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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Key Decisions, Goals, and Scoping

So I've decided to turn my woodworking hobby into a woodworking business. When making this decision, I had to take a lot into consideration. I have a family, and a demanding (and rewarding) full-time job at Microsoft. So, here's some of the key decisions I've made to scope the business and the reasoning behind them.

Focus on my family
I have a great family that I love to spend time with. I'm not going to take on so many projects that I can't continue to spend time with them.

Kick butt at my day job
My full-time job at Microsoft is demanding, personally rewarding, and keeps the family financial boat afloat. I'm going to drive that career forward and work hard at it. Microsoft pays me more per hour than I can make woodworking. That's the nature of the market.

Stay out of debt
The idea behind starting this business is to gain the tax benefits, earn extra income, and set myself up with something I love to do when I finally retire. Getting shouldered with new debt is not part of the plan

Choose the right projects & schedules
I need to be very realistic about the projects I take on. Installing walnut wainscoting in a 10,000sf mansion is not going to fit. Too much on site work, too much material cost, too much paperwork (contractor's license, building permits). I'm more likely to build small pieces of furniture, that I can complete with my existing set of tools (or maybe a few new ones) at high quality, in my small shop

Build new skills
This business, and taking on real jobs, is going to force me to build some new skills in woodworking, but also business: I'll need to market my business to generate leads, design projects on the computer before investing time and materials in the shop, and run the business from a financial and legal perspective. From a woodworking perspective I'll need to estimate and price my work, find great suppliers, learn new techniques, and potentially subcontract out certain pieces to experts like carvers and turners.

Build a business
Some day I'll retire, and I hope that the business I am starting today is healthy and profitable when that day comes. To do this I need to find the right market segment: who am I building for, what do they want me to build, and how much will they pay?
 

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Key Decisions, Goals, and Scoping

So I've decided to turn my woodworking hobby into a woodworking business. When making this decision, I had to take a lot into consideration. I have a family, and a demanding (and rewarding) full-time job at Microsoft. So, here's some of the key decisions I've made to scope the business and the reasoning behind them.

Focus on my family
I have a great family that I love to spend time with. I'm not going to take on so many projects that I can't continue to spend time with them.

Kick butt at my day job
My full-time job at Microsoft is demanding, personally rewarding, and keeps the family financial boat afloat. I'm going to drive that career forward and work hard at it. Microsoft pays me more per hour than I can make woodworking. That's the nature of the market.

Stay out of debt
The idea behind starting this business is to gain the tax benefits, earn extra income, and set myself up with something I love to do when I finally retire. Getting shouldered with new debt is not part of the plan

Choose the right projects & schedules
I need to be very realistic about the projects I take on. Installing walnut wainscoting in a 10,000sf mansion is not going to fit. Too much on site work, too much material cost, too much paperwork (contractor's license, building permits). I'm more likely to build small pieces of furniture, that I can complete with my existing set of tools (or maybe a few new ones) at high quality, in my small shop

Build new skills
This business, and taking on real jobs, is going to force me to build some new skills in woodworking, but also business: I'll need to market my business to generate leads, design projects on the computer before investing time and materials in the shop, and run the business from a financial and legal perspective. From a woodworking perspective I'll need to estimate and price my work, find great suppliers, learn new techniques, and potentially subcontract out certain pieces to experts like carvers and turners.

Build a business
Some day I'll retire, and I hope that the business I am starting today is healthy and profitable when that day comes. To do this I need to find the right market segment: who am I building for, what do they want me to build, and how much will they pay?
Matt, it sounds like you have a pretty good plan. It would be nice if you had the business developed and running when you retire so that you could get paid to spend time in the shop. I hope your plans work out as you have planned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Key Decisions, Goals, and Scoping

So I've decided to turn my woodworking hobby into a woodworking business. When making this decision, I had to take a lot into consideration. I have a family, and a demanding (and rewarding) full-time job at Microsoft. So, here's some of the key decisions I've made to scope the business and the reasoning behind them.

Focus on my family
I have a great family that I love to spend time with. I'm not going to take on so many projects that I can't continue to spend time with them.

Kick butt at my day job
My full-time job at Microsoft is demanding, personally rewarding, and keeps the family financial boat afloat. I'm going to drive that career forward and work hard at it. Microsoft pays me more per hour than I can make woodworking. That's the nature of the market.

