Quantcast

What Would You Sell and Why?

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Chris Knight

Established Member
Joined
14 Jan 2004
Messages
6,641
Reaction score
1
Location
SE London - NW Kent
There is a heck of a lot of good discussion going on under the pricing a kitchen thread and it raised a few questions in my mind that I thought it might be interesting to explore. However, I don't wish to hijack that thread so I am starting another..

My question is this:-

IF you were aiming to make a living at woodworking (accepting that it will be tough etc etc) what would you make and sell?

In my mind the question implies that you must be able to make more than a couple of hundred quid at a craft fairs in the summer but does not insist that you make a fortune. Since everyone's ideas of a living wage are different from everyone else's let's pick a number say £25k (income, or say £20k clear profit, thus allowing for the sort of expenditure a salaried worker incurs going to work - not turnover!)per year.

How would you try to make this money from woodworking?

I guess my own answer would be to try and commercialize the rocking chairs. The product is attractive, I know it can be made in a reasonable time (with jigs, some of which I have and more of which I would have to make for a commercial venture) and given the area in which I live, folk are likely to be prepared to pay quite a bit for them.

However, I am darn sure I would not enjoy making them continuously, I would get very bored. That might drive me to making something I liked less but which could make the same money in less time ( pile high sell, cheap) but is unlikely to make me want/try to sell a higher end product that would be more interesting but too challenging to my abilities for a reliable wage earner.
 

Steve Maskery

Established Member
Joined
26 Apr 2004
Messages
11,749
Reaction score
79
Location
Kirkby-in-Ashfield
Hi Chris

I don't have an answer to your question. Even though i don't have a "proper" job, despite having a Certificate of Cleverness which the entire world seems to ignore (Bitter? Moi?) I don't want to turn my self-funding hobby into my job.

So my contribution is really a few things to consider.

It seems to me that turnover needs to be about double operating profit. Add materials onto that. That means you have to cost jobs at £1000 per week, every week, on top of the material cost. This is very difficult to do.

Why such a high figure? Well you have to pay for your workshop (the capital cost amortised over its life, the cost of housing it, insuring it, servicing it and, given that you have paid for it out of taxed income, you want it to give you a return on your investment).

You have to pay your employees (you), your management team (you) and your shareholders (guess who?).

You can probably expect to be productive for only about 60% of the time. The rest is taken up with admin, maintenance or workshop and selling, which you can't charge anyone for.

It astonishes me that anyone can survive when I look at the maths. I have a great deal of respect for those of you who do.

My understanding is that most craftsmen and craftswomen are not the principal bread-winner, they usually have a spouse who underwrites their creative adventure. Of course there are exceptions, but in my experience they are rare.

So, who's going to shoot me down in flames, then? :)

Cheers
Steve
 

Philly

Established Member
Joined
24 Nov 2003
Messages
6,874
Reaction score
0
Location
Dorset, England.
Ah, but Steve-you're right!
Its the same with ALL businesses-when you actually set it all down on paper you think "how the hell can I possibly take that much money" :?
Makes having it as a hobby seem like a good idea!
Personally, I'd love to make one off bespoke furniture (think Krenov/Maloof) But when you work out the costs (and what you'd have to sell it for!!) I cannot do it. Got soft with me creature comforts :wink:
Now I'm sure Mr Krenov is happy knocking out nice cabinet at $30,000 a go, but he certainly didn't start off like that. Really it boils down to this-are you willing to risk everything to make a sucess of your business, even though you might fail?? :!:
It's a tough one, alright.
Just my thoughts (and experiences.......)
Philly :D
 

Gill

Established Member
Joined
3 Sep 2003
Messages
3,537
Reaction score
0
Location
Lincs
I have a pipe dream of one day being able to convert a CNC router station into a laser cutter that'll enable me to make marquetry like that of Anita Marquetry http://www.marquetry.co.uk/main/hub/hub.shtml . Anyone got any suggestions as to how I might be able to make my dreams a reality :) ?

