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The WyOutLaw Chronicles #2: *“If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!”*

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Blog entry by WyOutLaw posted 190 days ago 801 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: 2014 Is Going To Be The Year Part 2 of The WyOutLaw Chronicles series Part 3: Week One »

“If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!” -Something I heard nearly every day when I was building log homes. It really applies to just about anything we set out to achieve. There are so many people dreaming of being fulltime woodworkers, but few are successfully making a good living at it. Why is that? Why is there so many failing or not even trying? Does it have to do with a lack of knowledge, talent, determination, or maybe its fear?
There is so much information out there at our fingertips. You don’t have to look very far to find someone else sharing their knowhow and experiences. So, I don’t think knowledge is the real problem. Just like most things, if you have a good attitude, some passion, a little discipline, and the ability to make mistakes and learn from them, you have the recipe for skill. Skill & hard work trumps talent in my book. So! What is it that’s holding us back?
In my case, I think it has to do more with those last two things I mentioned. Lack of determination & fear… We all have to decide! Fear or Determination? The real force separating us from our goals and aspirations is a lack of commitment when obstacles and fear get in our path. We just give up. I have committed to set in motion a plan to become a fulltime woodworker this year. I am determined to succeed! This is the first step. I have to have the courage to look at what I have (and am) doing wrong and open myself up to feedback and constructive criticism. I know you need the support of your family & friends, but above all you need a plan and a determination to never give up. I am writing this here on LJ’s because I value your opinion & experience. Please share your insights & counsel. If you are struggling with the same issues I am, I hope this will inspire you and maybe we can help each other. To you Wood Rock Stars out there… jump in, smack us in the back of the head- tell us what we’re doing wrong!
Like I said before, I plan to document my weekly progress. I have jotted down some of the weaknesses I need to work on and some of the tactics I plan to implement as I go.

Spend more time in the shop: I will definitely have to start putting in time other than just Saturdays. I have a pretty physical job and work 5 days a week, 10+ hours a day, but this leads me to my original statement. “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!” I ain’t getting any younger, but I can eat better, get enough sleep and loose a little weight. Some exercise wouldn’t hurt either. All would help with stamina & energy. To make this happen -I have to get home, get out in the shop, be productive and get to bed by 11:00. Stay off the couch / computer.

Get organized: My shop is so unorganized! It’s embarrassing. I need to clean up. Keep it clean and think and act like a woodworking Rock Star. It should be easy to move from one operation to the next while building something. More on this later.

Finish current projects quickly: I sometimes (ok, always) drag my feet on a project when I can’t see another one in view. This is dumb! I should be keeping better track of how long it takes me to finish each step of a project so I have a better grasp on bidding jobs, and instead of thinking… now what? I should be using lulls in my schedule to build spec. projects -Which is what I love to do anyway.

Set an accurate shop rate & stick to it: I have been so wishy-washy about this. I read a great blog series How to price my woodworking (and sell it) #1: How to price your woodworking to make a profit from Huff. Great! Great info! Thank you.
I have had the misconception that everyone out there has an income similar to mine, because when pricing something I would usually figure a price based on bogus figures and then step back and think. That’s probably too much… Then ask… How much would I pay? I need to calculate my expenses, my wage, add profit in for the business and be comfortable with that price. As I think back over the past 20 years or so I have been dabbling in this I think I can count on one hand the commission’s I have lost because I was overpriced. That should be telling me something.

Work on business plan: To business plan or not to business plan? That is the question. I’ve heard lots of ideas on this. I don’t plan on borrowing any money to get started so why spend the time to write a business plan? I don’t know? This is a learning process; flexibility is probably a good thing, isn’t it?
My experience tells me having a step-by-step process to follow, makes things a little easier. I don’t have to think about the direction I will go in. It’s already decided. Keep it simple stupid…is what I need to live by. It will allow me to just focus on the basics… taking action & making things happen. I have a casual business plan in the works.

