Marketing and Selling your woodworking #1: Starting Point

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Blog entry by huff posted 06-28-2013 12:27 PM 6912 reads 50 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Marketing and Selling your woodworking series Part 2: Marketing (the basics) »

Marketing and selling your woodworking (What’s the best way?)

Well, there’s a lot of ways to go about marketing and selling your work, so I thought I would take the time and write a series on just that. Some of you may be familiar with the series I did a few weeks ago on pricing your woodworking. I received a lot of positive response to it and a number of woodworkers showed an interest on doing a topic on actually marketing and selling your woodworking.

Its one thing to be good at woodworking, but it’s a totally different ball game to be a good woodworker and sell your work and make money!

Fact of the matter is; most woodworkers are terrible at business. Woodworkers simply get frustrated when they can’t sell their products or they can’t make enough to make a profit, but have no clue how to rectify the problem.

Pricing, Marketing and Selling; the three main ingredients to making money at woodworking and it doesn’t matter what type woodworking you do or if you’re a master craftsman or not. If you don’t understand how to price your work, market your product to the right customer and be able to sell it, then the woodworking part of it doesn’t really matter.

Starting Point (don’t be afraid to be your own salesman)

It doesn’t matter your background training, experience or comfort zone in marketing or selling, we all have to have a starting point and we can expand and improve from there.
Whether you’re a school teacher, truck driver, rocket scientist or a student still in school, I hope my series will help you understand and develop marketing ideas and selling skills that will work best for you and your woodworking. As different as each of us may be, so is our woodworking and the tools we have that best suit our type of woodworking. The same applies to marketing and selling.

Choosing the right marketing for your woodworking is just as important as choosing the right tools for your shop. If you are not willing to invest a dime in tools, or invest the time to learn how to build anything it will be virtually impossible to think you will be able to build anything worth selling and the same goes for selling your woodworking. If you’re not willing to invest a dime or invest the time to learn and develop selling skills, then it will be virtually impossible to think you will sell much of your woodworking.

Most of us were not born master craftsman and most of us were not born super salesman, so we will have to invest in time and effort to become good at both if we want to make money from our woodworking.

Let me give you a little background on my “starting point” when it came to selling and marketing. I started my career as a salesman. In fact, every job I’ve had over the past 45 years has been selling in one form or another.

I started my career in sales working for a couple different companies before starting my own business, but one thing you should understand is, it was not easy nor did it come naturally for me in the beginning.

I was actually a very shy, bashful guy lacking in confidence!

The reason I hi-lighted that last sentence was for you to take notice. Those are not great attributes to have if wanting to make a living in sales! But it was my starting point and I had a family to support, so I learned.

I would like to share one story with you to see how many can relate to what I had to deal with being uncomfortable with sales. One of the jobs I had before I started my own business was being a sales representative for an international company. My territory was the entire state of West Virginia, so I would leave home Sunday afternoon (I lived in North Carolina) and drive to West Virginia so I could get an early start Monday morning calling on new accounts.

This was a new region for the company so there were no established accounts and it was up to me to find and open new accounts. I would work from town to town throughout the state until Friday afternoon before I headed home.
The point to my story is this; I was not comfortable talking to new accounts, in fact I was a nervous wreck. I would actually take two extra shirts and deodorant with me each day so I could change shirts a couple times during the day.
I would have to sit in my car in the parking lot in front of a business and convince myself that if I didn’t go into the next business than there would be no chance of a sale, PERIOD!

And you ask; why would I put myself through that? Simple, I was bound and determined I could be just as good at sales as the next guy. Actually I ended up holding a record for opening the most new accounts for the company while I worked for them.

When I hear a woodworkers say that he or she is not comfortable selling, I know where you’re coming from. Been there, done that, but I worked on my weaknesses and now sales is the one part of my business I’m probably the most comfortable in.

And I’ve come to realize that the 15 years or so I spent learning sales working for other companies before starting my woodworking business gave me a tremendous advantage over so many other woodworkers.

I will have to confess; anyone that knows me now does not believe that I was ever shy or bashful!

Of all the information and training I received learning to be a professional salesman over the years; I feel there are three main ingredients that will help you be successful in selling your woodworking.

All three have to do with confidence.
1. Confidence in your pricing!
2. Confidence in your product!
3. Confidence in yourself!

Pricing; If you are comfortable and have confidence in your pricing, then selling will be a lot easier. I’m not saying having the lowest price, but a price that you based on facts. The fact that you know exactly what it cost to build your product and what you need to sell it for to make a profit.

If you read my series I wrote on pricing your woodworking, then you will understand what I’m saying.

Trust me, a potential customer will pick up immediately if you are unsure or uncomfortable with your pricing. You might just as well put a neon light on your forehead telling them you are not sure of your pricing.
The same goes for having confidence in what you build. Selling your own product should be easy. You know exactly how it’s built, what it took to build it and the materials used. If you’ve built a quality product, then that should be the easiest of the three to have real confidence in.

You; This is where a lot of woodworkers fall short and it will show up in the other two areas I just mentioned. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, then you will have a hard time having much confidence in your pricing or product and if you don’t have confidence in yourself or your work or the price you have on your work, then how can you expect anyone else to have confidence in spending their hard earned money with you.

For some reason most woodworkers are afraid to be a salesman, but being a salesman for your own business and for your own product should be easy…………….and fun!

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

I had the opportunity to design and build a home office for a very successful business man in Chapel Hill, NC. This home was approximately 12,000 sq. ft. and the project I had designed was huge.

