I am desperate for commissions. Ideas?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by Adam Weis posted 10-14-2008 06:01 PM 2537 views 4 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Adam Weis's profile

Adam Weis

36 posts in 4222 days

10-14-2008 06:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question resource humor

I started woodworking professionally while in college. the last few summers i have come home from school and done fairly well for myself doing furniture commissions for people around Orange County, CA. The business was run mostly off of word of mouth and craigslist adds. This summer I graduated from school and decided to spend some time working out of the garage doing what I had done the last few summers. I made myself a website (“”) and had business cards printed but still have struggled to get any work. I think it is because the economy is such a disaster. Does anyone have any ideas?

-- Adam,

17 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4420 days

#1 posted 10-14-2008 06:24 PM

Adam, I checked out your site, and it’s very nice and clean looking. I would make one suggestion… on your portfolio pages, each small photo should be a link to a larger photo. Your work is great, but it will be much more impressive to a prospective client if they see it full-screen.

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

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3850 days

#2 posted 10-14-2008 06:28 PM

Call contractors and local designers and offer to bid on what they
need – generally cabinetry and built-ins.

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4528 days

#3 posted 10-14-2008 06:28 PM

I had the same thought as Charlie. links to larger pics to show more detail would be good. Also might not be a bad idea to include a description of each piece.

have you talked to your previous clients to find out what they are up to? perhaps if you stir the pot a little, it could get things going again.

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4077 days

#4 posted 10-14-2008 06:39 PM

Darryl is on the right track – talk to previous clients! I offer a discount for repeat clients, and occassionally I make some calls or send out some postcards saying that I’m offerring to extend the discount to my clients’ friends and family. I include a time frame: for the month of November, or between now and Christmas. This reminds my clients about me, reminds them that they are entitled to a discount, gives them a reason to tell other people about me, and gives potential clients a reason to contact me promptly.

-- -- --

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 4009 days

#5 posted 10-14-2008 06:44 PM

Hi Adam,

I am on a parallel path as the one you are on. Just recently went into business and launched my website. I too am trying to make a go at commissioned furniture by word of mouth and building my reputation one client at a time so I am very interested in this thread. One difference though is that I am doing this in addition to holding a full time job so my pressures are less. One thing that I do if I don’t have a commision is to work on a piece on speculation once complete you can use it in you portfolio.

View NY_Rocking_Chairs's profile


520 posts in 3799 days

#6 posted 10-14-2008 06:56 PM

You could also try finding some of the local art galleries or custom furniture places to see if they have any jobs or needs you could bid on. You will have to build your reputation with them one project at a time as well.

You could also build up a small inventory and try attending a craft show. It can be pricey to do this though, there are only a few shows that I work each year, they are highly-competitive and juried and can be pretty pricey. Though the last 2 years have seen a decline in sales at these shows even, not just me, but across all crafts, so the economy is having an impact.

About 80% of my commisions come through one of the art or furntiure galleries I am associated with. About 15% of my business comes from attending craft shows as a vendor where I can display my work to thousands of people and the other 5% from my web site.

-- Rich, anybody want a peanut?

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4608 days

#7 posted 10-14-2008 11:26 PM

Martin alerted me to this topic. I’ll send you an email.

Keep your chin up.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4017 days

#8 posted 10-15-2008 12:58 AM

The way we work is through a company that has mainly a flooring concern in the merchandise mart in chicago. But they “sell” other stuff (that WE make) for a hefty commssion. In addition, interior designers are the main ticket. They’re the ones who tell the client what moulding/cabinets ands such that they want. They invariably never use “standard” stuff. So it all has to be custom made.

To me a website rarely sells anything except the job…i.e. get a client (first) and the client looks at your website and decides to give you the job. So expanding the pics would be a good idea.

But I would go with the interior designers. They’re “art-EEESTs” and want their “vision” executed regardless of what the client is thinking (‘cause the client doesn’t really understand the style they’re talking about.)

