Turning my hobby into a full time job.

Hello, I'm new to this forum. I really like this site, it is full of helpful information. My question is that I have been making furniture and yard signs for about 15 years, but now I would like to take it too the next level and start selling my items instead of making everything for family. I'm curious at how to get started with this. I was thinking about making up brochures with my items and a little info about each. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as to how to get started on this endeavor. I really like woodworking it is my passion. I can not wait to get home from work and get out to my shop. Of course after making dinner and a few other things. Thank you anyone that can get me going on the right track.


Tue, 08/16/2011 - 10:52

For as long as you can. Only give it up when it's limiting your income.

I'm terrible at marketing, so I don't have good pointers there. The Woodworking In America conference coming up in a month or two is supposed to have sessions on doing just that though. If there's still room you should go. Don't have a link for you, but Google is your friend.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Tue, 08/16/2011 - 20:49

Definitely keep your day job!

Places to start selling with little or no upfront cost:
Craigslist posts in the appropriate category for some of your work.
Local craft fairs
Rent a booth at one of those craft/antique malls.

Cooperative selling: You make a buffet and someone else makes pottery ... so you display them together in a booth at a craft fair. You make beds, someone makes quilts ... cooperate.

TIP: Don't sell cheap "just to get the name out there" because it's really hard to raise the rates later. Do an honest cost analysis and make sure you aren't losing money.

Giving an occasional free piece to be raffled or auctioned by a charity is OK.

Start now making Christmas gifts like the play kitchen and shops, kids furniture ... post a couple on Craigslist and take orders for custom colors.


Wed, 08/17/2011 - 18:35

Thank you so much for the helpful information. I'm in the process of getting the ball rolling.


Wed, 08/17/2011 - 06:16

Decide who you want to sell to. It's hard to sell to someone you don't know. (e.g. marketing directly to new/expecting moms vs marketing to everyone)

Get a website! If you want to sell a product you'll need a store and a website is a great place for a store. Wix.com will get you started with an awesome looking store website for little upfront cost (free if you are ok with their logo on your site).

Open an Etsy shop. People go to etsy to find custom handmade pieces. Think of it like a full time craft fair for your online store.

Blog. Write about your latest pieces and your shop. It will generate traffic and help you show up in google. Wordpress is awesome and easy with lots of tutorials and helpers out there. Don't forget to take good pictures of your pieces.

Be seen. Make some pieces to loan to places where your potential customers are likely to go and make sure they know you made the custom piece and that it is for sale. Make a console table for the Dr's office. They get free use of an awesome table for a while and you get "free" advertising. Just make sure it's obvious that you made it and that they can by it from you. Don't forget to list your website, email address, and phone number. I would think that a baby boutique would be a great place to start if you want to make nursery furniture, for example.

Be realistic. Like the others said, keep your day job. You might find that running a woodworking business is nothing like having a woodworking hobby.

Me: I'm not a professional woodworker. I'm a hobby woodworker wannabe. I am a professional photographer. It's almost the same, right? Even though it's a different service/product entirely, it's the same concept of turning your passion into a paycheck.

p.s. it can take a long time, so be patient. but the day you get to woodwork full time will be one of the most exciting and scary days of your life! :)


Wed, 08/17/2011 - 18:37

Thank you so much for the information. I'm starting to get the ball rolling and will let you know how it goes.

In reply to by natosha


Thu, 08/18/2011 - 02:54

I strongly recommend holding off on getting a website for selling your product at first, and holding off on the blogging. It's not that those are bad things (they're great things), but you need to attend to the other things first. You are only going to be selling your product within a relatively small area, and a website has a global reach. Get your product in some local venues before you worry about global venues.

When you are ready for a larger audience, I have experience with a pretty wide variety of website software. Wordpress is usable if all you want to do is blog. You should never use Joomla, because it's hard to use and has significant security problems (I'm a programmer by trade, and it gave me trouble).

Anna is using Drupal, and it's also what I build all of my sites with. Drupal looks confusing at first, right until you try to do something, and then you'll realize that it's really easy. Good blogging features right out of the box, and extensions make it easy to add photo galleries of your work. If you reach the point where it makes sense to sell your product online, there are good extensions for that as well.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Fri, 08/19/2011 - 05:56

I have mixed feelings on this ...

