working from home "shop" self employment.. keep it going roots to varnish.

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Forum topic by patrick m posted 12-19-2007 09:26 PM 1742 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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patrick m

197 posts in 3841 days

12-19-2007 09:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource question

I’m pretty new here and still figuring out the site. But one topic I’m interested in: I would really like to know if anyone has any tips about working for yourself, “at home” or shop. Starting your own small business, working w wood. I’d like to go this route myself, aside from painting and sculpture, which I’ve been working my first year “strictly on art” working towards a show. I love not lugging sheet rock up stairs or peeling caulking off my fingers all afternoon, i don’t really miss that..etc.. I’d really like to continue this land of self employment. Any tips hints or ideas would be appreciated about your early years advertising?,finding jobs? or what ever ….just any tips on ways you may have found to “keep it going”.. Thanks Patrick Miles. bklyn.Will post some photos soon gotta get camera cords together for dwnlding pictures. I suppose it’s time to get those computer ready. As long as some “other wood projects i’ve been working on. I do get lost and caught up making ebony or whateverwood handles for chisels tools etc… i yi yi… eye eye, capt. I can’t help it everything I see needs a new handle in my eye’s.. I love ebony although it’s freeegin’ pricey it does carve like butter.. ok, I see one self tip… maybe finish commisions before a new handle . ha ha.

-- PJM.`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸ ><((((º> ""BY HAMMER AND HAND ALL ARTS DO STAND""1785-1974 nyc Semper Fi, Patrick M

10 replies so far

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4018 days

#1 posted 12-19-2007 09:37 PM

You’ve come to the right place as there are some very serious artisians here. Welcome to LJ’s!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3990 days

#2 posted 12-20-2007 12:03 AM

After the first year of being self-employed, lugging sheet rock might look real good. I can assure you that you will have duct tape on your tool handles and still be more worried about paying the light bill and getting something to heat the shop with. I think there are several other forums about this topic. Check them out first then we’ll talk.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View SteveB's profile


57 posts in 4086 days

#3 posted 12-20-2007 02:42 AM

I started my own handyman business two years ago, so I can offer you the basic steps:
1. Go to the courthouse and file a Doing Business As (DBA) form. This officially starts your business.
2. Take your DBA form to the bank and open a business checking account.
3. Create some business cards. The format isn’t important; having the cards is. You can print a few of your own on forms from the office supply store, then change them as you see what you want.
4. Go see your accountant. You do have an accountant, don’t you? You’ll need one from now on. He’ll advise you on taxes, etc. There’s lots of stuff you can do financially now that you own a business. Many things become deductible that weren’t before.
5. Go see your insurance agent. You need a business policy on your truck. You need a business liability policy. I got an umbrella policy as well, just in case. I’m a handyman, so if I burn down someone’s house, I want to be covered. A $2,000,000 policy is a couple of hundred a year for me.
6. Go see your lawyer (or maybe your accountant, depending on your state). You might need to set up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to protect your personal money. When I burn that house down, they can have the insurance payment, but they can’t have my personal savings account.
7. Get an accounting package for your PC. The IRS frowns on records kept on the backs of envelopes. I use Microsoft Money Business, but you might need something more. See your accountant for advice.
8. Talk to the people at all the stores you frequent. You’d be surprised what they’ll do for you now that you’re a commercial customer.

There’s lots more, but this should get you started. Post back about how things go. We’re all rooting for you!

-- Steve B - New Life Home Improvement

View Ryan Shervill's profile

Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 3841 days

#4 posted 12-20-2007 05:10 AM

Expect to operate at a loss for at least the first two years….if you can break even in your third, you are doing better than most. Very few make money at ww’ing….and even fewer make a lot of money.

Diversify, focus, and worry about cranking out top-notch stuff that gets you noticed….the rest will take care of itself.

-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4189 days

#5 posted 12-20-2007 02:14 PM

check out the September issue of our eMag for “The Business Side of Things”

another discussion here

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3921 days

#6 posted 12-20-2007 05:59 PM

dragging sheet rock up stairs…....hmmm. My FIL has been doing that all his life and as &%#tty as that is, he has managed to buy and pay for a 150 acre farm, has filled his new pole barn with every series of JD tractors and restored them to “mint” condition. They are parked next to 2 brand new Harley’s which in turn are parked next to a couple of restored muscle cars. His barn has a few head of cattle for his own consumption and he sports a brand new all wheel drive big &^%$# John Deere tractor which he uses to do his “hobby farm”.............did I mention the JD back Hoe and dozer?...............and all from hanging sheet rock.

Funny thing about woodworking is that every one and their uncle make top notch high end products leaving a massive void in the lower end which makes me wonder…..........who is making the average crap out there?

Woodworking, being a “NON REGULATED” trade means that anyone with a hammer and a benchtop table saw can call themself a joiner, a cabinetmaker, an artist, a carpenter and can claim whatever they choose which makes “making a living at it”, almost impossible. Even if they make a nice product doesnt mean they know how to price it because I have lost jobs due to some new kid on the block that does perfect work at a substantial loss… only needs to look in the yellow pages from 1999 vs 2007 and see the number of companies that vanished.

