Becoming a pro woodworking, The ramblings of a 30 year pro woodworker

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Blog entry by a1Jim posted 02-23-2019 07:16 PM 1313 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So you want to become a professional woodworker, well your not alone who hasn’t thought of making great masterpieces and being known as anther Sam Maloof, James Krenov Charles Neil, of woodworking, perhaps making items for the white house or movie stars?
First off wanting to make a living in woodworking is a bit like when your a teenager planning on being a rock star not impossible but the odds are against you. Why? Because 80% of people who own a table saw and a pocket screw jig in their garage wants the same thing to make a living as a glorious woodworker.
A very big problem is that there are many people who make products and sell them for less than what they pay for material. Of course, this is impossible to compete with.
So how do those who succeed as pro woodworkers succeed? It takes a combination of things to make a living in woodworking. First, you need to be able to survive financially for 1 to 5 years without making a profit plus having funds to buy tools and equipment, and a space to work in. This part of the equation may mean you starting off part-time or having a day job or your spouse is working and is willing to cover your lives and business expenses or are you willing an able to take the risk to take out good size loan for your new business. Assuming you can manage the financial end of this new venture then there are are other issues, Issues like: does the place you’re going to work in is zoned properly for a woodworking business? Does it have adequate power to run the machines you need, (just a table saw with enough power for a woodworking business will need 220 power by itself), is it large enough to hold the equipment you will need? Does it have enough light, heat, cooling? How about a bathroom? Do you need a permit or license to do what your planning on doing?
Let’s assume you have all that covered then next major factors you have to consider is are you knowledgeable and talented enough in the woodworking.
Have you run a business before? Do you know what it takes to make it all work? Many people recommend a 5 years plan? Will you know how and where to acquire accounts to purchase your, wood, tools and supplies? Is your credit good enough to buy on credit? Where will you advertise your new business and can you afford the cost in your budget? Oh what about a budget do you have one or know how to make one or keep books for bookkeeping? How about insurance or employees? How about a phone, is there someone who can answer it when you’re running loud equipment? Do you have a vehicle that can haul the long pieces of wood or finished projects with?

Now back to where we should have started with two important issues. Is there a market in your area for another pro woodworker or aspiring pro woodworker and do you have a product that not everyone is making that the public can’t live without that will be profitable?

We have covered a lot of tough subjects and questions.
After reading through that list of questions are you saying “ but I can fill in the blank to fix that” to a lot of the questions then perhaps your not going to let any of those items stop you, then you may have enough drive to be a success in spite of any or all of the areas I’ve covered.

Just think of the top five woodworkers you know that you have seen on TV, in magazines or online, all of them are doing one or all of the following, teaching in person, teaching online, writing books, all to supplement their income. This is true of all of the most amazing woodworkers I can think of in spite of their great an amazing talent and masterpieces they make.

I still will tell you what I tell my students that want to go into the woodworking business “don’t quit your day job” and unless you must absolutely try woodworking as a business,
”don’t wreck a most wonderful hobby by going into the woodworking business”.


7 comments so far

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4304 days

#1 posted 02-23-2019 08:20 PM

Amen Jim. Not to mention you might wind up having to make the same things over and over.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4547 days

#2 posted 02-23-2019 08:25 PM

Thanks Mike. yep, I know there are plenty of woodworkers who do that, some of them making things like wooden stakes for contractors that seem to be thriving, crazy!


View DocSavage45's profile


9028 posts in 3813 days

#3 posted 02-23-2019 09:25 PM


I took some time to respond to this from my own experience and advice from some well known artists in wood. Came back to see it’s not here. Good topic. gotta go move snow that the plows have put in front of my parking area.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Peteybadboy's profile


2844 posts in 2920 days

#4 posted 02-23-2019 10:36 PM

Great topic. Competing in this space is difficult. Ever talk to a quilter? (I mean real good one) they can’t get paid for their time. I am a hobbyist that gets paid for work from time to time. I pick my commissions from those I think will “love the work”, if I think they will be difficult I say no. Some money for me is fine as long as they love the work. I don’t think I take work from pros. Hope not.

-- Petey

View SteveL's profile


179 posts in 4738 days

#5 posted 02-23-2019 10:42 PM

Completely agree—that’s why long ago I decided that I would either keep my work for myself or give it away for free. That way I can make what I want and I seldom make the same design twice.

-- SteveL

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4547 days

#6 posted 02-24-2019 01:25 AM

Thanks everyone for your input.


View warnerpetproducts's profile


2 posts in 351 days

#7 posted 09-21-2020 04:29 PM

I found a great place to start in woodworking – making “farm-house” style furniture. I recently made a TV stand using just some cheap pine from Home Depot. I didnt have a pocket hole jig at the time so it isnt as sturdy as it could be. But it only cost me maybe $120 in materials, plus a few days of labor. I’ve had people offer me $500-600 bucks for it – I am tempted to sell it and make a new one! There are a whole other set of considerations for people wanting to do t full time – quite a hurdle to jump. I enjoy it as a hobby. If I make a few extra dollars for beer money – great. If not, that is fine too! I recently starting writing as well – check out my new blog post.

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