mn pete

Living the "dream"

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I’m enjoying a couple extra days off…use’em or lose’em!

 

I was thinking on another comment by James Krenov and it got me to thinking about doing what you love, pursing your passion, etc…

http://tinyurl.com/kflg7qb – Krenov Comments

 

For those of you (like me some days!) who dream of leaving the security of a full-time job to pursue the life of an artist/designer/craftsman…what does that dream look like for you? Is it the “find a need and fill it” philosophy (often what pays the bills) or is it a dream of letting your creative nature flow unchecked?

 

It seems like most of the greats just jumped in doing what they loved and wanted to do from the start…scary in this economic time and certainly with a family to feed…but always at the edge of my own thoughts.

 

For those of you actually out there doing it…how much of your effort is a marketing/sales machine to keep the “business” going and how much is the true artistic pursuit you dream about? I’m not foolish enough to think that one cannot exist without the other, in some form…just mulling a lot over lately, and curious about what folks are really doing.

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My dream/goal looks like this: I've been woodworking as a hobby for a couple of years now. Love every aspect of it I have taken a couple of classes at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta, watch lots of videos, and read a lot about the craft. I'm reading Marc's Hybrid Woodworking book now and plan to join the guild next year. Most importantly, I spend as much time as possible in the shop.

I intend to spend the next couple of years honing my skills, learning new techniques, etc. By the time I retire (I'm 57 now), I want to have launched a part-time custom woodworking business that will allow me to spend time doing something I love and supplement my income at the same time. I'm not the retirement kind of person, but I look forward to controlling my own schedule. Along the way, I hope to gain a local reputation for quality which will both afford me customers and an opportunity to explore my creative side.

Anyway, that's my plan.

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My plan is to win mega millions this week, then i can focus on my "design element," build a nice shop, buy tools, have a forest of lumber on inventory, and get to work. It sounds like a great plan so far.

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This reminds me of a quote I heard not long ago....."No matter if you think you can, or think you can't, you are right." ...Henry Ford

 

I raised my children with another quote that I live by....."You can do anything you want to do in life if you want to do it bad enough.".....Not sure who said that first.

 

Rog

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My plan is to win mega millions this week, then i can focus on my "design element," build a nice shop, buy tools, have a forest of lumber on inventory, and get to work. It sounds like a great plan so far.

wouldnt that be nice, but hell what are the odds lol

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I won 50 on a scratch off today so im feeling pretty lucky haha. My other plans if i were to win would include travelling the world to help reforest the trees that we love to use that are becoming endangered. I would also make one hell of a donation to the wood whisperer!

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Since pure retirement (not working at all) went up in smoke in the economic downturn in 2008, the dream would be to work at something when this career is over that is more fulfilling on a personal level.  If woodworking is it, it would be great, but I'm not sure I would ever make enough to keep going.  I've got at least 11 years to figure it out.

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In the beginning you will spend 40 hrs a week selling, marketing, ordering materials, and drawing up plans and cut lists. Then the next 40 you spend making the stuff you sold. Eventually you may change that a little, but there are rare times when you can just build.

I have found that I enjoy building the business like I enjoy (or enjoyed) building stuff. Another thing is a 1 man shop is really tough to make work. I like having a few guys to help get the product out.

Steve

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I don't spend very much time on marketing.  I pretty much list my stuff on Etsy and let the chips fall where they may.  This time of year I do spend 50 hours a week getting stuff ready to ship and answering emails and whatnot and 50 hours building, with an extra hour of "networking" (ie pretending what I am doing right now is working, but fuck it I'm tired and not getting out of the chair for another couple minutes).

 

It seems like the further I go the further I get from "the dream" of doing mostly/all creative work and end up doing mostly/all stuff to pay the bills.  The last couple years the higher end stuff hasn't been selling so it's been more orders and more work to get the same amount of money.  Something has to change but haven't settled on a plan for next year yet.  Have to survive this one first.  30 orders in the last 10 days.