Stay out of debt
The idea behind starting this business is to gain the tax benefits, earn extra income, and set myself up with something I love to do when I finally retire. Getting shouldered with new debt is not part of the plan

Choose the right projects & schedules
I need to be very realistic about the projects I take on. Installing walnut wainscoting in a 10,000sf mansion is not going to fit. Too much on site work, too much material cost, too much paperwork (contractor's license, building permits). I'm more likely to build small pieces of furniture, that I can complete with my existing set of tools (or maybe a few new ones) at high quality, in my small shop

Build new skills
This business, and taking on real jobs, is going to force me to build some new skills in woodworking, but also business: I'll need to market my business to generate leads, design projects on the computer before investing time and materials in the shop, and run the business from a financial and legal perspective. From a woodworking perspective I'll need to estimate and price my work, find great suppliers, learn new techniques, and potentially subcontract out certain pieces to experts like carvers and turners.

Build a business
Some day I'll retire, and I hope that the business I am starting today is healthy and profitable when that day comes. To do this I need to find the right market segment: who am I building for, what do they want me to build, and how much will they pay?
Thanks Scott!
 

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Key Decisions, Goals, and Scoping

So I've decided to turn my woodworking hobby into a woodworking business. When making this decision, I had to take a lot into consideration. I have a family, and a demanding (and rewarding) full-time job at Microsoft. So, here's some of the key decisions I've made to scope the business and the reasoning behind them.

Focus on my family
I have a great family that I love to spend time with. I'm not going to take on so many projects that I can't continue to spend time with them.

Kick butt at my day job
My full-time job at Microsoft is demanding, personally rewarding, and keeps the family financial boat afloat. I'm going to drive that career forward and work hard at it. Microsoft pays me more per hour than I can make woodworking. That's the nature of the market.

Stay out of debt
The idea behind starting this business is to gain the tax benefits, earn extra income, and set myself up with something I love to do when I finally retire. Getting shouldered with new debt is not part of the plan

Choose the right projects & schedules
I need to be very realistic about the projects I take on. Installing walnut wainscoting in a 10,000sf mansion is not going to fit. Too much on site work, too much material cost, too much paperwork (contractor's license, building permits). I'm more likely to build small pieces of furniture, that I can complete with my existing set of tools (or maybe a few new ones) at high quality, in my small shop

Build new skills
This business, and taking on real jobs, is going to force me to build some new skills in woodworking, but also business: I'll need to market my business to generate leads, design projects on the computer before investing time and materials in the shop, and run the business from a financial and legal perspective. From a woodworking perspective I'll need to estimate and price my work, find great suppliers, learn new techniques, and potentially subcontract out certain pieces to experts like carvers and turners.

Build a business
Some day I'll retire, and I hope that the business I am starting today is healthy and profitable when that day comes. To do this I need to find the right market segment: who am I building for, what do they want me to build, and how much will they pay?
You plan sounds good Matt, family and staying out of debt are big ones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The Mechanics of Starting a New Business

It's been very interesting opening this new business. It's not hard, but there are a lot of steps and pitfalls. Let me summarize what I've done so far, and some resources I've found valuable.

StartupNation.com
This is site that really got me thinking about starting my own business. Great podcasts, lots of resources, a helpful community, and a radio show.

StartupDaddy.com
Great audio podcast and website. Resources like the Home Business Startup Checklist guide you through the steps. I've found the advice clear and useful, and the presentation professional and inspiring.

Before I talk about the steps I went through, you should understand a few key things:

  • This is a home based business
  • This is a part-time venture for now
  • I have no employees
  • I will not be borrowing money

Here are the steps I've taken so far:
  1. Make a few key decisions.
  2. Pick a name, and make sure that name wasn't already in use.
  3. Choose the business type. I chose to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). I used LegalZoom to do that for me. They also handled my IRS paperwork and working with the State of Washington to get my Business License.
  4. Register the domain name so I could setup a website, I used HostGator.
  5. Decide on the technology to build the website, I've chosen WordPress.
  6. Create a brand identity (logos, colors, taglines, etc.). I'm working with designers on 99designs. You can check on the logo ideas here please let me know what you think.
  7. Get a physical address (not a PO Box) for they company that is not my home address. All business correspondence goes there. I did this with the UPS Store.
  8. Get a bank account for the LLC and keep all finances separate. I opened mine with Wells Fargo because they are very close to the UPS Store and they integrate with QuickBooks.

