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Forum topic by rhett posted 04-21-2010 02:42 PM 1788 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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742 posts in 3907 days

04-21-2010 02:42 PM

Person A, a retired person with a pension and skill in the shop vs person B, a person with an income based soley on woodwork and skill in the shop. If person A decides to sell items for the cost of materials, just to fill their free time, then how is person B supposed to compete?

Before someone tells me “you don’t compete with hobbiest”, I would like to add that I know more than a few retired woodworkers, who worked in an office all their life, that can teach me more than a few things about the craft. I fully understand the dynamics of a hobbiest vs a professional, but the only real difference is one costs money and one pays money.

This question arises only because I repeatedly see posts about how someone can charge such a low price for handmade woodwork. This is not me trying to tell anyone what they should or should not sell their work for. I do believe if woodworker A values their time at zero dollars then woodworker B’s time is automatically set at zero.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

26 replies so far

View Woodwrecker's profile


4211 posts in 3816 days

#1 posted 04-21-2010 02:48 PM

That’s a good question Rhett.
I don’t have the answer, but I’ll be watching to see what others have to say.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4133 days

#2 posted 04-21-2010 02:57 PM

there was a time when this really bothered me. As an example a fireman gets about 2 weeks off per month and in that 2 weeks he/she can knock out cabinets/furniture and “profit” isnt really a concern and how does one compete against that?

then came China and Ikea and it blew the doors off everything and everyone. Not even a “hobby” person can compete as I have seen ie., a vanity made in cherry, curved front doors, granite top, undermount sink with taps for 600 ..... ( I cant even buy the granite for 600 )

that said…....anyone who wants to build what I am building as a hobby and compete ?...........go ahead and good luck with that.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4115 days

#3 posted 04-21-2010 03:15 PM

I made that point to a nice gentleman at a craft show once. He said he only needed to cover the cost of materials, and I reminded him that he was competing against people who needed to make a little more than the cost of materials in order to feed their families. He didn’t really have a response to that. Few other professions really have to compete this way – there aren’t a lot of retired or hobbiest accountants who do it just for the love of working the numbers!

The thing is, we compete on a lot of levels, not just cost. Yes cost is a big one, but if cost were the only consideration, Wal-Mart and Ikea would have locked us out of the market. You have to look for areas where you are different and emphasise those points. Different people buy wood products for different reasons. Try to identify these reasons and then tell why your product fits the bill better than the next guy.

-- -- --

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3309 days

#4 posted 04-21-2010 03:17 PM

They really won’t be “competitors”. The hobbiest will probably be working alone in a small “home” shop with limited space and equipment which will restrict his/her ability to handle large or high production rate projects. The hobbiest will also have a limited market exposure consisting mostly of friends, family, or whatever customers they can get thru venues like Craigslist.

On the rare occasions when they do compete, the hobbiest will probably win if the job goes on price alone, but the “pro” will get the large jobs, or the jobs with the tight schedules.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View PurpLev's profile


8548 posts in 3889 days

#5 posted 04-21-2010 03:22 PM

as a professional, you should change your state of mind… a hobbiest usually make things per his passion, where a professional will usually custom fit a piece per the customers design and input. as a pro, you should be approaching the market differently, and not head to head with the hobbiest that brings his pieces to the local fair. if the hobbiest is pushing his work in different venues – then you may consider that he’s not considered a hobbiest anymore, but a cheap professional. in which case – he’s at a loss, and after a while he’ll figure this out himself. on the other hand – his customers are considered to have found a ‘good bargain’ but those prices do not reflect the market prices.

it all boils down to perspective, and explaining it to your potential customers. selling price is not always just about work and materials – but about an image, CS, and spirit in the pieces.

good luck ;) the sun is shining here today.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3720 days

#6 posted 04-21-2010 03:36 PM

This is an interesting question Rhett. I will, in not too long, be like woodworker A.

I have 40 years with the company I work for (telecommunications.) and will have a pension, plus other benefits. I also love woodworking. Even now, I often build things for my family and friends, especially for gifts etc. at my own cost. I just enjoy doing that although, as we all know, many projects can cost hundreds of dollars excluding our time. I think many hobbiest woodworkings will sometimes build things for nothing just for the pleasure of doing it, but I dont think that happens often especially in the large scope of things. I dont think there are many hobbiest woodworkers that would spend 8 hours a day in a shop under the gun to produce something on a schedule on a regular basis for nothing. I think the demand for good wood products far exceeds what a hobbiest can do. Although most people tend to know someone that can build something for them at the cost of materials, I still have a lot of folks asking me if they can pay me for something despite the high cost of custom furniture. I think the main thing is quality. If you do a good job, and you are diversified in what you can make, and you are reliable, you will still have buisiness. For me this would mean one week building an armoire, and the next week, building a deck.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4458 days

#7 posted 04-21-2010 03:54 PM

PurpLev’s answer is dead on.

As I said in the related topic, it’s just not reasonable to ask someone else to raise their selling price so that yours won’t suffer by comparison.