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4528 days

#9 posted 10-15-2008 01:12 AM

listen to Mr DeCou!

one of these days I hope to implement to advice he has provided me!

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4094 days

#10 posted 10-15-2008 02:50 AM

Yes, 90% of the problem is the economy. My business has grown 300% since starting it in 2001, but this year is off about 60%. The only thing that has kept my head above water is repeat business from my large customer base. You need to get exposure. A web site is a good start, but unless you pay a company to place you high in the search listings, you won’t see any leads from it. One excellent way to get exposure is to participate in a home and garden show. You will get homeowners and people building homes looking for ideas and products for their home. I have received a lot of business from these type of shows. They can be a little pricy (in Atlanta $1200+), but worth the investment. Most of my largest dollar projects have also come through interior designers. They are sometimes difficult to get on board, but if you get one that likes your work, you will be aptly rewarded.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3756 days

#11 posted 10-15-2008 06:36 AM

Google has a lot of resources to help your site get ranked better:
A few things off the top of my head is to work on the title of your page and the meta description.
The title is very important.
Also, have a sitemap since the search engines need a way to get to all your pages.
Think of all the keywords people would use to buy custom furniture and incorporate that into the text on your page and title.
Have a blog on your page. Google likes content that changes.
Then submit your site to all the major search engines and don’t forget to submit to:
sites that are listed there get ranked better in google.

View KnickKnack's profile


1094 posts in 3768 days

#12 posted 11-06-2008 07:48 PM

I see you’re using RealTracker to monitor traffic.
So my question 1 is…
Are you getting the hits and not getting the sales, or not getting the hits?

i finally found a google search that found you, but it found your page on freewebs rather than Personally I’m wary of “freewebs” kind of pages – have it automatically redirect to your ”.com” page?

I agree with the comments on the pics – clicking on them was automatic, but nothing happened. Bigger pictures and data – sizes, wood types etc. I’d also say some of your pictures are “too technical” – I am interested in the dovetails, but I’m fairly sure the average joe isn’t.

Just my twopeneth.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3850 days

#13 posted 11-06-2008 11:30 PM

Forget marketing dovetails and other things that appeal to wood geeks.

Focus on solving the problems of WOMEN:

- women who hate their kitchens
- women who hate their bathrooms
- women who hate their closets.

“Hate” may be a strong word,but the point is that if
a woman “hates” her hair she fixes it. Same thing with
the house.

People don’t buy custom work for their own pleasure nearly
as readily as they’ll buy it to rid themselves of an eyesore
in their homes.

Just giving you the truth. The other solution is to court the
rare design pros who have the wealthy clients.

If you won’t do cabinetry you’ll probably struggle an awful lot.
People need custom-made furniture as much as they need
custom boots – it’s a small niche market driven by vanity.

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3869 days

#14 posted 11-07-2008 01:10 AM

I think across the board, everyone living off a non-necessity commodity is hurting. I think the days of the custom woodworker are numbered, regardless of how skilled a craftsman your are. We are dealing in wants, not needs. Right now it seems people are only buying things that have to have. I have been blessed with a slow and steady stream of work. I’m not getting rich by any means, but I’m not unemployeed. Just remember, even if your slow, don’t give your work away. When things pick back up, you don’t want to be know as the “discount woodworker”. Underpromise and overdeliver keeps them coming back.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View FFURNITURE's profile


21 posts in 3788 days

#15 posted 12-14-2008 02:29 AM


I use to make a living off of Furniture Commissions, but now primarily make my living on the Management side. You have a “Style” which I think is marketable, but you would also benefit from doing someone else’s designs, AKA, Interior Designers. They’re more than happy to take a commission on you, and a one of a kind piece.
One word: Newport.

Good Luck!

-- Clamps are like dollars in the bank, you NEVER can have too many!

showing 1 through 15 of 17 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics