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Hey guys. So this question is geared more towards those on this site that do woodworking for a living or at least part of their living. I'm starting up my own woodworking business, and am doing alright so far. When I first started out, I put some of my work on Etsy.com and then about 2 years later after I had made no sales, decided to call it quits on Etsy. I've been selling my work in some stores, at shows, and a little bit off of my website. Several years after starting woodworking, I'm now looking at Etsy again but am somewhat outraged at what I see. What I specifically mean is the prices. I am seeing turned wooden bowls that I would sell for around $80, be sold for $30 on Etsy. I came across shaker end tables with drawers that are dovetailed being sold for a total of $380.... FOR A PAIR!! Just recently I sold two shaker end tables in a store for $300 each, without drawers! It was consignment too, so the store charged $400 something.

How do you guys compete with these folks that are doing this for a hobby and just trying to pay for materials and are doing it for the love? I don't think I'll try Etsy again because how can someone who is trying to do this for a living, compete with someone who isn't and is possibly just as good as you are.

I am just whining a little bit and venting but I'd be curious to hear some opinions. I am not quite a full time woodworker yet, though I will have my shop set up 100% within a few months. Then I will be able to tackle my business full bore and put my full energy into it. I am confident I will be able to make a go of it as a career and while I won't be a millionaire, I'll be comfortable I hope.
 

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It's hard to compete like that. I had a similar problem when I got started. I didn't make something, and then try to sell it. All my work was custom. I solicited designers and architects. I put ads in the classified section of the local newspapers offering to do custom work.

It wasn't a landslide success from the start, in fact it was very slow. I was doing bids, and home and business estimates. What I did run up against was other shops, and guys that worked out of their homes. Some even worked out of vans right on the jobsite. Most of the time my competitors didn't have the expense of a shop, or the costs of licensing and insurance.

So, in a way it's similar to your dilemma. Some of my competition were very good craftsmen. But, in the end it's not always about the price. I'm always elated when I'm awarded the job and I was one of the high bids. Time out of your life goes into the work. It's hard to put a price on that.






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I feel your pain.
I do my woodworking mostly for the relaxation, but also to generate a little $$ to feeed it more. I s'pose if their elected officials make healthcare any worse, I might have a new career.
I too am surprised/dismayed with the way work gets discounted on ebay/etsy and for the life of me can't see how those people make money--unless it's the shipping (ebay joke there).
I'm with cabbie--if people want quality they'll pay for it. I have etsy ready to go but haven't loaded stuff yet---already know I'll be "priced out of the market".
Good luck in your endeavor.
 

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I don't do it for a living and I don't know how anyone could making small items, I.e. Cutting boards, pepper mills etc. however, I will never use the word hobby as when the IRS here's that they limit what you can deduct.
Tom
 

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You probably can't compete in the Etsy market. Prices there are absurd, and it really is full of people who are just trying to make materials cost, plus enough to get started on the next project.

But... if you sell in person, you'll have a big advantage over a lot of those hobbyists, because you'll be able to point out the ways in which your furniture/bowl/whatever are better made. Quality frequently speaks for itself.
 

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Hey guys. So this question is geared more towards those on this site that do woodworking for a living or at least part of their living. I'm starting up my own woodworking business, and am doing alright so far. When I first started out, I put some of my work on Etsy.com and then about 2 years later after I had made no sales, decided to call it quits on Etsy. I've been selling my work in some stores, at shows, and a little bit off of my website. Several years after starting woodworking, I'm now looking at Etsy again but am somewhat outraged at what I see. What I specifically mean is the prices. I am seeing turned wooden bowls that I would sell for around $80, be sold for $30 on Etsy. I came across shaker end tables with drawers that are dovetailed being sold for a total of $380.... FOR A PAIR!! Just recently I sold two shaker end tables in a store for $300 each, without drawers! It was consignment too, so the store charged $400 something.

How do you guys compete with these folks that are doing this for a hobby and just trying to pay for materials and are doing it for the love? I don't think I'll try Etsy again because how can someone who is trying to do this for a living, compete with someone who isn't and is possibly just as good as you are.

I am just whining a little bit and venting but I'd be curious to hear some opinions. I am not quite a full time woodworker yet, though I will have my shop set up 100% within a few months. Then I will be able to tackle my business full bore and put my full energy into it. I am confident I will be able to make a go of it as a career and while I won't be a millionaire, I'll be comfortable I hope.
If you were to substitute the word "Photography" for "woodworking", the scenario would be the same. Every mom and pop with a Canon Rebel thinks they are professionals. Believe me, I have seen it many times. Competing with those people giving away their photos is difficult...and the market will take the free stuff every time, regardless of how krummy the pics might be.

Just sayin'
Mike
 

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If you were to substitute the word "Photography" for "woodworking", the scenario would be the same. Every mom and pop with a Canon Rebel thinks they are professionals. Believe me, I have seen it many times. Competing with those people giving away their photos is difficult...and the market will take the free stuff every time, regardless of how krummy the pics might be.

