Afraid of success - a hobbyist's dilemma, a Catch 22

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Forum topic by Don posted 10-17-2011 06:48 PM 1934 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Don's profile


551 posts in 3211 days

10-17-2011 06:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: humor question

Hey fellow LJ’s…

So, here I sit, back at work (the one that pays the bills – ugh) and I have a dilemma, a Catch 22, if you will. Allow me to explain….

I am a hobbyist woodworker, I make things for friends and family and try to sell some things I make. I have recently advertised at work for the Christmas rush that I am making cutting boards, cheese boards and wine racks. I have some mild interest and have had a few orders placed with me. I posted a few new items on Facebook and have received a few more orders. Then, I posted on another site where all things are bought and sold but only received one hit.

My son said I should expand the area I’m trying to sell to and perhaps do up a web site. Awesome idea but here’s where the catch comes in.

Being a hobbyist means I do this woodworking thing part time, in my spare time. I had hoped for more orders to come in and who knows, they still may. I would love to advertise to a larger audience HOWEVER, how successful do I want to be doing this? I don’t want to be out in the workshop (garage) several hours a night. every night and for 8 – 10 hours on Saturdays and Sundays, and neither does my wife.

So, do I dare push the limit and risk becoming semi-successful or do I remain in the shadows, happily allowing orders to trickle in with no fear of being overwhelmed? sigh

-- -- Don in Ottawa,

26 replies so far

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2836 days

#1 posted 10-17-2011 07:00 PM

My work is work and my hobby is a hobby. I’m going to try to keep it that way for myself.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Vince 's profile


40 posts in 2468 days

#2 posted 10-17-2011 07:02 PM

When hobbies become work I feel you start to look at it like you look at work, a job to pay the bills when u would rather be at home playing with wood. I agree with Landog . Next thing you know your gonna a need to find a new hobby to relieve the pressures of woodworking.

-- "Putty and paint make the carpenter I ain't"

View DrDirt's profile


4423 posts in 3711 days

#3 posted 10-17-2011 07:06 PM

I’d say go for it, because – maybe you get a big rush but keep in mind the focus of the moment is the christmas season, so even if you get buried there are only 9 weeks before Christmas, and include shipping time at the holidays.

You have to answer the question for yourlself but have it ready ” If I advertise some more and get slammed, I will - - - - _ ” fill the blank

Maybe it means you need to take a few days vacation and spend a bunch of extra time in the shop, and since it is seasonal, with a nice glass of eggnog in hand decide if you want to do it next year again.

Lots of people plan this way around the christmas craft fairs, so they have a couple busy months every year, and the rest of the time it is pure hobby.

Good Luck


-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Puzzleman's profile


417 posts in 2913 days

#4 posted 10-17-2011 09:07 PM

I believe that you know the answer already. You have stated twice in your post that you are a hobbyist. If you do not want to work long hours at night and weekends, then do not advertise much more than what you are. With more orders comes more work and then more hours. Starting off slow this year and letting your products sell themselves for in the future, will increase slows gradually.

Now if you really want to make a job out of woodworking (which I did and I still enjoy what I do) and possibly create a second income (job). Then advertise more. Remember a lot of people will not order till late in the season.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler,

View EPJartisan's profile


1118 posts in 3094 days

#5 posted 10-17-2011 10:37 PM

When I was in college and I fell in love with woodworking, I was given some advice by the guy who ran our 3D lab. He said if you want to be happy, NEVER take on commissions, NEVER take orders, NEVER make gifts! Do it all for yourself, dream big, be fearless, and be in front of the market with the new and the interesting. SIGH! he didn’t mention how much harder it is and how poor i’d be.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View seabiscuit's profile


95 posts in 2393 days

#6 posted 10-17-2011 10:56 PM

You are making a huge leap. If a test bed of places around you produced almost no orders, what makes you think you would get orders on a larger scale? Unless you have a background in business and are willing to take a loss for the next 5 years, I wouldn’t even consider it. Lots of people think “oh, it’s easy to create a brand and run a business.” It’s not. In your avatar, you look a bit old – work, retire, wood work for fun while you are waiting…

View DrDirt's profile


4423 posts in 3711 days

#7 posted 10-17-2011 11:01 PM

Ahhh academia

Well EP he said that from the comfort of a tenured faculty position that he can never be fired from (so long as he doesn’t take a rifle to the clock tower…anything short of that is OK) and has retirement and healthcare benefits… is easy for him to make such a suggestion for how to be happy in life when you don’t have to compete and feed yourself in the real world.

So if someone COMMISIONED you to do a half million dollar piece to be installed down at Navy Pier…lord how miserable would that be…..cause to be happy you must never accept and order or commission???

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 2903 days

#8 posted 10-17-2011 11:13 PM

My thought is that the minute you start selling, your hobby becomes a business.
With the business, welcome all the olibation that comes with it and stress.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4187 days

#9 posted 10-17-2011 11:24 PM

It’s one thing to make what you want to make, and THEN try to sell it. But taking orders, especially for something that entails a lot of repetition like cutting boards, is a sure way to make you end up hating your “hobby”.

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

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3037 days

#10 posted 10-17-2011 11:57 PM

One solution would be to take 10 – 11 months a year and make the stuff you want to make – and as much of it as you want to do.

Around this time of year, offer the stuff for sale. When it’s gone, it’s gone. If it doesn’t go, there’s always next year.

If you get into taking orders, you give up control of the what, when, and how many. The customers will decide those things for you. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 2979 days

#11 posted 10-18-2011 12:10 AM

I ruined another hobby that I loved very much by going into business. It is a slippery slope because it is rewarding to see yourself perform the hobby at a level high enough to compete in the marketplace, but at the same time this comes with significant costs and possibly loss of enjoyment with your hobby.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15283 posts in 2587 days

#12 posted 10-18-2011 12:19 AM

Interesting discussion to be sure. I’d fall into the ‘make a bunch, sell that’ way of thinking offered by Sawkerf. A hobby is likely to stop being a hobby when deadlines are introduced, and woodworking is too important to me to risk it.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Wood_smith's profile


260 posts in 2994 days

#13 posted 10-18-2011 04:02 AM

Ditto on smitty and sawkerf- make things you like to make all year long, and find a sale, fair, show, whatever once a year. It’s not like your making cookies… cutting boards don’t get stale and will never go out of style.

-- Lloyd Kerry; creator of the Kerry-All Pouch,

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2648 posts in 2891 days

#14 posted 10-18-2011 04:20 AM

sawkerf has it right: I spend 40+ hours a week in my workshop making what I like and then sell at about 30 shows a year. I do take a few orders but prefer not to. Mostly, I just make stuff and offer it. I worked at construction my whole life and when I retired I realized that the only thing I did not like about construction was the pressure to make $ or meet a deadline. I now avoid that in my hobby. Life is good!

-- Website is

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2819 days

#15 posted 10-18-2011 06:11 AM

Some are advocating a very safe plan:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Others suggest you could take a leap and have one of those “good problems” to solve.

On risk:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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