Here are the things I need to do next:

  1. Meet with a book-keeper or accountant to get my books setup and understand what I need to do as a business owner to keep the finances separate, pay taxes, and have the business pay me (when it makes money).
  2. Meet with a lawyer to understand who should own the tools I already have (me, or the LLC), how to insure them, licenses, permits, etc.
  3. Decide if I need a separate phone number for Upper Cut, and which 800 Service to use. I would love recommendations!
  4. Get business cards, and brochures.
  5. Potentially get magnetic signage for the truck.
  6. Build a network of customers, advisers, suppliers.
  7. Build more content for the website.
  8. Schedule time in the shop to build!

So far this has been fun, and I look forward to the next steps!
 

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106 Posts
The Mechanics of Starting a New Business

It's been very interesting opening this new business. It's not hard, but there are a lot of steps and pitfalls. Let me summarize what I've done so far, and some resources I've found valuable.

StartupNation.com
This is site that really got me thinking about starting my own business. Great podcasts, lots of resources, a helpful community, and a radio show.

StartupDaddy.com
Great audio podcast and website. Resources like the Home Business Startup Checklist guide you through the steps. I've found the advice clear and useful, and the presentation professional and inspiring.

Before I talk about the steps I went through, you should understand a few key things:

  • This is a home based business
  • This is a part-time venture for now
  • I have no employees
  • I will not be borrowing money

Here are the steps I've taken so far:
  1. Make a few key decisions.
  2. Pick a name, and make sure that name wasn't already in use.
  3. Choose the business type. I chose to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). I used LegalZoom to do that for me. They also handled my IRS paperwork and working with the State of Washington to get my Business License.
  4. Register the domain name so I could setup a website, I used HostGator.
  5. Decide on the technology to build the website, I've chosen WordPress.
  6. Create a brand identity (logos, colors, taglines, etc.). I'm working with designers on 99designs. You can check on the logo ideas here please let me know what you think.
  7. Get a physical address (not a PO Box) for they company that is not my home address. All business correspondence goes there. I did this with the UPS Store.
  8. Get a bank account for the LLC and keep all finances separate. I opened mine with Wells Fargo because they are very close to the UPS Store and they integrate with QuickBooks.

Here are the things I need to do next:

  1. Meet with a book-keeper or accountant to get my books setup and understand what I need to do as a business owner to keep the finances separate, pay taxes, and have the business pay me (when it makes money).
  2. Meet with a lawyer to understand who should own the tools I already have (me, or the LLC), how to insure them, licenses, permits, etc.
  3. Decide if I need a separate phone number for Upper Cut, and which 800 Service to use. I would love recommendations!
  4. Get business cards, and brochures.
  5. Potentially get magnetic signage for the truck.
  6. Build a network of customers, advisers, suppliers.
  7. Build more content for the website.
  8. Schedule time in the shop to build!

So far this has been fun, and I look forward to the next steps!
Hi Matt,

Awsome post. Thanks for the details. Hey what about Facebook? Have you leveraged your network there yet? If not you may want to explore what that can do for you. I would say twitter too but the jury is still out on that one for me. You may also want to think about joining your local chamber of commerce. They might be able to put you in touch with other local business who might need your services.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The Mechanics of Starting a New Business

It's been very interesting opening this new business. It's not hard, but there are a lot of steps and pitfalls. Let me summarize what I've done so far, and some resources I've found valuable.

StartupNation.com
This is site that really got me thinking about starting my own business. Great podcasts, lots of resources, a helpful community, and a radio show.

StartupDaddy.com
Great audio podcast and website. Resources like the Home Business Startup Checklist guide you through the steps. I've found the advice clear and useful, and the presentation professional and inspiring.

Before I talk about the steps I went through, you should understand a few key things:

  • This is a home based business
  • This is a part-time venture for now
  • I have no employees
  • I will not be borrowing money

Here are the steps I've taken so far:
  1. Make a few key decisions.
  2. Pick a name, and make sure that name wasn't already in use.
  3. Choose the business type. I chose to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). I used LegalZoom to do that for me. They also handled my IRS paperwork and working with the State of Washington to get my Business License.
  4. Register the domain name so I could setup a website, I used HostGator.
  5. Decide on the technology to build the website, I've chosen WordPress.
  6. Create a brand identity (logos, colors, taglines, etc.). I'm working with designers on 99designs. You can check on the logo ideas here please let me know what you think.
  7. Get a physical address (not a PO Box) for they company that is not my home address. All business correspondence goes there. I did this with the UPS Store.
  8. Get a bank account for the LLC and keep all finances separate. I opened mine with Wells Fargo because they are very close to the UPS Store and they integrate with QuickBooks.

