rodger.

comission work rant

Recommended Posts

So, like many of the members of this forum, I am an enthusiastic hobbyist that takes on a few commissions a year to pad the wood working fund.  Mostly when doing custom work, I do smaller projects like framing artwork, cutting boards, the occasional coffee table or small cabinet.  I just finished a kids dress up wardrobe cabinet, and got it out of my shop yesterday.

Anyway, a friend of a friend approached me about a dining table - a big one.  I was honest, and told her that the price would be much higher than her local IKEA or mass produced furniture store.  She said "no problem".

So after educating her on typical dining table sizes, and design elements, I offered to make her a sketch in sketch up (which I did).  After further communication (and more models), she wanted to add a bench to the table commission (matching).  She was unsure of color, so I made her a test board and stained/dyed it 5 different colors in a palette she liked.  In the end we agreed on a design, finish, and size that was reasonable - I was set to buy the lumber.  I contacted her for the final okay before buying materials.  At this point I was about 2.5 hours into the build without ever touching a board.

Now, she texts me and bails on the whole idea.

No offer to compensate me for my time, or even say "sorry, how about I buy you lunch or a case of beer?"  Just, "not ready to start this project...blah blah blah".

To be fair, I could have explained that consultation would have a nominal charge, but to be honest, I wasn't going to charge for it (seeing as she is a friend of a friend), but its the principal.  A bottle of wine, 12 pack of beer, or Tim's card would have been a nice gesture for utilizing a significant portion of my time.

Am I being unreasonable here?

 

 

Edited by Pug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Happens a lot!  You did the right thing tho as usually explaining the cost up front scares away the flakes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fairly common, unfortunately. Lots of people get a case of cold feet when it comes to the commitment phase.

Lesson learned for next time - consider compensation for time spent on draft work and have some small finish samples pre-made at the ready. I know it isn't your main business, but when conducting it, treat it as such. That way neither you, nor your customer, feels like they are "out" at any point. Establish clear expectations and compensation all the way through the process.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fairly common, unfortunately. Lots of people get a case of cold feet when it comes to the commitment phase.

Lesson learned for next time - consider compensation for time spent on draft work and have some small finish samples pre-made at the ready. I know it isn't your main business, but when conducting it, treat it as such. That way neither you, nor your customer, feels like they are "out" at any point. Establish clear expectations and compensation all the way through the process.

I have a box of premade samples for this purpose, but the colors were not suitable for this project.  I'll have to beef up the assortment I guess.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Friend of a friend" - No good! Stay away from this type of thing.

I am very upfront with people in letting them know I am not cheap. Scares most of them off, which is fine by me :)

As far as drawing stuff, I try not to do too much of that until a deposit has been secured. It is tricky though. I think you have a right to be a little ticked off. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's really too bad that this is so common. Somehow, I feel that it's worse for the hobbiests, as people seem to think that that means they are doing us a favour by giving us something to do that we enjoy doing. And, the worst part, they expect it to cost less "because we do it for fun". I've gotten that in the blacksmithing realm quite a bit, and when the discussion of cost comes up, they flee to the hills. I wish people realized that a commission is a commission, whether full time or not, and that in taking it, whatever our level of incestment in the craft, we still represent all craftsmanship in doing so. That recent Wood Talks on a similar topic really got me in the rant mood for people who just don't get it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When friends ask me I ask what they want. Then what their price range is. Then inform them that it would not even buy the wood to build it most of the time and they change topic. No drawing needed. No extra time spent and we still remain friends haha

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've done a few commissions for others and had good luck. Most of the time it was because the project was so "special" that it couldn't be found anywhere else.

I refuse to do end, coffee or dining  room tables because they can be bought anyplace. I will do especially sized what-not shelves and a custom music stands and odd type projects not found at a store.

So far I've had positive feed back and made a bit of money to buy more wood or tools with but these days, I don't take on anything that I personally can't get excited about.

 

Rog

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally, I'd send her a bill for my time. What's the worst that could happen? You'd end up with nothing which is what you have now. I hate for someone to waste my time

If nothing else comes from sending the bill - she might think twice before wasting another person's time.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eh i give them a general ball park and ask for 25% to go to design. Once the design is done what ever is left to take it to 50%. The last 50% due upon delivery. 

no refunds. back out half way you loose your 50%.

Thats the way i always have done it with metal work anyway.

Edited by socoj2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Friend of a friend" - No good! Stay away from this type of thing.

I am very upfront with people in letting them know I am not cheap. Scares most of them off, which is fine by me :)

As far as drawing stuff, I try not to do too much of that until a deposit has been secured. It is tricky though. I think you have a right to be a little ticked off. 

