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How to change career to woodworking

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Sgian Dubh

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- how much cash in the bank do I need each month
- then add on the taxes you will pay to take that home
- then add on the capital costs (equipment to purchase / replace / etc.)
- then add on the monthly overheads (workshop / website / accountant / petrol / etc.)
- calculate how many hours you want to work each day (remembering that the maximum work days in most jobs is 52 weeks x 5 days minus at least 28 days statutory holiday = 232 days) so if you need to earn £2,000 cash per month, that might need income of let's say £4,000 per month = £48,000 p/a = £206 per day or c. £25 p/h for an 8 hour day...
A factor I've always had in mind, which applied when I ran my own business, was to work on the basis that in a nominal forty hour week, which sort of begs the question, 'is there such a thing as a forty hour work week for a busy small or one person self employed business owner(?)', you will only invoice for approximately twenty eight hours of work. In other words your 'required' hourly, daily or weekly rate has to be made up from your billable hours which account for only approximately 70 per cent of your working time. So, for example, if you are to invoice for £1,000 of your labour or the work element (time) per week, because you're only able to charge for billable hours, i.e., ~28, your hourly rate equals ~£36 per hour. Non-billable hours are made up things such as machinery and workshop maintenance, sourcing materials, client and other business meetings (e.g., bank, accountant, etc), office work of various sorts, holidays, sickness, and so on. And, of course, other costs such as those you listed, e.g., overheads, equipment purchases, etc.

None the previous takes into account such items as materials used to make a products(s), business premise rent or rates, and so on, but I can see you've included some of those elements in your list above at the opening of the quotation. I'm just wondering how my example above fits into your more detailed outline posted earlier? Or maybe it's not relevant in the scheme you outlined? Slainte.
 
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Cabinetman

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Custard, what you wrote sums the business up exactly. When I first started in a serious manner I had hoped to train my son up to give him a future as a self-employed bespoke furniture maker. It quickly became apparent that there was never going to be enough money in it for a young man who wanted to raise a family, even with a workshop thrown in with very low overheads, also this is a relatively poor area. He had the good fortune to make a very beautiful piece for a local businessman who offered him a managerial position in his company – transport and construction. And I urged him to take it and he is now very successful. And of course he is trained up so he has a wonderful hobby for life.
It really is a shame that we can’t produce beautiful pieces of furniture, and make a half decent living. It’s one or the other and depressingly I can’t see it changing in the foreseeable future. Ian
 

akirk

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A factor I've always had in mind, which applied when I ran my own business, was to work on the basis that in a nominal forty hour week, which sort of begs the question, 'is there such a thing as a forty hour work week for a busy small or one person self employed business owner(?)', you will only invoice for approximately twenty eight hours of work. In other words your 'required' hourly, daily or weekly rate has to be made up from your billable hours which account for only approximately 70 per cent of your working time. So, for example, if you are to invoice for £1,000 of your labour or the work element (time) per week, because you're only able to charge for billable hours, i.e., ~28, your hourly rate equals ~£36 per hour. Non-billable hours are made up things such as machinery and workshop maintenance, sourcing materials, client and other business meetings (e.g., bank, accountant, etc), office work of various sorts, holidays, sickness, and so on. And, of course, other overheads such as those you listed, e.g., overheads, equipment purchases, etc.

None the previous takes into account such items as materials used to make a products(s), machinery purchase, business premise rent or rates, and so on, but I can see you've included some of those elements in your list above at the opening of the quotation. I'm just wondering how my example above fits into your more detailed outline posted earlier? Or maybe it's not relevant in the scheme you outlined? Slainte.
Absolutely right...
however, you can either reduce billable hours (needing more per hour as income) or you can maintain billable hours, but increase worked hours... the first makes you less financially competitive, the second makes you exhausted!

your approach is the better approach, but very often where someone has a passion / focus on setting up a business, if reducing billable hours prices them out of the market, they choose the second (and worse) option. we have a society expectation of a 40 hour week, so a lot of inexperienced businesses do their calculations based on an expectation of 40 hours and then all the other work has to be done later, doing invoicing and book-keeping in the evening, often putting in 60+ hours a week if lucky! Similarly, those running their own businesses often don’t take holidays etc... when you consider that someone may be doing this for a better life, they very often get their work life balance wrong...

