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Anonymous

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Hi all,

A new boy here.

I'm a complete beginner, and have just discovered at the age of 40 that sawing and chiselling wood is quite good fun!

I made some joints out of scraps of pine just to see if I could do it, and now, flushed with exaggerated expectations of my potential and talent and having seen the ads in 'furniture & cabinet making' offering courses, I wondered about the chances of making a living making things on a self employed basis.

How difficult is it to make a reasonable living with woodwork? Are there areas that are particularly more lucrative than others, or is it pretty much unrealistic to expect to compete with factories and mass production methods unless one's had years of experience in fine cabinet making.. or whatever it's called?

To any one who bothers to answer .. thanks for humouring me!

Square :)
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Hi Square, welcome to forum!

Phew what a question. I'm sure others will love answering this one!

Bit of background. I'm a furniture restorer in trade about 26 years, self employed about 20 odd. Age 43 BTW. AND not precious about my work!

I've never made any decent money at this but always earned a living and apart from a few financial ups and downs its been ok.

Making a go of it, in your case making not restoring depends alot on your existing skills, how good at picking things up and what sort of passion you have,I think. ie if you good skills its the basis to start. aptidude to learn means you get better quicker. and passion means you'll not mind working all hours to make it pay! Take any of these away and it'll be harder.

The most important thing(in my opinion) is that the success of a busines depends on the person. Not always the skills but the ability to interact with the public. ie you could be brilliant at making but if no one warms to you it will be harder to get on. If you have the sort of personality that draws poeple to you that really helps. This applies to all businesses. You can be fantastic at what you do but if you cant sell it you'll struggle. Nothing sells itself despite what people say. Look around your'e local businesses. Look at the succesful ones and see what the boss is like, then you'll see what I mean.

I think courses give good grounding if you get on the right one for you.
You'll have a flying start. Keep financial expectations low. If you've got wife, 3 kids high mortgage it will be harder to make it work. If you want to earn say 20k pa it would be really hard cos this is after overheads etc
Probally 10 to 12k to build on is more like it. But I may be shot down in flames here!

I've got to say all the above is a bit of a Hobby horse for me really!
I'm very opinionated on the subject cos I have been through the mill as it were. Sole trading, partnership.

Above all, unlikewhat others think; make what people want. If you dont it wont work. Dont be idealistic and think your'e going to change peoples tastes. You cant afford to be self indulgent if working for yourself. Give em what they want, dont under or overcharge and sell yourself as much as the product.

I could go on for loads here, but better draw a line for now!! cos it will get boring for the others! Hi Steve.......

PS If you have the acumen and intelligence I would say its not hard to beat the competition. Us lot are not too high up the scale when it comes to self promotion and satisfying customer demand. I'm able to run rings around competition in my trade.locally. They dont know what customer service means! but then I've only got one pair of hands and I dont need much work to be busy!!

Good Luck, hope this helps
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Square Unusual name. Somewhat implies dungarees, slippers and a tank top, which reminds me I must call my father.

I asked a similar question once of a load of woodworkers and to be honest I got very cagey replies. It's great that Matstro has been so honest and given good advice. I worked in the Carpentry industry for a number of years and they were good years but I made my money in another industry so much so that I retired at 35 and now I have returned to Carpentry as a passion rather than a need.

See the way my mind works is that although I don't have to make money in carpentry, I want to. As a business man I see strengths in the market and plod, plod, plodding areas, there is nothing more satisfying than completing a piece of work and on the odd occasion I feel happy with the results. But sell that piece and something hits you more than just a pat on the back. Now I have some theories in this area but to be honest, I am not sure I want to share them here in the group.

You see your post has been here a day or so and apart from Matstro everyone is playing their cards close to their chest. Same happened when others have asked. I am sure many of us would like to know if others are making a good living in the industry and I appreciate there are others here that are like myself retired and don’t perhaps want to get involved in making a business.

It's a British thing, encourage to many people to get into you industry and you will lose your job. If you walk along a river bank and ask a fisherman if this would be a good place to fish and he says No. Get your rod out.

