Selling your woodworking projects...


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PLEASE... do not take this thread as the rabbit hole that it could easily turn into. I am not asking for specifics: Etsy, Craigslist, eBay, Local Markets, Consignment shops, Word of mouth... a quick Google search can give me 100 places to start selling things. I am interested in what you gentlemen think about selling your projects from a more personal level. I absolutely love making things from wood. If I could, I would literally quit my job and make sawdust all day. I imagine almost all of you guys on here feel the same way. But I can't. Not only can I not quit my day job... I really need to get a second job to afford the woodworking hobby.

I have friends that have made some actual money on Etsy selling wedding coat hangers, believe it or now. They bend stiff wire to spell out the bride and groom's names, and I think they are meant to hang something special on the hangers, blah blah blah... They made $30,000 last year, just sitting around after work bending wire into words. I would rather open a vein than spend my free time making something I am not passionate about. I also do not expect to earn an extra teacher's-salary as a weekend warrior making coffee tables. But I would like to be able to sell one of my mid-century modern cherry veneered birch ply coffee tables for $200 more than I paid for the materials so that I can afford to buy a new shoulder plane and maybe some ArmRSeal. Do any of you guys have any tips on these two questions...
1. How to price items?
2. Where to find clients/customers/patrons?

 

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I've tried etsy, sold a few things, but not much.  Shipping costs are a killer and that limits sales to small items like cutting boards, boxes, etc.  But etsy is absolutely flooded with those things.  If you want to sell on there, look what other people are charging and price accordingly.   

 

Also: "The best way to ruin a hobby is to try to make money at it."

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I started probably well before my skills would have normally allowed. I literally wrote a craigslist ad about custom furniture. I got a ton of calls and after talking and working it down I got a few customers that paid the prices I asked and I learned A LOT! In the process. Nothing expands your skills like building on other people's money and have their expectations at the end. I literally got the price of materials plus 10% and then just picked a price I thought was fair and wasn't so high to scare them off. It's not an exact science. Sometimes you immediately wish you said more because the customer is not shocked whatsoever. Sometimes they freak and your price scares them away. I find explaining all of the expenses to them down to wear I'm making about ten dollars an hour and they usually understand.

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Are there any craft shows in your area?  If there are, look for the ones that are juried! Those usually have a better class of money. Examine the other woodworkers quality and prices, and if yours is better, keep your prices a tad lower than what they are asking!  By doing those shows, you sell, but better yet, you establish a client base, Make sure there's a way for them or their friends to get in touch with you for custom work!  A business card, a flyer Etc:

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The way I price things is I take all the material costs+10% of material coast+what you think is a reasonable profit. I started looking around at things that are similar to what I am making and asking myself is the price worth my time. The biggest thing I sell right now is cutting boards, which is nice because I can fit those in when glue is drying on the bigger stuff. I have a Facebook page for my woodworking that helps with sales, I also attach a business card to every cutting board care sheet I hand out. My local Rockler has a scrolling electronic picture frame that has a few of my projects on it so I gave them some business cards so if people want to get a hold of me they can.  Another more recent thing that happen to me was I got hooked up with a third party website that wanted to feature my cutting boards. That happen because I found their website while doing research and I made a suggestion that they shouldn't use vegetable oil to condition their cutting boards, next thing I know I am working with them to make them a cutting board and sell my board paste on their website.

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51 minutes ago, mds2 said:

 

Also: "The best way to ruin a hobby is to try to make money at it."

Doing this as a side business will frustrate you and burn you out if you do it with any regularity. Anytime I feel frustrated with the workload, I know it's time to put the brakes on everything for a week or two. My exposure so far is enough to convince me that I dont think i would want to do this for 40+ hours a week. I love woodworking, but meeting deadlines, expectations etc. really sucks sometimes. Like those times when you want to enjoy your weekend, but instead you spend 16 hours cramming in two normal weekends of work so you can get the tables to the cabinet shop on Wednesday for him to finish the pieces, so the contractor can pick them up on Friday to install them in the restaurant before the weekend. Or, when you have a long crap day at the office on Monday, and the interior designer you work with called to tell you their measurements were off, which means the approved CAD you did was off, which means you need to get home at 6:30 from your day job,pack up your gear, drive 35 mins to a $800k house to extend three routed recesses 2 inches. Oh, and did she mention her contractor scratched the top of the island after he picked it up? Good thing you came prepared to sand out a scratch and apply another coat of finish...get home after 10 and eat something light before going to bed and heading back to the office. This is a snippit of the last two weeks of income woodworking for me. 

