I made 1, waited 2 months, and pretty much paid the buyer to take it ($3 over material, plus I delivered across town because I wanted it gone). My crates are the same, but those "Welcome" posts I make sell quick. (I actually feel like I am overpriced on them, even.). Am I missing something?

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post #2 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 07:38 AM
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If you ever find the magic formula-------------let us all know.

That being said, There is a 'perception of value' that needs to go into the price.
A friend of mine made Awls and other small tools---
When he started out he sold then for $35 to $40 each---and sales were slow---

I told him he needed to really jump up his prices--reasoning that the sort of buyer that wanted an awl (that you can buy at Home Depot for $4.00) custom made wanted a 'bragging rights' tool ,not a 'bargain' tool.

He boosted his prices to the $135 to $170 range---and not only sold more but became the subject of conversation on more than one woodworking forum.

I'm glad he listened because he was gettting discouraged and was ready to quit.
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post #3 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 08:24 AM
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I didn't make stuff to sell for very long. What did sell for me was storage items, shelves, book cases etc. You also have to build something unique that you can't get at a store somewhere. Still I got stuck with one bookcase before I quit doing that kind of work. The problem with that kind of work is you might build something that might fit someones needs but be completely the wrong color for the customers decor. You pretty much have to have a big store with enough inventory where you have enough selection you have something going out the door all the time. The only solution for me was to do custom work. Sketch out something a customer is describing what they want and often get a drawer or shelf from another piece of furniture to match the color to. That way the item was sold before I cut the first piece.
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post #4 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 08:43 AM
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It is always difficult to try & predict what the next big item will be. Manufacturing and selling are continually being fueled by "supply & demand", and an item may sell well in one part of the country (world), but fail (for unknown reasons) in another part. Best IMO to visit craft shows/fairs/etc., to see what the "hot" selling items are. If you have a specialty or unique skill, you may be on the cutting edge of making more sales with reasonable prices, but some one or some company will find a way to make it quicker for less. Enjoy your hobby, and that you are able to sell some of your wares. Be safe.
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post #5 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 10:13 AM
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Craft shows can be up and down. I have chatted to a number who regularly attend craft shows and sometimes they sell a few items but other times only get lookers. Many have said they are thinking of packing up, but at the next show they sell a lot and that makes them think again.

I suggested that if you are making a certain type of item, say only wood turned items, then it could be possible to link with someone who does not make turned items, but other things, like scrollsaw items or bandsaw boxes. It gives the customers more variety and both could be benefiting each other and splitting the cost of the show.

Another thing is to make shure that you take every opportnity to let people know what you sell, or what is available. List your Web site, or Etsy shop on everything. That way more people get to know who you are and what you have to offer. Also list any shows you will be attending.

Like to keep busy with my hobby at www.badgerwoodcrafters.co.uk.
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post #6 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 12:06 PM
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It very difficult to make something and sell it for a profit. By that I mean more than a working wage. There are just too many items being made with big fast machines. Those companies buy lumber far cheaper than we can. They finish them in a heart beat with products we would have to invest a lot of money in equipment to apply it with.

I never had any intentions on earning a living doing woodworking. Thought about it but a business plan never pointed to any decent earnings. Maybe in cabinets but don't like building them on a production basis.

I sell woodworking plans and maybe a book in the future. But after a trip to the book store last week revealed only about 15 books on the shelf. It may be not such a good idea. Things change the craft is disappearing and I don't believe it's going to turn around.

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post #7 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 01:44 PM
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What sells

I agree with Steve in his post above, shelves seem to sell well and are easy to make.
A bookcase design can be simplified or very detailed.
Put glass doors on it and it becomes a display cabinet.
Put two or more together and it becomes an entertainment center.
You alter the designs to make them short or tall, narrow or wide, deep or shallow.
Shelving can be made from all types of wood and is a good item for the woodworker that wants to set himself apart from the average cabinetmaker and sell his items.
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post #8 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 05:17 PM
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I owned a custom cabinet and furniture shop for around 14 years.Made money buy doing only custom work and having a few hundred thousand dollars of machinery to make the work efficient and top quality.
I did start small and figured the only way I would make it was working 70 hour weeks and putting every dime I made into the shop and equipment.It was not an easy road to take.
you have to be realistic about what you are doing ,have a good business plan and figure your overhead and charge accordingly.
you can not undersell yourself and make it.You can not take jobs to cheap for experience and to gain new customers.You won't make it.Once you are known as the guy who does quality work for less you are stuck with it.That is the only customer that will come thru your door.
Figure materials which includes insodentals,overhead which includes (machinery ,utilities,taxes,rent,insurance,bookkeeping and all the other stuff) plus profit and you may have a chance if you are a good salesman and business man and don't get burned out before it all comes together.
Don't mean to be a buzz kill but those are the realities.
When I started in the 80's I had around 100 Amish shops within 25 miles of me that had 52" wide belt sanders,Straight line rip saws,30" planers ,huge spindle shapers,12" sliding table saws,13 spindle dovetail machines,finishing rooms with booths and much more and were paying their guys
$6.50 an hour.Now that's competition.
I still made it by having a niche market and some good customers but I sure the hell worked for it.
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post #9 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies, ya'all. I guess, for me, the biggest issue I'm having is finding the right item to sell, at the right time, in the right market, to the right customer. I don't hit up any of the local classified ads, no Craigslist, and no area "buy-sell-trade" outlets -- especially since I had too many prospective buyers tell me I was overpriced when I knew I wasn't even going to cover materials with what they had offered to pay. One guy said he'd give me $10 (and delivered it) for the Adirondack bench I made. I told him as respectfully as I could that I'd salvage the screws and burn it before going that low. And then he was all butthurt, like I was suppose to pay him to take it.