I’m willing to bet you love it when two grocery stores are having a price war and you get to reap the benefit of cheap milk, even though the stores aren’t making much profit.

Or how about this scenario: Let’s say there are only two plumbers in your town, and they get together and agree to charge no less than $75 per hour. You’d likely be ticked off about that, and rightly label it as price fixing. Now let’s say your neighbor Joe down the block is a retired master plumber, and he’ll gladly do your work for $25 per hour just to give himself something to do. Are you going to refuse to use him because he’s hurting the other two guys? Maybe $75 per hour is a fair price for those guys when you consider that they have overhead, and need to put food on their tables. But it is up to them to market themselves in such a way as to convince you that you’re better off using them. Maybe it’s their warranty, or 24 hour availability, or whatever. It’s not up to Joe to give up his $25 per hour retirement gig just to make things easier for the two pros.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4014 days

#8 posted 04-21-2010 04:14 PM

Thank you CharlieM1958! I could not say it any better myself!!

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3315 days

#9 posted 04-21-2010 04:26 PM

I’m woodworker A and I am very sensitive to woodworker B. Here is my policy. At least 2/3rds of my work is for my personal consumption or gifts. I do quite a bit of work for my church for the cost of materials. I also do work and participate in a craft show sponsored by a charity once a year for the cost of materials. However, with respect to the craft show, the products are sold to the public at a reasonable profit-making price. All the profit goes to the charity. I will not permit the people at the craft show to discount my prices.

I occasional get requests to make something. Usually, the request is because someone saw my work at the church or a gift I had given away. They will say, I saw the gift you gave your sister and I would like one like that to give to my Dad. In those cases, I always charge what I think a professional would charge. If I get the job – fine. If not – that’s okay too. I have a nice pension.

My formula for “what a professional would charge” is (cost of materials + estimated labor at $25/hour) x 1.25. That strikes me as a fair formula but I would gladly receive comment on that.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View PawPawTex's profile


78 posts in 3233 days

#10 posted 04-21-2010 04:28 PM

I totally agree with PurpLev and CharlieM1958 on this one.

View RedShirt013's profile


219 posts in 3902 days

#11 posted 04-21-2010 05:38 PM

You charge the price of a professional job and in turn you provide professional work and service. Meet their schedule, match whatever finish the customer wants, design consulting, accomodate some changes, quick and efficient installation with minimal disruption, after-sale service, warranty, etc. A hobbiest just charging for cost of material likely will not offer all that and some customer may not be aware of that.

Look at it another way, if both are equal and pro’s are competing with hobbiests, that obviously there is more labour supply than demand for woodwork. That actually shows the pro’s are charging too much for their time. Of course that may be temporary and as soon as demand increase this issue will go away. Hobbiest may take a few jobs but they won’t accept a full-time workload

-- Ed

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3223 days

#12 posted 04-21-2010 05:54 PM

I fall into the woodworker A category myself. I rarely ever sell anything although there are those who say I should sell my work. I respond with what would I do for pleasure and a hobby then. So I make things for gifts and family at my cost for the joy it brings me. So here’s where I’ll just be plain honest. I feel if someone wants me to make something for them they should have to pay fair services prices as if they went to any business. Which brings me to my problem I don’t know what a piece would cost to make for someone. I don’t want to make the price so low it just covers materials, and on the other hand I don’t want to make the price to high either. If its a simple project I may charge 2-3 times the cost of material and the more complicated the higher the cost. So how does the hobbyist know what to charge for his work to be fair market price. I don’t want to make the effort to shop around for prices, because I’m in it for the pleasure not to make it for a living. I have had people ask me to build cabinets for them, but its not what I want to do so I tell them to check with a local cabinet maker because I don’t want to hurt his business by under charging what he does. Because then everyone would want me to make them for them then. I enjoy making one of a kind projects and hate making duplicate items. But wouldn’t mind making a piece once in a while to make a little extra cash for new tools I would like to have. So my answer would have to be that the hobbyist really doesn’t know what he should charge to be fair to everyone involved in the craft.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 3407 days

#13 posted 04-21-2010 06:03 PM

Rich, interesting charge formula.

Charlie, good explanation.

I fall into the hobbiest roll, I know I rarely charge enough for the few orders I do get.
The few orders that I get change the way I look at my hobby as well.
I would much rather make something for a charity for free than to be under the gun with a tight schedule.

If something is needed that I can do when I want it makes it a pleasure to do.

I still have a day job that requires time tables and scheduling.

It’s nice to get away from that.

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4368 days

#14 posted 04-21-2010 06:08 PM

I’m a pro.

My average cost of materials is about 10% (one tenth) the retail selling price or about 20% (one fifth) of the wholesale price.

I have no problem in quoting an hourly rate of $90. My effective hourly rate, after adjustments, is seldom less than $60 per hour. I know of no professionals in our guild that charge less than $60/hour.

-- 温故知新

View BOB67CAM's profile


269 posts in 3312 days

#15 posted 04-21-2010 06:11 PM

i totally agree with pawpaw, agreeing with purple and

-- if you dont have it, build it, especially when its a stupid idea

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