Excerpted with permission from the Popular
attitude, common sense, and these helpful hints make woodworking
a more fulfilling - and profitable - experience.
I graduated from college twenty-two years ago, I decided
to go into business for myself, creating utilitarian works
of art for others. But, my seven years of college as an
art major didn't really prepare me for the real world.
was that school of hard knocks, however, and a cultured
attitude that actually afforded my success in this field.
are the reasons most of us go into professional woodworking
- a demanding business - in the first place? I believe it's
love for the work and the need to make your living at something
I began to taste success during my third year of business,
many people would ask me how they could learn my trade.
These people had a genuine desire to do fine woodworking
for a living. The technical part you learn by doing as much
as you can. The way to get the work is never to be afraid
of a challenge. It's not about money it's really about attitude.
A willingness to be adaptable to your clients' tastes forces
you to become very versatile, which opens more doors for
woodworking business is about pleasing people- producing
exactly what they think they want. If you have an idea or
concept you believe will work well, there's nothing wrong
with selling your client on it. Just remember, your client
must be happy when all is said and done.
be discouraged by a lack of equipment. I started my business
with a cheap 10" table saw, a band saw and a few hand tools.
Not many of us have the privilege of outfitting a whole
shop when we start. Part of the woodworking challenge is
to get the most from your tools. It's incredible how many
operations can be completed with the tools I just mentioned.
You can expand your tools while you work by finding a job
to pay for the new tool. As an example, I landed a big molding
job that more than paid for my first shaper, which became
an asset in my shop. I added every piece in my shop the
very same way. It didn't take long before my shop was complete,
and paid for.
is worth a thousand words, so keep a portfolio of your best
work even if it seems to cost a lot of money . The expense
is peanuts compared to what you save by not having to prove
yourself over and over to new clients.
your clients see a photographic record of what you can do
they will be more comfortable. A portfolio also helps our
creative side by allowing us to reflect on the work we've
important to do as many commercial projects as possible.
These jobs may be a little more stressful, but they make
us more efficient and better organized. This will lead to
an increase in production. The long term benefits far outweigh
the short term headaches. Your private work will evolve
from these "exposure type" projects. Always take things
at your own pace in terms of workload, but always be willing
to pick up speed and efficiency.
a firm believer of following all leads - you never know
what might come from that menial job. It becomes impossible
to follow up on every lead, but you can learn a lot just
in your initial phone conversation.
and find out the scope of the inquiry. Is it a new house
that needs to be furnished? Am I speaking to a contractor
in the business of building places that need to be furnished?
I'm sure you get the idea. The bottom line is that it doesn't
hurt to talk to people, and you can always politely say
business is one that has just enough work to keep you busy
at your comfort level. Unfortunately, that's rarely the
case for a custom furniture or sculpture shop. We need to
make hay while the sun shines. Ask clients what their time
table is even when you're busy. If you expect work to slow
down in a month, find out if your schedule's convenient
for them. Get the work, but be honest about the timing.
If they're willing to wait you won't disappoint them.
is an attitude in itself! I have always lived by the motto
that power tools only bite one time. In other words, take
no chances. Think safety while you're honing your skills.
Think about what could go wrong before you begin any operation.
need to take vacations from our work. I know this seems
impossible when you work for yourself, but there's nothing
better for a healthy attitude than taking a break. Visit
museums and galleries. See what other people in our field
are doing or have done. Follow the trends if only to be
more aware. The key to a long and successful career is adaptability
and a good attitude!
is a woodworker and artist with a degree in
sculpture from San Jose State University in California. He's
currently renovating a turn-of-the-century mansion in Port