I've looked into Etsy, but I feel like I'd have to be more tech savvy to make that work well for me. I do have thoughts, however, about trying to do wholesale to another local Etsy seller. They do decently, but I'm not sure the best route there, either. Good points to ponder, and I'll keep seeing if I can hit it right...

Turning good wood into designer firewood on a daily basis.....

I never plan my days. "Premeditated" is a word Lawyers love to toss around in courtrooms.
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post #10 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 05:54 PM
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Unless you're just selling little nick-nacks at craft shows or online it's not savy to just build a bunch of random things and hope they sell.

Around here custom WW'ing shops build to order. No one just has things laying around in storage.

Most of my side work is word of mouth and made to order but I have a day job so it's not crucial to find work.

If you're trying to make a living making custom WW I would think a portfolio and gathering a client list would be first thing. Trying to build projects that have no customer doesn't sound like the best approach for a business model.
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post #11 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 06:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chamfer View Post
Unless you're just selling little nick-nacks at craft shows or online it's not savy to just build a bunch of random things and hope they sell.

Around here custom WW'ing shops build to order. No one just has things laying around in storage.

Most of my side work is word of mouth and made to order but I have a day job so it's not crucial to find work.

If you're trying to make a living making custom WW I would think a portfolio and gathering a client list would be first thing. Trying to build projects that have no customer doesn't sound like the best approach for a business model.
This has been proven thousands of time over yet people try it every day.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
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post #12 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 07:00 PM
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You need to look into smaller Items to sell. Don't look into high priced items that require time and money. I hear a lot of fairy tales on these forums but rarely can they back it up.

You'll see many furniture makers on line with high end pieces going for 10-20k. What you don't hear or see online is the nickel and dime stuff they sell to stay afloat

If you aren't enjoying it you might as well get a second job, because your hobby will become one faster than you think...
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post #13 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 08:14 PM
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Back in the late 90s I made some flower boxes for our house, 2 of our neighbors saw them and asked if I'd build them some, I then built some for our dentist's office porch and got calls from his custs for boxes. Next thing I'm also building pergolas and trellises. The following yr I put an ad in the local paper for custom boxes, pergolas and trellises, I could have quit framing for that yr and made about as much without all the effort, (a good yr). I put the ad in the 2nd yr, and got maybe half the business. The 3rd yr I spent more on the ad than I made building the items.

1980 I made my/our 1st water bed frame, by 07 I had made 3 more water bed frames, a bunk bed set and 3 frames for box spring mattresses for custs. In 08 I broke down and built our 2nd water bed frame, (for my back), haven't built a single frame since.

Trends change, and one can't always brain out what the next fad or trend is till it's already there. Last yr I had a run on clocks we'll see what this yr brings.

Work smart not hard!
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post #14 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 10:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mako1 View Post
I owned a custom cabinet and furniture shop for around 14 years.Made money buy doing only custom work and having a few hundred thousand dollars of machinery to make the work efficient and top quality.
I did start small and figured the only way I would make it was working 70 hour weeks and putting every dime I made into the shop and equipment.It was not an easy road to take.
you have to be realistic about what you are doing ,have a good business plan and figure your overhead and charge accordingly.
you can not undersell yourself and make it.You can not take jobs to cheap for experience and to gain new customers.You won't make it.Once you are known as the guy who does quality work for less you are stuck with it.That is the only customer that will come thru your door.
Figure materials which includes insodentals,overhead which includes (machinery ,utilities,taxes,rent,insurance,bookkeeping and all the other stuff) plus profit and you may have a chance if you are a good salesman and business man and don't get burned out before it all comes together.
Don't mean to be a buzz kill but those are the realities.
When I started in the 80's I had around 100 Amish shops within 25 miles of me that had 52" wide belt sanders,Straight line rip saws,30" planers ,huge spindle shapers,12" sliding table saws,13 spindle dovetail machines,finishing rooms with booths and much more and were paying their guys
$6.50 an hour.Now that's competition.
I still made it by having a niche market and some good customers but I sure the hell worked for it.

Great post dad.

Al


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post #15 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 10:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghidrah View Post
Back in the late 90s I made some flower boxes for our house, 2 of our neighbors saw them and asked if I'd build them some, I then built some for our dentist's office porch and got calls from his custs for boxes. Next thing I'm also building pergolas and trellises. The following yr I put an ad in the local paper for custom boxes, pergolas and trellises, I could have quit framing for that yr and made about as much without all the effort, (a good yr). I put the ad in the 2nd yr, and got maybe half the business. The 3rd yr I spent more on the ad than I made building the items.

