Woodworking and making a living

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Blog entry by Tim & Candy Hicks posted 04-09-2008 05:29 AM 1301 reads 5 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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.



14 comments so far

View Earle Wright's profile

Earle Wright

121 posts in 3137 days

#1 posted 04-09-2008 06:02 AM

Thanks for your marketing story. I’m just slowly getting my business going (and I do mean slowly), and I need to hear what others are doing to make it.

-- Earle Wright, Lenoir City, Tennessee

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3239 days

#2 posted 04-09-2008 12:20 PM

Hi Candy,

Thanks for the story. I have a great deal of respect for anyone trying to make a living at what I pursue as a hobby. This is a difficult path to travel but it does let you follow your dream. I wish you nothing but success and personal happiness in your endeavors.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4445 posts in 3379 days

#3 posted 04-09-2008 01:50 PM

good post, Candy

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View joey's profile


396 posts in 3321 days

#4 posted 04-09-2008 02:31 PM

Thanks Candy for the great advise, I am also a full time woodworker who is planning to move more into the craft market, not that I plan on not building furniture anymore I just plan on building smaller pieces and more art related crafts. I am planning on doing the summer fairs and festivals maybe a craft show or two. might even do the renaissances fair. my son travels the USA working at them and I have been trying to talk him in to selling for me. he’ll be at the CO. show this summer and I hope to get out there to see him. The craft market is different here people like outdoor ornaments and birdhouses.
On another note one my best project was a juniper fireplace mantel with nature edge I helped a friend build in his cabin up in Pleasant Valley AZ when I worked for the forest service I really liked junipers color.

-- Joey~~Sabina, Ohio

View HAP HANSON's profile


45 posts in 3229 days

#5 posted 04-09-2008 04:09 PM

Hey Candy
Enjoyed your blog my wife and I are starting our website soon and liked your site its direct and to the point. I like what you have done with the juniper. Just thought I’d say good luck with your business.

-- Doc Hanson

View Tim & Candy Hicks's profile

Tim & Candy Hicks

325 posts in 3127 days

#6 posted 04-09-2008 04:12 PM

Hi Hansondvm, Thanks for the comment. When we decided to build our business and our site, we wanted to be honest and direct with the customer so they know what they are getting into. I dont like going to a website that is trying to sell a product and they spend the first 3 pages tryign to sell the product. THe product should sell itself. If you ever need help or ideas with a website dont hesitate to contact me.
Good luck!!!


View Tim & Candy Hicks's profile

Tim & Candy Hicks

325 posts in 3127 days

#7 posted 04-09-2008 04:23 PM

Joey, I believe you can sell what you make, good luck in the craft shows and marketing your piece. My husband and I take pictures of everything that we make and have put a portfolio together. OUr town only has 1 store, a post office, school, library and 2 very small motels. We get a lot of hunters and people traveling through on HWY 40, anyway my point is that we have put a portfolio in the store and it has brought customers to our door, we have also handed out portfolios to our family so they can show people they know some of our work. Every year we give our families gifts out of items that we have made, this is also great advertising. We also have portfolios with a few interior designers. Also make sure you have brochures and business cards on hand. Keep a few in every vehicle that you have, becuase you never know when you will run across someone that is interested. Last summer I got to meet Wayne Carlton at an Elk Bugling Contest and he was very interested in what we do.

If any of you are interseted in getting in front of some interior designers go to this site, you can buy a spot for $365 which lasts a year and you will be in front of designers across the country and from there go to Design Services.

If any of you have a website I would be glad to put your link on our website if you would do the same, the more links you have the better you are going to rank and the easier people are going to find you.

If I think of anything else I will let you know!! Have a great and peaceful day


View HAP HANSON's profile


45 posts in 3229 days

#8 posted 04-09-2008 10:41 PM

Hey Candy I am close to launching my site sure I am interested once I get it launched I will send you a link so you can view it and offer any constructive criticism. great tip about the asid site thank you. I’ll be in touch. I’ll add you as a friend

-- Doc Hanson

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3205 days

#9 posted 04-10-2008 03:06 AM

Candy, great blog entry. I have only done two craft shows so far and they have been through the private school where my wife teaches. We were just talking about doing some more, but decided that we have to get a website up and running. Although my full time job is in IT services and program management, I find it funny that I am daunted in setting up my own site. I used to live in CO and graduated from CU Boulder so just reading you story brought back memories of summer afternoons in the ski towns with all of the music festivals and craft shows. Makes me homesick for the Rockies!

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14167 posts in 3400 days

#10 posted 04-10-2008 03:43 AM

Thanks Candy.

nice read.

I sometimes sell my work on ebay too, but for now it is only a hobby to keep me in TOOLs.

When I retire, I hope to a be real woodworker … full time >grin<

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Tim & Candy Hicks's profile

Tim & Candy Hicks

325 posts in 3127 days

#11 posted 04-10-2008 04:22 AM

Sure thing hansondvm keep in touch and I will help out where I can. Are you and your wife designing the site or are you having a pro?


View Tim & Candy Hicks's profile

Tim & Candy Hicks

325 posts in 3127 days

#12 posted 04-10-2008 04:24 AM

I love it here, where I live which in is Maybell is a little over an hour away from Steamboat Springs, but out here everything is far away. Steamboat is a great place there is always something going on and I love to people watch. Definately get your site going and try a few shows, it is fun and great exposure


View HAP HANSON's profile


45 posts in 3229 days

#13 posted 04-11-2008 07:27 PM

Thanks Candy
We are designing it Amy writes code which helps a ton – lot of work but I couldn’t quite get a webdesigner to understand what i wanted so once its up i’ll let you know. Good blog Candy!

-- Doc Hanson

View anewtim's profile


10 posts in 3090 days

#14 posted 05-07-2008 05:47 AM

Good observations and lessons. Thanks!

-- Tim, Fresno, Ca

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