Working further from home, avoiding the pitfalls

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Forum topic by 404 - Not Found posted 06-04-2013 03:38 PM 949 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2936 days

06-04-2013 03:38 PM

In the seven years that I been a sole trader, 90% of the work I’ve done has been for local clients. When I say local, I mean within half an hour drive of my home and workshop. This has suited me because as well as woodworking, I have had to be around to look after my two children. For the most part I’ve managed to keep all the balls up in the air, but there have been times when the flow of work has turned into a mere trickle. The situation I’m now facing is that my youngest will be attending secondary (high) school in September, which will leave me with more freedom to travel further afield for work.

The type of jobs that would be worthwhile me doing would be projects like home offices, larger built-ins, fine freestanding pieces, etc,. Meaty projects where you measure up once, spend a couple of weeks making it and then return to fit/deliver it, and get paid. Truth be told, I want to get away from anything with chipboard in it.

I do think there is a niche market out there for things that can’t be bought, and although there are plenty of people who will make a nice kitchen or built in wardrobes in Ireland, when it comes to doing anything slightly unusual or non standard out of solid timber, there is a shortage of woodworkers with either the equipment, ability or willingness to do it.

I’m wary though of travelling a distance to look at stuff, spending a day between driving, discussing a job, costing it and submitting a quote to either get no reply or be told “that’s a lot more than I thought it would be”, plus the added wear and tear on the van and the half tank of diesel wasted.

I have resisted doing a website until now because of the situation with the kids, but that is in development at the moment. I know a website is not a silver bullet, but it might help by simply showcasing the type of work I can do.

So I guess the question in a nutshell is, if you are prepared to go the distance to gain new clients and new work, how do you filter out the genuine enquiries without wasting too much of your own time?

4 replies so far

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1835 days

#1 posted 06-04-2013 03:47 PM

What I do is a bit different, but I often commute up to 6 hours driving time from my home. Pictures help. A website would be very useful for your purposes. Highlight what you do, and give some sort of expectation towards pricing.

Other tactics would include working in conjunction with builders and general contractors. Interior decorators would seem to be a great resource for your type of fine woodworking. Not sure how rural you are, suggesting that many more rural locations might be less likely to utilize an interior decorator. Of course there are exceptions.

Waterfront residentia/retreat and golf course areas would seem like good areas to focus.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3252 days

#2 posted 06-04-2013 05:01 PM


Sounds like you have the same opportunity as I faced here in the States. Over the years I’ve designed, built and delivered pieces in 13 States all along the eastern coast of the US.

A Web-site can be helpful if nothing else as a way for a distant customer can see a portfolio of your work.

Depending on how you get the leads for work at a distance, you can handle a lot of the qualifying, designing and pricing without spending a ton of time on the road, but rather through phone calls and e-mails.

The furthest distance I’ve dealt with working with a customer was 3,000 miles. We did all the designing, pricing and actually getting a signed contract through e-mails. The customer contacted me through my web-site originally.
It was a project that was delivered and installed within 50 miles of my shop, but the customer was on the other side of the country. They meant me for the first time when they flew in for the installation.

The furthest distance I’ve designed, built and delivered was about 600 miles.

You can make good money, but you really have to price for travel time and out of town expenses. It’s surprising that people won’t bat an eye for the extra charges if you can offer them what they are looking for.

Good luck and go for it. Just price accordingly.

BTW; Most of the pieces I built out of my local area was home offices, home libraries, huge wall units or entertainment centers and actually a few kitchens.

-- John @

View Loren's profile


10269 posts in 3615 days

#3 posted 06-04-2013 06:32 PM

I give ballpark figures for timber and finishing options
without making any more than a napkin sketch.

don’t be afraid to put prices on your website – set
them at what you’d prefer to get too, not what
you settled for. If you are going to get assertive about
marketing and you have the skills and gear to work
to high standards, you can probably find the affluent
clients who can afford to pay you pretty well –
it’s just a matter of casting wide enough net.

I sometimes ask “have you ever had custom work done?”

If the answer is no they may have some goofy expectations.

I also sometimes ask “do you own the home this is going in?”

If the answer is yes, that’s good.

Once I got an inquiry from a California physician living in
a beach-view condo south of Santa Monica. It turned
out he was renting the place. It also turned out he
figured the value of soild cherry built-in floor-to-ceiling
bookshelves built, finished and installed was about $75/lf.

Some guys here in the states get certified to install
Poggenpohl and other super high-end cabinetry. They
travel and make good money doing it. Some people
just want Poggenpohl for the cache so they aren’t going
to buy custom cabinets from anybody else, but they
still need a good installer.

View LakeLover's profile


283 posts in 1906 days

#4 posted 06-04-2013 09:46 PM

Just a thought. I have made some pieces for a chairty auction. Some exposure, a chance to meet new people.

I have considered a website also.

Traveling an hour or two around here is the norm, but we do live in a vast open area.

Some logisitcs on install can be a PITA. I try to premake all I can but some onsite fitting is inevitable. On certian things I make extras, so a screw up is not a wasted day. Also you should double up on some tools, so if you forget one in the shop…...

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