I'm a 67 yr old semi-retired General and Engineering Contractor. Started out in the late 70's. For the last 15 years I've pretty much been using my shop for engineering work. ( tractor related) -Before that the shop was pretty much for woodwork.
-Body says no more heavy work, but can't afford to retire.
-Over the years I've accumulated a pretty decent woodshop: planer, 24" drum sander, shapers, decent dust control and blah, blah blah. What I have ratholed though, over the last 30-40 years, is thousands of bd ft of old growth redwood ( extinct now ) walnut, cherry, spaulted mapl and tan oak and a lot more.
-Due to physical limitations I can't be doing a bunch of big stuff, so I'm staying with tables, bar tops, frames, cutting boards, even curved glue lams and blah blah: Maybe a few built-ins
-Or: more importantly, whatever I can make a couple of bucks with using excellent materials and old school woodworking.
-I have a lot of room for improvement in marketing.
-The way I look at it is all my wood was paid for decades ago, so it's free to me.
-I can be more than competitive, but as the old Billy Holiday song says " I got what it takes but it breaks my heart to give it away". I guess we can all say that.
- A buddy of mine that is building stuff out of old torn down fences and doing very very well with it. He tells me it's all about being price point critical. His daughter in-law has a marketing degree.
-Have some stuff on C.List S.F. I know that's not the holy grail. Nothing happening w/C.L though.
-Any ideas about other sites?
-I'm working on a website right now, but I'm from a generation that had party lines on phones when I was a kid. I'm slowly gettin' it.
After looking at the great and caring forum activity on Woodweb I was hoping to get a little advice from some of you considerate and articulate folks out there.
Sounds like the only overheads you have are electricity and tool maintenance.
Your material is fully paid for but there is absolutely no reason to sell it for less then it is worth, especially if it is old or rare.
You have years of experience and if you are capable of creating top quality pieces, why not market yourself as boutique, custom and highly experienced.
I don't know anything about your gegraphic area or target market but this is the first thought that comes to mind.
I say keep your overheads low, quote your product as if you are purchasing materials at full price (definitely don't tell customers it's been lying around for years).
Your a one man band, it doesn't take a lot to keep busy. You don't need to market yourself heavily, a website only need be basic with a few pictures to show off your best work. I imagine you have contacts from years ago when you did woodwork. Get back in contact.
All you need is to get a few good jobs. Have excellent customer service and one thing will lead to another.
How and where you market is somewhat dependent on your skill, product, and product quality. Advertising cutting boards on Craigslist is death. In fact, I consider Craigslist as a place to clean out your garage. If your work has high quality, edgy designs, and is well finished, consider an artist guild or artist co-op gallery. With some of the product list you gave, you will be competing with everybody's uncle with a table saw and a router in his basement. That means incredibly low profit margins since the uncle will give it away. I can't count all the times I hear, "Uncle Anybody does woodworking, I'll have to talk to him." Or, "Jim's cousin Hank made a cutting board once." Today's market is really strong for natural edge slab work. Any slab on hairpin legs sells for really nice money. Hope you didn't rip all that old growth redwood into boards!
Others have put it well. Galleries are mostly flooded and typically charge 50% commission. Good design sells, if you just copy like uncle Harry....... Get some nice things made and displayed, Make as many contacts as you can. Civic groups, church, business people you have had contact with. I'd say get an article about you put in the local news paper but news papers are pretty much a dead item now.
Church business people? Churches are a really tough sell. I used to do it, and they wonder why the price is what it is. You start out with a couple members presenting an idea. Then you present to them, then the whole committee, who then reports to another committee or group of elders. Then the finance committee comes in. Then your competition does the same. It takes about 10 phone calls, and 6 meetings and months of waiting to find out if you win the bid. Just a horrible process for a small businessman.
For small production items like cutting boards, etc. you should put a store up on Etsy.com. its very simple to do and free (they take a percentage of each sale). I have a friend who does custom cutting boards and is doing quite well up there. it takes a while to get noticed, but once you get a few sales in, you will become busy. As for the other things - market yourself locally for custom built-ins or cabinetry. You could also talk to other contractors in your area who maybe don't have the fine woodworking skills you do and see if you can offer them as a complement to what they offer.
Just to follow up on the last comment, I am a CNC shop and job out the stuff that I don't want to do, custom range hoods, open wine racks etc. You may want to look for someone like me to work with on that stuff.
Rich, I didn't suggest selling to churches! The idea is to make as many contacts with PEOPLE as you can. Pass out business cards that list the type of product you are capable of making, on the back side.
Dropout's idea is good also.
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