What is better selling a variety or just one thing?

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Forum topic by nate22 posted 01-14-2011 05:15 PM 2223 views 4 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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475 posts in 2902 days

01-14-2011 05:15 PM

I was just curious on with some of you guys that have a business of your own what seems to do better. Selling a variety of things or specializing in one kind of furniture like bedroom or livingroom or making a little of everything. And do you seem to get more people looking at your furniture if you offer more than one thing.
Thanks for any comments. Just was curious I am thinking about start making bookshelfs and some other things.

-- Gracie's wooden signs. Middlebury, In.

31 replies so far

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 2857 days

#1 posted 01-14-2011 05:41 PM

I believe in being diversified. The more options that are available to you and your potential clients the more opportunities are possible. Don’t be afraid to get into more design items. That way if a past client wants something else built by you, you can accommodate their needs.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View Russ's profile


142 posts in 3226 days

#2 posted 01-14-2011 06:32 PM

For me a variety is very important, when I don’t have a specific product to make it keeps me busy I create something that will sell sooner than later, these items are usually little but keep income coming in. Production is vital to cash flow same as in a kitchen. A good example is a spoon I make, a 4/4 piece of wood makes 2 and out of a 8 foot board 26 are produced and sold at $15 a piece for gross sales of $390 out of one board. Average production time is about 10 minutes per spoon and at the bazaars this following Christmas they sold very well. It also is a price point and I read a article about the American mindset that if it is below $20 they will buy it. The article was about drill bits the big collections of bits that sell for $19.99 yet only the 4 most popular bits were real, the others being pot metal stained to look the same. As a businessman I want as much of the buyers money as I can get and as a woodworker I want to make the best products that I can,

-- Happiness is being covered in sawdust

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3222 days

#3 posted 01-14-2011 06:51 PM

While I dont sell anything, I would think offering a variety of things would attract a wider audience. Someone might go looking for a sofa and say “oh look honey they make beds too, you know how we need a new one, lets keep this guy in mind for it” or something like that.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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167 posts in 3636 days

#4 posted 01-14-2011 07:06 PM

When I am selling my things I make, I try to offer a wide variety of things (granted I don’t make big things like furniture, I am a chip carver). One thing I have noticed that there is aways one item that is “the hit” at the shows I set up at. And it doesn’t matter how much of one thing I make, it’s never enough.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 2967 days

#5 posted 01-14-2011 10:07 PM

Variety is the spice of life! And the only way for me to make a living at this game… I am totally flexible and it varies from commission work to spec work, craft items in multiples to sculpture and art furniture on consignment…. MDF, Melamine, Exotic woods, Pine, Timber I mill myself… Whatever it takes, as long as it’s WOOD !

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2971 days

#6 posted 01-14-2011 10:27 PM

Think of it like fishing. If you have only one hook in the water you have a less chance of catching fish than if you had ten.

I currently make over 40 different items. You never know what will appeal to the next potential customer.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

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Stephen Mines

226 posts in 2717 days

#7 posted 01-23-2011 01:57 AM

Hi Nate,
When I first started as a custom woodworker I’d build anything a designer/decorator/customer wanted. Doing that I sharpened my skills, got to sample different techniques and styles and most importantly built a good rep and a customer base. Adult night school provided some business savy too. On the way to becoming a ‘business’ I created a small sampling line of furniture, mostly reproductions of early American and country french pieces, things that I really enjoyed the challange of building. I took samples to showrooms, got some placed and sales took off. At the top of the curve I had 36 individual pieces in my line, which I could often build in multiples to get the ‘economies of scale’. Incidently, I had an abiding fear that I’d get a rush purchase order for one of each of everything I made! I considered that the ultimate nightmare; that actually happened once when I got an order from a new rep to help fill their showroom at the Pacific Design Center. One thing that I did differently from the other guys: I offered many stock items in custom sizes. My customers were all over but local deliveries went mostly to Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and other high end locales in the L.A. area; a pattern developed: many of the pieces offered in custom sizes would be ordered only slightly different than the stock item represented in the showroom. As it turned out I learned that they were paying a lot extra to make very sure the pieces of furniture were made especially for them! Ideas for line items: things that sell in multiples such as chairs, barstools, also tables, lamps, mirrors when building for hospitality and restaurant customers. For instance as a one man shop in the year 2000 I made 2200 floor lamp columns for the Aladdin Hotel redo in Las Vegas. I was able to do that by stretching the delivery period over the three months they were installing the new rooms…$108,000 in lamp part sales for 3 months is a good job in anybody’s book. The point is: multiple sales…and always bite off more than you think you can chew…you learn to chew faster and more efficiently.

-- Stephen Mines (

View lc48's profile


22 posts in 2716 days

#8 posted 01-23-2011 02:02 AM

varity and people will be ready to spend money on little things from 2 to 20 dollars. teddy bear candles and the like

View Uturn09's profile


1 post in 2709 days

#9 posted 01-23-2011 03:05 PM

A lot has been said for making a variety but on the other hand look at someone like Sam Maloof. He made rocking chairs, no two the same. His business model was to build one rocker at a time, extremely well,and charge high rates. I’ve heard, once he was established, he got $100,000+ per chair. My view is if you do something very well stick with that.

