Need advise from the pros and others LJ‘S.

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Blog entry by TraumaJacques posted 05-20-2009 03:38 PM 1734 reads 1 time favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi guys and girls, let me preface this by stating that I am “not” a professional woodworker and probably “never” will be. However I have been selling pieces here and there and have outfitted my shop with the proceeds.

Something happened to me for the first time this week. Two ( first time clients) changed their minds mid project and are asking for an entirely different design, the third was not satisfied after 2 weeks and wants a brand new product.

All three issues will cost me time and material. There is nothing wrong with both designs, I built what they asked for ,the third well I don’t know she is just like that the product is exactly what she asked for.

All three customers have paid me in full so my first instinct is to go along and make the customer happy… however I do not want to set a precedent because all these people are connected through work to potential clients. Having said that, I also do not want to establish a reputation as money hungry and rigid son of a bee because of the same reason.

HELP!!! I never thought this could be so complicated.

Appreciate your advice

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

19 comments so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1427 posts in 4989 days

#1 posted 05-20-2009 03:54 PM

When doing custom or commissioned work, I write up a description of the work to be done and attach a drawing/sketch of the design and get the client to sign off on the description and design. I include some contract “language” as well, which includes a statement that changes to the project may affect the cost, and such changes will be performed only with a signed change-order. When clients want a change, I say, “sure we can change that, it will cost about $xxx, do you want me to write-up a change-order?” If they question the cost, I tell them how much additional time and material will be required to perform the change.

Usually, if people are asking for a change, they realize that it will involve some cost. If they think you’ve given them something other than what was agreed, they will want you to re-do it at your expense.

-- -- --

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 4985 days

#2 posted 05-20-2009 03:56 PM

If you do it you deserve to be paid….I would charge for the lost material as well as time and labor…its just how its done and the clients should understand that…always get in writting exactly what the clients want and have them sign off, its a tough world, and unless you cover your bases, you will lose everytime….understanding what a client is seeing in their mind , is difficult…and understanding that they dont percieve it same as you, additionally most folks are visual…they have a very tough time seeing something in their minds eye….I would cover my loses…its only fair….

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5333 days

#3 posted 05-20-2009 04:01 PM

Peter has it right. It’s a great idea to cover that up front. But that horse has already left the gate.

I realize it is a fine line… you don’t want to alienate potential repeat customers and future references. But you can’t let yourself be a doormat either. If the changes wanted by the customers have nothing to do with any mistake on your part, I think you should let them know that the extra time and materials involved will cost them an extra $xxx.

It might make sense to give them a bit of a discount on the labor, and tell them you are doing so in the spirit of cooperation and gratitude for their business.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View chickenhelmet's profile


99 posts in 4427 days

#4 posted 05-20-2009 04:30 PM

Charlie’s dead on! Be nice, but be firm. After all you didn’t change you’re mind.

-- Larry , Colorado

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 4441 days

#5 posted 05-20-2009 04:58 PM

Agree, Charlie and many others are dead on. In the future, have them sign the papers to protect yourself AND them.

As ,far as where you are now, Figure out how much time, material etc invested now. How much material you have bought but not used that can be used on the new project.

Simple math, lets say the old project was going to cost them $1000, you have $350 time and material invested, after figuring out what they want for the new one, that one cost $1000…add your cost from the other project “THEY” changed their minds on…the new one is now $1350

-- Don S.E. OK

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4692 days

#6 posted 05-20-2009 04:58 PM

I think Peter and Charlie have covered it well. I always have a written agreement with my customers and it does include a firm dollar amount for changes one for small changes and one that says a new project will require a new deposit and new written agreement, The Deposit should be at least your material cost and 50% of your labor,If in doubt estimate high on the labor. As Far as discounting the first project don’t do it unless ,you did not have a drawing and did not understand what they wanted or your workmanship was not as good as it should have been. In this area you must ask is there any part of the workmanship that does not meet your approval. If non of these problems were involved you should only accept payment in full.