We sat at his kitchen table going over the 12 page proposal I had prepared for him with all the drawings, dimensions, building materials etc. When I got to the final page (which was the total price of the project), he looked it over for a minute, slowly leaned back in this chair, folded his arms while looking over the top of his glasses and politely said; John, this is more then my first house cost.

I knew this man could afford anything I could build and he already told me he liked my designs, so I knew he was testing me.
That’s all it took to close the deal. He was testing me and I knew it. He wanted to see if I was going to waiver or back down. He wanted to see if I had the confidence in myself and my work.

I didn’t let that bother me and I guess you could say I followed his lead; I leaned back in my chair, crossed my arms and slowly looked around the room and with a big grin I said; Bill, not near as much as this one though. He laughed and said to his wife; Hey Peg, look what John is going to build for us.

I know I’m spending a lot of time talking about you doing the selling right now and not marketing, but I feel you should be your best salesman and everything can build from there.

Let’s face it; nobody should be more excited about your woodworking then YOU!

Nobody should know more about how it’s built, the materials used to build it and the passion and craftsmanship that went into your project then YOU!

No picture or description should be able to sell your product better then YOU!

No Sales clerk or cashier should be able to talk to the customer with as much excitement and knowledge about your project as YOU!

So don’t be afraid to be your own salesman! Once you conquer that, anything else you do in marketing will only add more strength to your sales.

Tomorrow we will talk about Marketing, hope you will follow along.

-- John @

14 comments so far

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 4047 days

#1 posted 06-28-2013 01:05 PM

I look forward to following this – great information so far. As I was in sales for a great many years I understand all of this but never too old to learn. Just remember there is a wide audience out here and a large variety of selling venues. Thanks, so far, for the information.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View Dez's profile


1174 posts in 5239 days

#2 posted 06-28-2013 01:48 PM

Thanks Huff! While I have confidence I have always hated sales.

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3649 days

#3 posted 06-28-2013 02:50 PM

Excellent start to the series.

While I have never been comfortable with direct sales, I usually don’t do too badley with them.
My educational background is a couple of degrees in marketing and advertising from back in the 70’s.
While I never used them for anything, (The Army paid my way), and they are so far out of date as to be about worthless, I did glean a lot of basics of selling. Now that you bring the subject up I am realizing things I didn’t think about.

Thanks, looking forward to the next installment!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View shipwright's profile


8734 posts in 3960 days

#4 posted 06-28-2013 03:43 PM

Valuable information John, well presented.


-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Sanity's profile


176 posts in 3852 days

#5 posted 06-28-2013 03:46 PM

Thanks for taking the time to write this blog. I will be interested to read the next installments.

-- Stuart

View DocSavage45's profile


9052 posts in 4005 days

#6 posted 06-28-2013 04:42 PM

There is a saying, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Who we are is based on experience. Also on who we want to be? The other part is believing in ourselves. And in this case what we do.

Looking forward to your next installment. :)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Loren's profile


11233 posts in 4810 days

#7 posted 06-28-2013 04:53 PM

There’s a strange book that explains some not-so-obvious
arithmetic – called “How To Sell At Prices Higher Than Your
Competitors” by Steinmetz. He wrote another book about
selling at higher margins but I haven’t read that one.

Anyway, I recommend the book. One of the better books
on sales and selling I have read because it’s about
different stuff than most of them.

View Earlextech's profile


1163 posts in 3853 days

#8 posted 06-28-2013 05:53 PM

I originally opened my custom furniture business as a one man shop. I did everything, with no experience. Marketing, sales, design, ordering, bookkeeping, construction, finishing, installation and collections. The hardest part for me was the sales so I brought in a friend that was the top salesman at a window treatment company. I thought it would be great, he could sell and I could do what I loved which was the woodworking. Well real quick I figured out that he enjoyed finishing more than selling and I was back in the same boat. I was forced to become a better salesman. Fake it till you make it!
I also can relate to what James101 said above. You must be willing to walk away. Sometimes that will pay off better than actually getting the job at hand. I also learned to add a “fee” on top of my bottom line price so that I had room to negotiate with the customer. For some customers they don’t feel like they got the best deal if they can’t beat you up over the price.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3852 days

#9 posted 06-29-2013 12:53 AM

I’m eagerly following this thread and appreciate you taking the time to help the rest of us.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30631 posts in 3500 days

#10 posted 06-29-2013 03:16 AM

My confidence level has grown in direct proportion to my skill level. However, both are far from being as developed asnneeded. I learned a lot from your last series and I am eagerly looking forward to this.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 4447 days

#11 posted 06-29-2013 11:10 AM

Thanks everyone,

There’s 8 parts to this series, so hope you will follow it through.

I’m hoping there’s a little something for everyone.

-- John @

View DocSavage45's profile


9052 posts in 4005 days

#12 posted 06-29-2013 04:47 PM


At the very least you have gone out and sold your unique brand of furniture. You have made connections. And built a lumber mill. John Huff will help us all on our journey, however long the road. :>)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 4082 days

#13 posted 09-20-2013 10:38 AM

Thank you for the excellent series! I have had several inquiries regarding marketing in my blog and I am going to refer to yours here, as you did a great job on it. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View drilon4's profile


7 posts in 1354 days

#14 posted 11-16-2017 10:18 PM

hello, started installing cabinets as a business 3-4 years ago, installing with 3 of my brothers. We have a suppliers that build the cabinets and gets the contract for us and sub contracts the installing to us. We have been looking into starting to build the cabinets and are looking for tips on equipment and how to get jobs and where to bid. I live in Canada I the greater toronto area. Any help is useful, please help out and thank you.

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