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Blue Mountain Woods

110 posts in 2961 days

#10 posted 02-09-2011 01:53 AM

I agree with the variety people…..with a personal caveat, sort of. I’ve been a woodworker for about 30 years, and still the learning curve hasn’t flattened much; it’s just gotten more sophisticated. I’ll bet most here would agree with my saying that every project has it’s own nuances, even where the processes are similar.
While I have (and still do) build furniture, cabinets, entertainment centers, jewelry boxes, etc; and while I do some inlay, lots of turning, etc….. I needed a “bread and butter” side of my business, so I added production of stock and custom wood mouldings. That side of my business can produce, on average, about 3,500 lin. ft. of crown, base and case in a day. Arches and ellipticals take a bit more time, but they’re sold by the piece, not the foot.
Critical to my setup is that I can beat anyone locally by at least .50cents/lf (average), and still turn a healthy profit.
So, my point is that you probably want to go to the money in some way (where it doesn’t come to you), but still be prepared for anything.

-- Pete -----

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3427 days

#11 posted 02-09-2011 09:04 PM

I build and sell a variety of things, from small boxes to big dinning tables. The only things I don’t build are installs/millwork, since it requires me to fall into another category of busines plus I would end of having to get my finish contractor’s liscense. I find that I get more requests for things costing less than $50.00. Boxes, small picture frames, many of these I end up making another 3 or 4 while I’m making that one(production work). I then sell them and end up with a much larger profit than if I had sold just the single. I just recently started making small display boxes. I had a request for one, but had some extra scrap material for which I made 2 more with. I sold them for $50.00 a piece and instead of a $50 profit I ended up with $150 and I didn’t spend any more extra time than had I built just one.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3920 days

#12 posted 02-09-2011 09:22 PM

Its a tough racket no matter what path you choose. the journey is rocky for most especially in the beginning.

I started 25 years ago, had a partner then and him and I chased 500 dollar jobs, that took a week to get, cost 600 in material and took a month to build. how to loose money fast….....take up woodworking :)

I recently visited that partner after a 20 years apart. he wound up located in a spot that is “TOTAL ISOLATION”, no road, highway in or out …......means you have to drive onto a ferry, cross a huge channel, drive 200km, jump on another ferry, drive another hour to get materials…..............and then go back, build the product and repeat the procedure to install it. he’s been doing it successfully, for almost 18 years, has a dozen employees and is never slow ….............

diversification is a means to stay employed full time and when people say it cant be done, can.

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

View SteveMI's profile


1102 posts in 3321 days

#13 posted 02-14-2011 04:25 AM

I agree with Jonathon – “3 or 4 different things… They should all compliment each other…”

People then consider you the go-to person for that particular line and will more readily approach you about something custom for that type of product line. They will ask you questions and pay attention to the expert when you give a response.

My approach is also that when I have two very different lines; say bedroom sets and Adirondack chairs, I don’t display or hawk them at the same time.


View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3308 days

#14 posted 02-14-2011 03:32 PM

No one has mentioned the business side of this. One of the most difficult things is finding customers and, if you only make one thing, you have to find a new customer for each sale. If you make a variety of things you build a satisfied customer base who already knows about your work. It’s pretty expensive and marketing intensive to build a business with no opportunity for repeat customers.

View Blue Mountain Woods's profile

Blue Mountain Woods

110 posts in 2961 days

#15 posted 02-14-2011 09:23 PM

I believe that the topic being addressed is a critical component of this business. What to build is as important as marketing, because the market has to bear whatever you ultimately decide upon. You may have the finest marketing strategy ever conceived, but if you are limited to fuscia and pink entertainment centers for the bathroom, it’ll likely fail. (...well, okay; maybe I want one.) My 2c worth: On a local level, I market anything custom; from furniture to duplicate architectural details and ballustrade systems, etc. My broader-based marketing (and therefore the majority of my marketing energy) is aimed at custom wood mouldings, because 1) they can be ordered from my catalogue, 2) there is none of the ambiguity associated with trying to sell a unique piece of furniture to someone 2,000 miles away, 3) I can produce mouldings at an average rate of 3,500 lf/day, and 4) my margin is higher than it is with anything else I produce, while still undercutting the local big boys. I don’t try to compete with Home Depot; we sell different mouldings. I will mill MDF, but don’t spend a lot of time on its marketing. I will offer poplar as my paint-grade, and market its superiority over MDF, along with the fact that you can have whatever profile you wish, and at a better price than my competitors.
So…..the point of my ad-nauseum post is that this thread is only asking whether it’s better to specialize or generalize prior to marketing. I have found, for myself, that I need to do both, and market accordingly.

-- Pete -----

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