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Great feedback and insight guys!  Over the past couple years, the day-job seems to get busier and busier but just doesn't feed the need for creativity.  Don't get me wrong...in today's economy, I'm extremely grateful to have a job that I do actually enjoy, that pays the bills and allows us to set a little aside.  I'm just wanting more, and spreadsheets and resource plans that don't last much longer than six months, before the business changes again, just aren't as satisfying anymore.

 

Very interesting to hear so many perspectives.  Folks who found this passion early on and threw themselves into it vs. those who have come into loving woodworking much later and after years in careers in other fields...

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For those of you (like me some days!) who dream of leaving the security of a full-time job to pursue the life of an artist/designer/craftsman…what does that dream look like for you?

 

 

It looks like a cardboard box for a home and a can of Alpo for dinner.  I'm too anal to make a living doing this.

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It looks like a cardboard box for a home and a can of Alpo for dinner.  I'm too anal to make a living doing this.

Does the cardboard box have 220 service?

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In the beginning you will spend 40 hrs a week selling, marketing, ordering materials, and drawing up plans and cut lists. Then the next 40 you spend making the stuff you sold. Eventually you may change that a little, but there are rare times when you can just build.

I have found that I enjoy building the business like I enjoy (or enjoyed) building stuff. Another thing is a 1 man shop is really tough to make work. I like having a few guys to help get the product out.

Steve

I am pretty sure Steve means that as one work week, so do the math 80 hours a week doing what you enjoy as the boss or working for the man 40 and then doing what you like as you like the other 40+... Agreed with Cindy, keep the day job, dream and build!

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Yep I still work an average of 60 hrs a week after 14 yrs of professional woodwork. It could be better and it could be worse. At some point you just settle in to your comfort zone. I hate that mine requires so damn much work though. Lol

Steve

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Just start by saying I am not a professional woodworking, if anything far from it... but this is my experience in starting a business.

 

I have worked the corporate grind for the last 6 years and I am still working that grind. I have a 15 year plan in place that looks like this:

1. I lowered all of my expenses to what I needed and added a few wants in there.

2. Payed off all debt and still working on my house.

3. Saved as much cash as I can. I am working towards 5 years of livable cash: enough cash to live at the same standard of living I am now.

4. Buying all of my equipment and materials with cash.

5. Get all of the training I need and want. There is almost never time for retooling once you are on your own.

6. Have a plan B planned out and in place ready to go.

 

Stop here to explain more about what I want to do. This part is very organic... I just want to work for myself doing what I want to do, how I want to do it, working with/for whomever I choose. That is it. What that road has led me down is learning glasswork, woodworking, marketing, accounting, relationship skills, working on entrepreneurship and networking. I still have a lot to learn about woodworking and I want to add metal working and welding. I also need significantly more cash reserves.

 

My plan is slowly taking shape and I want to get into housing. Fixing, selling, and renting.

 

Back to the plan...

7. I work with computers as a W2. I am just a cog in the wheel. My plan B for now is strictly keeping up with cash-flow. I have started a side business doing consulting. It is not a lot of money but the little extra helps with plan[2-5] and should I lose my W2 employment I have something on the side that will pay the mortgage. If business is slow I can fill the gap and always cover my overhead. And, if I am really lucky the side gig may take off and allow me to leave the corporate world sooner and shorten my 15 year plan.

8. Make a dedicated space for yourself that is pleasing and enjoyable. Do not settle, at least not for long. If you want wood floors, put in wood floors, keep your mind relaxed and healthy goes a long way towards keeping up the momentum. Trust me, I have needed it over the years and it is continues to drive me because even though I am working long hours it never feels like work. It is a second child I am investing in, watching and waiting for it to blossom. oh, and do this step with cash as well: there is a theme with this cash thing and no debt.

9. Network. With others in your craft, with those that support your craft, with those that will pay for your craft. Jim Rohn has a great quote: one discipline affects another discipline. Knowledge is knowledge and will always help you out.

