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Making a Living In Woodworking 


Making a Living In Woodworking pg.2

continued from pg. 1

 The point is, woodworking is fun, but it's a business. It's kind of like owning a boat. First you can't wait to get one, then you can't wait to get rid of it. A friend of mine put it to me like this when I was starting out. "Business is like an elephant, first you're riding it, and after a while it's riding you!" "The trick is staying on the top".


For breaking into the business, I would recommend doing side projects, kind of like sticking your toe in the water, and see how it is working out. Keep in mind there are hidden costs to watch out for, so always add for surprises into your price, and be sure to add overhead and profit. Without these in your bid, you won't remain in business for long, as they're a very real part of any business. It's also good to double the amount of time you expect something to take. (Mr. Murphy always gets involved).

When we get a call from a new, potential client, we set up an initial appointment. At this appointment we try to get a feel, not only for the project, but of the client also. If the chemistry isn't right, we walk away. Dealing with reasonable people is tough enough, but those with a huge ego, or lack of respect for your time, will only get worse as time goes by. Those that insist on a commitment of a start date, and completion date, before they've even signed a contract, is a good indicator that hard times are ahead.

These "red flags" are critical to your survival. Pay close attention to them. Anyone with experience in either woodworking or really any trade, understands that changes are often made during a project. If you've committed to a start date on a new project, and the current project changes, you'll end up looking incompetent, or worse, a liar. (most people waiting on you always chose door #2). Under no circumstance will we promise either. They only promises we will make are that once we start, we're there until we finish. Also, the work will be as close to perfect, as is humanly possible.

The very people who insist on start and completion dates, are the first ones to stop the job to "rethink" the design. This entails the designer or architect getting involved, making new drawings, rebidding the work as altered, and then the client often says never mind, and oh by the way , what's taking so long? It will never occur to them that the schedule is effected by these little interruption. (And who cares about your next client, they can wait).

When we get these kind of "vibes" from a potential client, but we still feel like we'd like to do the job, (for instance, if there's a designer we work with and is relying on us), we'll proceed with CAUTION. Also, the price reflects our concerns, as does the payment terms. We will insist that a certified check or cash is waiting at the site upon delivery of the units, and until the payment is in my hands, we won't unload the truck. We make it very clear that if the checks not there, we will leave, and reschedule for "sometime in the future". Usually a couple months from now. We also clearly state: "don't forget to leave the check, and call us saying you'll bring it at lunch time". If this seems a little severe, it's only because of thirty years of experience, has taught me some tricks, often used by difficult clients.

Often the clients seemed outraged by these demands, but if my choice is them being outraged, or me getting screwed, I'm going with door one. Another pitfall can be when a client asks for something extra. I used to say no problem, sure we can do it. Then when I present them with a bill for the extra, they say why are you charging me, you said it was no problem. My response is your right, I did say no problem, but I didn't say no charge.

When we bid a job, we figure out the material costs, the labor, based on the estimated time involved, a fudge factor of about fifteen percent, but this varies base on the size of the project, and on top of this total, we add twenty five percent for overhead and profit. We also allow for packaging and delivery, as this too is part of the cost of doing business.

I used to try to be as cheap as possible with my prices, when figuring out a bid. I wouldn't add overhead and profit, as I felt bad about the price being so high. And worrying that I wouldn't get the job. That's a recipe for disaster. Once I realized I was killing myself, working for wages, I stopped doing that. (Thank God). What I soon realized is the same percentage of people said yes, as before.

Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006 - 2013
Inventor of: Ezee-Feed Systems ®


The Seven Essentials of Woodworking Book The Seven Essentials of Woodworking Book
Once you learn these seven essentials, you’ll turn out good work every time. They’re the woodworking fundamentals that are always important, whatever project you try: joint making, measuring and m.. 

The Seven Essentials of Woodworking Book

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