Yes, it "gets your name out there" ... but so does Craigslist, and for a more controlled distribution.

My main objection is that a website is a lot of work, and a timesucking black hole!

You will spend a lot of time answering questions about why you have to charge $150 for a $50 table on shipping ... because the person lives across country. That will happen whether you have 48-point Bold Red words at the top that explain your shipping policies and delivery area.

A better use of your early time is to learn good product photography (for Craigslist), getting your bookkeeping set up, making templates for some nice-looking Craigslist ads, and finding some local places to market.

Blogging is a ravenous beast that must be fed. I have a blog under another name and it sucks 2-3 hours a week of my time. That is NOT what you need right now. You need building time.

I offered to set up a website for my neighbor and he declined. He's as busy as he can be just from word of mouth, working all the hours he wants to work, making as much money as he needs to, and would just spend time turning people down if they can't wait.

That's what being a good local builder can do for you.


Thu, 08/18/2011 - 04:23

That's an interesting way to look at things, Clay. I totally respect your opinion, but we just might see things differently on the business side of things. I am a local photographer, and I only shoot locally, but a website is a must for me. It shows off my product (photos) and gives people a reference point to find me. I think of a website like a business card used to be in the 80s. Back then, you had to have a business card (but you should have those too, to direct people to your website). If you went to shows or just met someone on the street who wanted to find you later, you had a business card. I think a website is the same. (but you should have those too, to direct people to your website)

Once you learn your trade (and I think 15 years is a solid foundation for the OP! kudos!), people need to find you. If that means they find you in a google search, or if they go check out your full line of furniture pieces after they meet you at a craft fair, they just need to find you. And it never hurts to include a link to your website on craigslist. (There is a girl that does this in my town and she is very successful. She is always adding new pieces and running sales on the old pieces. She uses a blog and craigslist.)

The website doesn't have to be anything fancy, either. SEO (search engine optimization) isn't so important here. You just need a face to the outside world. Like a business card.

But that's just my opinion. Clay, what "other things" should OP attend to first?


Thu, 08/18/2011 - 07:40

The business cards are an obvious one.

The first thing to do is get good photos of your work. A cheap point and shoot camera might be okay, if you know how to get good photos. But have a lot of people look at those photos for problems. It may be worth your effort to have a pro take some of the photos. At bare minimum, if people are interested in a sign from you, they'll want to see photos of other work you've done. But it's also a great way to help them pick out a design.

Second, get your name in front of local businesses. Try getting yourself in some of the home decorating stores in your area, with your business cards displayed. Your work in front of people is what you need.

If you do decide you need a website, start with a simple drupal-powered brochure site, with mostly pictures of your work. What text you do have, make sure it is grammatically correct and professional sounding. Use a professional looking design.

Get your own domain, and use an email address on that domain. That's a lot more professional looking than a gmail or yahoo account. There's no reason that address can't just redirect traffic to your gmail or yahoo account, so that you don't have to manage multiple email accounts. An ugly little thing I've seen with a lot of people is they print an email address on their card that isn't tied to their company domain name, and then later when they change email they either throw out the cards, or they have to tell everybody to use the other email.


Thu, 08/18/2011 - 09:47

Thank you all for the wonderful information. I knew that there would be a lot of decisions, but I need to decide which way to go. I'm not very good on the business side so it may take a little while to get it all together. Keep the thoughts coming I do appreciate them. Thanks again all.

Tsu Dho Nimh

Fri, 08/19/2011 - 06:02

sba.gov is your friend!

Also, check your local high school ... they might have a business club (DECA?) with kids who could use you as their "project" for the year, getting your marketing set up.


Thu, 08/18/2011 - 09:53

Something a friend did was find a mentor, somebody who had started their own company. This isn't somebody online, but a local person, somebody you can sit down with on a wednesday morning, have coffee, and talk about what's going on with your businesses. They might or might not be in the same industry. When my sister opened her ice cream shop, she spent a month shadowing a friend who owned an ice cream shop in another city.