Just sayin'
Mike

It's crazy. I'm not a bad photographer, but when some friends asked me if I would shoot their wedding, I told them that unless they hired a professional I wasn't even going to bring my camera. There's just plain no way that I can match the quality that a professional is going to manage unless it's by luck: I don't have the time to devote to learning what I need to learn to do that. The good news is, they believed me, and the pro got some great photos. I got a few decent ones, but nothing fantastic.

Same goes for woodworking; for me it's a hobby, but if someone wants something that's going to last I'll probably send them to a professional, and tell them to pay professional prices.
 

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I have been in the woodworking business since 1981, and consider myself successful(my bills are paid). I think every business is about relationships to whatever degree, Etsy less than your own store front. I compete just fine with Home Depot just fine on cabinets because my customers want me. I know them and they know me. Once the relationships are established with homeowners, builders, or architects, then you go the extra mile to make them look good with your expertise that is not available on Etsy. You can give them custom finishes, sizes, choice of wood, and a hundred other options. I have found many tradesmen fearful, or just shy to market themselves and consider themselves just as legitimate a business as GM, or Google. Hobby guys fill a legitimate need in the woodworking world, don't hesitate to get to know a few and recommend them for every job you are apt to lose money on. A hobbyist would have a hard time providing 60 bookcases in 30 days, but as a pro, you will find a way to do it. Find the things you can do profitably and market yourself like crazy. Every bank teller and gas station clerk in my town knows what I do, and likes to recommend me. You will find me showing unique pieces at every Home show and business Expo in our area. I always have something ready to donate to hospital or garden club fundraiser auctions. (A lot of $120 turned bowls) In short I don't compete with anyone else, I run my own race and don't take losing a bid personal. I look at it as an opportunity to make myself available to that customer if their job didn't turn out great with a Thank You letter with in a week of losing the job, just to say thanks' for the opportunity and that I am ready if I can help in any other way. I'm 62 now and have mostly overbooked since I started. Best of all good things to you.
 

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I have been in the woodworking business since 1981, and consider myself successful(my bills are paid). I think every business is about relationships to whatever degree, Etsy less than your own store front. I compete just fine with Home Depot just fine on cabinets because my customers want me. I know them and they know me. Once the relationships are established with homeowners, builders, or architects, then you go the extra mile to make them look good with your expertise that is not available on Etsy. You can give them custom finishes, sizes, choice of wood, and a hundred other options. I have found many tradesmen fearful, or just shy to market themselves and consider themselves just as legitimate a business as GM, or Google. Hobby guys fill a legitimate need in the woodworking world, don't hesitate to get to know a few and recommend them for every job you are apt to lose money on. A hobbyist would have a hard time providing 60 bookcases in 30 days, but as a pro, you will find a way to do it. Find the things you can do profitably and market yourself like crazy. Every bank teller and gas station clerk in my town knows what I do, and likes to recommend me. You will find me showing unique pieces at every Home show and business Expo in our area. I always have something ready to donate to hospital or garden club fundraiser auctions. (A lot of $120 turned bowls) In short I don't compete with anyone else, I run my own race and don't take losing a bid personal. I look at it as an opportunity to make myself available to that customer if their job didn't turn out great with a Thank You letter with in a week of losing the job, just to say thanks' for the opportunity and that I am ready if I can help in any other way. I'm 62 now and have mostly overbooked since I started. Best of all good things to you.
+1. :yes:




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I don't have much to add other than to say that unless you are truly "reinventing the wheel", then there will always be someone there to do similar to what you do cheaper. It's not unique to woodworking, photography, or anything else. It's not even unique to the creative, craftsman world. Financial advisors, attorneys and doctors all deal with the same scenario. There are a couple things you can do: lower your cost and lower your price. I use mostly salvage, and gear my work toward objects that reflect that in a positive light. It keeps my cost low and helps me find a profitable(sometimes) niche'. Another thing is pretty much what everyone else said: don't sweat the Internet stuff. Build relationships in person, and let your work do the talking. If you are confident enough in your work, then your customers will likely be willing to pay accordingly. If not, then I apply an old kitchen adage I picked up from my nearly 2 decades as a professional chef: "F**k 'em and feed 'em fish heads", which is meant to speak to the folks who are too cheap to pay for quality. Another one that I saw at my tattoo artist's shop: good tattoos aren't cheap, cheap tattoos aren't good. You could apply that to anything worth talking about... So, yeah... Just make your stuff and sell it. Stick with it, and the customers will follow. May not get rich, but I don't think you'll go hungry either.

WCT
 

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Given the low prices on etsy I wonder if a lot of that merchandise are cheap imports bought in bulk and marketed through etsy.

It seems like the kind of things you might find at Pier 1, World Market etc.
 