Map out a marketing direction: Here is where I really fall short. My biggest stumbling block is marketing. I live in a remote area and there is NO chance of someone popping in to have me build them something. I cannot climb to my rooftop and yell and have anyone hear anything, let alone advertize a business. Being diversified? Is that the answer? I see a lot of guys building small items to sell. My thing has been mostly furniture. Do many people find it profitable to sell both small & large items?
I had a website a couple of years ago. The price kept going up for it and it was more of a brochure than a business generator. Anyone know of the most affordable hosting and websites? Or is it even necessary? Hoss12992 has encouraged me to get involved in social media, which I have, but I think I need to work on that. It seems to be doing nothing for me. He is right in suggesting the more sources of exposure the better. This is where I will be focusing most of my energy! I have to get creative. I got to get the word out! Regular weekly ads wherever there may be a potential customer. Start with free. Free is good!
In the past I have been too quick to give up when an ad worked once and then goes cold. Network, Network, Network! That’s the key.
Another great blog series by Huff, Marketing and selling your woodworking #1: Starting Point Some great knowledge I need to implement.

Well, these are the items I am currently engaged in solving. There are more… shipping, sources for lumber / supplies, figuring out who my customer really is and where they are… I could go on and on… but let’s not get overwhelmed the first day. Happy & Successful New Year to all. Talk with you next week.

-- Craig Bullard http://www.facebook.com/Outlawfurniture



8 comments so far

View Texcaster's profile

Texcaster

623 posts in 257 days


#1 posted 190 days ago

“if it were easy everyone would be doing it!.”...... that’s one reason I play the fiddle but mainly I just love it!

I’m a fan of your Gusty Thicket Firewood Cabinet!

-- Bill....... I listen very closely to the timber and then impose my will.

View hoss12992's profile

hoss12992

2450 posts in 477 days


#2 posted 190 days ago

Hey buddy, it sounds like you are rolling in the right direction. Social media is a huge tool and its free. I have your WyOutlaw site permanently featured on The Old Rednek Workshop page. Networking is key!!!! The more folks that see your stuff, the more sales you will end up getting. Being able to sale what we make is the overall goal, but each of us have to develop a nitch market for our stuff. It also helps to do some small stuff as well. There are more folks that can afford a $20 something, than a $1000 something, and with this in mind, a mix of stuff is good. As long as the profit margin is there. I have heard many folks share their thoughts on pricing. One thing that I have not really heard anybody say is also figuring in a percentage for your shop. Tools, glue, nails, sandpaper, finishes, etc. is not free, and most folks end up paying for that out of “Their salary.” I always figure in 10% for shop. I always try to make whatever, the best quality as I can and often say, “I would much rather explain price, than apologize for quality.” If someone wants cheap, buy from China, we are not competing with China for those folks. We are trying to earn the business of folks who can appreciate and pay for a nice, quality piece made with top notch craftsmanship. Most folks think that being in the woodworking business is all shop time. Its not! Its also internet time, crafts shows, and heritage festivals and such. What ever it takes to build your brand, and get your name out there. It takes time to get name recognition, but that is something that we should never stop working on. It takes alot of time and work, but is well worth it. Word of mouth is still the best way though. Being a real people person, or at least being nice, respectful and responsive as well as professional with customers is HUGE. I try to spend at least 1 hr each night on the networking, getting my name out, and getting my stuff in front of as many folks as possible. I would HIGHLY suggest starting a Etsy page. Im sure you will succeed buddy and look forward to following your progress.

-- The Old Rednek Workshop https://www.facebook.com/theoldrednekworkshoptn

View Jake's profile

Jake

234 posts in 214 days


#3 posted 190 days ago

Being in sales since 2007 and doing it relatively well (with my current employer I started at selling 75k /yearly in 2011, finished 2013 at 700k, all new customers) There is 2 main things I would stress on the sales side and you might know them intuitively, or you might do that already, but I think these 2 are the most important things to be able to sell well and make a profit:

1. Pricing is key - know your expenses down to your sandpaper sheets per project (Ok – sandpaper, glue, nails and screws are usually a % of your total as Hoss said, but you need to know what % that is). Key is, you need to know 100% of your expenses, that way you can be comfortable with your prices and your customers feel that. And price is only important to the extent that you need to be comfortable with it. You will find customers to buy at your price, whatever that price is. (c’mon there are people buying 10million dollar phones..) It just takes more time to find higher paying customers, but that’s ok, because you need less of them.