on your other point, my example above was by no means complete, but just trying to illustrate a bottom line up approach to understanding charging, rather than the more random approach of setting an arbitrary hourly rate and then later wondering why there is never enough cash... a decent business plan, financial forecast and budget would cover everything...
 

peter-harrison

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I’ve had a few people in your position come to work with me on whatever I’m doing at the time, for no money in either direction. I get a hand and they get shown how to do whatever the task at hand is, plus the repetitive task of actually doing it.
I generally try to gently dissuade them from doing anything as crazy as giving up a salaried job, with sick pay, holiday, pension..!
One thing that rarely gets a mention in discussions like these is speed. If you’re aiming to get a job working for someone else, what will get you the job is your skill level. What will keep the job is how fast you can do it at that skill level. The same applies if you are going self-employed. Almost anyone, given enough time, materials and equipment, can produce something wonderful. If you want to make a living at it, you need to do it in a timely fashion and without wasting too much wood.
 

Yojevol

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Custard's above reference to the Celebration of Craftsmanship festival reminded me of the little anecdote I gave in my post in Steve Wardley's thread Woodworking in Later Years.
It seems relevant here-
I (me, Brian) can't claim to have made much money but I usually refer to it as a self financing hobby. I once made this remark to a professional at the 'Celebration of Craftsmanship' held annually in Cheltenham. His reply was 'I think there are a lot of us in that position'
 

bjm

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Sometimes, when faced with a dilemma, it does no harm to look at it from the other direction!

How about a thought experiment...

Suppose a friend came to you and said 'I'm bored with my woodworking life, I'm thinking about a career in consulting'

What would your advice be?
 

cookiemonster

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Sometimes, when faced with a dilemma, it does no harm to look at it from the other direction!

How about a thought experiment...

Suppose a friend came to you and said 'I'm bored with my woodworking life, I'm thinking about a career in consulting'

What would your advice be?
I would say, if (I) you like the industry or subject area (ii) you can tolerate the inconsistency and uncertainty in income and (iii) you have skills and experience which are in demand, then go for it. My problem is with the first of these.
 

Sgian Dubh

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Absolutely right...
however, you can either reduce billable hours (needing more per hour as income) or you can maintain billable hours, but increase worked hours... the first makes you less financially competitive, the second makes you exhausted!
Thanks for the response. It helped me understand where you were coming from, and it seems my way of thinking isn't too far from your outline of running a business.

Nowadays, I'm one of those in the population (quite common today for older people) who sort of fell into partial self-employment a few years ago when my full-time PAYE role in Higher Education ended with closure of the course programme I ran. So, in a sense I'm not really running a business, or even trying to build up a business with, for example, potential to grow and pass on, sell or attract investors, along with all the hard work and stress those kinds of business strategies entail. I'm fairly happy to sort of doodle along in a state of what I suppose is not too stressful three quarter busy-ness, ha ha.

Still, I used to run my own furniture business during the time when I lived in the USA, and closed it to take up a job offer back here in the UK. I was always frustrated as a one person business with the need to produce stuff to meet a deadline, but quite commonly at the same time I should really have been 'out there' winning new orders and business for the future. I couldn't generally fulfil both those roles at the same time, and this could lead to an erratic income stream. So, to reiterate the point already made by others in this thread, I'd say the number one challenge for a small one person business is somehow generating good, regular and ideally pretty consistent sales. Basically, no sales (good profitable ones), no business. Slainte.
 

doctor Bob

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I always think "If a dumbo like me can do it then most people have a fighting chance", I suffer dreadfully from imposter syndrome and it has taken great effort to learn to maintain eye contact as you say " the table will be £5500 plus vat".................. :)
 

PAC1

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I always think "If a dumbo like me can do it then most people have a fighting chance", I suffer dreadfully from imposter syndrome and it has taken great effort to learn to maintain eye contact as you say " the table will be £5500 plus vat".................. :)
Bob a little secret whilst no one is listening to us: So do most people.
Once we all know that and accept it as reality we can have far more confidence to sell our work (yours is awesome).
A few years ago I was interviewed by "experts" to see if I was good enough to go on a prestigious World panel. What really galled me was when I looked at their CV's I found I had far more experience than the entire interview panel together. Who was the imposter there!
 