From talking to people on craft stalls over the years, I get the impression that the best policy is to make a few large items that show off your skills and sell for several hundred pounds, but make loads of £5 items too. Apparently, selling the £5 items will subsidise the production of the big items and keep your venture profitable. The idea is that people will contact you away from the craft shows with commissions for the larger items. There again, I've never actually tried this myself... ;)

Gill
 

Keith Smith

Established Member
Joined
1 Mar 2004
Messages
511
Reaction score
0
Location
Out in the sticks in rural Shropshire
Steve got my gun and ....shot myself in the foot; in my case you are absolutely right.

My wife can earn more in a day than I can in a week, even though my workshop is in the garden, so low overheads; at least this keeps me afloat.

Plus the jobs I really dislike such as kitchens, windows, roofing (oh no it's raining again) are where I make most of the money. Just got a job for another 13 windows, unlucky or what :roll:

Keith
 

tim

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2004
Messages
2,307
Reaction score
0
Location
Herefordshire
You see there you have it - Keith's wife earns more in a day than he does in a week and guess what so does mine. However, we still own the same house (and mortgage) that we had when I gave up my equally well paid job :shock: .

That said scraping around for money, is not a situation I intend to perpetuate because we now have no money really. However, I gave myself a realistic time plan of not making a profit for three years and i'm only 18 months in so I need to not be too impatient. If after year 3 it isn't doing what I expected then I need to take a long hard look at it and make some tough decisions.

Like Keith, I have low overheads and sometimes we do things we don't want to (roofing in the rain is a pretty good example) but when there isn't any work coming in I make speculative stuff (we still need furniture) and I continue doing up the house or I go for a walk with the dogs whenever I like. All in all, I wouldn't change it now.

Funnily enough though I get a very similar sense of satisfaction when i've made a green oak porch or a maple dining table.

Really it boils down to this-are you willing to risk everything to make a sucess of your business, even though you might fail??
It's a tough one, alright.
Yes, i suppose I am prepared to risk everything and I don't intend to fail but unless I give it everything I won't know how well I can do it. We are here once and I want to do my thing. Whats the worst that can happen - we could lose the house, but I think we'd call it before then? To me two things could be worse - one, I could be doing something that makes me unhappy and two, I get to the end of my days and say to myself: if only......

Let me finish this off with two quotes. One is a line I saw as a sign off on a website somewhere (apologies to the original author):

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming....

WOW!!! What a Ride!

The second is on a card on my desk, given to me the day after I resigned by my wife, its by G kingsley wood:

Dare to dream, Dare to try, Dare to fail, DARE TO SUCCEED.


Cheers

Tim
 

johnelliott

Established Member
Joined
16 Apr 2003
Messages
1,105
Reaction score
0
Location
Near Swindon, Wiltshire
Few people realise, until they come to try it for themselves, how hard it is to sell things. I've often heard craftsmen moan at how much commission shops and gallerys want for selling their produce. hings is, they earn every penny of it.
Whatever it is that you want to make, if you can't make it for at least half, ideally a third, of what it would sell for in a shop, then you have no chance.
I do kitchens because that is the one woodwork item in a house where customers will put their hands in their pockets and bring out lots of money.
I tried making and selling proper furniture many years ago. I could spend more time trying to sell a hall table for £300 than I now spend selling a kitchen for £6000.

Craft fairs? I don't think so. OK for a hobby, maybe

John
 

Midnight

Established Member
Joined
11 Oct 2003
Messages
1,805
Reaction score
0
Location
Scotland
not having an "arty" bone in my body, Chris's carving, Gill's marquetry etc leave me in awe.. how do you do that...???????? And don't gimme the Mk1 "It's quite simple really"... cos this klutz ain't buyin...

2 strikes against me and I'm not in the starting blocks yet...

what would I sell..?? that depends entirely on the market demands.. the best I can offer is bespoke craftsmanship and first rate materials.. if that canna cut it.. I'm sunk...

I've dreams of cabinetmaking for a living... but my head's telling me not to give up the day job just yet...

