Going Pro Part 1: Are you so Impassioned you can't stand it? Did you Consider........

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 10-05-2007 03:34 PM 1661 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Over in the Forum, there is a question about Going Pro with woodworking, and what should be considered. The Forum Writer stated to “be honest.”

I decided to post my comments there, and then also as a Blog Post. It will be easier for me to find my own comments later, and to document the thoughts as a Blog.

Just a few misc., and random thoughts, as I don’t have much time this morning

1) Full time is so different than part-time, or hobby woodworking, that there isn’t any comparison, or much in the way of overlapping wisdom.

2) Selling pieces once in awhile, is not the same as “having” to sell something constantly.

3) You’ll consider sanding off the inscription to your wife on the bottom of the gift you made her one Christmas….. so you can sell it. Ok, Ok, you will sand off the inscription and sell it. Even Sam Maloof sold a piece that he had inscribed to his Wife. The story is in his book.

4) It is not about woodworking, it is about money, and staying ahead of bills.

5) You can romanticize it as much as you want, but it is a business, with a huge investment in time and resources.

6) It will cost you everything you have to give it, and you’ll only dream about what more you could sell so you could feed it again.

7) It is a constant battle, and if you are ahead one minute, something breaks down, or the transmission goes out.

8) If you have another income source, pension, trust fund, inheritance, lottery winnings, or someone else in the family working, that will help.

9) Don’t plan on making any profit for a long time.

10) You will want to invest every penny you make for a long time, either in tools, shop space, transportation, wood inventory, computers, digital cameras, skill education, show fees, advertising, website……..on and on.

11) Ok, ok, you will never be done investing in a woodworking business. You shouldn’t be.

12) I think it is very critical to figure out what you are best at, and get a shop and tools and skill base set up for that niche. This is your Image. It is what you are selling.

13) It doesn’t do any good to buy all of the tools to make Large Home Entry Doors, if you end up selling jewelry boxes.

14) Cash out your 401K, you won’t be retiring anyway, and you’ll need the capital.

15) You can’t compete in any regard with a factory, or anything that is made in a country that has people willing to live on less money than you.

16) Doing drywall and house painting, or cutting lawns, pays much better, are you sure you wouldn’t rather do those things?

17) Finding people that are willing to pay for your time to make handmade “Anythings” at American labor rates is pretty difficult, in any medium, in any market.

18) Wait until customers are begging you out of your day job. Put them off as long as you can do it.

19) Are you willing to risk everything?

20) Your reputation is more important than your abilities.

21) There is always someone down the street that can cut dovetails faster, but do people want to do business with them, or collect their work?

22) Plan on living at well below the “neighbor’s lifestyle.” In fact, you will probably need to move to a cheaper neighborhood.

23) You’ll start looking at your shiny new pickup truck, and finally figure out how many board feet of slabbed walnut trees you could buy if you sold it and bought an old clunker. Who cares about what you drive, as long as you get there? Right? If you agree, you might be ready.

24) My best, and only running, pickup truck is a 1972 GMC Sierra. I had to sell the big new 4×4 truck I had back in 1996, the Corvette, the Old Harley, the Newer Harley, the Yamaha, the… I could get out of debt, before quitting my dayjob.

25) I have met few people that went full time with an art based business without help from someone, either a spouse, a sugar-daddy, an investor, a grant giver, etc. Ok, ok, I have not met anyone that did it alone. I would love to hear about someone that did, so if you know of someone let me know.

26) Making wood products is the easy part.

27) I used to think it was more about “making” wood things.

28) I have learned that it is much more about “selling” things.

29) People don’t buy my “products,” they buy “me.”

30) If “I” am not interesting and collectible to them, then they just see my high priced products as too expensive.

31) Nobody really “Needs” what I sell.

32) The benefits to working in family woodworking enterprise are tremendous, just not immediate, or easily obtained, nor financially rewarding.

33) Selling real estate starts with passing a test and getting a license. Driving a Truck starts with passing a driver’s license. Starting to practice Law, Medicine, or Chiropratory, all starts with a degree. There is no starting point with woodworking in this country.

34) We watch the clock all day long so we can get home and do what we really enjoy, Hobbies.

35) I no longer have Hobbies.

36) I like the focused effort it takes, I need that focus at times.

37) It is easy to get sidetracked, hard to stay on track.

38) The mailbox is a good way to stay on track……......a daily walk to the mailbox wondering what bills are in there, makes you get back to work quickly. You have to beat your wife to the mailbox, because she has learned to hide the Tool Catalogs that come consistently each week.

39) I think you have to be so impassioned, that going back to a desk job appears to be the worst kind of torture. Something you would never consider. You need that motivation to press on every day. Even Sam Maloof says that he thought of quitting many many times, but his wife just kept saying, “keep trying.”

Would I go back to working for the “Man”? I hope not.

I’ve scared myself again to the point that I need to get back to the shop!

Are you a Pioneer?
If so, keep dreaming, I recommend it.

My next Blog uses the analogy of the Pioneering Adventure to spill a message full of ideas and concerns, and the passion that must be behind your desire. I hope you will read it also.

Part 2:

Just remember, there is “plenty of elbow room, green grass, and a good water source.”
—Mark DeCou – Kansas Flinthill’s Artisan

(this writing and comments are protected by copyright by MA DeCou on 10-05-2007, all rights reserved, no use is authorized without expressed written permission.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

14 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35273 posts in 5485 days

#1 posted 10-05-2007 03:52 PM

Mark. Thanks.