Here are the things I need to do next:

  1. Meet with a book-keeper or accountant to get my books setup and understand what I need to do as a business owner to keep the finances separate, pay taxes, and have the business pay me (when it makes money).
  2. Meet with a lawyer to understand who should own the tools I already have (me, or the LLC), how to insure them, licenses, permits, etc.
  3. Decide if I need a separate phone number for Upper Cut, and which 800 Service to use. I would love recommendations!
  4. Get business cards, and brochures.
  5. Potentially get magnetic signage for the truck.
  6. Build a network of customers, advisers, suppliers.
  7. Build more content for the website.
  8. Schedule time in the shop to build!

So far this has been fun, and I look forward to the next steps!
Hey WWilson,

Thanks for the comments. I am leveraging my network there, I over 1000 friends. One way I do this easily is that wordpress will publish a link to my blog posts on facebook and twitter automatically-kinda like lumberjocks (have I mentioned how much I love this site?).

I don't have enough followers on twitter to really make an impact, but that'll be just around the corner I hope.

I have also created a facebook page for the business.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
 

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Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
#1 should be getting a license and bonding. In CA you need a contractors license. If you don't have the license you can get fined. You also don't get to file a mechanics lien. Your state may require a business license of some sort.

#2 Make sure you have a registered ficticious business name

#3 Insurance and workers comp

#4 A good contract. The contract should have the notice of cancellation, mechanics lien rights and law, your license #, warranty information, notice to change orders, down payment, progress payments, timeline, materials, description of work, additional fees explanation (for instance if you are requested to install handles or knobs but they are not available at time of installation a return trip charge will be charged), etc

#5 Get a seperate contract made for design. The contract should say something to the effect that you are charging X amount for the design, however, should they sign a contract with you the fee will be waived. If they choose a different contractor, the fee purchases the right to the design.

#6 Statement of completion

#7 Change order

#8 Payment schedule

You shouldn't charge 50% upfront then 50 % at the end. In fact it is illegal in california to take a down payment of more then 10% or $1000 whichever is less. However, if you take progress payments then you can continuously pay the bills. For instance on a $6,000, if I take $1,000 down on day 1, as well as $1,000 for progress payment for materials I will get $2000 the first day. Then I can have scheduled payments, say $2,000 in 7 days and $2,000 upon completion. That way I don't spend $3,000 right off the bat and have to hold my breath for the other $3,000. I will get $4,000 before the job is done. You could also say $1,000 upon completion of cabinetry, and then the Additional $1,000 upon completed install. That way you get $5000 before you even deliver the cabinets.

If it turns out that you bid to low you will know at the end of the job if you are making profit and loss statements for each job. Then the next job you will know to charge more. You can't up your price in the middle of the job because you decided you didn't charge enough. The only way to do that is with a change order if they add additional stuff.

Your relationship with the client should be completely open and honest. Even take progress pictures and keep them updated. Open communication is key too. If there is a general contractor make sure you communicate with him too, and that he has your drawings. This will ensure that things like plumbing and electrical are in the right place.

Make sure you have the customer sign YOUR drawings before you build anything. Don't assume they know what they are getting. This way you can take the drawings back and show them if something is wrong or overlooked. Make it their fault as well as yours. This way they will be more understanding when you ask them for additional funds should you need to make a change.

I'm sure I can go on and on, and I don't even know if I answered your question. I'm just rambling. LOL Good luck with your business venture.
 

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Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
I think it would be very helpful to know what types of projects you think you'll be taking on and the scope of the projects.

Based off your first posts, it sounds like what you're doing will be on a smaller scale and I wouldn't get too bogged down in the smaller details. A simple agreement that you and the client sign is more than sufficient. I'm a GC and every job I've done has been with a 2 page document. No problems yet (fingers crossed). Also, a 1 year warranty is pretty standard and makes people feel good.