View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 4615 days

#7 posted 05-20-2009 05:08 PM

Guys ( there was no girl comments) THANK YOU!!! I was leaning toward this direction but your support as affirmed my decision . I always thought I was too “small”for a written contract but I now realize I if I want to survive in this business I need to be firm but fair. Thanks again.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 4476 days

#8 posted 05-20-2009 05:16 PM

Follow Peter O’s advice and you wont go wrong.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2659 posts in 4641 days

#9 posted 05-20-2009 07:05 PM

TraumaJacques, I have been in the same sistuation as you and yeilded to the nice guy in me and in the end worked for nothing and lost money on materials also the speculation that there would be more work never happened. Be fair to your customers and be fair to yourself and you both will be happier. ...but put everything in writing.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Emeralds's profile


143 posts in 4677 days

#10 posted 05-20-2009 07:20 PM

I can’t speak to woodworking sales directly, however, I have done a great many project designs in another field and can tell you what we did. In cases where the client wanted changes made to an originally approved plan, it is as Don suggested, the original spec was added to the total cost of the newly spec’d project.

In a case where a client was, after a time, no longer satisfied with the product, we issued a credit equal to 50% of the original cost and spec’d changes against the remaining balance. As we were doing software design, there was no product to recoup, however I would recommend in your case your use the same formula and repossess the original piece for resale. In that manner, your profit margin can at least in theory be maintained on both pieces.

Money changes everything, including interpersonal relationships. If you are unwilling to hold your own time in high esteem, it’s unlikely that others will do so for you.

Good luck with which ever way you choose to handle it.

-- JMP

View Frankie Talarico Jr.'s profile

Frankie Talarico Jr.

353 posts in 4471 days

#11 posted 05-20-2009 09:23 PM

Always, i mean Always, Have a description and sketch, if not a cad drawing with dimensions, and styles represented on the same form they would sign. Most times I find myself redoing projects on the computer rather in the shop. These are cost free to the customer only if they buy. PeterO and Charlie got it right, as long as your project is reasonably in harmony with your plans. If not you might have to eat this one (third customer). The other tw,o If they do buy it from you (the new design) and you charge a little more you can tell them not to worry about the work already done. Make sure you make enough to cover costs, and still profit, This sometimes works if the project is ellaborate and hard to tell what it costs. On the other hand, if it’s a simple thing then it might become more difficult to pull that off.

Either way get paid at least for hours and material.

-- Live by what you believe, not what they want you to believe.

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 4615 days

#12 posted 05-20-2009 09:57 PM

Again guys thanks for the advises I think i know what I will do now and from now on. Thanks again.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View Jim's profile


150 posts in 4437 days

#13 posted 05-20-2009 09:59 PM

You might search around a bit on the web. I know when I was going through college for my graphics degree we were told to write up contracts as well. It’s been a few years, but we actually found a few sites that had some good “Generalized” contracts drawn up with actual legal terms and all for free. You then could change them to your needs and print out the final document for them to sign off on. Sometimes we were told to write in “One small change allowed, additional changes and XXXX additional fee per change” but it’s easier to make changes in graphics than with lumber. Definitely need some sketches so they get and idea what you’re seeing though.

I had a client that I didnt make a contract with and before I knew it I had 5 extra changes from what the initial design was, and 40 extra hours added onto the project. Learned my lesson. Good luck!

-- -- Jim - Kokomo, Indiana

View BarryW's profile


1016 posts in 5021 days

#14 posted 05-20-2009 10:48 PM

Always get a signed order with descriptions…design…and then get some “weasel” words that protect you…it looks far more professional to have a printed order…with “weasel” words on the back…”weasel” words are those legal words that make it impossible for the customer to say they signed but didn’t agree to pay you time and materials for the changes. There are legal websites that should have some general terms on them you can copy from…and there might even be woodworker specific words you can use….if not consult a lawyer to help you.
The money you pay a lawyer will always pay you back in the future. We all want to be nice guys and we want to please…but some customers become ogres and chiselers…protect thyself from those who would do you harm.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 4615 days

#15 posted 05-21-2009 05:40 AM

“Dichotomy” that is the word I was looking for thanks, socalwood. funny enough i just saw one of the above mentioned clients at the gas station and she said no problem for the extra cost… she loves my work and is more that happy to keep “me”happy. So there we are a dichotomy of feelings right now.thank you again for your support and check out my school blog.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

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