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Forum topic by RussellAP posted 01-12-2014 03:38 PM 3849 views 4 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3104 posts in 2524 days

01-12-2014 03:38 PM

I started in earnest last may making things for money.
I do this as my primary income while my wife still has her job and pays the majority of the bills. This gives me enough time to build my business up.

One of the things I learned early on in this business is that if you’re going to make a living at it, you have to do everything. And a lot of everything has nothing to do with woodworking.

Turning bowls is great for gifts, and unless you are stellar at it and set up to do shows, you should plan on having gifts on hand for the family on occasions like birthday’s and Christmas.

Making things like tables and chests are always good and rewarding, but don’t expect people to even inquire about them. They all love them, but no one buys.

If you are going to make furniture, the best way I’ve found to market it, is to get it into some retail store, take your 30% to 50% hit and move on to the next thing. I like to keep a few dozen pieces on hand to stock these stores up. Don’t get too proud of your work, it won’t sell for what YOU think it will. Trust the retailers pricing, they usually can get it sold for you which is better than it taking up space in your home.

Making outdoor furniture is also very profitable as long as you don’t gouge folks. If they get some good furniture at a great price, they’ll tell others and you’ll be backed up before long with folks wanting your chairs, tables, and benches.

My number one money maker is Craigslist. I usually put ads in for my furniture, cutting boards and I also pepper the skilled services with ads geared to Handiman work.
Monday, I quote two jobs, one is a simple job to repair three holes in some drywall, and the other is to remove a entryway door that comes into a bedroom about 4 feet and make it a flush to wall door. Neither of these jobs will take me more than a couple days, and I’ll probably see around 500-600$ out of that.

I only need about 1500$ a month to scrape by, and that is very doable if you do everything you possibly can.

I figure that once I get known for my furniture, I can make a living on that alone, but meanwhile I’m having fun being my own boss.

It is doable guys, just remember to stretch yourself, give up your fears and get out there.

When spring comes, I’ll be in my shop with the doors open and the birds singing. Where will you be, in some dank office?

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

28 replies so far

View Danpaddles's profile


573 posts in 2549 days

#1 posted 01-12-2014 04:19 PM

This is the first year I have sold stuff, did real well at an arts/ crafts show, did just okay at another show. Luckyu I do not have to make a living at it! I do feel like working under pressure, to have lots of stuff to sell, has taken away my hobby. Now it is a job, not a hobby.

I also found out I had to watch close to keep my quality up, doing a project a day, I started to rush things.

Then I had to look at stuff I could make faster. The first time I make something, it takes longer. But new skills and new projects were always some of the fun stuff for me.

I did surprisingly well with bird houses and bird feeders, even though I feel I make better trinket boxes. Okay, fair enough, the bird feeders and houses don’t need finish!

-- Dan V. in Indy

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641 posts in 2172 days

#2 posted 01-12-2014 04:27 PM

Congrats on things going well. I can see where it would be fun to be your own boss and glad it is working out for you. Having a optimistic outlook is very helpful. It is something I have a difficult time grasping but that is my nature.

I think doable really is dependent upon the individual and what they are willing to accept. I know several guys that took the step in various fields to be their own boss…and if some were honest with themselves their standard of living isn’t great (never mind no retirement, insurance, etc… they will be living off others dime at some point) and to boot they “work” many more hours. I say work because a big part of their work is now trying to get work. Some have a spouse that makes decent money and benefits to allow them to play and more importantly don’t hole them accountable. I would be more than a little ticked if my wife decided to pursue a job that wasn’t profitable. When stocking cans on a shelf or greeting people ends up being more profitable than ones dream it is time to make changes. I would be stressed out beyond belief but they are “blessed” with being blissfully unaware of their precarious position. I guess that is how they see themselves as being successful. They have a knack of seeing the economy as being bad for why they don’t have work or make little, the divorce was all her fault as she fell out of love, etc…..