We'll see tho; once I get that workshop built... :twisted:
 

DaveL

Established Member
Joined
19 Oct 2002
Messages
4,674
Reaction score
0
Location
Sudbury, Suffolk
Well I am under no illusion of doing woodwork and earning what I currently do. :shock:
However it does allow me to made things that I want, sometimes for myself, sometimes for the children and grandchildren. I know I am never going to get rich giving the things away but I can afford not to care at the moment. :shock: :D

I figure that when I retire, the date seems to be moving away from me :x I should have a good collection of tools and a reasonably well setup shop that I can slope off out there and do what I enjoy. :D

John,
I figure that craft fairs are one way I could make a little money when the stack of things I have made starts to take up too much space in the shop. :? :lol:
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Nice idea Crhis

However, I get paid very well to sit on my bum and talk to students all day, read, and do maths on fast computers :wink:

I love my job and I love my hobby - if I did my hobby as a job, then it would no longer be the uncompromising passion that it is
 

Gill

Established Member
Joined
3 Sep 2003
Messages
3,537
Reaction score
0
Location
Lincs
Midnight":2rm6wxx3 said:
not having an "arty" bone in my body, Chris's carving, Gill's marquetry etc leave me in awe.. how do you do that...????????
Oooh, a compliment :) - I'll take that while it's passing (thanks very much, Mike :) ).

Actually, the answer is in Tim's maxim "Dare to dream, Dare to try, Dare to fail, DARE TO SUCCEED", which I think he really ought to adopt as a signature block.

Not every picture I've tried to make has turned out successfully - I can remember one particularly ambitious attempt to produce an image of St George fighting the dragon. Each scale on the dragon was cut by hand, each feather on St George's plume was picked out, but after many days of design and labour I threw it all away. Why? It was too detailed for my taste. Since then, I've created designs that employ only a few different veneers, but I gain great satisfaction from using the features of the timber to create an image. My attempt at St George reminded me that marquetry is about using the wood as a means of interpreting an image rather than faithfully reproducing it. In fact, somewhere in the gallery is a piccy of a battered piece of inlay I made many years ago; it shows a fawn resting and I deliberately chose a veneer that could be used to create the head, body and legs - all with that single veneer cut into two pieces. Without learning how to benefit from my failures, I could never have learned how to succeed.

A more direct answer to your question, Mike, is that I started off with a couple of marquetry kits ;) :) . After practising with them and learning the basic techniques, I tried to imagine how some photographs I liked could be reproduced in wood. From there, it's a short step to creating your own designs. By the way, I'm not 'arty' - grade C at 'O' level was all I ever managed.

Coming back to the main topic of the thread, I think that for anyone to make a living at woodwork they've got to identify a unique selling point. If I was to market my marquetry, I would almost certainly focus on inlaying names and personalised designs. I'd be selling something that was darned difficult to source elsewhere.

Gill (whose signature block isn't unrelated to Tim's maxim)

PS
Midnight":2rm6wxx3 said:
We'll see tho; once I get that workshop built...
You and me both! :lol:
 

Midnight

Established Member
Joined
11 Oct 2003
Messages
1,805
Reaction score
0
Location
Scotland
A more direct answer to your question, Mike, is that I started off with a couple of marquetry kits
While he was alive, my father used to work marvels with these from the most unasuming material... For a change, he'd hand paint some fine china or weave baskets...

It seems I inhereted his engineering side (along with the arthrytis) while my sister inhereted the artistic side; technical drawing I can do for hours on end... or shave a tennon to within a thou' of the mortice size (and then wonder why I canna get the bloody thing appart after dry assembly... Ahem.. :oops: ) the artistic stuff is well beyond me.. I've tried and flamed out often enough to know that I jus don't got it...

edited to add The compliment was freely given... Cudos to ya...
 

Woodythepecker

Established Member
Joined
30 Jul 2004
Messages
686
Reaction score
0
Why did i go into business for myself? Well as some of you will know for a good few years i worked as a cabinet maker for another company, and while there i did a lot of private work in my spare time, but the more private work i did the more i got frustrated with my full time job. On some evenings and at some weekends i was crafting a piece of furniture that i had designed or at least had some influence in. Yet during the week i was using my skill to build some items i didn't even like.

So around 2 years ago i started researching the market and through word of mouth i set up a fairly good client base.

My plan was to get commissions where i would design and build one off pieces of furniture for the client.
Then last year i opened for business and except for that one client ripping me off (see John Elliott's thread) i haven't looked back since. in fact as you know i had to employ someone to help me with the work. BTW this was one of the best business moves i have made as she has turned out to be a God send.
The only problem is she has two nasty faults:

No1 is women like to talk and gossip and boy when she starts talking to my wife, does she jaw.

