Where do all you draw the line?

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Forum topic by Bieser posted 04-25-2013 11:43 PM 2286 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Bieser's profile


176 posts in 2154 days

04-25-2013 11:43 PM

Well I have started a small woodworking side business. As so many of you have already found out. All my friends and family have things they want built but nobody really wants to pay for them nor do I really want to charge what I should for them. How do all you draw the line, I will and feel like I will always do things for immediate family on occasion but some of them want me building and doing projects that quite frankly really are no fun nor pay any money. How do you all handle this


21 replies so far

View MT_Stringer's profile


3173 posts in 3350 days

#1 posted 04-25-2013 11:49 PM

Plain and simple for me. I give them a quote – take it or leave it. It may not be the highest price but it does help me buy more tools.

Note: I am retired so I can pick and choose but I still have 4-6 projects waiting to be built and more on the way.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2606 days

#2 posted 04-25-2013 11:55 PM

I let friends and family know that if they want it Cheap they have to wait until material is available from other projects. I also let them know that my time frame might not meet their emergency.
If they want it Fast and I have to put other stuff aside, they’ll have to pay for it. If I don’t make enough products to sell at a festival, I won’t have money to buy stuff I need.
If they want it fast and of high quality, They’ll pay the standard rate just like any other customer.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 2928 days

#3 posted 04-26-2013 12:02 AM

If you wait on jobs that are fun for you to come along, you may be in the wrong business. Doing for family is just part of the journey !

View diverlloyd's profile


3022 posts in 1977 days

#4 posted 04-26-2013 12:05 AM

Same as MT_Stringer give a quote and tell them times not free,but I like to barter my skills to and at least have them pay the lumber costs,then barter for the time

View madts's profile


1869 posts in 2459 days

#5 posted 04-26-2013 12:17 AM

I have made it my principle not to work for friends/family. I make them gifts, games and other, for free. but not charged work. Keeps things much easier.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3088 days

#6 posted 04-26-2013 12:19 AM

I have the opposite problem, I would do the jobs for free but they insist on paying me full whack.

View JAAune's profile


1826 posts in 2436 days

#7 posted 04-26-2013 12:26 AM

I have a spreadsheet that I can enter my estimated hours and material costs into. Overhead and tax gets automatically calculated then I simply plug in the hourly wage I wish to receive on top of the expenses. Friends and family get half rates for labor. One of my relatives however, will insist upon paying me full wages.

-- See my work at and

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5545 posts in 2528 days

#8 posted 04-26-2013 12:32 AM

madts +1 I agree and follow the same rule. I would barter but they never have anything to trade with…. Having been in Iraq for 3 years I know well which friends and family members support me, sadly it is a short list. Special shout out for Bearpaw who emailed me regularly and kept in touch all that time.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2595 days

#9 posted 04-26-2013 01:40 AM

beat around the bush and hedges. Make a point about telling people how you got this idea that you could make some bucks to help buy tooling and shop stuff and how your hobby might be taking you out to dinner and stuff. As others said don’t take advantage of them, perhaps give them a break but don’t loose overhead and materials or put aside a money job to do a freebee (unless it’s really someone special lol)

View pintodeluxe's profile


5741 posts in 2932 days

#10 posted 04-26-2013 01:49 AM

no fun + no money= don’t do the job.
Tell them your material costs and give them 20% off your normal price.

Better yet, tell them to buy the materials and work by the hour. Oh, by the way THEY do all the sanding.
With those rules you’ll never be asked for free favors again.

Most uninformed consumers assume they are doing you a favor to pay you IKEA prices for solid hardwood furniture. We need to educate people about the true cost and time investments involved.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3767 days

#11 posted 04-26-2013 02:19 AM

Client education is fundamental to making money in custom
woodworking. These days there is a lot of inexpensive
stuff produced in factories and most people have not been
trained to appreciate good craftsmanship.

If doing favor jobs for friends and family, I recommend keeping
the project surface areas modest (less sanding), the finishing
simple (oil is easy), and make sure you work in an opportunity
to do something challenging with each project so your skills
and portfolio grow.

Ultimately, if you want to make some decent money as a
custom woodworker, you’ll need a portfolio ladies will look
at and think “my husband/dad may be good with tools, but
he most definitely could not pull that off”. When your
work is at the level where it shows that you can do stuff
most hobbiests can’t, then the checkbooks come out.

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2229 days

#12 posted 04-26-2013 02:35 AM

One thing I learned as a pro musician… You have to throw out YOUR price, and let it land.

Tire kickers, the “materials cost X”, and “cheaper than Ikea” shoppers will walk, and as often as you can, you should let them.

If nobody is buying, you need to check your methods and find a better way to make stuff and still make a profit. There will always be people looking for a deal, and you need to select those jobs based on need, and charge what the market will bear.

View JAAune's profile


1826 posts in 2436 days

#13 posted 04-26-2013 02:40 AM

What Loren said about skill level is true. When I was asked to price out some pews for a small chapel I researched the prices given by large pew manufacturers. There are a number of them building solid oak pews at the price of $50-$60 per foot. Since the quality level of those pews are pretty decent, I couldn’t beat them enough on that ground to justify charging the $200 per foot I needed to stay in the black.

My choice was to rethink the standard folding kneeler design that typically gets installed on a pew with something superior in function. In order to justify the higher price, you have to offer something that can’t be had elsewhere and it often needs to be something more visible than a mere appeal to quality.

People can’t put their hands and eyes on quality easily. If you stop to think about why people will spend $600 on an iPad that lasts for just a few years instead of a bedside table that lasts for generations, you’ll get a good idea of how most people think. The iPad performs some function that cannot easily be had from other sources. A table however, is usually just an object to set things upon. A cardboard box does the job as does a $200 table from IKEA.

Finally, it’s important to make the attempt to build things that will retain or even increase their value after the customer buys them. This is very hard to do but it’s sometimes the difference between the starving artist and the thriving businessman in the woodworking world. If you can get to the point where your furniture maintains it’s value after it’s sold, you’ve got a powerful incentive to get people to buy your creations. Furniture is no longer an expense at this point, it’s an investment. As I said though, this is a tough place to reach. I’ve had 10 years of experience and people tell me I’m very skilled but I’ve not reached this level of work yet. One of my mentors in the craft did achieve it though and his work sells at higher prices than he originally charged when the owners sell them.

-- See my work at and

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29795 posts in 2457 days

#14 posted 04-26-2013 02:56 AM

I give them a discount. That’s as far as I let it go.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Woodknack's profile


12338 posts in 2499 days

#15 posted 04-26-2013 03:09 AM

The odd thing I’ve found over the years is that people who pay full price are more appreciative than those who get a discount or a freebie.

-- Rick M,

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