Linwoodjoinery

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I think it’s only been mentioned once but a massive one is ‘will your body do it’. Finance is one thing. I served my time and did 20 years either self employed, employed, bench work and site work. My knees are shot and my back is from time to time. I now baby sit 30 adults for a living. Paid salary, sick pay etc but there is little job satisfaction in it. So I now do ‘woodwork’ part time for a few reasons. Keeps my eye in. I find it takes my mind off all the work politics and also a bit of pocket money. I was lucky. I earned very good money on the tools. But this was working on barn conversions where the weather almost made me cry several times. It’s your call and your life and you’re only here once so if you can earn enough to live have a go. Just keep your eye in on your current career incase it doesn’t work out.
 

Sgian Dubh

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I always think "If a dumbo like me can do it then most people have a fighting chance", I suffer dreadfully from imposter syndrome and it has taken great effort to learn to maintain eye contact as you say " the table will be £5500 plus vat".................. :)
From what I've seen of your work I don't believe that you suffer from impostor syndrome. You do however make a telling point. It reflects something I also used to tell my furniture students with ambitions to go into business, which was based on my experience of running my business. I used to tell them that it's generally far easier to sell a ±40,000 (pick any currency you like) built-in of some sort (kitchen, study, walk-in wardrobe, etc) than a three or four thousand free standing table, cabinet, bed, and so on. Additionally, I'd mention half jokingly there was always a reasonable chance of redoing the expensive built-in job in a few years when the owners got tired of the existing layout and wanted something a bit more 'on point' with whatever is the newer trendier more fashionable style, ha ha. Slainte.
 

akirk

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From what I've seen of your work I don't believe that you suffer from impostor syndrome. You do however make a telling point. It reflects something I also used to tell my furniture students with ambitions to go into business, which was based on my experience of running my business. I used to tell them that it's generally far easier to sell a ±40,000 (pick any currency you like) built-in of some sort (kitchen, study, walk-in wardrobe, etc) than a three or four thousand free standing table, cabinet, bed, and so on. Additionally, I'd mention half jokingly there was always a reasonable chance of redoing the expensive built-in job in a few years when the owners got tired of the existing layout and wanted something a bit more 'on point' with whatever is the newer trendier more fashionable style, ha ha. Slainte.
I think there is some psychology around the human ability to quantify value / cost...

If you have one item, then you will have fairly good comparisons already in your head - if you have always lived / had friends with / grew up with cheap chain-store furniture, then you will have a built in value - that table will be £1,200 in your head, and it works both ways - you won't see how a table might be £5,000 or £50,000 as it is still a table - equally, you will assume that a Georgian mahogany table in auction is not good quality as it sells for only £300 and so must be 1/4 of the table you have seen in the local DFS

However, put lots of items together and it becomes very hard for someone to fully understand the value of each item / the combined set of items - we see this frequently on ebay / amazon where 'sets' sell well - buy a 100 piece drill / screwdriver set for £49.99 must be good value as there are 100 components - so the quantity of items psychologically over-rides any sense of understanding value... I suspect that is what you are seeing in your example to your students - a built in kitchen etc. has so many components that the buyer starts to be incapable of understanding component value, and working out therefore whether the total is good value - a table for £4,000 is only one item - but a whole kitchen with 22 cupboards and an island, and installation, and, and, etc. for only £40,000 - bargin!

This is further complicated by the continual presentation of kitchens as an expensive (but desirable) purchase, while simultaneously seeing adverts offering you an oak table for £1.99 and monthly payments for 20 years at 0% finance - and so price expectations are preset.

It highlights one of the key skills in business which is psychology - all interactions leading to a sale have two parts:
- customer who comes into the deal with a hook in their mind - something they are looking for, and it is driven by some combination of need and desire
- business who come in with a range of 'offers' to present

matching something the business offers with the hook in the mind of the customer will lead to a sale - so the business needs to:
- tailor their offer to that customer - if they come in contact talking about wanting a dog kennel, sell them a dog kennel, or at least a dog room - they won't be interested in raised flower beds or a kitchen! You might be able to offer many things, but tailor the discussion to their need / desire
- understand the needs and desires and work on the psychology - present the offer to make it more desirable / show them their need and how you meet it

managing that psychology is the art of business, where the above suggestion on numbers is, if you like, the science.
 

