It's hard time for woodworkers. I mean those who want to make living out of their craft. Cheap factory-made furniture is everywhere, easy to purchase online, delivered within days, and sometimes it's even good. How can a small woodworker business survive in this situation? We'll give you some ideas here. Not all of them are the typical woodworker shop ideas, and some might even sound extravagant. But read on, maybe you'll start your small business with some of them.
This article is intended both for professional woodworkers and hobbyists who want to earn side-income. Or why not to replace their full income at some point?
1. Building Furniture Per Customer Requirements
This is what a large number of independent woodworkers do. Customers give you their specifications and you create your craft to match them. This type of business doesn't require too much creativity but it does require that you can do your craft well:
- You must be able to deliver on time.
- You must be able to deliver good quality.
- You must be able to meet the agreed price.
This is hard enough, but the hardest part is not here. It's in the marketing. Now, when there is so much cheap furniture in the big stores, it's not easy to find cients for building custom furniture. Once you have some happy customers things will get easier because word of mouth spreads quickly. But before that you'll need to go out and search for these customers - by face-to-face marketing, brochures, maybe an ad in local newspaper, web forum (local), or a facebook group for your town or city.
2. Building Sheds and Similar Stuff
This puts you closer to the category of builders than of carpenters. Still, a nice wooden shed or other wooden outdoor constructions like chicken coop require a lot of carpentry work. And later you can have these customers for finer work if this is what you want - shed shelves, doors and windows, or maybe furniture for their houses.
There is advantage in approaching this market. It's less saturated and allows you to position yourself exactly as a shed builder. This will help you to distinguish yourself against the competition.
3. Building Your Own Custom Furniture
This is the dream work of many woodworkers: to curve your own award-winning custom furniture and sell each piece for thousands. OK, it doesn't need to be award-winning. Although this helps. It's unlikely to sell it for many thousands dollars. Although it would be nice. But the idea is to design and build your own furniture and then sell it "out of the box".
While this is a dream, it has two real hurdles: you have to be very good at woodworking, and very good at marketing. I'll help you with some marketing ideas:
- Do not forget ebay, Craiglist, and similar sites in your local area. It's very hard to sell custom furniture in a small local shop, but exposing your stuff online can help a lot.
- Use the social networks like Facebook - if your stuff is really original, it can spread the word quickly.
- Send pictures your best things to Fine Woodworking and similar magazines.
- Use the picture sharing sites to showcase your stuff - Pinterest, Flickr, and so on.
- Record videos of your work and upload on Youtube.
4. Build Crafty Stuff and Toys
This kind of products can be sold again on eBay but especially on Etsy and similar sites. There are a lot of people there without good working skills selling things rather expensive. If you are good carpenter you can make decent money on Etsy.
5. Build Your Own Sawmill Business
This idea probably comes quite weird in the company of the other ideas. But I told you some ideas will be extraordinary. If you have the resources to buy a forest or a plot where to grow trees (see fast growing trees like Paulownia), you can start your sawmill business. Remote areas often lack good sources of lumber, and homesteaders need a lot of it. Think about this opportunity although it might not be the kind of woodwork you most like to do.
6. Make and Sell Eco-Friendly Furniture
Original furniture made of trunks, logs, tree branches, and even roots is getting popular. This is interesting niche you can explore for your carpenting business. It requires a bit of art-sense as well.
7. Teach Others
For good or bad many woodworkers nowadays make more money of their woodworking websites than from carpenting work. If you are really good you can build a site with woodworking tutorials and earn from ads. You can also have premium paid courses, earn from videos on Youtube, and so on.
8. Repair / Recover Old Furniture
Most woodworkers like this work but they wait a customer to approach them asking to repair some antique furniture. This rarely happens. The proper approach is not to wait but to take some risk. Buy old antique furniture from Ebay, Craiglist, and local garage sales. Then repair and refinish it and sell. This way you can make good money.
9. Work With Home Builders
A great way to find a lot of customers and projects is to work together with home builders. They often don't have in-house carpenters for the fine work (and sometimes for the rough work too), so they gladly outsource these requests to other professionals. And often working on custom woodwork on someone's home leads to contacts for further custom furniture projects.
Finally, if you are serious about starting carpentry business don't stop with reading this guide. Here is an excellent book to help you turn your plans to action: Woodworking Business: Start Quickly and Operate Successfully: An Expert Woodworker Reveals The Keys To Succeeding In The Woodworking Business