Is it possible to run a moneymaking small-scale woodworking business in today's day?
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Woodworking is not just a craft, it's a tradition of sorts. The way our ancestors did it was very different from the way things are done now. Handicrafts were the norm then. Today, a handicraft has to face competition from large factories and imports from other countries. Can a small woodworker compete with the mass manufacturing and low selling prices of machined goods? The woodworker is still very much needed. But his role has changed. An independent woodworker has to do more to compete and to ensure his craft stays relevant.
We are talking about the kind of woodworking business where you are practically the only primary employee, who does the woodwork and, most likely, operates from a home-based wood-shop. Can a woodworker make a full-time income from such a setup?
The biggest hurdles are the mass manufactured wood crafts made in huge factories with commercial grade power tools capable of churning out thousands of items every month. How is a single woodworker with limited production capability supposed to compete with that?
The production numbers are just the beginning of the problem. It is also the pricing. These woodwork manufacturing giants have low cost of production because they operate in bulk. Their overheads are low because of the large extent of mechanization. They also sell a lot. So they can afford to keep their profit margin lower as well. For making a similar woodcraft just your cost is likely to be equivalent to their selling price for an almost similar woodcraft.
Granted, that home-made craft is more coveted. But how many people will you find who will be willing to pay three times the price for chopping board because it's hand-made when they can get an almost similar one, with arguably better finishing and design, for much less? So yes, it is difficult for a wood worker to run a small woodworking business and make a full-time income from it.
You need to do a few things absolutely correct if you want to have any hopes of making a sustainable and sufficient woodworking income.
- At the very outset, the idea is to distinguish yourself from the mass manufactured woodcraft so that you have something different to offer.
- The second important thing is to sell something that people want to buy.
- 3rd important thing is to choose the wood craft that is profitable enough to give you a healthy return for your work.
- The fourth step is to access a large number of potential customers who will buy from you. In the next few paragraphs we will discuss all of these steps a little more in detail.
So how do you make a profitable wood craft that is not being mass-manufactured at low prices?
Is there an unavailability of commonly needed items?
There are a few ways to do this. Large woodworking factories stick to popular consumer products. They will not make wood crafts that will not sell thousands in numbers. For this reason they often miss out on the local flavor and place. So your job is to explore and research the place you live in and come up with wood project ideas that are novel, new and not readily available. Very often these are simple items. Sometimes people don't even realize the need till the commodity is made available to them.
For example, I have discovered that outdoor furniture and structures is a very popular working category. Now the furniture part may already be covered by a larger manufacturer but what about things like pet shelters? Is anyone making that?
Similarly there are other outdoor woodworking projects that could be missing from the market like bird houses, feeding stations, wind-chimes, lampposts, small signage etc. There are a lot of ideas for attractive outdoor wood structures. You have to find the ones that make business sense for you.
Another place that mass woodworking does not go is ‘wood art’. Art is not the domains of machines. It is essentially handmade. And it is also immensely popular. The only caveat is that you will have to be a very skilled craftsmen to do this kind of woodwork.
How to make a wood craft that is highly in demand.
This will really depend on your skill set and also how you intend to sell. If you are selling locally you will have to base your choice on the local taste and requirements. If you are selling online you can practically sell anything you want but you need to pick crafts that doesn't face a lot of competition already, and are also portable enough to be shipped nationwide without incurring high shipping cost
So the question again is, is woodworking business a profitable business? In short, the answer is not likely for someone running a small enterprise and probably from a home-based Wood shop.
In order to make enough money and a full-time income a wood worker has to sell a minimum of $10,000 worth of wood projects every month. This number can be higher depending on where you live and the cost of living there. I am also assuming a 60% profit on the amount of sale, at least.
Another problem is making enough wood crafts month after month equivalent to $10000. What about finding the right buyers? You may make a high-value wood craft in a month or two but you will still need someone to buy it from you.
So the first problem we are looking at is how to make wood crafts worth $10,000 every month.
You cannot do this if you are working part time. It will be difficult enough to achieve if you a full working full time. If you are someone who enjoys wood working as a hobby, you probably should continue like that. Enjoy making an occasional, side, windfall incomes with your projects. Doing woodworking for fun and pleasure is quite different to doing for business as things will get hectic and stressful.
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However, if you are still intent on creating a full-time income with your woodworking skills the first thing that you want to look into is BRANDING. The second thing is finding a popular and profitable NICHE. These two things are likely the ONLY way you can run a small profitable business in today's day
What is branding… You are not new to this word – brand. Brand commands a consumers respect, trust, their favour, affinity and consequently also a higher price. Even before you think of selling think about creating a brand. You will observe that every good brand for any product or service communicate a strong message about the business and the product. It also communicates an image of the product. Think hard about what you want to say and what you want the message and the image for your business to be.
If you cannot go through this step you shouldn't bother about starting a woodworking business.
Branding image is everything from business name, logo, packaging, product design and the niche that you decided to work in. Read more about branding here in this article.
Branding does one very simple and effective thing. It increases the value of the product in the perception of the customer. Again, think of any strong brand for any product. People are willing willing to pay more for it because I think it is trustworthy, high-quality et cetera.
Finding a profitable woodworking niche
It is imperative that you work in a profitable woodworking niche if you really want to make money with a small woodworking business. There is just NO OTHER WAY to do it. You are not a giant mass manufacturer who can make and sell everything from tables to beds.
Find a wood craft you like to make and specialize in it. You can build a strong brand image when you work in a niche. You will be known as the expert woodworker who makes bird houses or exquisite frames, folding garden chairs, all kinds of planters, wooden chests, boxes et cetera the list goes on. The idea is PICK ONE! That is the only way you are going to make this work.
It might seem counter intuitive to do this but it is not. There are enough number of people who want that one particular item. If you decide to specialize in making wooden cutlery like spoons and bowls and plates, there are millions of potential buyers out there.
It’s not just about a niche woodcraft. It can be a niche woodworking skill. For example, you are excellent with repairs and have to skills to take on jobs that others will turn down. Many woodworkers will turn repair jobs down because they figure they cannot make a lot of money doing this kind of work.
However, I know some woodworkers who are well known as expert on restoration and repairs. They are the ‘go to’ woodworker whenever anyone wants a woodwork repaired. These woodworkers are proud to charge a good amount for their work, and they get paid too, for 2 main reasons: The items that need repairs mostly hold some value to the owner and cost of restoring them is of secondary importance. Secondly, the woodworkers are just that skilled and do such great job every time that they usually deliver more than what the customer paid for.
Both these factors effectively define what a profitable woodworking niche should be all about. It should be some thing that a customer desires enough to pay the asking price, and it should be something that you do a very good job of.
It's far easier to know to be known as a brand for a specific product. You will find it easy to create a strong brand image. Everything from your business name, logo at work, packaging et cetera will effectively reflect your product.
When you choose to work in a single niche you can reach out to a targeted customer base. People who come to you will be looking for the exact thing you are making and selling.
Another huge advantage of working with a niche woodcraft is that you will have a much easier time setting up the production line. You only need to buy the tools for that particular woodcraft. The money you save can be invested in buying high grade tools that will allow you to do high grade wood work, work faster and increase productivity.
So that's enough said about how to run a small profitable woodworking business. As always we will love to hear your thoughts about what you think it takes to be successful as a wood worker in today's day. We wish you all the best.
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