Sorry to go On
 

kityuser

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but I made my money in another industry so much so that I retired at 35
bl**dy hell! :D

Admin note: Please re-read the forum rules, and do not use bad language in these forums(Original message edited)
 
A

Anonymous

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So, anyone else out there want to contribute?

Square what do you think?

Is there ANYBODY ELSE running a business in the WW line? It would be great to share some experiences here.

What about aspiring WW businesses? Thinking of going into it? What do you think?

Do you all work as hard as you can for as much as you can get!!!???

Regards
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Matstro, I hadn't thought I'd need to develop a magnetic personality too. But interesting, I heard something similar elsewhere.

On the question of pricing, I read somewhere on the net (so it must be true) that one person had doubled the price of some furniture (I think it was) that wasn't selling, and all of a sudden people started buying it. Now that's the kind of advice I like. :D


"Square Unusual name. Somewhat implies dungarees, slippers and a tank top, which reminds me I must call my father."

Private joke really, Steve: I took back two combination squares, and tried a number in the shop (£15-£20), and none were square. I've ended up with something that's almost! I think I'll try some cheap plastic ones - eventually one will be - or seriously, buy an expensive one. I am kinda 'square' in some ways, but I do have an electric guitar, you know!

"You see your post has been here a day or so and apart from Matstro everyone is playing their cards close to their chest. Same happened when others have asked. I am sure many of us would like to know if others are making a good living in the industry and I appreciate there are others here that are like myself retired and don’t perhaps want to get involved in making a business."

Hmm .. point taken, but I assume if people are cagey about even recommending it as a viable occupation, then things must be quite hard for most, or at least the chances of 'shovelling it in' are extremely slim.

Anyway, thanks to those who've ventured where others fear to tread.
:wink:

Square
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I'm sure you'll suceed where I failed :D I tried to break into the trade of woodworking as a business but there is too much competition in the area where I live and so I returned to my original business where I know I'll earn a good wage. Still I learnt a lot from the great members in this Forum and if you're looking for sound advice you won't find much better than here.

Good luck with your venture.

Chaz.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
ChazR,

I want to just say that I think you are brilliant to come here and say what you said. You'll probally be one of the only ones to have the guts to say you've failed.

I cannot imagine how many WW are out there who think they know this, know that, Have this have that, who, when push comes to shove, bottle out and dont try, content rather to observe others than taking the risk themselves.

I sincerely hope I dont come over condecending here ,but top marks for
giving it a go I reckon.

Regards and best wishes for the future
 

Drew

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Hi Square

I agree with what Matstro said about the personality aspect and keeping your expectations low. But if you are feeling this way about it do your courses and give it a try. If you don't it will always be "what if" and you'll regret it forever. Whether or not you succed in the WW business is relatively unimportant, just enjoy it when your are doing it, if it works fantastic! more power to your elbow, if it doesn't you have a wealth of experience behind you above all don't have any regrets.

I'll stop waffling on now

Drew
 
A

Anonymous

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Hi, my first post on this forum, and a subject close to my heart. I have a number of points I would like to make-

People who teach woodwork for a living don't necessarily know how to make a living at woodwork.

People who want to buy furniture don't necessarily make for their local maker, they are far more likely to go to Courts, DFS etc, or if they are rich, Harrods.

The fact that the furniture you make is better than in the shops won't necessarily make it more attractive to purchasers, as they are for the most part unable to tell the difference. To an average customer there is no difference between solid wood and veneered chipboard

People are brought up since childhood to learn that the place to buy stuff is in shops

Most people don't understand the difference between softwood and hardwood. If you say solid wood to them they will think you mean pine

Learning how to sell is more important than learning how to make.

Making a profit is all about working at speed. If you find yourself using handtools a lot then you are probably working much too slowly

I personally avoid making pieces to order, due to most people being unable to visualise a finished piece from a drawing, and the sheer amount of time that has to be spent in negotiating, planning, designing, chatting etc etc.

Just some thoughts, not trying to put you or anybody else off from entering the world of professional woodwork. I often think, though, that people who offer woodworking courses should perhaps make it a little clearer just how difficult it is to make a living in pure woodwork. Perhaps thats why they started teaching?