One big reason I don't like doing work for friends and friends of friends or family for that matter .    Next time you'll know to be upfront with them and tell them your time is worth money whether your designing or building . 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't do commissions either. One of my nieces wanted a dining table. Told her nope I'm to slow to take commissions. That way I have no commitment or time invested.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't do estimates of time or cost.  Also, I've gotten to the point where I don't bother to think about it if the clients are not both smart, and successful, with smart being the first considered priority.  The last several individuals have all been Ph.D.'s, and old enough to have a good understanding of how things work.  Just the way it is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sucks, but it's unfortunately part of the game. You can't start charging people for estimates and preliminary discussions--well, unless you are a lawyer. I constantly waste time on potential clients that never pan out. My wasted time is usually limited to 5 minutes in the form of email correspondence or phone calls. I doubt you will ever bat 1000 with clients and projects. Look at most of the major design projects in the world. Architects/design teams spend hundreds of man hours on projects to submit for large public works projects. No guarantees you are going to be awarded the High Line project, but hundreds still take the risk. If you are going to do this for profit then you need to get good at weeding out the stiffs from the people who are going to commit. You also need to go in with the understanding you will invest time in leads that never result in builds.

 

I I think everyone has the same idea, if you are going to work with friends and family then you better be prepared to take it in the shorts. Otherwise, it's easier to protect your interests by being blunt and effective with strangers. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sucks, but it's unfortunately part of the game. You can't start charging people for estimates and preliminary discussions--well, unless you are a lawyer. I constantly waste time on potential clients that never pan out. My wasted time is usually limited to 5 minutes in the form of email correspondence or phone calls. I doubt you will ever bat 1000 with clients and projects. Look at most of the major design projects in the world. Architects/design teams spend hundreds of man hours on projects to submit for large public works projects. No guarantees you are going to be awarded the High Line project, but hundreds still take the risk. If you are going to do this for profit then you need to get good at weeding out the stiffs from the people who are going to commit. You also need to go in with the understanding you will invest time in leads that never result in builds.

 

I I think everyone has the same idea, if you are going to work with friends and family then you better be prepared to take it in the shorts. Otherwise, it's easier to protect your interests by being blunt and effective with strangers. 

I pretty much agree with this. I've always figured that this just the cost of doing business. Generally if they flake out early you probably would have trouble with them later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sucks, but it's unfortunately part of the game. You can't start charging people for estimates and preliminary discussions--well, unless you are a lawyer. I constantly waste time on potential clients that never pan out. My wasted time is usually limited to 5 minutes in the form of email correspondence or phone calls. I doubt you will ever bat 1000 with clients and projects. Look at most of the major design projects in the world. Architects/design teams spend hundreds of man hours on projects to submit for large public works projects. No guarantees you are going to be awarded the High Line project, but hundreds still take the risk. If you are going to do this for profit then you need to get good at weeding out the stiffs from the people who are going to commit. You also need to go in with the understanding you will invest time in leads that never result in builds.

I was going to say the opposite - I am a lawyer and I generally give away several thousand dollars worth of time each year by meeting with people who think they have an issue or claim, and doing some research or investigation.   I let them know that I am not going to charge them while we figure out their issue and the direction it will go.  Once we get to that stage, I give them a hard estimate of the costs in money and time, which generally sends them running for the hills (litigation is outrageously expensive). 

I adopted this approach because I feel that the profession requires it - most people have a very narrow understanding of how the legal system works.  I think the same can be said for woodworking - your average man-on-the-street doesn't understand the raw material costs, let alone the time factor in making anything custom.    The more people we educate, the better we will all be.

It also has helped from a marketing perspective - even for people who have not retained me, they know that I dealt with them fairly and did not put my interests first.  Word-of-mouth is still the best for advertising. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

small shop small price syndrome,  People don't think time is of any value as long as they are not spending money, I ran across this when I had my custom shop in Pa. and got clients from NYC, most had the idea of my shop being small the prices would follow suit,  for design before cad, I had to draw up everything and figure out all cutting patterns and so on, I came to a point that I would charge them for design time and will apply it to the cost if an order was placed, this took away most of the "just wondering clients"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I work with attorneys every day, so that was a friendly dig at them. I laughed the first couple times I saw "writing email/phone conversation--10 minutes---$33". Real estate attorneys might be different from your line of work. Didn't mean to offend. 

 

In the end we agree on the point; pug should be annoyed, but he can't back-charge that woman. She did him dirty and he has to take it. Lame. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was going to say the opposite - I am a lawyer and I generally give away several thousand dollars worth of time each year by meeting with people who think they have an issue or claim, and doing some research or investigation.   I let them know that I am not going to charge them while we figure out their issue and the direction it will go.  Once we get to that stage, I give them a hard estimate of the costs in money and time, which generally sends them running for the hills (litigation is outrageously expensive). 

I adopted this approach because I feel that the profession requires it - most people have a very narrow understanding of how the legal system works.  I think the same can be said for woodworking - your average man-on-the-street doesn't understand the raw material costs, let alone the time factor in making anything custom.    The more people we educate, the better we will all be.

It also has helped from a marketing perspective - even for people who have not retained me, they know that I dealt with them fairly and did not put my interests first.  Word-of-mouth is still the best for advertising. 

Orbb, unfortunately for us, you'd never survive as a congressman? But I like the way you do business!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Who's Online   0 Members, 0 Anonymous, 163 Guests (See full list)

    There are no registered users currently online

  • Forum Statistics

    28785
    Total Topics
    388880
    Total Posts
  • Member Statistics

    21741
    Total Members
    1529
    Most Online
    Mik
    Newest Member
    Mik
    Joined