2. Serve your customers with integrity. once you get a customer SERVE THEM. And I don’t mean break your back and suck up to them. I mean that you are a professional and you deal with them professionally. The biggest mistake I see people make, especially professional craftsmen is that they forget the importance of serving the customer properly once they have a customer. And that is to make the person buying from you feel important, because that’s what anybody really wants. People really want someone to make them feel special. And the great thing is, that it takes hardly any effort from you, all you have to do is:

- Respond to any and all questions promptly and to the best of your ability, the way you do this is as a craftsman is that you get an app to notify you of your new e-mails and you answer to all of the e-mails and questions within 1 hour of recieveing them if it is during workdays. You might only answer “Thanks for your question, I am in the shop/in a meeting/ at the doctor currently, I will answer your question tonight” or you might say “I don’t know that now, but I will find out and give you an answer within 2 days” By the way, any question that is asked shouldn’t take more than 2 days to answer, if it does then it is not worth your while anyway

- Send pics and progress reports if it is a longer project (anything over a week qualifies as a longer project in my book) Send a 3D drawing, learn to use SU or similar and visiualize the project for the customer.

- Keep your word and if you are unable to keep your word tell your customer that and tell them what you are going to do about it. (That mainly applies to deadlines, most people don’t care if you go over a deadline by 2 days, heck they might not even care if it is 2 weeks, but they do care if you don’t tell them)

That is my 2 cents, I wish you the best of luck in your endevours and I hope that you are able to succeed. By the way, I don’t sell my work (wood projects that is), I will start within 2014, but most of my experience comes from selling project based sheet metal enclosures for telecom. And following only these 2 principles I have become the no1 sales guy in our organization after joining the company in 2011. It is amazing what kind of results you can achieve when you serve your customers with integrity. I sell export, and I have references crossing countries, I had a customer in Germany, who I served, who referred me to Norway and the norwegian referred me to Sweden. And that is the awesome thing about serving your customers with integrty and honesty – you don’t need to sell, your customers sell you. I haven’t made a cold call in 2 years. :)

Bonus manterial:
- Your customer is not king. Forget Wal-Mart’s policy of “The customer is always right and if you ever feel that customer is not right, refer to the first statement”
That is BS, that is hardly ever the case, the customer is not always right, your customer is your partner, he/she is not the king of the land and ruler of the seven seas. But if you treat your customer with respect and you answer their concerns and problems proptly, they will know that they are being taken into account and that they are important and they will be a loyal customer and a loyal sales rep of yours. By the way – even taking all that into account, always keep all your agreements in writing, especially changes to the projects. If a cust calls you up and says that he needs changes made, follow up with an e-mail to confirm these changes. That protects both you and the customer from misunderstandings. By the way, to learn more about how to treat people so that they will come back, read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. That is the single most important book on sales, even though it is not a sales book. And if you are in business for yourself you are a salesperson.

I will be following your progress with interest, if I can be of any help to you, let me know with a PM or otherwise.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View WyOutLaw's profile

WyOutLaw

37 posts in 235 days


#4 posted 189 days ago

Thank you all for your encouragement, insights, and know-how! Jake, “people buying 10million dollar phones…” really? My head is so deep in the sand. I’m not really that new to sales. I ran my own business for 13 years with my wife, and dealt with the public/customers everyday. But it was different. We were in a high traffic area. Marketing that business was a lot different.

Hoss, thank you so much for all your help. I am very interested in hearing your ideas. I’ll give you a call tonight.

Texcaster, those basses are very cool. Did you build those?

-- Craig Bullard http://www.facebook.com/Outlawfurniture

View Jake's profile

Jake

234 posts in 214 days


#5 posted 189 days ago

http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/most-expensive-mobile-phones-257419/?singlepage=1

Check out no 1 price tag. :) and that is not the most expensive ever sold.. so yeah, know your price and don’t be afraid to ask it.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View JohnnyStrawberry's profile