No2 I complain and tell her to get her buttocks in gear and do some work and what do i get? Sh-t thats what, and for the rest of the day they really do give me sh-t.

Right, now that i have got that off my chest i better apologize to Alf and Gill SORRY girls.

Although the company is alright and i have got the work coming in, it is not going the way that i planed. Yes i have designed a few pieces but most of the work has been fitted furniture (kitchens, revamp kitchens, built in bedroom suites, client own designed furniture etc etc).

Don't get me wrong i am not complaining, far from it. i am working for myself and i love it. The point i am trying to make is even if you know what you want to build it doesn't always turn out like that, but that doesn't mean that you won't be successful.

If you get the chance to start up on your own and realise that it is going to be tough at first, and you can handle this then i would say go for it.

Mine is not the typical start to a business. I havn't done anything special i have just been very, very lucky.

Regards

Woody
 

Chris Knight

Established Member
Joined
14 Jan 2004
Messages
6,641
Reaction score
1
Location
SE London - NW Kent
The bottom line seems again to be "Make kitchens or starve" (quite appropriate in a sad way!) .

I do like Gill's marquetry ambition - that is a fabulous site by the way Gill, what gorgeous stuff!

Mike, I have no great artist's talent but I find it does develop with practice. What I really need to put my mind too is drawing. I have just read three books all different that highlighted the need for drawing skills.

A book about early explorers (who had no cameras and needed to draw to record stuff).

A biography of Leonardo da Vinci (whom you might expect to draw of course but it reminded me of the fact that the great engineers and architects of the day who built bridges and cathedrals were often artists too.

A book on woodcarving.

Each of these laid stress on drawing sills as a foundation for everything else, partly as a key to observing/understanding how stuff really works.

John, I take your point about selling stuff, I just can't do that!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
GillD":9xi7tf4p said:
I have a pipe dream of one day being able to convert a CNC router station into a laser cutter that'll enable me to make marquetry like that of Anita Marquetry
Gill
#
Gill

Expensive but can easily be done. We use lasers in our research lab and regularly cut thin wood (also plastic, glass and metal etc. ) with them. Cost a fair bit up front for the laser though :(

I'll speak to our laser expert and pm you with any details
 

dedee

Established Member
Joined
24 Jul 2003
Messages
2,637
Reaction score
1
Location
14860, France
It seems to me that the solution is to "add value" at low cost.

As an example the price of pork is very low but the public, it seems to me, will pay a high price for "speciality sausages" just because some low cost exotic ingredients have been added.

How the concept of "low cost but high added value" can be used to make money from woodwork has eluded me so far. Customising pieces may well be one solution but as mentioned already the volume required often
takes the fun out of it.

Andy
 

tim

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2004
Messages
2,307
Reaction score
0
Location
Herefordshire
This really is an interesting thread - well done Chris.

Woody was right to mention luck - it doesn't matter how good your plans are, you still need a big bag of luck. I echo all his sentiments. I have chosen not to employ anyone and am not planning to for several reasons - I don't want to be responsible for someone else's wage bill, want to be able to shut the door when I want and if there is too much talk going on then I can always turn the radio off!

I love my job and I love my hobby - if I did my hobby as a job, then it would no longer be the uncompromising passion that it is
Tony, you are a lucky guy however I had a great job (inventing new drinks for heaven's sake!) but I knew that I didn't want to do it forever and I got really fed up with the corporate world - so while I actually loved what I did, I didn't like the environment or the opportunities.

Funnily enough, I don't have a problem with the second part. I'm working most days anyway (ie all seven) at least pat of the day, which is what I would probably be doing whatever business I had started so at least this way I do get to do my hobby as well. I know that one of my key selling points is my passion for my job so i obviously haven't lost it yet.

The bottom line seems again to be "Make kitchens or starve" (quite appropriate in a sad way!) .
Chris - that may be the case but if I ended up only making money from kitchens and still making the odd thing on the side I woudl be pretty content. I like making cabinets and I like solving the problems of how to make a kitchen work better for someone, presenting the ideas and making it. My other big passion is cooking so I can really understand customers needs and add value that way. The simple economics of it is that the bigger the job, the easier it is to lose the overheads into it so it makes more money.