Your buddy Karson

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5245 days

#2 posted 10-05-2007 03:58 PM

Just a few misc., and random thoughts, as I don’t have much time this morning ..
I wonder what we’d be greeted with if you had lots of time on your hands/?? !!! (that’s not a complaint, just a little razzin’)

great analogy.
“Thank you” to our ancestors for their bravery.
Thank you to Mark for taking the time to post these thoughts.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 5177 days

#3 posted 10-05-2007 04:24 PM

double phew . . .

scared me, too . . . makes me glad that my goal is “part-time” someday

I admire you

-- Paul, Kentucky

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 5246 days

#4 posted 10-05-2007 04:41 PM

So much to think about….great job Mark.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 5121 days

#5 posted 10-05-2007 04:57 PM

It would be scary what Mark would come up with if he had more time. It reminds me of a joke that’s told locally:

A farmer, who just won the lottery, was asked what he’s going to do with the money. He replied, “Keep farming until it’s all gone.”

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View RJones's profile


317 posts in 5239 days

#6 posted 10-05-2007 05:00 PM

I’ll 2nd what Ms Deb said!! LOL Great article Mark! One thing I might add is:
Part time allows me to build what I want and work for who I want.
Full time does neither I am pretty sure I would have to take anything I could get and work for anyone:( Unfortunatley, this may mean cutting 250 plywood circles for that customer from hell VS a one of a kind chest of drawers for my “A” Client and doing more of the latter:( What did you say Mark about being impassioned?? Yeah what you said!

Thanks for the insight,


View 's profile

593 posts in 5056 days

#7 posted 10-05-2007 05:05 PM

Great one Mot.

It’s similar to the one we have in the aviation scene that says: ”The only way to make a small fortune in the aeronautical business is… to start with a big one.”

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I also learn the hard way…

PS: I’ve commented on one of the multiple entries for this post, don’t remember which one.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5411 days

#8 posted 10-05-2007 06:36 PM

good nuggets of wisdom, and very valuable ones coming from you, who’s lived on both sides of the fence.

At this point in my life I can’t say that I really want to try to make a living at a hobby. It’s nice having hobbies as a distraction – not so much as a way of just keeping busy. There are lots of things that I’m good at, few that I’d say I’m great at. Many things I like, some I love. It would be nice to make a living at something I love.
I’m good at graphic design, actually, I’m very good at that. But after 12+ years, I know I don’t want that to be my sole bread and butter. I suspect If I had to live down in the shop for 12 hours a day, everyday, I’d tire of that as well. I’m much better with several interests I can float inbetween. Woodworking, cooking, blogging about both – and other creative pursuits interest me the most, so that’s how I spend my time. If we were lucky we’d all make a living at what we love AND what we’re good at – just so long as we don’t lose the love.

If we were really lucky, we’d find a way to make money sitting on the couch and watching tv. I’d be real good at that. Actually I wouldn’t. I’d go stir crazy, get up and start making things. Cause, that’s what I do.

I’m a graphic designer, (which I’m good at, and I like) I get to be creative daily in that capacity. I also do home renovations. That keeps me thinking, moving, and working with my hands. It can be creative, and I get to hone my skills with tools. Do I love it? maybe. I am good at it. and I do love working with Dad. So for now, I’m in a very good place.

T’would be nice to get juried into the states guild, so I could sell at the annual craftsmans fare – supplement my income that way. I suppose I could get used to the cars, long out of warranty, just so long as the upkeep doesn’t exceed a monthly payment for a new one!

Thanks for sharing the perspective Mark!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Tony's profile


995 posts in 5114 days

#9 posted 10-05-2007 08:35 PM

Every word is True and accurate – why didn’t you post this 3 years ago?

I still would not go back to my old job – lots of money, lots of stress – lots of travelling to nice places (mainly airports) and NO family life. Rich and unhappy or poor and utterly satisfied and happy? No competition for me

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5047 days

#10 posted 10-05-2007 08:41 PM

You said what I wanted to say on the forum this morning and a whole lot more. I didn’t have time or inclination. My inclination would have been simple; DON’T. Carleen and I have mostly never known anything except working for ourselves. Sam McKenzie, one of the biggest ranchers around here was in the shop one day. He asked me, why, with all the things I can do had I been cowboying for a living. After some thought, I answered him. ” Because it’s easy.”
Thanks for all the wisdom.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5490 days

#11 posted 10-05-2007 08:41 PM

Tony: the other side of the story is coming another day. I’ve got to get some work done the next few days, but I will follow up a blog on the rewards of the sacrifices. I have seen some. Counting the cost is the first step.

Hang in there buddy,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Tony's profile


995 posts in 5114 days

#12 posted 10-05-2007 08:50 PM

Mark – I have no intention of giving up – I know the good times are going to come – Monday the local newspaper is comming to interview me, so they can write an article about my work – deliverd to 10,000 homes – what great free advertising.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5399 days

#13 posted 10-06-2007 01:00 AM

Cash in your 401K !!!!!!!!!! Now that is funny…painfully funny.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5064 days

#14 posted 10-06-2007 02:46 AM

Great Markl;

Now you’ve got me wondering if I can make it!

Well I guess after thirty years, I guess a few more is possible.

Thanks for rreminding me all the things that my mother told me so long ago.

Very well written.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

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