woodworking as a career


  #1  
Old 11-24-04, 05:59 PM
so_we_wo
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woodworking as a career

hey guys,
i was wondering if i could get some comments from the woodworking pro's on here. im thinking of going into finish carpentry as a career option. i have always been into remodeling : rough construction , jack of all trades so im familiar with tools and what not. i have a friend who will be an interior designer and he thought it would be a good match if i was the carpenter guy. sorta like ty...from 'trading spaces'. my questions are these: without going to school, what are my alternatives..what are good publications to check out...ive always been a self study..and do finish carpenters command a good wage....im really just looking for some information in this area...im from chicago....and yes i do realize...you guys have spent countless years perfecting your craft....im hoping in 2 years i will be proficient enough to be marketable in the area of working with a designer...i dont expect to be making fine furniture....what are your thoughts.....its important to me because i will most likely go deaf in 10 years and this career option seems to be one in which i could go into where relating with people is not such a high priority for accomplishment compared to the retail world that i was a part of. thx in advance for your comments
chris
 
  #2  
Old 11-24-04, 06:18 PM
Sawdustguy
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Excuse me for a my chuckle.....

I've been in this trade for 16 years and now 5 years as a shop owner.

Don't want to deal with people like you do in retail? Um, my friend, this craft will be harder to deal with people. You're dealing with people who are spending several thousand dollars of their hard earned money on something that will be the focal point of their home. It's your crafty hands are what makes them either smile or pissed off.

It is NOT an easy business at all to be in, as I can vouche for that 100%.

I've delt with all types of people, from those who are easy to work with, to those who were a nightmare and a pain.

You will find that everyone wants what they want and for nothing. They will do everything they can to knock you down in price. If you're willing to go down $10.00, they will knock you down to $20.00.

In regard to working with an Interior Designer, well I'm not going to go there, but if it works for ya, then more power to ya. Expect to be changing their drawings ALL the time and take into consideration, most of them want you to do it for nothing, so they make a bigger profit. Watch out for sayings like, "The Customer needs to see a savings" or something like that. Basically what it comes to is that the designer wants you to do it for nothing, so he/she makes a higher profit.

Honestly, I think you're nuts if you want to do this for a living. It takes 3-5 years before you'll even get your name out there and can START making a profit.

I've invested well over $80,000 in the past 5 years. Rent is nuts and so is the rest of the overhead. If you're going to spray your own finishes, you NEED/MUST have a spray booth. Expect to spend about $8,000 for it to be totally hooked up. Not only that, you need to have it monitered by the fire dept every month. That will cost you about $70.00 a month, JUST FOR THAT.

It cost me about $3,500.00 a month to keep my 3,600 sq ft shop open in the winter-time and about $2,800.00 during the other months. Then you need to buy all of your machinery on top of that. If you don't have or can't get at least $50,000 to start a REAL business, don't even bother. That is just a starting price. Trust me, all of the little things will add up and up and up.

Still interested?

P.s. I'm a one person shop and I put in about 80-90 hrs a week during the holiday season and tax season.
 
  #3  
Old 11-24-04, 08:36 PM
Sawdustguy
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Chris,

Check your private messages.
 
  #4  
Old 11-26-04, 09:53 PM
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Sawdustguy has more experience than me in woodworking, and has the cahunas and confidence in his ability to pour the money into a full fledged operation. I have set up a very small shop out of my garage, that I have been turning cabinets, furniture and musical instruments out of for 5 years now. My investment has been relatively low, as are my operating costs.