Another important decision is how you will charge - are you charging a fixed price for the product? Are you giving the customer an initial estimate(range) and then charging on actual L&M basis? I would recommend that you spend a lot of time discussing item #2 in your work flow above before proceeding to #3 and 4. Steps 3 and 4 will take lots and lots of your time, which as you mentioned will be wasted if the Client doesn't sign on the dotted line.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
Really good tips guys, I'm definately going to include your feedback and guidance in my Standard Operatiing Procedures
 

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Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
I back the other guys and kolwdwrkr has the most thoroughly expressed thoughts that I completely back.

In Montana I can take as much as I want upfront. I have been taking 75% because the money flows out fast.

I take the final 25% on completion or progress payments depending on the size of the job.

My subs require 75% from me as well when they show up on the job.

75% insures that all the material and subs are paid and if I get left holding the bag I don't owe anybody any money, it just leaves my pockets light.
 

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Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
Hi Matt. Check out this book if you haven't already :The Woodworker's Guide to Pricing Your Work by Dan Ramsey. It's a quick read and pretty comprehensive. I am almost done with it and it brought up a lot of good points that I hadn't yet considered about how to price my projects. Let me know if you find it useful. Todd's suggestion is good because it won't leave you holding the bag if the customer changes their mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
Just re-reading these comments, these are all very good, and thanks for the book recommendation!
 

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Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.
  7. It's interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn't sign on the dotted line, I'm out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it's difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I'd love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I'd also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you're willing to share, email them to me.
Keith covered it really well
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Dedicating time to Woodworking

I'm not sure this post will paste in correctly. Feel free to read the blog on my site.

One of the the things I've been figuring out is how to dedicate time to Upper Cut on a consistent basis. As I've mentioned before, I have a rewarding but demanding full-time job and a wonderful family that I like to spend time with. Even without a business, woodworking is something I enjoy, so I definitely want to set aside the time for it. So how do I make sure I dedicate enough time to the business in a healthy way?

Step 1: Talk to the wife
If your spouse is supportive of your hobby, they'll help problem solve this for you. Support comes in many flavors: from encouraging you to spend the time doing something you enjoy to actively participating in the shop. I don't think I'll get my wife in the shop, but having her support is great. She doesn't complain too much about my shop taking part of the garage, she's bought me tools as gifts (and done well), and she's asked for more projects - which means she likes what I've done so far. She's also showed off my work to friends, and asked me to build things for them as gifts. This appreciation for my work feels good and motivates me to do more. Over Christmas Break she actually said "we need to get you a dedicated shop!" So yes, I drew up my dream shop - I'll share that in a future post.

Step 2: Find a shop buddy
If you have someone to join you in the shop, that's sometimes better than working alone, depending on your personality. Two people working in a shop at the same time might get busy but it will also be friendly and helpful. Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to push you forward, and someone to help get those big pieces through the saw.

Step 3: Be in the shop when you're not in the shop
If you can't always be in the shop, you can be connected to your hobby and building your skills. There are great podcasts to enjoy during your commute or workout, and blogs to enjoy during your lunch hour. Stay connected with your hobby, stay up on the latest trends, tools, techniques, and materials, and get inspired! I listen to Wood Talk Online in the shop. Wacky, huh?

Step 4: Create two lists and check them twice
Create two lists of things you need to get done in the shop: one is for projects, and the other is for maintenance. Assign a T-Shirt size representing the time investment for each task, and prioritize your lists. Anytime you get free time for the shop you will have a backlog of things to get done. You'll know when you last did your maintenance, and you'll spend your time wisely. I don't like to work on large projects in lots of little time slices, I'd rather fill those with the small projects and do the large projects in long stretches. It doesn't always work out, but the continuity of work helps me. For example, if I have three hours free on Wednesday night, I'll probably skip over my Priority 1 project, and go straight to Priority 2. I bet I can complete a pencil holder in three hours, especially because I know I have the stock ready, and I have already built quite a few. If I'm in maintenance mode I could just go in the shop and put away 10 things (thanks Wood Whisperer and Grandpa Olsen), or I could complete something from the maintenance list.

Priority Project Size
1 Dresser for Mark L
2 Pencil Holder for Grandma's birthday XS
3 Cutting board for Auntie S

Maintenance Item Size Last Completed
Annual Table Saw tune-up M 11/11/2008
Annual Sharpen Planer Blades S 6/13/2009
Periodic Wax Tools S 6/13/2009

So, how has this worked out for me? Well, I'm still working through the steps.