 

Break again... I took 5 years to learn glass inside out. I started out with stained glass doing lead and copper foil. I hated the work but it taught me how to cut glass well, fast, and eventually in a productive manner. I then learned fusing to make small pieces of glass that I could not cut for eye detail. That blossomed into doing full size bowls, sinks(back when they were the rage), and all types of decorative forms. Fusing has an issue where the glass can pick up layers from the shelf it sits on. That got me into sandblasting to clean up the fusing. That in turn became another pursuit where I then did mirrors, shower doors, and small carvings. That brought me back to stained glass and fusing where I could then implement surface texture. Which I then realized why not go for 3D so now I am learning torch work. This is still a process in evolution.

 

But, what that did bought me two kilns, 80 gallon compressor, sand blaster, booth, wet belt sander, and blanchard. The kilns have been great for a buddy who does metal work so he can anneal(which I am learning a bit) but the sand blaster and blanchard have been great for cleaning up tools. I will post of picture to show how I clean up planes.

 

Down this road I got into woodworking to make frames for my glasswork and now that has drug me down another rabbit hole. And in this process I have picked up most of my hand tools and a complete set of power tools. The power tools are not high end, they are not new, but they get the job done and have been a great teaching tool. Along the way I have picked up a few pieces of Festool and I have invested in a few boutique makers(I firmly believe in supporting the craft that has been good to me). 

 

Where I am now is starting to do small woodworking projects for customers. I am certainly not starving for cash so I get to pick who I work for, when I want to, and at what price point. I am spoiled and have no intention of working for peanuts and I have no desire to be a starving artist. What my glasswork has done is helped me build a client list of mostly doctors, attorneys, business owners, and others who do mind paying top dollar for exactly what they want. They do not want 20 of any one item. What they do want is something unique and that is exactly the type of business I want to run. Now, a few have been asking about cabinets and other woodworking projects for their home. My skill set is not high enough yet that I would commit to those projects but I am looking forward to when they will be.

 

All this to say that I putting in a lot of hours. I have been for years. But, I am have a full shop, cash in bank, get to build the business almost exactly the way I envision and want to build it. And the best part is it has never felt like work. 

 

Lastly, I would say be as introspective as you can. Look at where you are, where you want to be, then take as much time to figure the path in between those two points. Be 100% honest about where you are and who you are. If you enjoy the spiritual aspect of the work, don't let some knucklehead tell you there is no money in hand tool only work. If you are after just money, be honest about that and figure out how to run a CNC shop or whatever is needed to be efficient. Don't let some knucklehead tell you if you if your hands don't touch the wood it is not real woodworking. And above all as you listen to all of this advice trust none of it. Listen to it yes, but figure out how it will work for you for good or bad. Make the advice become applicable for who you are and your lifestyle.

 

Have to get ready for work.. I will post more about what I did in my glass years and what I am currently doing in my woodworking years.

 

Sorry for the long ramble... I hope my years of journey can help you out and save you some heartache.

Cheers

If you have a good paying job that you actually like don't even think about leaving it.  Those jobs are unbelievably hard to come by in general and are almost non existent now in this economy.  Do your art/design/woodworking on the side as a way to enrich your life.  You look to be a loooong way from retirement, but when that time comes if you plan it right you will have accumulated all the tools you need and have honed your skills and can really go to town on the woodworking.  If by some nasty twist of fate your current job goes away before then, that might be the time to test the waters with doing woodworking for a living.  But, until then I would stay put.

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I'll share my own personal experience.  I started a business back in '04 after working for others in my field for 10 years.  Mostly decided to go off on my own because of a long term opportunity that came up; but the other was for the reasons Beech mentioned (tired of having to take direction from someone that knew less than me and was 'grandfathered' into his position because he had been there for 30+ years, and no one had the heart to let him go).  Unfortunate situation all around..

 

Talking with some friends who had gone down the same road I was planning, there was one consistent comment that I was hearing:

 

  'Be Careful What You Wish For''

 

It's been a long, stressful and at times very frustrating path.  There are a lot more aspects to running a business than simply knowing how to do the labored tasks; most of which take up more time than the 'fun' stuff. 

 

Looking back now, would I have made different decisions? 

Big picture, NO!!  I thrive off of challenge and like to push myself.   I eventually found my groove and it's working well (finally).  But it took almost 7 years to get here.

Small picture, I would have charged more money, or walked away from the jobs that gave me a bad feeling regardless of how hungry I was at the time. 