I can see doing this because of situations arising but to stop my current job I could never do. It wouldn’t be pretty being my own boss doing woodworking (never mind the lack of skill set). Heck right off the bait I have 4 weeks of vacation, week of sick time, 9 holidays, 2 floating days, and almost always a few days are given for work and work 40 hrs a week on my schedule. Take pay and other benefits into the equation and ends up with me having to be a busy and successful out of the gate to be in a similar economic situation when I want to retire.

View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3815 days

#3 posted 01-12-2014 04:33 PM

Keep up the good work Russ

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3104 days

#4 posted 01-12-2014 04:39 PM

Russell, I’m going to give it a try. I retired last August when we lost the plant and I finally built a shop. I hope that my wife can work another four years and maybe during that time I can get a business going that will supplement our Social Security. It’s all new to me.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3885 days

#5 posted 01-12-2014 04:42 PM

There’s a lot of work for a decent fix-it carpenter. If you
promote your casework people will ask you to do all sorts
of things, some of which will be a drag. If you have an
ability to keep a truck ready to go with everything
you need in it, that can make doing quickie jobs
easier. If you’re making checklists and humping tools
from the shop to the truck every time you have to
work on site it consumes a lot of time.

If you help out little old ladies by fixing a step or
whatever they will recommend you. Then you’ll
have people calling you to fix chairs. You can charge
a fair rate to do repairs and people will pay it, but
it’s hard to get people to move the pieces so you’ll
need to either pick up and deliver the work yourself
or contract somebody to do it for you.

Putting in windows and doors, repairing fascia board,
replacing fence posts…. and so on. A lot of stuff
can come up and if you’ve got the energy to drive
around and work from a truck it’s an easier way
to make a buck than building fine furniture.

Basic casework, home repairs and trim carpentry are the
easiest to sell and there are always customers.

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Jim Finn

2688 posts in 3159 days

#6 posted 01-12-2014 05:04 PM

Many years ago when I was 26 I started my own contracting business with $200 in the bank , all the tools I needed and a place to work with them. I was the sole breadwinner in my family of four so the pressure was on me to make a go of it. I was a HVAC contractor and struggled for most of the nine years I did this. I kept out of debt and we all ate regularly. It can be done, and the way I did it was to work for someone else in the same business for four years and then stared out on my own. Yes, do whatever you can but know your trade or business well. I now sell my woodworking at street fairs and festivals. I do not make enough to live on doing this but it does fund my hobby 100%+

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3279 days

#7 posted 01-12-2014 05:38 PM

I am glad to hear you got the opportunity to start your business. It’s your kind of fortitude that drives this country.

Diversify is definitely the way to go. I have gotten woodworking jobs from handyman jobs. You have to get your name out there. And people that know you and know your work will pass it on to others.
As in most companies someone took a large risk to start their business. If your not willing or knowledgeable enough to do that, I would certainly not suggest anyone does.
I make a few extra grand each year off my hobby/business but I don’t really need the income. If I wanted to make more I could certainly get my name/product out there more.
As I have always thought, I believe I have always been my own boss. I use a company to get knowledge and income, while at the same time use my acquired skills to help improve the company.

View shopdog's profile


578 posts in 3723 days

#8 posted 01-12-2014 05:40 PM

Making money working with your hands isn’t easy…you already know that. We should make more money than lawyers, but that ain’t happening. I live in an affluent area, which makes it much easier. People here in Brooklyn are willing to pay well for someone that shows up on time, does good work, is honest, and cleans up.

The important thing is to find a niche. I build high end decks, and built-in bookcases. I have a great rep in my area, and have lots of people calling and emailing. I get to pick my projects. It took me years to get to where I am…making a decent living. In my spare time, I’m in my shop making cutting boards, and lots of scrollsaw projects. Mostly, they are gifts for friends and clients, but I also sell some pieces…but I’m not aggressive about selling crafts. I don’t need to.
I also do some handyman work for my clients…and they pay well for that too.

