The truth is that woodworking is very labor intensive and the average wage per hour is nothing to be very excited about. There are exceptions, of course. For example, the artists who can make a ‘work of art’ dresser and sell it for $45,000. Even if it took them 3 months to make, working 7 hours a day, that is still a decent income. Then custom woodworking work tends to pay well, which is correspondingly larger according to the size of the project.
If you are already into that play then good for you, keep it up and all the best!
But there are a lot of woodworkers who would love to amp up that hourly wage. Apart from the fact that woodworking is labor intensive, the income tends to stop as soon as you stop working. This is a big issue that should be tackled at the outset of any business and not just a woodworking business.
Characteristics of a successful business model
Any business enterprise should have the following two characteristics.
- It should be scalable. When the demand grows, the business should be able to grow as well and cater to that increasing demand.
- The production should be independent of your physical presence and capable of continuing in your absence.
- The business should work for you even when you are not actively doing the work.
But how are you to do this?
How to scale and grow your woodworking business
Not everyone want to grow their business, and that’s alright.
I know business owners who are not keen of growing the size of their business. They are worried about losing control and feel that things will begin to go wrong. As strange as it might sound that someone can be averse to growth, this is a very legitimate concern. People know what they can and cannot handle and there is nothing wrong with keeping a business at a certain level if that is sufficient for their needs and keeps the person happy.
I know several family businesses run this way. A one person or a family business model is the simplest to execute. Expansion means that someone has to be willing to handle the new logistical, managerial and financial issues. Not everyone wants to complicate things for themselves in that manner.
How to expand a woodworking business
More business means more money. More business also means making changes to your business to handle the extra work. These are the mandatory steps for growing a woodworking business.
- You should be able to hire extra hands. Trust me on this one. When it comes to growth, devote quality efforts towards hiring more people. If you get this right, it is going to make things so much better for you. Hire part time if you don’t want to do it full time. But hiring part time has the problem of reliability, unless the same people are available to you each time.
- Increase the infrastructure I.e. upgrade to more productive tools, get a larger working space etc. The infrastructure is directly connected to the production output for a woodworking business. Get industrial power tools and you will be making more woodwork in lesser time with better finish with lesser need for manpower. A larger space allows large projects to be built, more people to work, a better setup for a workshop and more machines and tools to come in.
Automating a woodworking business
This is an extension of the first point. As a business owner you want to aim for the kind of setup that can function in your absence. If the business only makes money with you actively involved then you are limiting it’s potential for growth and income. Your business should work at making you money in your absence, and preferably even while you sleep. This can be achieved.
From a more personal outlook, you should own the business and the business shouldn’t end up owning you. Personal freedom is one of the biggest attractions of being self employed.
As a craftsperson you might think that it is not possible to step away from work and expect to keep making money from the business. That is correct to a certain degree. After all you have to get involved with the creating process.
There are two major ways in which you can automate the creating process to be fairly independent of your involvement.
- Hiring people to work for you might give you the maximum amount of freedom. But be aware that often training people to function in your absence requires either long term training or paying up a fat amount to get qualified people to work for you.
- Mechanisation of the work means that you work less and produce more. So while that is not complete automation, it is still less work for you.
- Outsourcing activites like promoting, selling online, social media promotions, direct campaigns etc. is a great idea, not to mention accounting and bookkeeping. Running a woodworking business is lot of work if you are selling your own crafts. So many things are involved other than the creating process. But someone has to take care of the business aspect of things also and it will be great if you can find someone to do this for you.
- Tap into the online marketplace. Find a woodworking niche that allows to make simple and quick crafts that you can sell online and ship with ease. The biggest advantage of selling online is that the sales can happen in your absence, even while you sleep.
Of course, hiring people means spending more money.
But growth and automation go hand in hand with growth in demand and sales, hence becomes a necessity and makes you more money. A demand can exist or it can grow gradually. A demand can also be created by following the right steps.
How to create a new demand for something when it doesn’t already exist?
Something sells when there is a demand for it. There are two kinds of demands. One, an existing demand for existing ideas. Second, a demand for something new, that you can create. Sometimes you want to create something new. It is not something that is already being sold. This can be a great idea is you can get people to buy it from you.
- Make some people want, not need. When trying to create a demand, it’s better if it is an object that a person wants, rather than something they need. Many existing products fall into this category. Anything related to fashion comes probably under this category and you have to know that clothing and accessories is probably the largest industry on earth.
- Make a wood craft that solves a problem. After objects of desire, the next hot selling items are those that solve a problem for a the buyer, or in other words provide a solution. These are usually wood crafts of high utility.
- Mould popular products into woodcrafts. This means that you think of objects of popular use and figure out which ones can be remade in wood. A great example is spoons and ladles, even though they were made from wood several decades ago before metallurgy.
- Do outstanding work. Make beautiful woodcrafts of great craftsmanship. People who appreciate it will want it and pay good money for it. Try to discover attractive niches that others are not working in.
- Learn marketing and promoting. You can either do this on your own or let someone handle this for you. The fact is that with the right campaigns and promotions you can reach thousands of people in minutes. A small woodcraft can generate a great deal of traction for you if develop the right marketing material for it. You cannot undermine the importance of direct marketing campaigns. You will be surprised with the results you get from such a campaign if it is well thought of and crafted.
At some point you will have to get down to actually trying things out. Just like an artist works at creating a body of work to get galleries and agents interested, you must also start making the wood projects of choice. An advantage of actually creating is that it opens the mind to new ideas. And since you are into woodworking for the sake of woodworking, you ought to be creating and making stuff anyway.
Your article(s) really gets the adrenaline flowing. It makes people want to get out and sell their product.
On the other hand it is down to earth when it explains what it really takes to be successful in the woodworking business.
Thanks for all of the pros and a big thank you for the cons as well.