 

I guess the advice I would offer to someone who is looking to start a new business and see it as their primary source of income would be to approach it with this understanding:

 

It's a job, and at times the responsibilities will be consuming.  If you go into it thinking it's going to be 'Fun' you'll most likely fall flat on your face.  Certain aspects will be enjoyable and they should be held onto, but work is work.  Work in and of itself isn't usually fun.  Work to afford the things that allow you to be happy, and work smart.

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I started on my own in 1987. I don't have that dream woodworking job. There is no creativity, I just make cabinets. I got into woodworking as a night job to eat while going to college and decided that woodworking was more fun than being a lawyer. I started at a very large woodworking company as a flunky in the custom shop. I don't do retail. I only work for contractors and that being said I only work for developers doing new construction no one off's. Ive tried to retire three times now and keep getting sucked back in. 

I don't think its the same working as a trade as what the OP is looking for information wise. Its been a good ride but for me it needs to come to an end. Money has always been pretty good and I can't complain. The early years were also pretty good but the industry was booming back then and it gave me a chance to get established with some developers that are very solid.

 

I will say there is no industry that is worth working yourself into an early grave. Working 80 hours a week will catch up to you eventually, that I you can count on. You can't count on the fact that it will ever pay off so think long long and hard before you make that choice. 

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I've been hooked on woodworking for as long as I can remember. My dad bought a BOSH jigsaw when I was about 12 he wanted to make some shelving for the store room in the family business ( fast food industry ) I was instantly hooked on woodwork.

I looked for as much information as I could and I found the great Norm Abram I was in heaven. When I was 13 I entered second level education where I was introduced to one of my first teachers Martin bates ( the most influential person in my woodworking life, he is an amazing teacher and thanks to him and a few others I learned a great deal ) in an actual workshop environment and my passion just grew and grew and so did my collection of tools, I think I was the only 13 year old with a lathe and my table saw was simply a circular saw mounted under an MDF table and a fence which my engineering teacher ( Kevin O'Dunohue another great teacher ) helped me make. My parents wanted me to become a chef, a dream that I once shared but that soon changed when I started second level education. Secondary school lasted for 5 years and I got summer jobs making and fitting kitchens and wardrobes, fitting timber floors and helping in workshops in my town and a few odd jobs in my little workshop I was living the dream.

Then it was time for college and the decision was easy, furniture design and production, but the work was hard. There were only two colleges that thought furniture design and production in Ireland and places were limited. I got in and I spent 2 years full time earning a little piece of yellow paper that's hanging on the wall of my workshop and nobody asks about :-/.... My girlfriend at the time was a cattle farmer and her parents gave me permission to use one of the run down sheds as my workshop, I fixed it up and filled it with my tools and I don't think I could have been happier with my little piece of heaven. The word spread and everybody was looking for furniture, but with college I only had the weekends so I couldn't do much but everything I did I did with passion and it thought me to work fast and accurately.

Before I go any further I would like to say " I LOVE MY SON " he is by far my greatest creation :)

In my final year of college my girlfriend was pregnant but this only made me work harder. I was finished college in June and I was a father in September. I tried looking for work but at the time I could only find work as an apprentice and the pay for a first year apprentice was very low hence the reason why everybody wanted an apprentice, and even this low wage combined with the small living I was making in my own workshop wasn't enough to raise a family so I had to do the one thing I promised myself I wouldn't do. As I said the family business is fast food and my parents raised me with the intentions of taking it over some day and I HATE IT !!!! I couldn't imagine a less fulfilling job but I put my feelings aside and started working beside my parents and besides I still had my workshop on my days off :)

Everything was working out ok, I was earning money I had my workshop and my son was safe. Then I got an offer to go and work for a big company that refurbished bars, restaurants and hotels basically woodwork on a large scale I couldn't pass it up. I argued with and apologized to my parents but I had to go this was my dream. I was a bit rusty from not spending enough time in the shop but I soon picked up my old habits and everything was going great I was getting a satisfaction from my work that was only matched by my time in my own little shop. I was there for a few years and all of a sudden the work started to fall off and we were getting less and less jobs and finally we we're let go. My parents still had a place for me in the family business but they had plans to expand so I could run off again and as much as it killed me inside I had to put myself out of the equation and think of my son.