doctor Bob

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From what I've seen of your work I don't believe that you suffer from impostor syndrome. You do however make a telling point. It reflects something I also used to tell my furniture students with ambitions to go into business, which was based on my experience of running my business. I used to tell them that it's generally far easier to sell a ±40,000 (pick any currency you like) built-in of some sort (kitchen, study, walk-in wardrobe, etc) than a three or four thousand free standing table, cabinet, bed, and so on. Additionally, I'd mention half jokingly there was always a reasonable chance of redoing the expensive built-in job in a few years when the owners got tired of the existing layout and wanted something a bit more 'on point' with whatever is the newer trendier more fashionable style, ha ha. Slainte.
This all day long, I make a very good living selling kitchens, I do not like doing freestanding items unless they have already had substansial fitted furniture from me.
It's not all doom and gloom financially, compromise your ideals and you can do very well.
I love my job, I make quality items, and am financially rewarded for it. I can live with not making that many heritage items, one or two pieces of freestanding is enough for me.
Biggest hassle is staff if you want to make a good living, even the good ones drive you nuts.
 

Sgian Dubh

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I think there is some psychology around the human ability to quantify value / cost...
I agree. But I think I can add a little to your definition. A new built-in kitchen with all the bells and whistles is seen by many as both an aspirational and an essential expense - it's the place where the customer can show off they're values to friends and family. A perfectly good and reasonably attractive dining table, and other pieces of free standing furniture at a range of price points between at say, £500 to £3000 can be purchased from a variety of retailers, so again that purchase generally falls into the essential expense group. But a custom made table costing anything north of about £4000 has to be pretty special to woo a customer, and usually falls into the discretionary spending bracket. Well, that's what I think anyway. Slainte.
 

Sgian Dubh

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This all day long, I make a very good living selling kitchens, I do not like doing freestanding items unless they have already had substansial fitted furniture from me.
Biggest hassle is staff if you want to make a good living, even the good ones drive you nuts.
I've always preferred the one-offs, but I'd say it's a much tougher line to be in than the world of built-in furniture. I didn't really want to get into the built-in game, but I'm sure it would have been a better direction for business growth, income and sustainability. I didn't go that route mainly because I didn't really want to live the rest of my life in Texas, and knew I wanted to move back to the UK in the not too distant future. The hassle with staff thing I have to agree with, and is the main reason I was happier to be a one man band calling in help from a network of similar one man band businesses for large projects. They did a share of the work, sent their invoice, and I paid them. Similarly, they'd call me in when they were overwhelmed with work and a tight deadline, and the invoicing and payment flowed the other way. Slainte.
 

clogs

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Vamos, Crete, GREECE.......
Cookie monster....
found this, remeber furniture galleries.....stuff for sale....
might give u an idea where to look...

there gotta be more out there.....hope thid helps....
 

bjm

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I would say, if (I) you like the industry or subject area (ii) you can tolerate the inconsistency and uncertainty in income and (iii) you have skills and experience which are in demand, then go for it. My problem is with the first of these.
My question was semi-rhetorical and meant to get you thinking about your motivations. It sounds like you are apprehensive about making a change and discovering it wasn't as stimulating as you thought it would be? Not being critical but only you can take that leap of faith?

My last paid employment was in consultancy (over a decade ago now). Loved the subject but not the industry. That's what finally drove my decision but I did make it on the basis that I set myself a time period in which it would fail/succeed (I signed a two year lease) and that if it did fail there would be no regrets. Still not sure I would claim success but it's had it's moments. The real benefit is getting up in the morning and never thinking 'I want to go back to bed!' Every day is different. I only wish I had Dr Bobs (apparent) drive - even if he does think he's an imposter - aren't we all!
 

cookiemonster

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My question was semi-rhetorical and meant to get you thinking about your motivations. It sounds like you are apprehensive about making a change and discovering it wasn't as stimulating as you thought it would be? Not being critical but only you can take that leap of faith?

My last paid employment was in consultancy (over a decade ago now). Loved the subject but not the industry. That's what finally drove my decision but I did make it on the basis that I set myself a time period in which it would fail/succeed (I signed a two year lease) and that if it did fail there would be no regrets. Still not sure I would claim success but it's had it's moments. The real benefit is getting up in the morning and never thinking 'I want to go back to bed!' Every day is different. I only wish I had Dr Bobs (apparent) drive - even if he does think he's an imposter - aren't we all!
Thanks Brian, I do appreciate your point and, you're right, it's good to think about stuff from different perspectives.

All the kind responses on this thread have given me much food for thought...
 
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