Did I mention China, ya the place we ship cargo ships across the pacific filled with our domestic woods, where they manufacture it into furniture then ship it back across the pond and it’s sold for less then we can buy raw stock, let alone buy the hardware, the finish and market it.

Now throw in the various government redtapes like TAXES, health care costs, insurance, pensions etc, the price of heating, transportation and the like, then chase down a customer that only wants to spend three thousand on a project that actually costs 4 thousand and doesnt feel like they should pay the full amount because you were late and the colour isnt quite right!!!

I’ve been self employed for a long time. I’ve built kitchens that top a 1/4 million bucks and not just one but dozens. Built fancy fireplaces, tables, chairs and the whole gammet and with very few exceptions….............never banked a dime. Over the last year I changed what I do. Instead of fighting with the wolves, I decided to let the wolves fight amogst themselves waiting for the scrapes to fall. I used to be one of those wolves, working deadline after deadline, trying to show the installers that what they thought was impossible, was actually possible. Listening to the trials and tribulations of employees and all the while trying to maintain some resembelance of a family. I kept a few low maintenance clients but for the most part I install products that some else lost money on? thinking, no cash out lay, no colour development, no engineering, no design, no purchasing, I get a set “fee” whether I install it in one day or five days and albeit it isnt romantic, it isnt glorious but it pays a lot more bills and I get a lot more time doing what I love.

I have time today because its Christmas and no one wants their home destroyed just before the big day. I have one stainless steel cable left to install on a nautical railing that surrounds a spiral set of stairs I recently built on a lakefront home. That cable is one of 20 and that one little 4 1/4” long cable is killing me because its my fifth trip to a marine supply store, the only marine supply outfit around here and apparently the FIFTH one is ready and the right length?....................fortunatly the client loves my work otherwise my %$#@& would be on the wrong side of the grass.

Before I digress to far and in closing.

There are only two rules in business

#1. Always make more money then you spend.

#2. Never forget rule #1

Good luck

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

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4189 days

#7 posted 12-20-2007 06:31 PM

it’s an interesting discussion when we talk about those jobs “no one would want to do” and then you mention the “older” generation who did whatever they needed to do to make ends meet and they are able to “have it all” from our perspective.

Our society is being taught “do what you love and anything else is not living up to your potential and you are a loser”.
We forget that there is honour and integrity in doing those “other” jobs as well – you do your best; do them with good intentions and be proud of your achievements. . You can still do the stuff you love, on the side.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 3843 days

#8 posted 12-21-2007 02:04 AM

One thing I’ve noticed about people who make a living at what they ….whatever you want to call it. that they often times have always done it, would do it whether they made money at it or not, and have probably been doing it for a long time before they could actually make a living at it. Common examples are musicians, actors, woodworkers, etc.

I think there are two approaches….jump right in….or do it as a hobby while working a “real” job and while developing a client base, following, notoriety, or whatever.

Either way, there are no garrantees. I went self-employed thru a luckier situation. Working in construction I got to know people. Going out on my own I was able to get a little work from each one as a subcontractor. Easy for them, and I had a few people like that and they understood that I may or may not be available to work when they called. Usually individuals that got a larger job that they needed temp. help on.

I’m now running the shop for one of those people as an…...uh….a…employee….....argh. But, I don’t much care as long as I’m doing what I want to do.

I also think referral work is stronger than getting work from flyers and ads and such. It positions you closer to the client, more of an initial trust and what-not. probably takes longer…the old “real” job to pay the bills until you get the work.

Anyway…..I think that if woodworking is what you want to do … it…..whether it pays or not. Making a business out of it can come sooner or later. But, you should want to do it either way.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View TreeBones's profile


1827 posts in 4051 days

#9 posted 12-22-2007 02:39 AM

Everyone has a lot of great input that seems to be right on the spot. Any of these recommendations could be adapted to meet your particular needs.

The only thing I didn’t see is the part about going to sleep at night without the nightmares of uncompleted work or the bills that pile up when the estimate was way low and work is slow. You must have a family that will support you no mater what. I could not make it without the unwavering support of my wife. I would sink without her encourgement. If you don’t have support at home from the spouse and kids there will be no place to find rest and rejuvenation to keep you strong in the tough times.

I love to work with wood and have found ways to support this habit. I don’t think there are to many wood workers here that make the big bucks (tell us if you are out there) but they have found ways to have it help pay for things. You might be able to charge for being an artist if you find a nitch with the jet set folks that are willing to pay more than what you think you should be charging.

I do know of a cabinet shop owner that does make good money and he has the planes, cars and nice homes to prove it. He makes the money on the backs of his employees that work for peanuts and the owner lives good but never touches the wood or tools. He is not a wood worker but a business owner. The housing economy needs to be strong for this to work well. He is real slow right now and the employees are suffering, but not him (very much).

I have been self employed for over 25 years and construction has always been a back up and very dependable for the pay check at the end of each week. I recommend having a stable source of income to cover what woodworking falls short of until you find out if it can work for you. I would also think real hard about what Roman pointed out. Like he said “Never forget rule #1”

-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4342 days

#10 posted 12-22-2007 10:01 PM

Don’t spend too much time at LumberJocks…you will have to spend some time in the shop.

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