 

Maybe i was overly dramatic, but it can be a fair amount to juggle with a normal job. Im at the point now, where I wont take on additional work for possibly all of july. I know you think you would hate bending wire into Mother of the Bride, but if it makes you $30,000 in a year, would you still hate it? Heck, do it for a year and outfit your shop with whatever you want and be done with it. If the end goal is "money for shop", why not do the most profitable thing with your time to achieve that goal? Im all for producing income through the craft. I enjoy making things better/faster/easier with my current setup compared to trying to cut dovetails with a coping saw and using a circular saw as a primary means of ripping. It was futile and frustrating, so I did something about it by making the equivalent of your wedding coat hangers. Producing income has deeply immersed me in the craft, more so than if i never decided to sell things. Good luck with landing the furniture gigs. I think you will find you end up producing/selling something along the lines of a farm house table instead of a maloof rocker. 

 

 

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My customer come and go in bunches it's been slow for me this year but it's worked in my advantage.

Some of my customers are other woodworkers that don't have the time or skill to make what I offer.

Just be patient,original,and confident in or work.It takes years to create a following but maybe you will get lucky and have a nice burst.

So be ready.

Dont be a perfectionist but let excellence be normal for you.

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I would rather open a vein than spend my free time making something I am not passionate about.

Seems like the discussion ends there, doesn't it? Does for me, at least.

I've taken a few projects where I "made" money. Quotations because I only cleared more than I paid in materials. God help me if I tallied up the hours spent, I'd be making less than the kids at McDonalds.

One of the things that appeals very strongly to me is the problem solving involved in woodworking. Problem solving, however is incompatible with profit. Profit depends on having everything already worked out in a prototype, then going to town in the sheer volume you need to make back all the time you lost in prototyping. That's why your friends are doing well twisting wires for brides, and why I'll never clear a dollar lavishing love on one-off pieces of furniture.

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I agree w/ all you guys. Trying to turn wood into a "side hustle" to a day job will frustrate the hell out of a man. I think one of the most appealing things about woodworking is figuring out the absolute best balance between cost and result. For example. I built a fantastic mid-century modern coffee table. It is birch plywood w/ mahogany edge strips, a really nice cherry veneer and a 3-coat beautiful satin white Benjamin Moore oil paint interior. Total cost of materials... around $175-$200. The veneer is expensive, as is the paint. I could maybe break even if I sold it. BUT... I have since figured out that I could buy a cherry veneered piece of plywood and miter the edges instead of butt joints and veneering over it. I could use Mahagony iron on edge banding, and save a TON on buying a cheaper paint. Total = $75. The quality level would decline 10% but the price, > 50% less. 

Problem is... Do I just build a $75 table that I don't need hoping to sell it? I'd really like to try it.

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31 minutes ago, Dolmetscher007 said:

I agree w/ all you guys. Trying to turn wood into a "side hustle" to a day job will frustrate the hell out of a man. I think one of the most appealing things about woodworking is figuring out the absolute best balance between cost and result. For example. I built a fantastic mid-century modern coffee table. It is birch plywood w/ mahogany edge strips, a really nice cherry veneer and a 3-coat beautiful satin white Benjamin Moore oil paint interior. Total cost of materials... around $175-$200. The veneer is expensive, as is the paint. I could maybe break even if I sold it. BUT... I have since figured out that I could buy a cherry veneered piece of plywood and miter the edges instead of butt joints and veneering over it. I could use Mahagony iron on edge banding, and save a TON on buying a cheaper paint. Total = $75. The quality level would decline 10% but the price, > 50% less. 

Problem is... Do I just build a $75 table that I don't need hoping to sell it? I'd really like to try it.

You're still building a table for like a hundred bucks at that point.

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but I don't take on commissions because people simply won't pay me what my time is worth.  I hear what people make on their pieces and I wonder how they put gas in their truck.  I will NEVER use my precious shop time building a piece for someone else for less than I make at work.  Work is for making money, woodworking is for fun.  And never the twain shall meet.

There's no real money in it unless you develop a bigger business with employees.  Another kind of torture.

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Besides woodworking, I've done some pretty awesome tile work, sort of a 2nd hobby. People have tried to hire me to do tile for them, but I always tell them they can't afford it. I have no desire to do it as a job & it would be horrendously expensive.

But I've just spent the last 8 or 10 Saturdays helping my daughter & her husband put in a whole new kitchen for which I'm charging nothing, because it's something I want to do.

