Wanna Go Pro?


adamking

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Hey all,

At one time or another, the thought of making a living with woodworking had probably crossed your mind. It seems more like a pipe dream some days than a possible reality. Huge questions, doubts, fears, and the unknown can really keep you from making great strides in this direction.

Welcome to the Going Pro section of The Wood Whisperer Forum. Here, you can ask your questions, pass along your valuable insights, and share your unique experiences along the path of making a true living through woodworking.

Whether you've just been toying with the idea, been a veteran for decades, or are something in-between, there's plenty of room for you here in the Going Pro section. We all have value to inspire others with.

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I am attempting the "go slow pro" route. Luckily I have a wife that has a good job with benefits that allows me the flexibility to attempt this. I have been a web designer for 12+ years, so transitioning from the freelance web design world to the custom furniture one will hopefully be easier financially. I have made pieces for people over the years, but not enough to let dust accumulate on my mouse yet. The biggest frustration has been with people expecting custom furniture to be cheaper then what is in the store. I think the home improvement shows that are on TV attribute to that. The host make something out of MDF, throw some paint on it, and it's done in a day or two. Reality shocks a lot of people as to how much work really goes into it. It does feel good when I meet a client that understands the level of work, thought and preparation that goes into a project.

Jonathan

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I just thought I would post this for those who are considering going Pro. My buddy Izzy does a new podcast on starting an online business. So a lot of the talk is about online businesses in particular, but much of it is very general. It can certainly be applied to starting a woodworking business in many regards. Have a listen: http://foolishadventure.com/

You do need to sign up for his mailing list. So far, they have only emailed me to let me know when the audio podcasts are up.

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The biggest frustration has been with people expecting custom furniture to be cheaper then what is in the store. I think the home improvement shows that are on TV attribute to that. The host make something out of MDF, throw some paint on it, and it's done in a day or two. Reality shocks a lot of people as to how much work really goes into it. It does feel good when I meet a client that understands the level of work, thought and preparation that goes into a project.

Jonathan

======================================================

More often than not many go through the exact same thing. Sometimes you may need to invite your client to your shop so you can help them understand solid wood, plywood, mdf etc. Also talk about joinery, grain selection, finishing and other factors that go into designing and building custom furniture. Maybe even take a field trip with them to an Ikea or similar store. Hopefully your clients understand that most of these tv shows are sponsored by home centers and the host will use what is available at such stores. Bottom line, do they want to pass their furniture on to the recycling center or their children and grandchildren.

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More often than not many go through the exact same thing. Sometimes you may need to invite your client to your shop so you can help them understand solid wood, plywood, mdf etc. Also talk about joinery, grain selection, finishing and other factors that go into designing and building custom furniture. Maybe even take a field trip with them to an Ikea or similar store. Hopefully your clients understand that most of these tv shows are sponsored by home centers and the host will use what is available at such stores. Bottom line, do they want to pass their furniture on to the recycling center or their children and grandchildren.

Avoid IKEA, unless you're demonstrating how your furniture will last a hundred years longer that pressboard. Have a shop that's a bit of a tour; show them the investment in hardware you've made, as that's much easier to demonstrate than skills. Then show them a sample piece where you've done something very well, and they'll hopefully see the skill.

Talk their ear off, and let them sell themselves when the time comes?

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Avoid IKEA, unless you're demonstrating how your furniture will last a hundred years longer that pressboard. Have a shop that's a bit of a tour; show them the investment in hardware you've made, as that's much easier to demonstrate than skills. Then show them a sample piece where you've done something very well, and they'll hopefully see the skill.

Talk their ear off, and let them sell themselves when the time comes?

Yes, that is why you would want to take them to an Ikea or similar store. Sometimes people need to see the difference first hand of a piece hand crafted from quality materials from us and one that is mass produced with lesser quality materials. Until they know the difference a table is a table, either it from us or a retail store. The bad thing is, in this economy people are seeing price before quality. They may even know that the particle board furniture will have a short life span. They just figure, well I'll just replace it when the time comes. We need to educate them on why that is not always the best way to go. For some people and their life styles it may be just fine, I have no problem with that. Our job as makers is to spend time with them so they learn and make an educated decision rather than just follow trend. It's very important to make a connection with our clients, their needs to be a level of trust if their going to spend the money on custom furniture.

