Making Money for the Woodworker Hobbyist

There are three broad groups making money from woodworking, full-time woodworker, part-time woodworkers, and hobbyist. Obviously, full-time woodworkers are deriving most or all they’re income from woodworking, and part-timers are deriving some income from their woodwork. But the average hobbyist derives little or no income, it is a hobby.

As a hobbyist you may be thinking (or dreaming) of one day making woodworking your career, or retiring to your wood shop and bringing in some income while still enjoying your hobby, and retirement. When researching this I was mostly thinking of the hobbyist who does it for the enjoyment, makes things for his own use, and might give things away to friends and family as gift. After awhile you end up with pieces cluttering your garage, and it might be nice to turn some of those forgot pieces into cash, for new wood or new tools. Being a hobbyist you can make what you want and spend as little or much time on it as you want, professionals in general have to make what the customer wants, and spend as little time on it as possible to make a profit. You can’t expect to make as much money on a piece as someone making a living at it, but then you don’t have to. “Breaking even” is disastrous for a business in the long run, but for the hobbyist it’s a great way to make your hobby pay for itself.

Before you make your first project, you must decide on a woodcraft product line. How do you decide? You must select products that people will want to buy because they fulfill a need, desire or want.

Market Research - gather as many sources of plans, patterns, kits as you can find. Select a few from these sources and make a few of them. Besides being good practice, you will have some products to show around to neighbors and friends.

Were they well received? Which ones? can they be im proved or decorated in a way to make them more desirable?

You’ll need to start out with a line of 15 to 20 different items, so make sure you review your sources carefully. Pay attention to the folks that sell woodcraft patterns, plans or kits. These folks are very good at selecting projects that sell. You can usually identify these by where they appear in the catalogs. The best sellers are on the front, back and inside front and back covers of their catalogs. Products featured on the first three to seven pages from the front are also good sellers. Products located around the order form are also good sellers.

Go To Craft Shows - Another good way to find best selling woodcrafts is to attend local craft shows and fairs.  Pay  close attention to what is going on, look for woodcraft vendors who have a lot of people looking at their projects. Also look for non-wood types of craft projects that seem to attract a lot of attention and see if you can convert them to woodcrafts.


Read Craft & Woodworking Magazines and Websites - Read as many of the craft and woodworking magazines and websites as you can. They will help you keep abreast of the latest trends.

Product Testing - After you have analyzed all the above and decided on which projects you will start out with, do not lock yourself into these products until after you have tested them at a local craft show. Start by making about a dozen of each item. Schedule yourself into a local show to conduct your test. Do not plan to make a killing at this show. Your entire purpose is to glean information that will help make you money in the future.

Be sure your products cover a nice range of prices. have a few at the low end, middle range, and the upper range. While you are at this show, do not raise or lower your prices on items that sell really fast or really slow. Keep notes on how long it takes to sell a particular item and any comments you overhear your customers make. You’ll need to get as accurate a reading as possible.

You may even need to go to more than one show before you are ready to “roll” out your product line. Use what you learn at the first show to price your products for the second one.   Developing a product line with maximum appeal can only be accomplished thru on-going testing. The more shows you attend, the more different products you test the faster you’ll get to the “right” product line.  Remember, if a product does not sell after a few shows, drop it from the line and replace it with another. You’re in business to make money. Just because you like a particular project and think it should sell like crazy is no reason to continue carrying it. If it does not sell, drop it.

Depending on what you make, and what pieces already sitting in the garage, will also effect how you should try to market it. Small, lower cost, items are easier to sell, transport, and ship than large expensive piece. But the average wood turning hobbyist will produce a larger number of items than a furniture-maker and that can take more extended effort. First start with the obvious, having a garage sale, or let people know you have piece for sale, or free/low cost ad, checkout local craft show, or church sales.

Think if you know anyone who can sell your items in their shop, or can give you some space in their booth at flea market. Some or all of these may not work for you, but don’t miss low hanging fruit. The internet has opened up all kinds of opportunity.

You can list your item on Craigslist, or similar websites and generate sales much the same as a classified ad. Just more people will see it,
and it’s free.You can list your Item on Ebay.com or Etsy.com or similar sites, they’ll take a commission but they have a huge audience. Or you can open up your own website. It’s fairly easy and can be cheap to market online.There are plenty of free blogs Blogger.com, wordpress.com, blog.com and many more. You don’t need to actually blog unless that something you like doing. You can upload a picture and write a description and have your own online catalog whenever you need it. You can also get a full fledged site online a little cost.

Don’t hire someone to do it, do it yourself.Unless you need something complicated, and why would you, there no reason to pay someone.Think a website would be too expensive or too hard to maintain. You can register a dot com name for $10-$15 a year, and you can get a website without ad from Weebly or Google Site for free. If you are technology challenged you might need help, but it should cost much.The 13 year old kid who mows your lawn can probably do it, and will know you can if he can’t. But anyone who is reasonably handy with a computer can do it.

written by Paul Koch




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