what to start my own bussiness or find a job in AZ doing wood working

Thomas Hayden

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Hi thanks for reading. I have been any auto tech for about ten years now, but I have been building furniture since jr high school, and I study under Jeffery Green out in PA.  I miss build thing and get to use that side of my skills, I am dying to get back in to it and need some help advice on how to get there, I would love some day to open my own shop and sell my work but not sure how to get to that point, but right now I would even love to just get a chance to work for some building or design. How do I go about it there dosn't seem to be much out here in AZ and I can't leave the state right now because I have a son and i'm not giving him up. any help any ideas  

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I would start by building a portfolio of projects, and then start building a portfolio of customers.  It's really tough to just open up shop to the public and hope to be successful  (Hope isn't a strategy).  You need to build relationships, and in today's market, people want to see a plethora of prior projects.  So collect up as many digital photos as possible.  You should also start thinking about a niche you'd like to focus in.  Cabinetry seems to have the largest customer base, but most competition, but custom furniture can have some pretty appealing margins if you are picky about your projects.  


My advice comes from a guy who never intends to make woodworking a full time career, but instead a way to fund a hobby, and maybe a little extra on the side.  So if you want to support a family on woodworking, my advice probably won't apply.  If that is your intention, my understanding is either cabinet making or becoming a famous furniture artist are about the only ways to make ends meet.


So things that helped me get started.


1) Talk to an accountant and/or attorney.  This is what I do for a living (accounting/finance), so it was a pretty easy transition for me, but you will want to get yourself legally protected through establishment of a proper organization.  


2) Take or collect pictures of every project you have ever done.  The good, bad, and the ugly.  You won't share all the bad ones, but you will be surprised how many people will want to know your story as much as they want quality results.  There is some nostalgia around custom furniture that some customers appreciate. That hideous bird house you made in shop class, might just win you a sizable job.  


3) Get some business cards.  Vistaprint.com or any of the others will get you started for ~$10.  Like it or not, brand management is an important foundation you will want to build with every customer.  Word of mouth and return customers are the best customers you can get.  They are patient and understanding of the pricing structure you work in.  


4)  When you don't have work, make work.  If you can swing it financially, this can be building furniture for your own home, or your friends and family.  Maybe a little pro-bono work with a local charity.  You'll build your portfolio and network.  (I've done a lot with United Way, but there are many great organizations that can put quality product to use.)  Desks, tables, benches, chairs, easels, cabinets, toy chests, etc.  


5) You can also move pre-made projects through websites like Etsy, Ebay, Custommade, etc.  There is no shortage of these out there, but know you will be forfeiting 10%-20% of your revenue to the website / financial transactions.  These are great little marketing tools, but probably not long term solutions.  


6) Learn to love SketchUp!  Customer's love when you can make their ideas into pictures they can see.  It will also help you estimate the material needs and complexity of project up front, so you can quote an appropriate price.  It will also pay dividends in full helping customers not change their mind mid project.  Expect to complete many designs for each one you'll actually win the bid.  Don't fret though, that time isn't wasted.  Once your portfolio of designs builds up, you can, and will reference them for future customers.  (Think of a smart way to organize the files in your computer so you can easily dig them up again).


I know this is getting long, and these are just a few things.  Start small, and see where it goes. 

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Also think about developing relationships with nearby Interior Designers and high-end Antique Shops.

They often have clients who have in mind a particular size or style which is not immediately available, in which case they may turn to custom built furniture.

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  • 1 month later...

Adding to what Chris said, and not intending to sound mean or degrading, but polish your verbal and written communication skills.

I know you probably typed the original post on your phone, but presenting a potential client with poor grammer, spelling, and punctuation makes it difficult for them to take you seriously as a professional. Proof read your written work, and use spell check.

Also, consider branching out from simply building things yourself. Consider collaborating with others to play off your strengths, for example making a bunch of turned spindles for someone else's chairs, if lathe work happens to be your strength. Sell yourself as a designer as well as a builder. Be open to any opportunity.