John Elliott
 
A

Anonymous

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Johnelliott,

Good to see you believe in the world of woodworking reality! Your post really does come through like a breath of fresh air!!

Drew, Yes, your'e right, nothing ventured nothing gained!


Square, I forgot to say. If your'e after shed loads of money, its going to be hard I think! As you say, with nobody coming through here giving much cause for financial optimism, either nobody earns vast sums or they do, but want to keep it a big secret! I think I know which one I believe!

Regards
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Square

I have only just noticed this post, or I would have replied to it sooner.

I set up business in December 2000, as a cabinetmaker and woodturner. I am in the fortunate possition whereby I am not married with kids, and have very few other commitments, meaning if work slows down, its only me that goes hungry.

There are two main things that i have learned by working for myselfe.
1. Its not good enough to be able to make good quality items, you have to make good quality items quickly.
2. you cant rely on one form of woodwork to supply you with a decent income.

As I said earlier, I set up in business as a cabinetmaker and woodturner. Cabinetmaking, now makes up little of my income. Most of my income now comes from pieces of architectural woodwork (joinery), and woodturning for other businesses. Many cabinetmakers fit kitchens to increase their income, but I decided that this wasnt for me (there are too many deadlines to meet), so I diversified into joinery (high quality, one-off pieces).

As for being quick as well as good, when i first set up in business, i made some small stools to sell at craft fairs. The legs for the stool took me 20 mins to turn each one. A few months ago a local chairmaker got in touch with me, and asked me to do some turning for him. When I visited him he showed me a stool leg, not too dissimilar to the ones that i had turned earlier for my own stools. He then informed me that he was paying his other turner £1.50 per leg (the chairmaker supplies the wood). A quick bit of maths shows that i would be working for £4.50ph. I can now turn the same legs in 5-6mins, meaning that I make a reasonable rate of £15 ph.

As far as 'crash courses' go, i would steer clear of them. A much better (although more stretched out) option would be to enrol on a college night class. The thing with crash courses is that they show you how to make the furiture, but little else. They dont show you how a peice of furniture is designed and why it is designed that way, how timber should be selected, how to cost a piece................................................

If I can be of a help to you in any other way, please feel free to contact me,

Cheers
Doughnut
 

johnelliott

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Following on from what Doughnut says, speed is vital. So often one is doing work for somebody who isn't the end user, and they will probably already know exactly how much they are going to pay. That is one time when speed becomes vital. Another time is when the reason you are getting the work is because you were the one who promised to get it done within the customer's time constraints

One frequently ends up doing not exactly what one set out to do. When I started making guitars years ago that was what I expected to do. As it turned out, what my customers actually wanted was guitar repairs. At first I resisted, in the end it turned out to be well paying work, shame there wasn't a bit more of it.

Interesting stuff, woodwork. Even Chippendale didn't do particularly well out of it. I remember reading that he had a lot of difficulty getting paid for what he did. Seems rich people are happy to order stuff but a bit slow to pay for it

John
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Something else that has become apparent to me over recent years is that when dealing with customers, quoting etc, if you give the impression that you are desperate for the work, money is tight etc and that things are generally a bit of a struggle you will acheive far less financially than if you give the impression that you have plenty of work, things are going well and you don't really mind whether you get their order or not! Obviously if you overdo this it will backfire! Strike a balance and its surprising what an impact this approach can have on the business.

Trouble is when you are starting out for the first time its helluva job to portray one image when the reality is the opposite!!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Thanks everyone generally for the useful comments, and to you, doughnut, for the kind offer of assistance - I'll try not to make you regret it .. unless really necessary. :wink:

Seriously, hopefully sharing experiences in this area is of use to many.

As for me, I'll probably content myself for the time being with making bits and pieces and acquiring skills while at the same time keeping an eye open on the commercial angle, and maybe the two might even start to converge at some point. But I can see that there's a danger that what's fun as a hobby, might turn out to be not so as a business with deadlines to be met. At the moment the only power tools I have (or have ever used) are a jig saw and drill. So I don't suppose I'm likely to become a threat on the architectural joinery front, or probably anywhere else in the near future.

Square
 

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