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I have been woodworking for about ten years as a hobby and recently have been thinking about the idea of starting my own woodworking business. What would you recommend? I have little business experience and have never owned a business of any kind. Do I need to go to college or take a course or some kind of training. Any advise would be appreciated.
Well Donald that is a great question. As far as I’m concerned college courses and other higher education is a great way to get knowledge. The one thing I will say is I have owned two businesses and to be honest I have no college or any type of higher learning behind me in that regard. Now I have taken many business training seminars and participated in many business events, but most of my knowledge comes from trial and error. I do have alot to say on this topic however since I have owned and ran two business that are both successful. If you do decide to take some classes I would see what is available in your area, and that’s a great way to start, if not you can also just jump right in. I am not a consultant but I will give you an overview on what worked when I started, and what works for me now. The first thing you will need to do is check with your local government agency and see what type of licenses and permits you will need. This will vary from location. My company is a LLC but you can be a corporation, LLC, Partnership,or Sole proprietor. Your government site will explain in more details on what those terms mean. Now once you get all your licenses and permits in order you will need to get insurance. I know in woodworking alot of people over look this but if you will be delivering any products or working on a job site, maybe doing some built ins or some contract work you will need insurance. Once all your paper work is in order you will need to come up with a slogan and or a logo. Now you really can just use your business name with some fancy text or come up with a logo as well. The more you can do to step away from the crowd and be unique the better off you will be. Alot of things will depend on your budget but like most people in America these days I’m sure your on one, I know I was and that’s fine because you really won’t have to spend all that much.
The first thing I would recommend after all the legal paper work is business cards. These days a good website and business cards lets people know your are serious and a real business. When having your cards made I would recommend considering things like card stock, graphics, logos, etc Make sure you get the best ones you can, now they don’t have to be flashy but you also do not want flimsy unprofessional looking cards either. You can upgrade later if you have to. Make sure your logo, name, contact info, or website, is on the cards. The more info the better and a website is also handy so the potential client can go home and check out your business a little more. People like that. The next thing is advertising, now you can spend a ton of money but I would not recommend that. Take advantage of free sources. Word of mouth, free websites like google. Use your website to drive traffic to your business. If I would recommend a paid source it would have to be the phone book. I spend almost no money on advertising but the phone book is one paid resource I would recommend. It doesn’t cost much and you might be surprised on the results you can get. Other than that try out your free sources and never under estimate the power of networking and word of mouth. You would be surprised on the power and the amount of business you may get just by telling people about your business and give them a business card. People are curious by nature and I’m willing to bet that almost every card you hand out within 24 hours they went to check out your website.
Once you get a call for a bid you will need bid proposals and an invoice book. I did a post a while back on pricing your work so I won’t get in to too much detail here you can check out the link. http://hisingwooddesign.com/how-to-price-your-work.php . Remember bidding on a job doesn’t mean you will get the job , so bid as many jobs as you can. It’s better to have to turn down work then to not have enough, that’s how many new businesses fail. This is your business. You will have to put in alot of hours but the reward can be great if you make the sacrifice and put in the time. A new business owner will probably be putting in at least sixty hours a week. I know when I started I was putting in about eighty plus hours and still do to this day some weeks, but I always say the worst week working for myself is better than the best week in the office. You will want to make sure you consult an attorney about your licenses and taxes once you get going to cover topics such as write offs, when and how to file your taxes and any other topic you need help with. Most attorneys will give you one free consulting session and I recommend to build a relationship with an attorney and accountant if you plan to do a decent amount of work or have employees. Remember things such as your home office, phone, computer,TOOLS, gas, some meals, and many other things will now be a business expense so keep good and organized files by month and year. The most important thing to any business is customers. Make sure every chance you get you let people know you are out there. Build good relationships with your local suppliers. Start to build relationships with them and your customers. Repeat business is the best kind. You can be the best craftsmen around but if you don’t have people skills and business knowledge you will never make it. You don’t have to be their best friend but show an interest and earn a referral and repeat business. Once business starts coming to you then your definitely on the right track. It took a few years for this to kick in for me, but once the ball is rolling it can snowball into something great. The hardest thing for most people is to stick with it and have a long term vision. You will have to go through the hard times to get to the good. One option is to start your business on the side of your 40 hour work week, but the time will come when your business will not be able to expand anymore until you take that risk and go for it. Sometimes you will have to take a step back to take two steps forward.