JohnnyStrawberry

235 posts in 902 days


#6 posted 188 days ago

Good to see you keep posting. I especially like this topic since I also plan to start to make a living by working wood. =) But on a longer time span. So I’ll join the public thinking if you don’t mind.
First, what is “a good living”? We should think about that first. Well, It wasn’t an actual question because I don’t even need to know the American way of a good living. Besides it depends not only geographically but everyone has different assets and needs.
I would actually be quite happy with a humble living as a full time woodworker. Say, even reasonably less than I earn as a chemical engineer in pharmaceutical industry.
However, Huff is probably right about the ‘giving it away’ issue. Why should we? Well, here comes some really weird thinking. I can imagine reasons for such a weird “deliberately cheap but extreme good quality business plan”... Ecologically it is much (at least several times) more sustainable than building from cheap particleboard. This can be an important message to the customer in itself. Being underpriced also allows you to stay out of commissions that allows you to make the furniture you really want to and how you want to. I know a fella producing hell of a good quality wine on more than 100 acres with this kind of philosophy. He sells wine only to the ones who deserve that wine…
So there are some folks not following any mainstream business model…
Gee, I’m only through your fifth line…
Being determined or giving up? I have a recent story about that… Coming home from work I saw the bus at the stop and I wanted to catch that. I started to run like mad but I was still pretty far away and the last passenger had already gotten on the bus. I started to give up but the thought instantly came to my mind that “you’ve learnt hundred times buddy that this is the situation in which you shouldn’t give up”. So I kept running and the driver waited for me so I could get on that bus. Very nice of you, thank you. But 2 stops later I realized that I’d forgotten to give back the keys of the office at the reception… So I had to go back – I lost about 25 minutes.
So there is fine line between being determined and being a wanna do. What we really need is a cold headed business feasibility analysis.
A bit more than two years ago when I turned woodaholic I set up a loose plan. In 2012 I was going to see how much I really like this woodworking environment. Checked; a lot. For 2013 I was going to see what I can produce. I think it’s pretty agreeable quality… Well, my inspiration comes from ancient wooden furniture. They were used for lifetimes. I’m still amazed at ancient Egyptian woodworking. (I’ll post something on this later.) So my least goal is to make heirloom furniture. I’d like it to be used for centuries. That is why I don’t use glue or metal – the wood has to hold itself. From 2014 I’m going to evaluate the possibilities in woodworking as a living. For this year it’ll still be practicing, practicing, practicing – making the needed pieces for our home. I won’t take any commissions until our home is reasonably well furnished with the furniture I make. I guess it’ll take another two years. So for the coming two years I have time to map the people who care about the quality furniture I make. (No family or friend commissions. They’ll get gifts anyways.) So from 2016 I plan to take casual commissions to see how it is to WORK for a client and to see the feedback of the customers. That will probably last another 2 years. So according to this schedule I think I’ll be ready for woodworking as a living from 2018. Hmmm. I still have four years left to make a cold headed business feasibility analysis. Well, I have to tell you that having gotten raises and bonuses in my job has made only a LITTLE harder to follow my schedule. Especially because of my treasured wife who supports me and wants me to work what I enjoy, besides both of us wants to leave city environment for a much more natural and therefore much healthier place. So, plan in a large time scale. It is much easier to stick to schedule like that. I have another example for that but I’m getting very long…
Yeah, spend as much time in the shop as you can. Just don’t forget the family.
GREAT thoughts on getting a more active lifestyle! I’ve been planning to post on diet vs woodworking for a long time. I do have a definite tip for you. Ever tried/heard of juice feasting or a (high carb) raw vegan diet? Try it. You won’t regret it. I’m actually a raw vegan since last april and let me tell you that it makes miracles not only to your body but your thinking as well. I definitely think much more clearly ever since I’ve gone raw. Try it for 3 days. You’ll see what I’m talking about even on the first day. You don’t have to stick to a raw vegan diet for a long time to purge your body and your mind. (Humans are omnivorous for crying out loud…)
The only thing that has to be organized is your mind. A dangerously cluttered workshop is a different story though… I mean be satisfied and happy with the environment you have in your shop. I observed very early in my woodworking endeavor that I can make a project WAY faster when I write down a well thought out action plan on the project. I kinda overkilled that with my bed project being the description 6 printed A4 pages… But that was my first furniture ever and the lumber was so nice. Well, it turned out good. :-) Now, for cabinetry I have a tried and true process map that I can usually rely on.
Select, rough cross cut => Rip cut => Jointing => Planing => Edge jointing => Exact rail/stile cross cut => Tenon precut => Exact drawer side crosscut => Board positioning => Joining edges => Dovetailing drawer sides => Drawer bottom notches => Exact panel cut, rounding => Panel routing => Making shelf brackets => Panel & shelf sanding => Panel prefinishing => Routing M&Ts => Routing door slots => Routing ‘grab’ recesses => Frame routing => Frame sanding, edging => Assembly, 8mm doweling => Assembly, 6mm doweling => Transporting => Finishing => Mounting
That easily lead me to the habit of logging the time spent at each step. I already know my CURRENT shop rate pretty precisely for my kind of cabinetry. (Which, as a side note, haven’t changed as much as I anticipated from the first to the 7th.) So map your processes and keep logging how much time you spend at each step; and log the worked board feet as well.
Marketing is way more obscure field for me as well… But I reckon that e-advertising can make much less good than networking or than the more established standard advertising methods. Huff also recommends the personal ways most. Social media may be free but needs lot of time… So what is free??? Read what Todd wrote about this
GREAT input Jake! Great practical tips as well. I appreciate it a lot! I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for sharing.
So try the nearest town but personally. Map for example shops that could use your kind of furniture. Go in, buy something, have a look around. Ask even the manager if you don’t feel that too much direct.
Do you have a professionally made business card? And a nice professionally photographed and printed media with your stuff? I think those are the best starting points.
I suspect only the first customers are hard to find. Then as Jake said, let the customers sell you.
Enough for now. :-)
I’ll follow your journey. I’m looking forward to your next post!
Thanks for sharing.