Step 1: My wife supports me turning Wednesday nights in to "shop nights"
Step 2: My buddy Greg wants to join me
Step 3: I'm already crazy about blogs and podcasts
Step 4: I need to make my project lists and maintenance logs - when those are done I might publish them

How do you dedicate time in the shop, stay connected to your hobby, and maximize your time?
 

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Dedicating time to Woodworking

I'm not sure this post will paste in correctly. Feel free to read the blog on my site.

One of the the things I've been figuring out is how to dedicate time to Upper Cut on a consistent basis. As I've mentioned before, I have a rewarding but demanding full-time job and a wonderful family that I like to spend time with. Even without a business, woodworking is something I enjoy, so I definitely want to set aside the time for it. So how do I make sure I dedicate enough time to the business in a healthy way?

Step 1: Talk to the wife
If your spouse is supportive of your hobby, they'll help problem solve this for you. Support comes in many flavors: from encouraging you to spend the time doing something you enjoy to actively participating in the shop. I don't think I'll get my wife in the shop, but having her support is great. She doesn't complain too much about my shop taking part of the garage, she's bought me tools as gifts (and done well), and she's asked for more projects - which means she likes what I've done so far. She's also showed off my work to friends, and asked me to build things for them as gifts. This appreciation for my work feels good and motivates me to do more. Over Christmas Break she actually said "we need to get you a dedicated shop!" So yes, I drew up my dream shop - I'll share that in a future post.

Step 2: Find a shop buddy
If you have someone to join you in the shop, that's sometimes better than working alone, depending on your personality. Two people working in a shop at the same time might get busy but it will also be friendly and helpful. Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to push you forward, and someone to help get those big pieces through the saw.

Step 3: Be in the shop when you're not in the shop
If you can't always be in the shop, you can be connected to your hobby and building your skills. There are great podcasts to enjoy during your commute or workout, and blogs to enjoy during your lunch hour. Stay connected with your hobby, stay up on the latest trends, tools, techniques, and materials, and get inspired! I listen to Wood Talk Online in the shop. Wacky, huh?

Step 4: Create two lists and check them twice
Create two lists of things you need to get done in the shop: one is for projects, and the other is for maintenance. Assign a T-Shirt size representing the time investment for each task, and prioritize your lists. Anytime you get free time for the shop you will have a backlog of things to get done. You'll know when you last did your maintenance, and you'll spend your time wisely. I don't like to work on large projects in lots of little time slices, I'd rather fill those with the small projects and do the large projects in long stretches. It doesn't always work out, but the continuity of work helps me. For example, if I have three hours free on Wednesday night, I'll probably skip over my Priority 1 project, and go straight to Priority 2. I bet I can complete a pencil holder in three hours, especially because I know I have the stock ready, and I have already built quite a few. If I'm in maintenance mode I could just go in the shop and put away 10 things (thanks Wood Whisperer and Grandpa Olsen), or I could complete something from the maintenance list.

Priority Project Size
1 Dresser for Mark L
2 Pencil Holder for Grandma's birthday XS
3 Cutting board for Auntie S

Maintenance Item Size Last Completed
Annual Table Saw tune-up M 11/11/2008
Annual Sharpen Planer Blades S 6/13/2009
Periodic Wax Tools S 6/13/2009

So, how has this worked out for me? Well, I'm still working through the steps.

Step 1: My wife supports me turning Wednesday nights in to "shop nights"
Step 2: My buddy Greg wants to join me
Step 3: I'm already crazy about blogs and podcasts
Step 4: I need to make my project lists and maintenance logs - when those are done I might publish them

How do you dedicate time in the shop, stay connected to your hobby, and maximize your time?
Great plan. I think the key is to ease in slowly. I am in an almost identical situation to you and finding (no making) time is the critical thing. If you can get at it consistenly then you can make some headway. I really like your prioritization / categorization of tasks. I never though about it but the T-shirt analogy is perfect because sometimes you only have an XS amount of time but if you have a list of XS things that need to get done you can maximize your shop time. Great posts. Keep up the good work!

-Will
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Dedicating time to Woodworking

I'm not sure this post will paste in correctly. Feel free to read the blog on my site.

One of the the things I've been figuring out is how to dedicate time to Upper Cut on a consistent basis. As I've mentioned before, I have a rewarding but demanding full-time job and a wonderful family that I like to spend time with. Even without a business, woodworking is something I enjoy, so I definitely want to set aside the time for it. So how do I make sure I dedicate enough time to the business in a healthy way?