1980 I made my/our 1st water bed frame, by 07 I had made 3 more water bed frames, a bunk bed set and 3 frames for box spring mattresses for custs. In 08 I broke down and built our 2nd water bed frame, (for my back), haven't built a single frame since.

Trends change, and one can't always brain out what the next fad or trend is till it's already there. Last yr I had a run on clocks we'll see what this yr brings.

A very honest reply. Things do change. Too bad there are guys out there giving it away for a wage. A skill for woodworking doesn't mean your supposed to go into business.

Al


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post #16 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 11:00 PM
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in the real world....

The local market gets "saturated" readily or not, depending on the area, size, financial status etc. So a certain product may sell out quickly and when everyone who wants one has one and then the sales fall off.

Larger pieces like beds, dressers etc can't be easily shipped so the market remains "local" and is subject to the same constraints as above. Smaller pieces like jewelry boxes, can be shipped more readily and their market will be larger .... if you have a web site to display them or join a seller's site like Etsy.

Marketing is the key to success in my opinion. I made some quilt rails and a large quilt rack and had them on display at a quilt suppliers store, selling retail. I sold mine at a 30% off retail to the store so they could make their profit on the mark up. They were nicely done and finished in various stain colors and lengths based on the store manager's preferences. I couldn't wait to get my money, and stop the entire process including a 45 minute drive to collect the money and bring more examples. Considering my time and effort and materials all added up to a minimum profit on my part. Never again, it wasn't worth it. It was a niche market and even that didn't seem to matter, since if you are making a quilt from scraps, chances are you are not on the top of the financial ladder... duh. What was I thinkin'?

It's a tough game to get into and make a profit in my opinion.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #17 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 11:07 PM Thread Starter
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I think I need to clear up things a bit. I have a full time job, plus I serve in the Navy Reserves. Woodworking is just a hobby for me. But, I won't get into a hobby unless it pays for itself. A lot of my materials are from work (cheap or free), the discounted cull wood cart from HD, or from friends or family (ex-BIL did interior trim staining/ trim work). I pretty much only pay for tools, screws, glue & sandpaper.

The reason I sold the kid's tables was solely word of mouth from a coworker who wanted me to make her one for her granddaughter. Until this year, that is. I listed my bench because it looked too large for my deck. Not even a respectable offer. I made a few small benches that sold by word of mouth a couple years ago. 1 or 2 sales this year. Same goes for the crates I make. 13 scrap wood crates to one customer 2 years ago. Now? Nadda.

I have no grand illusions of retiring in 3 years, or even making a sustainable supplemental income. For me, part of my biggest issue is I make several similar items that challenge my skills (if the wood is free to me, why not?), and I am running out of people in my close circle of friends who would like the items I make. Selling the items now for a profit is just my way of funding the hobby. I just want to know if you all experience the fluid-like sales trends, because I really don't want to be stuck with a ton of the proverbial Christmas gifts nobody wants....

Turning good wood into designer firewood on a daily basis.....

I never plan my days. "Premeditated" is a word Lawyers love to toss around in courtrooms.
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post #18 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 11:39 PM
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Well that does shed some light on the subject.

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post #19 of 24 Old 07-15-2015, 11:55 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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Well that does shed some light on the subject. Al

I should also mention that it's a near-weekly occurrence that someone that someone that bought from me will bring me scraps of wood to "make something with"-- oftentimes only wanting a picture of what I made with the scraps, or wanting the first shot to buy them back in finished form. So, there's never ANY pressure to be creative (please note the sarcasm....).

Turning good wood into designer firewood on a daily basis.....

I never plan my days. "Premeditated" is a word Lawyers love to toss around in courtrooms.
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post #20 of 24 Old 07-16-2015, 12:10 AM
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Look for an opportunity like you have in the past. I had a filthy rich guy I knew ask me to build a pantry for him. I was finished when his whole house, full of walk in closets, were ready to hang the clothes on. Over 45 sheets of walnut and 200 bf.

I charged for new tools, saw blades, router bits, sandpaper, time spent driving and anything else I could think of. I made a killing and it was still in his budget. On the right income level it can pay off in spades. I also took my material costs and doubled the price of the highest price I found. He paid $150 a sheet x2. I bought them for $96. Precast lacquer was $24 a gal. And I charged $60. If I were in the woodworking business he would have paid for my insurance and rent on the 1000sq ft shop I play in. $40 an hour is not enough if you support a business but that was what I charged.

Don't be afraid to include the cost of doing business or you may as well just do the work for someone else and let them handle the head aches. Too many woodworkers do the work for a wage and it hurts the guy that has employees to pay and insurance to buy.

There has been some good posts here.

al

Because of that project I have two new finish spray systems too. Not to mention a good reputation at the supply house with the buying power like the rest of the cabinet companies. Three new routers and a mountain of router bits and saw blades.


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