-- What are those few hours of mine compared to those decades Mother Nature has put in it!

View WyOutLaw's profile

WyOutLaw

37 posts in 235 days


#7 posted 188 days ago

Johnny, Thank you so much for your input and interest in my endeavors. I want to try and answer some of your questions/comments. Wow, you had a lot to say;). A good living to me is one that allows me to quit my job, do what I love, and provide for my family. In other word… pay the bills. I don’t have any grand plans for becoming wealthy. I live a pretty simple & modest lifestyle and I am happy with that. I would like to make enough to provide for our future also. My grandfather worked in his shop into his 90’s, but I don’t know if I want to work all day every day for the next 45+ years. I have to admit there is more to life than making sawdust.

As to your cold headed business feasibility analysis… I think in my situation… it seems pretty feasible. I have work and continue to get work. Right now I’ve been commissioned to build a king-sized log bed. After that I have a medium-sized storage cabinet, and after that 2 bathroom vanities, and a sofa table. But the volume of that work is lacking at times. This is where I fall short. I need to work on a way to keep the business flowing, some extra outlets during those dryer times.

It seems to me that you have a pretty solid, well thought out plan. I have been supplementing my income with my woodworking in one form or another for over 20 years. The only thing I can give to you here is… don’t over think it. The truth of the matter is that you have to start in order to get anywhere. If you’re spinning your wheels trying to get things perfect before you launch, you probably won’t get very far. There is nothing wrong with selling some stuff now.
Family is everything to me and balance in life is so very important. I am out of balance. Driving 45 minutes each way, spending 10 or more hours a day working for someone else (just scraping by) while they become wealthy is unacceptable. My shop is here at home, close to family.
I will look into your “juice feasting” but no guarantees. I believe in moderation in all things. I don’t gorge myself on meat but meat is in my diet. Maybe I’ll start with cutting out sodas and increase the raw veggies.
Thank you for your process map and ideas on logging time. I am definitely more of a “creative” than a disciplined productivity expert. Something I need to work at. I read Todd’s take on social media. I don’t know? Balance in all things. You can’t let it get out of control, but the more people that know about you has to be a good thing. I do have nice business cards and brochures.
Thanks again for your time and kind words.

-- Craig Bullard http://www.facebook.com/Outlawfurniture

View cancharanay's profile

cancharanay

57 posts in 318 days


#8 posted 179 days ago

A question that helps me. The best way to make money is do what market want. Do I want to do what market want? If an inexpensive box with poor work and poor wood is more profitable than a real piece of art and I can make tons of it, what do I want to do of both extremes? In my case, I don´t want to work with market ideas at all. And that is my less profitable road.

If you choose the less travelled one, You will need more determination, lack of fear, etc, etc. but believe that the landscape look different at all.

sorry by my poor english.

-- Cancharanay, Exaltación de la Cruz, Argentina

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