Becoming a professional woodworking or not

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Forum topic by a1Jim posted 06-08-2015 02:13 AM 2684 views 3 times favorited 55 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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118145 posts in 4499 days

06-08-2015 02:13 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pro woodworking resource

As a professional woodworker many times over the years I’ve had a good number of people ask how they can become a full time woodworker,the answer is not simple. Most of the time my response to their question is “don’t wreck a wonderful hobby by turning it into a business”. I feel their persistence to still become a professional woodworker in response to my suggestion really tests the person to see if they are passionate enough to pursue the woodworking business. Beyond being passionate enough it is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many things to consider while going into business any business near enough the woodworking business. Let’s think about some basics like “personal economics, skill, where, when, what and how” part of the equation.
Personal economics
Are you financially solvent enough to acquire insurance, licenses, bonds or permits variances, to buy any required necessary equipment and or to rent or build a shop, plus financially survive for perhaps 2 years without income?
Do you have the skills to build woodworking products that the types of customer you’re looking for will deem exceptional workmanship. Are you skilled as a business person in such things as advertizing, customer relations, employee relations, book keeping, cost analyses (if your making a profit or not).
“Where” Is your geographic area and economics of your area right for the kind of woodworking you want to do? As an example if you want to build an item that requires lots of myrtle wood but the only source is thousands of miles away,does it make sense to have it shipped where you’re at or go pick it up yourself? Will your product have buyers where your located or will it have to be shipped? As an example would you make snow shoes and live in an arid location? Is there an economic basis for your product where you live? You may wish to make high end furniture but live in a economically depressed area where few people have enough discretionary income to purchase your products? Are there woodworkers in your area selling products at or below cost.

Where are you going to do your woodworking ? Do you have a shop or a place to develop a work space? If the only space you have to work is affected by the outdoor temperatures will this prohibit how many days out of the year you can produce a product?
When is it right for you to go into the woodworking business for yourself ?Will it be after you gain more skills, retire, build a shop, after you put your spouse to work, just before a holiday season, after a family member graduates so they can help, after you move to a more high income area?
What product or products will you make?
How are you going to make your product? What machinery or tools will you need that you don’t have? Will you need employees? How will you find sources for your material.

Like any business you can do all the right things and not succeed, or you can totally ignore all of the so called ways to succeed and have a great life long career in woodworking, it all may be luck or the passion and tenacity you have for woodworking and business whether you make it or not. If you decide to try woodworking as a business good luck otherwise enjoy woodworking as a fun and rewarding hobby.


55 replies so far

View DocSavage45's profile


9023 posts in 3765 days

#1 posted 06-08-2015 02:24 AM


Then I realized I’m an Amateur! Although I have built a few houses in my time.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DocSavage45's profile


9023 posts in 3765 days

#2 posted 06-08-2015 02:25 AM

Still getting requests as I am on the internet long after I closed that part of the business. Once on the internet, always on the internet. LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View BurlyBob's profile


8041 posts in 3188 days

#3 posted 06-08-2015 02:35 AM

Jim You made a statement in your article that caught my attention and reminded me of another article I read recently about farmers/ranchers. Having grown up and learned a lot about both career fields it applies to both:
“behind every successful farmer/rancher/woodworker… there’s a wife with a good job in town!

Live Long and Prosper !

View a1Jim's profile


118145 posts in 4499 days

#4 posted 06-08-2015 02:39 AM

Thanks Tom
I second and third that Bob


View George Coles's profile

George Coles

188 posts in 3367 days

#5 posted 06-08-2015 02:50 AM

Well said. The part about no income is very very true until you establish your client base.

-- George Coles,

View mikethetermite's profile


602 posts in 4188 days

#6 posted 06-08-2015 03:01 AM

I build what I want when I want. People “say you can sell those and make money”. Building the same item every day would get old. You are 100% right and I intend to (as you said) ” enjoy woodworking as a fun and rewarding hobby”.

Thanks for sharing,

-- Mike The Termite ~~~~~ Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4153 days

#7 posted 06-08-2015 03:32 AM

Eight days a week is still not enough time to get all of the work done! Tired. There is no time to be tired or sleep in just one day.

And most of all, don’t quit your day job!

I know it sounds silly, but those thoughts are pretty much the gospel.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View BurlyBob's profile


8041 posts in 3188 days

#8 posted 06-08-2015 03:42 AM

I have to agree with you Mike. A friend of mine, arguably the best cabinet maker in my area and a really great guy, passed a job onto me. It was a small job 8 small step stools. I fretted over it and worked my best to get it done right. It just wasn’t fun and I just didn’t have the emotional attachment to it like I did things I’ve built for my kids. It might seem sentimental, but building for family is an act of love. Building for someone else, for money is missing that key element … love.

View a1Jim's profile


118145 posts in 4499 days

#9 posted 06-08-2015 03:53 AM

Sounds like you been there done that George.
Good for you Mike
Mike H boy oh boy you can say that again.
Bob I’ve made lots of things for customers but in spite of getting paid well for those projects I still enjoy making things for family and friends much much more.


View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 3821 days

#10 posted 06-08-2015 04:37 AM

Well wrote Jim. I build a lot of dresser’s but they go to good folk’s with kid’s and house payment’s if I had to run my shop like professional woodworker a lot of folk’s wont be able to get a good piece of furniture as for me and my girls wood working is a way of life not a job.

View a1Jim's profile


118145 posts in 4499 days

#11 posted 06-08-2015 04:48 AM

That’s great David,keep up the good work.


View Boxguy's profile


2888 posts in 3190 days

#12 posted 06-08-2015 07:23 AM

Jim, I liked your analysis of woodworking for money. I think your comments are right on the money, Basically it is not a living though you can suppliment your income enough to buy large, expernsive tools. An element I might add is being willling to really work at it as a job and put in 40 or more hours a week. The other element is to be able to work effeciently. Earning money is about product, not how long it took you to make it. How long it took matters to you, but the customer only cares about the price of your product. If I can make a box in 8 hours that would take my competitor 24 hours to make, and we are both charging the same amount for a box then I am making three times the money my competitor is making. The woodworker’s goal is not to get his hourly wage, instead it is to work effeciently enough to he or she can get an hourly wage from making the product.

Finally, working with a good, professional tax person is a must. A pro who can tell you what to llist, what you can’t list, and who will help you keep all your money straight. There is no way to keep up on all the changes in tax law and loopholes on your own. You need someone who does that full time for you.

-- Big Al in IN

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 2153 days

#13 posted 06-08-2015 11:12 AM

Never do what you love. Do what you like. Make what you love a hobby.

I dont buy the “do what you love and youll never work another day in your life”. It took me 15 years to finally get back to doing woodwork as a hobby and enjoying it.

Now I like doing design work. I love wood work. Design engineering pays me.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30577 posts in 3260 days

#14 posted 06-08-2015 11:44 AM

Although my intention is to be full-time woodworking in 2-3 years, it’s been a slow process. I have a good day job and this is simply a good paying hobby. July 1st will be 6 years at it,building a client base. I already have my biggest year ever this year, but I am not ready to go all-in yet. Your words are gospel Jim. Patience is a virtue.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View CampD's profile


1818 posts in 4408 days

#15 posted 06-08-2015 11:48 AM

Yup, about sums it up!

-- Doug...

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