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I have a different take on this, but it's based on my own approach. I do woodworking for several reasons: enjoyment of the craft, I like making/repairing things, building exactly what I want for my own use. If someone asks me to build them something, and it happens fairly regularly, I use the opportunity to challenge myself to learn a new technique, try a new style or add design elements I've not used before. Then I price the job this way: materials plus 15% + cost of a new tool (or a large portion thereof) + enough money to take the wife out for dinner and a show. Someone else is paying me to learn something new and purchase a new tool. The added benefit is I practice any new joinery or finishing technique on scrap material before using it on the actual project, forcing me to really learn the new method so I don't screw up. 

I continue collecting skills and tools, not to mention practice, refine my workflow and tool setup, and incorporate them into the furniture I build for my wife and my kids/grandkids. Oh, as I'm getting older (60 next year), I find the additional benefits of keeping my mind sharp with design, layout and problem solving, while maintaining my hand eye coordination through joinery, assembly and finishing worth more than I could feasibly charge. And riding the Harley helps too :)  

While this is not the best approach for everyone, it fits my old hippie approach to life and woodworking. 

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I would be amazed if someone offered me what I think my work is worth, and pissed if they didn't. Therefore, I give away request and keep the rest. Like others, I want to keep it as a hobby, regardless of how deep that hole gets.

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16 minutes ago, K Cooper said:

I would be amazed if someone offered me what I think my work is worth, and pissed if they didn't. Therefore, I give away request and keep the rest. Like others, I want to keep it as a hobby, regardless of how deep that hole gets.

Are these song lyrics?

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I had a new one happen to me couple weeks ago.Had a couple stopped by my shop that wanted a table for their new digs.

9 ft long 36 wide 30 inches tall trestle style.They had a picture.I thought great.After taking several minutes to look over the pic and taking about woods they asked if I ever made a table like that.

Of course I said thats all I ever do. The biggest table I've made was just over 7 ft.;)

So I agreed to get back by Friday with a price and would email my pic of last work.

On Friday I called them and they went to living spaces and bought a table they couldn't wait.

I usually get commissions form people after they leave living spaces.

I think I might have dodged a bullit on that one.B)

 

Aj

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On 6/28/2016 at 10:06 AM, Dolmetscher007 said:

1. How to price items?
2. Where to find clients/customers/patrons?

 

1- There are several formulas you might use. In the end, things are worth what people will pay for them. Check out what other people are charging for similar things. Since you aren't trying to make a living doing this, start out with a high price and lower it over time. 

2-They find you, not the other way around. Your job is to become discoverable.-You need some kind of portfolio to show what you can do. Read about various forms of online marketing and sales. Even if you are only selling locally, there is a decent chance people will find you online. A website will be helpful.

 

I think the most important question someone in your position can ask is "What can I make that other people want to buy?" Remember, its not just about what YOU want to build. Your future customers are generally calling the shots about what gets built. I'd argue that woodworkers fall into the larger category of "furniture connoisseur". We see things differently than the average person. This doesn't mean we know what they want to buy. I'd guess that the vast majority of woodworkers who sell their work, aren't doing exactly what they want to on every job. 

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I am a hobbyist, but I do take on commissions.  Upfront I make it very very clear to the customer that this is my hobby, not my full time gig.  Woodworking time comes after work, family responsibilities, household chores, kid's practices, or whatever comes up.  I will not give time frames, it'll be done when it's done.   I'm not rude about it though, I just want people to have a clear expectation upfront.  

Currently I am building a custom knife display box for an extremely high end ($1000+ each) pocket knife collection.  This box will hold about $30,000 worth of knives.   Being that I'm a hobbyist I base my bids on material prices. When all is said and done I'm probably making about $2 an hour on this box.  I'm perfectly fine with that. Woodworking time is fun time for me.  If I get to do my hobby and spend someone else money in the process it's all good gravy.  I have no illusions about making a fortune at this.

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10 minutes ago, Mike. said:

If some guy has a $30,000 knife collection he should have no problem paying $1000 for a nice box.   Maybe you are charging him $1000,  I have no idea.  But if so and you are only netting $2/hr that is because you are working at a hobby pace.  

 

My quote to him was not cheap, believe me.  But you totally nailed the "hobby pace" and WHY the per hour rate is low.   For example if I only get 1 hour of shop time in a two day period, its hard to get a lot of work done.  I do not believe I am under valuing my work. $2 an hour was a bit of an exaggeration.

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Yes, there is a place when you can charge appropriately and make no money by working very slowly. At least material can be covered and your time is a gift. It still needs to be a custom price though, not a production price. That is the biggest mistake I see made. 

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