What does it mean to be a "Pro?"


adamking

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You always hear it tossed about in the woodworking circles. Going pro. Wow. The very phrase conjures romantic images of quaint workshops and piles of handplane shavings under your feet. But, when you get down to it, what exactly is a "professional woodworker?"

Is this someone who makes their entire living through woodworking, or can it be just a part of their income? Is it someone with special training through school or apprenticeship, or can self taught woodworkers be included?

Also, at what point in your skill level do you suddenly become professional? Is there a benchmark, or is it a matter of opinion?

There's a lot of questions and viewpoints regarding this simple term. So, let's hear them. What does it mean to you to be considered a pro woodworker? Also, are you there? Are you considered a pro? If so, why?

Alright. Enough from me. Let's hear from you.

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Honestly, for me the goal is mastery. Yes, I'd like to get to a point I can make a fair living from woodworking and will put in the time to do the "business" side, but it's more important that I become very good and create pieces that I'm extremely happy to have my name on.

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In my opinion a pro is someone who has devoted time to learning their craft and is skilled at their craft.

Has the ability to make an income from their craft. This can be supplement or main income.

A pro is someone that also has the skills, knowledge and confidence to teach others their craft.

A pro will also have good business skills so they can maintain an income or a living from their craft.

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Here's a different take - I came up with this when I was a young man working at my first "professional" job, and I was wondering what the difference was between a "professional" and just someone who had a job. I think it's true for woodworking, too.

A "professional" is someone who tells their employer how it should be done, eg doctor, lawyer, statistician, architect, designer (wood, metal, aero-space, software, etc). You don't want a doctor who just asks you what to do and does it. You want a doctor who listens to your problem and then comes up with a solution. Similarly, a professional woodworker doesn't just build to someone else's plans, they listen to the customer's needs and come up with a solution. To be "professional" means that sometimes you say to your employer, "No, you're wrong, that won't work."

I don't think that this is really what people mean when they say, "professional woodworker", but I think it's an interesting piece of the puzzle.

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A "professional" is someone who tells their employer how it should be done, eg doctor, lawyer, statistician, architect, designer (wood, metal, aero-space, software, etc). You don't want a doctor who just asks you what to do and does it. You want a doctor who listens to your problem and then comes up with a solution. Similarly, a professional woodworker doesn't just build to someone else's plans, they listen to the customer's needs and come up with a solution. To be "professional" means that sometimes you say to your employer, "No, you're wrong, that won't work."

I don't think that this is really what people mean when they say, "professional woodworker", but I think it's an interesting piece of the puzzle.

Good point, I agree.

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I would look at it this way:

If someone is saying they are a pro XXXXX, then they are saying they making some or all of their income from doing XXXXX.

If I call someone else "a pro," it is a compliment of their skill in doing XXXXX.

But then, I'm a stickler for semantics (and always up for some antics)

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I can only speak from my trade, but here are my thoughts:

I've found that being professional is a combination of a few elements. Obviously one aspect of those is proficiency in technique or the craft, be it whatever it is. The second aspect and what I believe is the determining factor is your approach and conduct; often referred to as 'professional practice.'

To be professional in my books means understanding how to not only do the task, but to do it to it's full extent and to hold yourself responsible to uphold your hightest level of quality. A portion of this also relates to business sense in providing yourself with the required time to perform the task, being honest, and being understanding.

I think many people can be professional in a variety of fields and with different levels of proficiency. Also, I think one should be cautious when associating mastery with professionalism. Most importantly, that someone shouldn't use their lack of experience or mastery of a craft as an excuse to not be a professional.

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To be professional in my books means understanding how to not only do the task, but to do it to it's full extent and to hold yourself responsible to uphold your hightest level of quality. A portion of this also relates to business sense in providing yourself with the required time to perform the task, being honest, and being understanding.

I think many people can be professional in a variety of fields and with different levels of proficiency. Also, I think one should be cautious when associating mastery with professionalism. Most importantly, that someone shouldn't use their lack of experience or mastery of a craft as an excuse to not be a professional.

How can I NOT say how much this sums it up! I love this viewpoint. Being a pro is not a happening. It's a decision that leads you down a new path. Different skills, abilities, niches, and styles all can reside within the realm of professionalism.

You're right. Waiting until you reach a certain level of skill or ability can be a real excuse for avoiding what you really want to do. It's simply another form of fear.

Great thoughts!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi I find myself agreeing with most of what's been said here. However, having been a 'pro' since February 1970 I have met a great many masters who are not professionals in the sense that they do not earn a living from their woodwork. Equally I have met some, though thankfully only a few, Professionals who could never be regarded as masters at their craft. In the UK they are usually termed 'Cowboys' not to offend you guys in the US I hasten to add, but merely a term to describe those that do the job and move rapidly on. For myself I served an apprenticeship before being more or less forced to go on my own as the company went bancrupt. (probably as a result of all the wood I wasted trying to get things right) Anyhow I've been at it ever since. Quite apart from developing the skills to design and make fine furniture at a price people can afford I've always bent over backwards to be 'Professional' in the way I approach and deal with the client, not only up to when I get paid but, my after sales, which thankfully is very rarely needed is second to none. If it needs fixing I fix it. And believe me over all these years it has always paid off. The last time I advertised for work was April 1970!!

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