A good starting point is a brief overview of my experience as a bench mark to use as a gauge . I have been self employed in the woodworking trade for over twenty years working on and off for other contractors now and again. I don’t do lots of large jobs but rather a wide variety of small projects. The largest chunk of my income comes from my portable sawmill service.
This past year has been hard on most everyone and the trickle down effect has not passed up all of us woodworkers. For all of us who make luxury items the consumer cut backs have hit hard.
These are not one of my main stays but I like to do a few each year and when talking to other craft show people it’s clear that business has dropped off a large percentage. People just aren’t spending like they used to. Unless you have a fair stock of items priced from $1. to $5. there just hasn’t been the buyers spending on the high end items.
This past summer I attended the larger of our local Farmers Market each Saturday. My main goal is to hand out business cards to increase exposure to my Portable Sawmill Business. I make a unique line of rustic furniture and this is the main theme of my booth space. I always have a selection of walnut burl and other wood for the local woodworkers. Each market has brought in a steady cash flow to cover my expenses but I would certainly go broke if this is all I did. Past experience has proven that giving out business cards will bring in sawmill jobs and custom furniture orders, but this may not pan out for many months or even years. I have had customers call me five years later and ask if I remember giving them a card at a show or market.
I sell some of my furniture and wood on the Internet but the greatest benefit from having a website is for advertising and educating potential clients. Over all my web sales are down but that is partly because I have not been pushing to generate more products that are well suited for internet sales. Just having a website isn’t enough. You can have a fantastic web site that is very professional and informative but it will do you no good if there are no visitors. Over the years I have seen a direct benefit to advertising my site using other means such as creigslist and other local web site classifieds and bulletin boards. The more I run ads that direct people to my site the more positive results I have, both furniture, wood sales and sawmill jobs. Lumberjocks has been real good for helping to get higher search rankings by using the link in my signature.
Work in General
We all know things are slow and if you depend on woodworking for all your income I hope have a well established shop and reputation to stay afloat during these tough times. There are a lot of out of work contractors looking to make extra mony doing all kind of woodworking. Over the years I have spread myself out doing most any kind of work I can just to keep up with the bills. This past year I have seen a dramatic slow down in the work available. It’s just plane tough. No one is spending more than they need to.
I have seen a lot of questions out there asking “what are the hot sellers” or “what am I doing wrong”. In today’s tough times these are hard questions to answer. I know there are a few things that people will always be spending there hard earned money on and that will be; food, shelter and the essentials of everyday living. If it is not essential, sales will be tough. Woodworkers that will be successful are the ones who can provide functional items of necessity that fit into the needs of today’s conservative spending consumers and have the ability to advertise and deliver them abroad.
This coming year I will be focusing on refining the construction of my custom built yurts that can be used for cost effective shelter, advertising and marketing along with providing services that focus on saving money for the average consumer.
I hope we all have a prosperous New Year.
-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service http://westcoastlands.net/Sawmill.html http://westcoastlands.net/SawBucks2/phpBB3 http://www.portablesawmill.info