Step 1: Talk to the wife
If your spouse is supportive of your hobby, they'll help problem solve this for you. Support comes in many flavors: from encouraging you to spend the time doing something you enjoy to actively participating in the shop. I don't think I'll get my wife in the shop, but having her support is great. She doesn't complain too much about my shop taking part of the garage, she's bought me tools as gifts (and done well), and she's asked for more projects - which means she likes what I've done so far. She's also showed off my work to friends, and asked me to build things for them as gifts. This appreciation for my work feels good and motivates me to do more. Over Christmas Break she actually said "we need to get you a dedicated shop!" So yes, I drew up my dream shop - I'll share that in a future post.

Step 2: Find a shop buddy
If you have someone to join you in the shop, that's sometimes better than working alone, depending on your personality. Two people working in a shop at the same time might get busy but it will also be friendly and helpful. Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to push you forward, and someone to help get those big pieces through the saw.

Step 3: Be in the shop when you're not in the shop
If you can't always be in the shop, you can be connected to your hobby and building your skills. There are great podcasts to enjoy during your commute or workout, and blogs to enjoy during your lunch hour. Stay connected with your hobby, stay up on the latest trends, tools, techniques, and materials, and get inspired! I listen to Wood Talk Online in the shop. Wacky, huh?

Step 4: Create two lists and check them twice
Create two lists of things you need to get done in the shop: one is for projects, and the other is for maintenance. Assign a T-Shirt size representing the time investment for each task, and prioritize your lists. Anytime you get free time for the shop you will have a backlog of things to get done. You'll know when you last did your maintenance, and you'll spend your time wisely. I don't like to work on large projects in lots of little time slices, I'd rather fill those with the small projects and do the large projects in long stretches. It doesn't always work out, but the continuity of work helps me. For example, if I have three hours free on Wednesday night, I'll probably skip over my Priority 1 project, and go straight to Priority 2. I bet I can complete a pencil holder in three hours, especially because I know I have the stock ready, and I have already built quite a few. If I'm in maintenance mode I could just go in the shop and put away 10 things (thanks Wood Whisperer and Grandpa Olsen), or I could complete something from the maintenance list.

Priority Project Size
1 Dresser for Mark L
2 Pencil Holder for Grandma's birthday XS
3 Cutting board for Auntie S

Maintenance Item Size Last Completed
Annual Table Saw tune-up M 11/11/2008
Annual Sharpen Planer Blades S 6/13/2009
Periodic Wax Tools S 6/13/2009

So, how has this worked out for me? Well, I'm still working through the steps.

Step 1: My wife supports me turning Wednesday nights in to "shop nights"
Step 2: My buddy Greg wants to join me
Step 3: I'm already crazy about blogs and podcasts
Step 4: I need to make my project lists and maintenance logs - when those are done I might publish them

How do you dedicate time in the shop, stay connected to your hobby, and maximize your time?
Thanks WWilson-I have to say all these years of managing software teams (and not sucking at it) is paying off. Consistency is key though. I need to establish a rhythm of getting in the shop and getting things done!
 

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Dedicating time to Woodworking

I'm not sure this post will paste in correctly. Feel free to read the blog on my site.

One of the the things I've been figuring out is how to dedicate time to Upper Cut on a consistent basis. As I've mentioned before, I have a rewarding but demanding full-time job and a wonderful family that I like to spend time with. Even without a business, woodworking is something I enjoy, so I definitely want to set aside the time for it. So how do I make sure I dedicate enough time to the business in a healthy way?

Step 1: Talk to the wife
If your spouse is supportive of your hobby, they'll help problem solve this for you. Support comes in many flavors: from encouraging you to spend the time doing something you enjoy to actively participating in the shop. I don't think I'll get my wife in the shop, but having her support is great. She doesn't complain too much about my shop taking part of the garage, she's bought me tools as gifts (and done well), and she's asked for more projects - which means she likes what I've done so far. She's also showed off my work to friends, and asked me to build things for them as gifts. This appreciation for my work feels good and motivates me to do more. Over Christmas Break she actually said "we need to get you a dedicated shop!" So yes, I drew up my dream shop - I'll share that in a future post.

Step 2: Find a shop buddy
If you have someone to join you in the shop, that's sometimes better than working alone, depending on your personality. Two people working in a shop at the same time might get busy but it will also be friendly and helpful. Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to push you forward, and someone to help get those big pieces through the saw.