Although I have had experience at the hobbyist level for a number of years before I worked as an apprentice for a couple of different local cabinet makers, and at a bass guitar manufacturer in Chicago, it's still a learn as I go process for me. I have been producing some pretty nice stuff in my garage, and have had quite a bit of business come my way through word of mouth, and very little advertising. I have been very lucky to have been producing work for people who are familiar with my work, and have enough money to let me charge enough to make it a full time business. I have one customer in particular to thank that makes more money in one year than I'll probably see in my lifetime, and now he has a house full of my work. Without that customer, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it, and now I'm getting calls from his well to do friends and business associates. I have friends that have businesses that give me commercial work as well. When I first started out on my own, I did have to take “handyman” type of work as fill work. Anything from painting to installing flooring, but don’t have to do that anymore.

I do have people that I deal with that, like Sawdustguy stated, are always trying to get something for nothing, or are spending lots of money on something for their home or business, and are very picky and/or difficult to work with because of it. There is definitely a great deal of customer service with the business, and good communication is essential. I haven't had the "pleasure" of dealing with a designer yet, and not sure I want to. Lots of hours also, as I too am a one man operation.

Just thought you might want to hear from somebody who has taken a different approach to the biz, and has been very lucky to have the customers I have.
 
  #5  
Old 11-27-04, 12:01 AM
Sawdustguy
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A Very Good clientele base is very hard to find. I have one client in perticular that when I get slow, he finds projects for me.

It's not always about "What you know in this trade, rather it's WHO you know".

You can be the best cabinetmaker in the world, but if ur name isn't out there, what good is it.
 
  #6  
Old 11-27-04, 11:03 AM
Sawdustguy
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I just re-read what Herm wrote and one statement he wrote, is the most important part of being in this business.

"Just thought you might want to hear from somebody who has taken a different approach to the biz, and has been very lucky to have the customers I have"


I can't express enough how IMPORTANT it is to have the RIGHT clientele.

One thing, after now 5 years of being in business is that the people who spend their hard earned money with me are those who appreciate quality/good customer service and know it comes at a price. These things use to be "The Normal" but have dwindled away over the years. I'm fighting a battle every day to ensure my potential clientele that there still are people who do care about their clients.

I too have one client that if it wern't for him one or two times, it would have been very difficult for me to stay in business. I don't end up doing work for people who think I'm in business for charity. I do take care of my clients by making them pens on the lathe or at the holiday season, I'll order them a carved cutting board from Ekeboll Designs at $100.00 a pop.

Our clients are the reason we're in business, not the other way around.
 
  #7  
Old 11-27-04, 11:28 AM
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I was at a craft show/sale and saw a craftsman that made quality stuff. He had a sign hanging behind his booth that said " If you don't appreciate my quality or like my prices, you will NOT like my attitude when you tell me you can get it cheaper at a discount store". Makes sense to me.
 
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Old 11-27-04, 11:36 AM
Sawdustguy
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That's great! AND SO TRUE! Thanks for sharing!
 

Last edited by Doug Aleshire; 12-11-04 at 05:11 PM. Reason: Inappropriate abbreviations
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Old 11-27-04, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by majakdragon
I was at a craft show/sale and saw a craftsman that made quality stuff. He had a sign hanging behind his booth that said " If you don't appreciate my quality or like my prices, you will NOT like my attitude when you tell me you can get it cheaper at a discount store". Makes sense to me.
That's funny you should mention that, I have actually told people to go do just that - go to a store. Kinda freaks them out when I tell them that, then hand them my card as I'm walking out the door.They usually try to find something of equal quality, at a lower price at a store, but are too ashamed to call me back when they can't. One customer did, and actually said she was sorry, and still had me produce the entertainment center she originally wanted - at a price higher than I had quoted her to begin with.
 
  #10  
Old 11-27-04, 10:27 PM
Sawdustguy
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and still had me produce the entertainment center she originally wanted - at a price higher than I had quoted her to begin with.


GLAD TO HEAR IT! To bad we can't do that to every client and have them come back. ::Snickers::

Just got another call today from a guy who wants built in floor to ceiling bookcases and a desk attached. That's going to be a fun job, but first things first, give him the price, watch his chin drop and either walk out the door with a check, or say thanks for your time.
 
 

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