Poor grammer is a killer ;)



(sorry! I love me some irony is all :P



On a serious note, this is a forum, but in a professional setting, poor verbal skills is a huge turn off for my business in about every possible way.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's not exactly fair to make judgements about someone based on poor grammar or construction of sentences but it's just a fact that the world is going to do it to varying degrees.  Dale Earnhardt Sr. had a 9th grade education and died worth hundreds of millions.  Larry McReynolds was his crew chief at one time and announces today and horribly uses the wrong tense of words quite often and the stories go on.  None of it will stop you from doing outstanding work but it may prevent you from getting some jobs.  ALL of us still need to improve in some area or another...all of us...so there's no self righteous rocks that should be thrown.  Having said that, I encourage you to work on it...yes even on the forum...use us for practice I'm 56 yrs old and still have areas I am working on and I refuse to give in, give up, or give out to be better and know more until I die.......  As you work on your areas, build some things and as others have said, build your portfolio and when you show your work to some well educated rich guy....he may walk away thinking "this cat's grammar isn't just right BUT he does some fine work!!!! and he then gives you the job!


ps...I have 2 college degrees and just misspelled grammar as...."grammer"...spell check is my friend too! :)

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You might want to consider trying to get on with a smaller custom cabinet shop, The years I worked at the cab shop taught me the ins and outs of dealing with clients, suppliers and other employees. Great experience and you can make a wage while you learn. A year or two soaking in what a craftsman has to say (one who has been there done that) is invaluable!

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  • 1 month later...


Your post is from awhile ago but I'd like to ad my perspective as an internet guy.

I've helped several of my friends build small websites for their businesses and getting started is relatively easy.

This advice is pretty much for the long game, but the internet marketing takes time and it's good to get started.

I would get yourself a website with your name and "woodworking" in the URL. Like www.lawlesswoodworking" for me or something. Then as others were saying round up your work, photos, anything you can find and get them online in a gallery for people to stumble onto. Post contact information, some biographical information, pretty much an online resume including everything everyone else already talked about. Then get yourself an account or a listing in as many free directories and Forums as you can and participate in those discussions AS IF you have a business. This type of stuff is the long game. If you do it well and consistently you will begin to establish yourself as an "authority" or someone people might trust to hire for a job. It also looks very good to be able to point someone to a website. It's very professional and it allows them to immediately access a gallery of your work from anywhere.

The next steps involved getting listed locally in Google Places, just use your home address as your business address. Adding content to the site, etc.

Pretty much I think it would behoove you very much to get going on this stuff as it all takes time and time and time. You can build this type of thing at home on your nights off no matter what your job is during the day. If and when you decide to really start your own business it will be much easier to have this stuff already done and believe me it will be worth doing.

Check google for your local listings for "cabinet maker" "custom furniture" or whatever you do specifically. I guarantee you there aren't many competitors listings. This is your opportunity. Within the last year I've helped a friend of mine dominate his local area of Carbondal, IL in this very way. www.judgeservices.com  If you google anything about power washing, parking lot paiting, house cleaning, gutter cleaning, etc. in his area and he pops up and he's getting tons of business. Again, this was a long game, he's been doing the site two years now I think. No one else has a site. He's killing it. You can too.

I'd be glad to help with any questions you have if you want to get into this and haven't already.

Good luck,

Derrick Lawless

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  • 8 months later...

You need to come up with a business plan. Do your market research, include demographics meaning general income/ education levels and type of people (blue collar/white collar office professionals etc) of the area you are planning on opening your business at, include and similar businesses in the area and their specialty.\. That will give a picture of what avenue /product line type of woodworking you should pursue . You may have to have niche and pursue that market. Also don't forget start up cost, equipping your shop insurance, licensing etc. It takes a lot of leg work to make a educated decision whether to open a business in order to not lose your shirt and survive the first year.

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