I think one of the biggest factors in making money with woodworking or any other kind of craft, is making sure that there is a market for it. You might be able to sell one place and not the other and it all depends on what people want.
Tim and I started our business 3 years ago, last year “2007” we made $20,000 just off our wood products. We were thrilled with this because in 2006 we only made $5000. We expect this year to surpass last years income. I think one thing with what we do is that it is unique, not many people have seen twisted juniper furniture and every single piece that we make is one of a kind and you will never find another like it.
When we first started out we had no idea what to charge for anything, I look back now and have to laugh because we had no clue what we were doing. Some of our items were way over priced and others we could have gotten a lot more for. As our craftsmanship and know how went up so did our prices. We keep track of how long it takes to work on a project, “this does not include finding the wood and pressure washing” and then we figure our prices at $35 per hour. Now sometimes you will get a lamp or candle holder that just wont seel for that price so we drop it becuase we know we can make it up else where. I just finished a table lamp that was pretty fast to finish but it is very very unique and i know that we can sell it for around $300. So it all kind of goes into figuring out what your market is. Heck we were able to sell a dining room table for $3500 and this without a top. So there are people willing to pay good money for good furniture and I think the market is going up for hand crafted items.
After we got confident in our product we approached a few retailers and found one that would buy from us but he wanted to pay way less then we would accept, if we would have sold our items at that price we wouldnt have made a dime. We also sold on ebay for awhile and still do, the thing with ebay is that everything is at a bargain, so we pretty much list our items at a wholesale cost which is 30% off our price. eBay does okay and it does get people to our site.
We have had a website up and running since we first started, but it has been only in this last year that we have had good traffic to the site. I built and manage the site myself and i had no clue on how to optimize it and get it out there in the search engines. Luckily there was a person that I was referred to and he gave me a free online lesson on how to get our site out there. So now we are ranking higher on google and we have had more interest from our website in the past 3 months then we have had in the past 3 years. So this is good news.
2 Summers ago we started selling at Crafts Shows, Farmers/Vendors Markets and Festivals. Luckily we live close to the high end ski resorts like Aspen, Vail, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge. Our first market was in Steamboat Springs and it is every saturday through out the summer, it costs $35 for a space and i dont have to stay overnight in town. I get up at 4am and get there in time to set up and am home by 6 that night.
We usually do pretty good at the Steamboat Markets, there have been times that we made $300 and other times that we have made $1500 for a 5 hour day. There was one day that we sold completely out. Last year I went to a 2 day show in Frisco Colorado which is pretty high end, we were selling candle holder, windchimes, lamps and small tables. This was the first 2 day show that we had ever done, well with in the first 3 hours we sold almost completey out and made enough to cover a month worth of living expenses. The downside is the cost of fuel to get there, staying in a hotel, the booth space which was $100 and of course eating out.
When it comes to doing the shows I usually go alone because it is more cost effective to travel alone, especially if you have a family. I go get to missing my family but a few days away is always nice.
Festivals and Craft shows are a blast, but they are also a lot of work, especially if you are doing it on your own. Setting up and tearing down can get a little rough especially at 2 pm on a July afternoon. So be prepared with plenty of food and drink, extra cash to make change, a way to accept credit cards, a garden cart to haul your stuff to and from your vehicle and an easy up canopy that has 4 sides that can be zipped closed in case of rain.
Now when you start getting customers, create a database of their mailing addresses and email addresses. When ever we finish a round of stuff, usaully a few weeks worth of products, I send an email out to everyone on my list letting them know what we have done. Usually you get return customers and return customers is what keeps you going. We even have a company in Missouri that buys our products and resells them.
Our target market is the high end posh towns. Even though you hear a lot about how bad he economy is, there are still a whole bunch of people out there willing to spend money on something that they find unique and many people are passionate about what they are looking for, if you can help them out, then you will have a customer for life.
Just dont give up and go with your gut. If you believe in what you do and you believe in your product then you can sell it. It just takes a little bit of time.
I hope this long story hellps and if you have any questions please do not hesistate to ask, we are still learning as we go along, but I am sure our experiences can help others out as well.