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I just thought I would post this for those who are considering going Pro. My buddy Izzy does a new podcast on starting an online business. So a lot of the talk is about online businesses in particular, but much of it is very general. It can certainly be applied to starting a woodworking business in many regards. Have a listen: http://foolishadventure.com/

You do need to sign up for his mailing list. So far, they have only emailed me to let me know when the audio podcasts are up.

I can vouch for Izzy's expertise. I've been following him for some time now. Great resource, Marc. Thanks.

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I have to admit, the idea of making custom furniture for a living is intriguing. I never really thought about it that way; actually making a living doing something I love to do. Right now I'm so far from being even a competent woodworker going pro seems far out of reach.

For those that have gone professional, did you ever find that doing this for a living has taken some of the "magic" out of it? Prices, deadlines, finicky customers, the inevitable "that's not what I wanted! I'm not paying for that!". I'm guessing that a lot- if not most- started this as a hobby and it evolved. I'm having a lot of fun learning and practicing (and my fiance is getting a good laugh from time to time! :D ) but it just seems like turning it into a business would make it a "job". On the other hand, having someone describe what they would like and being able to produce it is quite a romantic idea. Thoughts?

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I have to admit, the idea of making custom furniture for a living is intriguing. I never really thought about it that way; actually making a living doing something I love to do. Right now I'm so far from being even a competent woodworker going pro seems far out of reach.

For those that have gone professional, did you ever find that doing this for a living has taken some of the "magic" out of it? Prices, deadlines, finicky customers, the inevitable "that's not what I wanted! I'm not paying for that!". I'm guessing that a lot- if not most- started this as a hobby and it evolved. I'm having a lot of fun learning and practicing (and my fiance is getting a good laugh from time to time! :D ) but it just seems like turning it into a business would make it a "job". On the other hand, having someone describe what they would like and being able to produce it is quite a romantic idea. Thoughts?

When you and your clients are a good fit there is only pleasure in doing your work. It's important to choose who (you) work with carefully just as the client does. It's ok to say no thank you and pass on a commission if you feel there is some tension or an uneasiness between you and your client. Trust your instincts. When there is a good connection between you and your clients there will be a good connection between you and your work.

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I'd love to go pro in my twenties so I can do what I love and not what pays the bills. Sadly that won't happen carma always has plans for me to do the opposite of what I want but the good part is I'm still young and have time to hone my skills and get better so mabey I can build like Marc and the other great builders on this forum

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I thought I'd try the going pro slow route. But I'm going fast I work 10 hours a day at a large production shop and then come home and go stright to my shop to work on my customers orders. I'm currently working on a set of red oak kitchen cabinets. After that I'm booked solid through January. At least I'm doing a job I love to do and wouldn't trade it for anything. I've been saving my profits from my all of my jobs to buy a new LARGE SHOP. The 12'X16' Building that I'm currently in just ain't cutting it any more. ;)

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I thought I'd try the going pro slow route. But I'm going fast I work 10 hours a day at a large production shop and then come home and go stright to my shop to work on my customers orders. I'm currently working on a set of red oak kitchen cabinets. After that I'm booked solid through January. At least I'm doing a job I love to do and wouldn't trade it for anything. I've been saving my profits from my all of my jobs to buy a new LARGE SHOP. The 12'X16' Building that I'm currently in just ain't cutting it any more. ;)

Aaron, my Dad worked with the founder of this company when he(the founder) was working, selling cabinets from a cabinet shop during the day, and building cabinets in his garage in the evenings for some extra cash. That was over twenty years ago. Now look at what his business has grown to become. You have got to start somewhere. It can be done.

http://www.pacificcrestindustries.com/index.html

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Aaron, my Dad worked with the founder of this company when he(the founder) was working, selling cabinets from a cabinet shop during the day, and building cabinets in his garage in the evenings for some extra cash. That was over twenty years ago. Now look at what his business has grown to become. You have got to start somewhere. It can be done.

http://www.pacificcrestindustries.com/index.html

Wow, that company is big, and they do some great work from what I've seen in the pics. I don't know if my company will become that large or not, but hey a guy can dream cain't he. Thanks for the background on the company that your dad worked for. I thank that I'm off to great start and I just hope and pray that my little shop keeps on growing and I can keep the jobs rolling in. :D

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