Updated: Oct 16, 2020
Along with all of the fun and exciting things you learn when starting a woodworking business come plenty of lessons that you only want to learn once.
…ask us how we know…
But seriously! There are quite a few common mistakes that all of us looking to start a business typically walk right into – whether it be somewhat obvious at the time or not. Most of these lessons we learned in hind-sight, but a very few we were able to catch. Which is why we decided to compile them all into one blog post for you!
Hopefully this list can save you some time, money, sleep, clients, sanity, (I could go on…)!
Low self confidence in your skills
Now we’re not saying lie to clients about your skills, but when somebody comes to you asking if you can build them something, you should be able to respond with a very confident “YES”. This may mean that you’re getting pushed a little past your comfort zone on a build…but hey…nothing good comes from staying in your comfort zone. They’ll just go to another woodworker that can give them the confident yes that you couldn’t…
Have confidence in yourself and your customers will have confidence in you!
Explaining too much
The majority of your clients don’t know all of the nitty gritty woodworking terms that you do. If you explain too much using words they don’t understand – you’re gonna lose them! And most importantly, that’s what they’re paying you for! They contacted you because they trust your ability over their own to build exactly what they want. You want to explain enough “easy-to-understand” details so that they can grasp the general idea of what the design of their product will be.
Not keeping good, accurate records
If you’re anything like us – staying organized is NO fun at all. Who wants to sit around being all organized when you could be out doing something?!? Well…that could burn you. We’re talking about making your clients sign contracts, keeping e-mail traffic, and having organized physical or digital files for all of your projects. So why do this?
Taxes, for one. That way you’re not running around come April 14th trying to find all of your official business paperwork and documentation.
Second, it could save you from some pretty nasty conflict if a deal goes bad. If a client is trying to say you lied about information or pricing for a certain item – whoever has the documentation will usually be the one who wins. If you can show that you kept the pricing consistent from the beginning or that you agreed on a certain design, you have a much better chance of coming out of the situation unscathed.
If at all possible, you want to try to come in under budget and ahead of schedule. When people are paying top dollar for custom furniture, they expect that you will be on time as well. If you shoot for this with every build, you’ll start to build a solid reputation.
Undervaluing your work
Even as a beginning woodworker you have the ability to make better quality furniture than big stores like Walmart or IKEA.
You should be charging enough money to cover materials, labor, and markup to re-invest in your business (or to pay yourself). Your skills are genuinely valuable because most people are very concerned with how long their furniture will last them. And that’s where you’re able to come in and save the day!
Not having a consistent pricing structure
To be perceived as a legitimate business you need to have consistency in every aspect of every process. The most important process to be consistent with is the prices you give to customers. If you charged a customer $500 for a coffee table and then down the road charge them $300 for a huge kitchen table…they’re going to be very confused about how you come about your prices…therefore making them skeptical about your business as a whole.
WE GET QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS ALL THE TIME!!!! “When do I stop tinkering with this project?” “Should I keep going with this joint to make it look perfect? I’ve already put 8 hours into it…”
Our answer: 99.9% of your customers will not notice 3 extra hours of work put into making a tiny detail perfect. They just don’t know enough about woodworking to have a trained eye to see stuff like that. BUT what they WILL notice is the fact that they’re paying for 3 extra hours in labor for something they can’t even see.
Dealing with sub-optimal tools
We’ve come to realize that putting up with only halfway decent tools ends up costing us money in the form of labor costs. As soon as we would upgrade to a higher quality of tool, we would save ourselves so much time (which is highly valuable if you also work another part time or full time job).
Spending business money is not like spending your personal money. As a business you need to be more concerned with money coming in than money going out. If you’re continuing to put in the work to get clients, a new $400 tool should pay for itself in no time. Not to mention the headache and frustration it’ll save you when you’re on deadlines.
Doing everything yourself
We get it. Your business is your baby. And when your start out you either have to do everything on your own or just want to do everything on your own because you know how to do it right.
Once you grow large enough, it’s no longer worth your time to do the smaller tasks (sweeping out your shop, editing, etc) because you need to be talking to clients, sending invoices, building. If you hire someone to do the small stuff, you can be simultaneously be accomplishing tasks necessary to run your business.
Hesitating to take bigger jobs
Again, don’t lie about your abilities, but don’t be afraid to stretch yourself in your skillset so that you can grow! Don’t count yourself out on some big opportunities because you’re scared. As soon as you take a leap, that becomes your new norm for what you’re able to add to your portfolio and offer to potential clients.
We hope that these tips help you out in your business and that when the time comes, you’re in a good place to either take the leap and start your own business or have the ability to grow and expand your current one!
If you want some more details and examples on each of these tips, check out the two videos me made on them below!
This post may contain affiliate links for products we used to create this project! If you’d like to check them out, we do get a small percentage of the sale and they are of no extra cost to you! It all goes towards supporting the content creation of Jennie and Davis. BUT – we do not take tool sponsorships and there were no tool endorsements. Just our honest opinions!