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I don't have a whole lot of new info for you, but I can relate.
I make plaques for a living and started making cutting boards as Christmas presents and posting them on Facebook and another niche site (unrelated) that I frequent.
I'vefound that people you know are willing to buy even if they don't necessarily need a cutting board, because I made it and they know all my proceeds are going towards my Burning Man festival vacation fund.
I made an Etsy account (Cuttingboardshop216) and sold on my 2nd day, but that was the only one and its been a couple weeks since then...
I was thinking about having a stand at my local farmers market, too.

I'm gonna say, it's all about networking.
 

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I don't do it for a living and I don't know how anyone could making small items, I.e. Cutting boards, pepper mills etc. however, I will never use the word hobby as when the IRS here's that they limit what you can deduct.
Tom
Can you please site a reference for this statement. Any business expenses I've ever tried to take as tax deductions simply ask whether it's a home based business or not. (As a hobbyist, I would assume it's home based.) The IRS asks for a percentage of your total home space as what is used for your business and then you deduct based upon that.

If you have a separate shop, outside of your home, you should be filing taxes as a business anyway, if you want to maximize your tax credits and benefits.
 

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People are always going to be able to get a decent product at a cheap price. The only thing you can offer is a great product and amazing service. We are currently in a service based economy and many experts believe we are on the cusp of an experience based one. So at the minimum amazing service is necessary and aim for an amazing experience.
 

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Personally, unless you make pieces which stands out head and shoulders above what is on average in the Market, this remains a tough business to support all your bills from day to day.

With me it is starting to work the other way around. I cannot afford to do this as a living, but some of the folks in our community wants a piece similar to one of my builds. When I let them know I do no commission work, they start offering high Dollar to try and get a bite.
 

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So this question is geared more towards those on this site that do woodworking for a living or at least part of their living.
...
I am confident I will be able to make a go of it as a career and while I won't be a millionaire, I'll be comfortable I hope.
It's definitely tough to make a "good living" as a woodworker. Mass production has influenced public perceptions of value, and most people don't really understand the time required to do hand work.

Years ago I worked in the Washington DC market making period reproductions for well-healed clients. Even then it was hard to make a decent living, even though I had clients that were essentially art patrons. When one is building something like a high-boy that takes in the range of 1500 hours to build, it has to sell for a six figure price to be profitable - and few will pay that.

I enventually found that the repair and restoration business was much more profitable. I kind of stumbled into that, a friend who was a dominant player in that market wanted to scale back and drew me in. Museums are more concerned with quality and technique than cost and are able to pay a fair wage for the work. I still do some work for some the museums in that area, years later.

So my advice would be to explore whether other related markets or products might be more profitable. In addition, figure out how much money you want or need to make and work backwards from that to price your products. Sell your products and/or services at that rate and see how it goes. If you can't sell them, you have your answer - and undercutting your price will not help, in the long term. If you find you have more work than you can handle, you will know you are underpricing your work.

Still, after decades in the business, I still think it makes a better hobby than business :smile:
 

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Facebook is my friend. I just had to turn down another request. :)
Between me and my wife and grown son/daughters and large family - brothers, sisters, cousins, inlaws and outlaws, there are a lot of folks (and their friends, and their friends) that see some of my projects...and they want one too! :)

My last request was... "I want one, I don't care when." I replied "2015!"
This year is turning out to be a cabinet building year for me.
Mike
 

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To get customers, you have to beat your competition on at the very least one of the following factors.

#1. Cost. Especially in the economic climate we are in. People are VERY cost conscious. You can cheapen your material up to compensate some, but it will be at the sacrifice of...
#2. Quality. The buyers that are willing to pay more for a better item still want that item to be not just a little bit better. Dang near slave labor in Chinese factories, and people that do woodworking for a hobby make it impossible to compete on cost for a small shop. However you CAN and should concentrate on quality. The kind of clients you want will however, only buy a few items from you over a lifetime, mostly because they will buy once, and hand the stuff down to the heirs when they die...
#3. Style. Come up with something so unique that people just have to have it. That is what got Apple's business so big.

I should mention that I mostly work hobby, although I do sell pieces from time to time, priced along with what competitive pricing in my market would be. There is no way I would sell online. Not without HUGE name recognition...
 

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Years ago I worked in the Washington DC market making period reproductions for well-healed clients. Even then it was hard to make a decent living, even though I had clients that were essentially art patrons. When one is building something like a high-boy that takes in the range of 1500 hours to build, it has to sell for a six figure price to be profitable - and few will pay that.

I enventually found that the repair and restoration business was much more profitable. I kind of stumbled into that, a friend who was a dominant player in that market wanted to scale back and drew me in. Museums are more concerned with quality and technique than cost and are able to pay a fair wage for the work. I still do some work for some the museums in that area, years later.
Period reproductions, and museum work sounds very interesting. We love pictures here...lets see what you have done.:yes:



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