The idea is that people will contact you away from the craft shows with commissions for the larger items.
Gill,
I have heard this too but the only guys I know who are successful are those whose standard sale is quite small eg bowls etc. This is one of those points where a showroom or gallery would be useful because as you say the idea is to get the craft fair customers to visit those by displaying your wares at the fair. Seems pretty untargeted to me.

From talking to people on craft stalls over the years, I get the impression that the best policy is to make a few large items that show off your skills and sell for several hundred pounds, but make loads of £5 items too. Apparently, selling the £5 items will subsidise the production of the big items and keep your venture profitable.
I saw this comment last night and I've been racking my brains as to what item can be made by hand that can be sold for £5 and still make any profit at all once materials, overheads and time have been factored in?
eg Materials £1, other overheads £.50, 20% profit margin £1 leaves £2.50 for labour. At £20/hour that means I have to make the item from start to finish in 7.5 mins!! The only thing I could think of to sell at that rate of work would be a big bag of cock-ups (which take no time at all in my experience) :lol:

Thank you also for your kind words re sign off - now added!

I've dreams of cabinetmaking for a living... but my head's telling me not to give up the day job just yet...
Midnight, I think thats what heads are for - sometimes you just have to overrule them! :wink:

Cheers

Tim
 

tim

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2004
Messages
2,307
Reaction score
0
Location
Herefordshire
How the concept of "low cost but high added value" can be used to make money from woodwork has eluded me so far. Customising pieces may well be one solution but as mentioned already the volume required often
takes the fun out of it.
Andy - most added value stuff is actually intangible ie its much more about the way you interact with customers, the extra mile you are prepared to go etc. The point is, its not necessarily the value added to your own business but the value you add, compared to other businesses.

To most of us these elements are free, but you can still attach a price tag to them. eg efficiency - this is where the big manufacturers make their money.

We are by nature inefficient as single makers with no production line - there is as much set up time for me to make a 600mm wide 'standard' cabinet as their is to make one that is 513mm wide. The added value - I can make odd sized cabinets at no extra cost to me but no MFI outlet can - therefore I can justify a higher price tag.

Hope this helps

Tim
 

Duiker

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2005
Messages
213
Reaction score
0
Location
Uithoorn, The Netherlands
I would argue that the worst thing you could do is try to make a living from, what for most of us, is your hobby.

wouldn't those of you who do make a living from "woodwork" agree that the hobby soon turns sour and you don't enjoy it after a while as much as you did? Not when you have to rely on it to pay the bills and meet silly deadlines?

For example: I know loads of people who started diving and loved it! Fell in love with the "romance" of working in a warmer climate etc and teaching tourists to dive. It soon gets on their nerves though and they complain more than I do about my job after a while.

Keep your hobby as a hobby and have fun. make a few quid to offset the cost of timber and keep wanting to go "down the shed.
 

Taffy Turner

Established Member
Joined
24 May 2004
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
0
Location
The Land of My Fathers
It seems to me that (IMHO) Chris's original post reveals the reason why most businesses fail within two years of startup.

The classic mistake is to think " I enjoy making widgets, so I will make loads of widgets and sell them at a profit".

However, 9 times out of 10, there is no market for widgets of your particular design. Unless you have a marketing budget to rival IBM or Coca Cola, it is almost impossible to create a market for your product.

The difference with a successful business, is that you do the market research ahead of time, and identify a need / gap. The trouble with that approach is that you may not enjoy making the items to fill that gap.

This is born out by the comments in this thread along the lines of " I make most of my income from kitchens / wardrobes / roofing etc". The reason for this is because these areas are where the market is. Sadly they are not particularly enjoyable areas to be working in. The market for bespoke furniture is, I would have thought, pretty limited. Even people like Woodythepecker, who are being successful, find that they are having to compromise on their original ideals in order to make a living.

To summarize, without wishing to rain on anyone's parade, that it is all very well to have a romantic vision of making a living from making a product that you love, but sadly the reality is somewhat different.
 
Top