I've been back with my parents now for 7 or 8 years and I've gone through marriage, divorce and I've even had to shut down the workshop for a year and a half but I opened it again and me and my son love nothing more than to spend a few hours each week in there making shavings and like his dad he's probably the only 12 year old around that knows how to use a lathe :)

My dream is to make a proper living from my workshop and teach my son a trade so he has options, right now I'm still working in the family business but this is only something I have to do just for now just for some security whilst I need it .... It's a hard decision to make you have to weigh up your need and wants. You want to work with wood but you need a job a steady income and the security that comes with that. You may find that you can't have it right now but it doesn't mean that it will be the same forever. Maybe in a few years you can reassess your situation or maybe not. But either way if you have a small space to follow your passion then do it and keep that little flame burning :)

Sorry for the long story but I just wanted you to understand that your not alone brother :)

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Now that the topic is getting a realistic flow going, I'll chime in.

I owned my own business for twenty years. It was not in woodworking, it was in retail sales. For the most part it was a fun deal but, right now, I'm trying to talk my daughter and son-in-law OUT of starting a restaurant.

Here are some things that people do not understand about a small business that I learned the hard way because I didn't understand it either when I started.

 

1.... I was the hardest boss that I ever worked for!  When you are hustling trying to make a living you don't give yourself a day off because you don't feel well or the kids have a school play that afternoon.

 

2....Even though my wife helped me a lot with the book work, still if it is going to get done you are the one that does it. Truck need washed? Grab a hose and get wet.

3....Need parts or product to sell? Go order it, you are the only one who knows what you want and need. Equipment break down? Get some wrenches and fix it. Do you really think you can afford to pay someone else to fix it?

 

4....Need to sell something? Put on a smile and go talk to people face to face. If you think you can sell something by taking out an ad or calling on the phone YOU ARE WRONG!

 

5...Need to collect some money from a previous sale? Put your smile back on, put a big stick in your back pocket and go find the person owing you money. Be prepared for a sob story about how his kid has been sick and work has slowed down.

 

6....Need a nice quiet weekend? Forget it, your customers know where you live and your phone number so if they want to talk to you about a job they will call you when THEY have the time which is usually Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon.

 

7... Various businesses are different but, working for your self is all the same. I didn't have a vacation for the first seven years I was in business! I missed most of all the ball games and school plays  my kids were in!  I learned to hate holidays because I couldn't go out and sell something (or more importantly collect money) when everyone else was closed or gone.

 

Would I do it again? I'm not sure. If I knew when I started what I know now and could have been better prepared for it I still might have but at the same time, I might not have gotten into it.

It sounds good at first and after 20 years I can't say that I regretted all of it, but I didn't get rich. My wife was an RN at the hospital and made good money while I spent up to 16 hours a day trying to make good money at something I enjoyed doing.  We were able to get two kids through college and pay for the house and cars and have a decent life although I missed out on a lot of the kids growing up in various ways.

 

Oh yea, I forgot to mention taxes, insurance, social security (you pay both halves when you work for yourself) and a lot of other interesting paperwork you need to do as a businessman but, I'll leave that for another time. :)

 

Good luck! And if you decide to go for it, GO FOR IT!!! You have a much better idea of what your getting into than I did.

 

Rog

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I am living my dream. I secured a career that pays me W-2, salaried over 12 months, while working 9.5 months. I can do whatever I please in my time off. My salary continues to arrive so I have no fear of starving. I have no real need to sell what I make. I am free to use my time expressing my creativity. I fear that my corporation may someday adopt a so-called balanced schedule that splits my 2.5 month break into several smaller ones. That might rob some joy, but I feel very blessed to be where I am at present.

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My wife was an RN at the hospital and made good money while I spent up to 16 hours a day trying to make good money at something I enjoyed doing. 

 

A lot of people (including Marc Spagnuolo) have benefited from having a spouse with a regular paycheck and health insurance, so they could start their own business.  Marc has posted a few discussions of how he got started in woodworking.

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