Step 3: Be in the shop when you're not in the shop
If you can't always be in the shop, you can be connected to your hobby and building your skills. There are great podcasts to enjoy during your commute or workout, and blogs to enjoy during your lunch hour. Stay connected with your hobby, stay up on the latest trends, tools, techniques, and materials, and get inspired! I listen to Wood Talk Online in the shop. Wacky, huh?

Step 4: Create two lists and check them twice
Create two lists of things you need to get done in the shop: one is for projects, and the other is for maintenance. Assign a T-Shirt size representing the time investment for each task, and prioritize your lists. Anytime you get free time for the shop you will have a backlog of things to get done. You'll know when you last did your maintenance, and you'll spend your time wisely. I don't like to work on large projects in lots of little time slices, I'd rather fill those with the small projects and do the large projects in long stretches. It doesn't always work out, but the continuity of work helps me. For example, if I have three hours free on Wednesday night, I'll probably skip over my Priority 1 project, and go straight to Priority 2. I bet I can complete a pencil holder in three hours, especially because I know I have the stock ready, and I have already built quite a few. If I'm in maintenance mode I could just go in the shop and put away 10 things (thanks Wood Whisperer and Grandpa Olsen), or I could complete something from the maintenance list.

Priority Project Size
1 Dresser for Mark L
2 Pencil Holder for Grandma's birthday XS
3 Cutting board for Auntie S

Maintenance Item Size Last Completed
Annual Table Saw tune-up M 11/11/2008
Annual Sharpen Planer Blades S 6/13/2009
Periodic Wax Tools S 6/13/2009

So, how has this worked out for me? Well, I'm still working through the steps.

Step 1: My wife supports me turning Wednesday nights in to "shop nights"
Step 2: My buddy Greg wants to join me
Step 3: I'm already crazy about blogs and podcasts
Step 4: I need to make my project lists and maintenance logs - when those are done I might publish them

How do you dedicate time in the shop, stay connected to your hobby, and maximize your time?
i have no problem finding time to get into the workshop as i was made unemployed the problem i have is motavation so i make lists for everything and i use a whiteboard and marker for reminders also i keep visual aid's insight like a pic of a drum sander i would like or the house i would like to buy, it helps to keep me focused
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Creating an Identity for Upper Cut Woodworks

There are many web sites that will tell you what you need to do to build your company identity. This post isn't a comprehensive summary of that, it's just my experience so far.

Connecting with Customers (brains)

If you read The Leader's Voice by Clarke and Crossland, you'll find out that for an important message to resonate with your audience, they have to hear it repetitively. But it's also best if it connects with their brain Emotionally, Symbolically, and Logically. I think the same may be true for a new Company Identity.

The Name

I feel like the name connects in these ways:

  1. Uppercut like the punch: no I don't want customers to feel punched, but I do want them to feel like I'm going to approach their project with power and 'knock it out.' Symbolic.
  2. Cut is obviously a woodworking term. Logical.
  3. Uppercut will hopefully remind customers of upper crust. I want them to feel like they are getting the best. Emotional.

The Symbol

I'm currently working with designers on 99designs.com to finalize a logo symbol and logotype for the name. During that process, I made some decisions:

The first was about colors:

  • Upper in Green: friendly, safe, environmental, responsible, natural
  • Cut in Silver/Grey: tool steel, hard, precise, sharp
  • Woodworks in Brown: warm, natural, wood (appeals to the sense of smell and touch)

The next was about design goals:

  1. I want it clean, with just the colors above. It must look good on a hat, shirt, hoody, business card, website, etc. It must look good black and white and grayscale.
  2. Sans Serif fonts, and something modern, fresh, clean, and not overused.
  3. I wanted not only a logotype (a treatment of the name) but a Logo Symbol to stand on it's own.
  4. The word "woodworks" has to be prominent enough so that potential customers aren't confused about what we do.

The decision on the symbol is going to be hard, there are a lot of great ideas. The symbol also conveys a message to the potential customer, and I need to think hard about what I'm trying to say with my symbol:

  • A saw blade might be logical, but scary
  • A geometrical shape might look like a piece of woodworking, but might be a mental puzzle
  • A human figure might be personal, but might be too complicated or busy
  • A leaf might convey a responsibility to nature, but might make customers think we are a landscaping service

I'd love to hear what you think, the design is closed for submissions very soon, and then it's on to picking the final logo.

Check out the submissions here.
 
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