Being your own boss is a great feeling, but it doesn’t guarantee a good paycheck. I started out 35 years ago doing whatever people wanted for $15 per hour. It was a struggle because I needed to have 3, 4, or 5 different clients each week. Each night, I had to put tools together for the next day. It was tough, but I was young, and liked being my own boss. I also worked for contractors from time to time (learning new skills), getting a regular paycheck. Before I became independent, I was a college dropout, driving a taxi in NYC…after years of that, I was willing to do anything besides taxi driving. I’m 63 now, and looking to retire soon. Fortunately, I can afford to…

Anyway, good luck with your business

-- Steve--

View bigblockyeti's profile (online now)


5316 posts in 1958 days

#9 posted 01-12-2014 06:01 PM

This is something I’m considering too. I really like your points on having someone else sell the stuff for you, it seems to try to do this along with production (even on a small scale) would take the enjoyment out of it for many people, I suspect myself included. Another thing you didn’t mention that I’ve been told my a few different entrepreneurial experts is don’t finance anything if you’re not certain it’s something you absolutely want to do. Making payments on machinery that was intended for a business would make for a pretty pricey hobby for most, combined with the associated stress would again be working toward removing the enjoyment of woodworking.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2750 days

#10 posted 01-16-2014 03:11 PM

Russell great points you made and sounds like you have everything figured out, what sales and doesn’t, How to’s and don’ts, I remember you mentioned in an early post you were dealing with an unsatisfactory situation with some store front owners and treatment of your goods, how did that turn out? Did you ever get a truck?

I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in, I retired 4 years ago at the age of 50 now 54 after 25 years under that company umbrella, I will have annuity checks coming for the remainder of my days, I still have a mortgage though but low payment most everything else is paid off, my truck is an 06 Tundra crew cab with only 51k on it and it’s been paid off for several years so it’s still good, what income I make from my sales is mostly profit I keep a low over head by luck of finding dead trees locally and cutting with my chain saw making my own wood / lumber. I try to limit as much hardware as possible but making what ever I can from wood take for instance wooden hinges that’s a savings, lucky I don’t have to rely on my sales for a living so what income I make from my woodworking is mostly profit and savings.

I’ve found that you have to find and make what people want, is it something they can use, is it practical, is it unique? These things are what I’ve come to conclude, also keep in mind that the ladies are the shoppers more so then men, its in their nature so you have to appease them as well.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2524 days

#11 posted 01-16-2014 03:26 PM

Blackie, I ended up being asked to remove my wares from the store. I tried everything I know to get her to display the tables without other people’s stuff on them. I hear the whole thing was a bust anyway, so I didn’t lose a thing.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2750 days

#12 posted 01-16-2014 03:44 PM

Ah OK, sounds like it was for your best anyway then, less drama and heartache.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 2870 days

#13 posted 01-16-2014 04:21 PM

Many of the neighborhoods in my area are managed by an HOA, and every mailbox in the neighborhood must be uniform style and color.
When I was a kid I used to make some good coin scraping and repainting said mailboxes/posts. I made over $1000 one particular month. Pretty good coin for a 15 yo with no car. And I was often offerred other odd jobs on the side. So yes, its very doable to make money if you’re willing to broaden your horizons.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30142 posts in 2576 days

#14 posted 01-16-2014 04:40 PM

My experience is different than yours. At my shows I COUNT ON selling trunks. They virtually never fail to sell. Nothing happens overnight. I am going on 5 years now. It has steadily increased over that time, but I have put a lot of time into building it up. I have done some really good shows as well as some really bad ones, but now I know which shows to go to. I hope everyone here has success in pursuit of their woodworking dreams.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Zabazoom's profile


1 post in 2335 days

#15 posted 01-23-2014 07:58 PM

When I was younger I went from the engineering world to doing remodels and some new builds, lugged around a shop in a truck, because very job no matter how small needed just about every tool :) I eventually found my way into working on a couple of ongoing rehab, maintenance contracts, an eighty year old Ballroom, a sixty year old Apple Orchid, and a Marina. When I retired I started building Guitars and never have to leave the shop now, The biggest thing you need to do is find a Niche Market and build up your contacts. If you do good work, the word gets out. I have a couple of side products that started out as gift makes that I could pump out fast if I needed an income boast and always have a few on hand when I get an order, since these are from scraps I don’t have to invest to do em but I make sure that my logo and E-mail address is decaled on them to build up brand awareness.

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