Embarking on the journey of launching a woodworking business is akin to crafting a masterpiece from a raw slab of timber. In an age where online storefronts dominate the business landscape, the allure of transforming passion into profit has sparked a surge in the popularity of woodworking ventures. Within this post I’d like to share my key learnings from setting up my own woodworking business and how I turned it into a profitable and successful venture.
Aspiring woodworkers however, must tread mindfully. Just as a meticulously crafted joint requires precision, the foundation of a successful woodworking business demands careful planning and thoughtful consideration. Before chiseling away at your dreams, it’s essential to understand the landscape and carve out a strategy that will lead to a sturdy foundation and a polished final product.
In this article, drawing from my own experiences, we’ll delve into the key factors that warrant your attention as you navigate the exciting terrain of starting a woodworking business. From understanding market trends to honing your craft, every stroke of insight you gain will contribute to the grand design of your entrepreneurial venture. Join me as we carve a path toward woodworking business success, one thoughtful consideration at a time.
Table of Contents
Workshop size and location
Starting my woodworking venture introduced me to a significant challenge: the size and location of my workshop. My initial 12′ x 10′ garden space allowed for mid-sized creations, but it soon became evident that limited space hindered both production and material storage. To address this, I expanded to a second workshop, but growth brought fresh constraints. Converting our office into storage provided relief, yet spatial limitations remained.
This journey has underscored the vital connection between efficient space utilisation and streamlined production. Recognising the need for continued expansion and smarter organisation, I’m poised to refine my setup. Clearing materials and devising a product range compatible with purpose-built storage solutions has become essential for an efficient production line.
Starting small and gradually progressing to larger projects has been pivotal, protecting both profits and confidence. For those considering this path, exploring carpentry schools or programs can enhance skills for tackling complex projects professionally. As I navigate these spatial challenges, I remain dedicated to refining not only my workspace but also my approach, carving a path that seamlessly blends innovation, learning, and adaptability.
Operating my woodworking business from a home-based workshop, nestled at the end of my garden, presents a unique challenge: mitigating the potential noise impact on my neighbours. While my work on furniture is not a full-time pursuit at the moment, it’s important to be mindful of the future trajectory. The increasing demands of production might lead to extended hours, making noise reduction a pressing consideration.
Addressing this issue involves two key pathways. The first involves contemplating soundproofing measures for my current workspace. This proactive step would ensure that I can continue crafting without disrupting the neighborhood. Alternatively, a more comprehensive solution would entail transitioning to a dedicated off-site location, effectively separating the business’s operations from the residential setting.
Noise is an inevitable companion in woodworking, particularly when power tools come into play. Despite efforts to limit their usage, this cautious approach hampers the efficiency of the work process. Striking a balance between minimising disruptions and achieving optimal productivity requires rethinking the workspace setup. This endeavor encompasses exploring quieter tool alternatives, implementing soundproofing techniques, and strategizing work schedules to harmonize with residential tranquility.
The pursuit of innovative design and immaculate craftsmanship coexists with the commitment to being a considerate neighbor. As I weigh the pros and cons of soundproofing or relocation, my ultimate aim remains clear: to sculpt an environment where my woodworking artistry can flourish while respecting the peace and quiet of the community around me.
Postage, packaging and delivery
This important consideration has been one of the most difficult for me. To some respect it’s forced me to try and promote my business more locally and found myself tending to avoid distance selling so much. This however isn’t a wise course of action when trying to expand your business. Limiting the number of potential customers isn’t going to help sales increase. Therefore, to make this work I needed to find delivery options that I could manage, a decent courier to partner up with and packaging options that could protect my items against careless couriers.
I’d already been stung twice by TNT and UPS who both managed to, what seemed like, drop kick my parcels down the road. I had two separate complaints against damaged items which costs me dearly on my profit margins. Which isn’t good for any small business.
If I was going to use these careless couriers who were offering the best rates I needed suitable packaging materials for my items. What I found worked best was a suitable layer of cardboard packaging on top of a couple layers of bubble wrap. All corners were covered with either a cardboard or foam edging and flat surfaces were lined with thin protective plywood. This worked really well for large tables and desks. These costs of course eat into my profit margins but this simply had to be added to the overall cost of postage. For items that were really delicate I even made solid plywood boxes.
For any orders received within a 50 mile radius I would try and delivery myself. This gave me the opportunity to carefully transport the goods myself, save a little money on postage and let me meet my customers in person. For anything outside this area I could select the cheapest courier and securely package my items before shipping.
Networking and experimenting with different suppliers is crucial in this business. I’ve had a few bad experiences along the way so far and a few great ones also. I’ve been very prudent on how I work with suppliers and have quickly worked out those who I like to work with and those I tend to avoid. Building good relationships with local timber merchants and saw mills has been vital to my success so far and I alway like to return my business to those who I can trust and get on with. Therefore my advice would be to try a few different local suppliers to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
When in any business it’s important to be careful with your money and make it go further with each purchase. If you are buying lots of materials from places like B&Q then it’s worth signing up for their loyalty schemes or even consider signing up with Trade Point for a trade discount.
Online shopping can also generate reasonable return on your purchases. Me and my wife signed up for a TopCashback and Quidco account a few years ago and within that time we’ve generated over £1300 in cashback. You can add a browser extension to make it easier or simply check their site before shopping online. Super simple and a very reasonable return which can be invested back into tools for the business.
Check out my wife’s list of UK cashback sites to really maximise your savings!
Find your niche
Finding the right products that work for you is the key to success. Having made a number of different styles I’ve started to see what people want and those items that are less popular. I’m now starting to focus my efforts into making items that I know sell well.
But it’s not all just about products that sell well. You need to be competitive in the market and bring something a little different to your target audience. Most consumers are looking for something unique for their home decors, something that makes their home a little different from friends and families. They like to stand out and maybe have a statement piece for each room.
You also need to find the right price point. What are people willing to pay for your products and what can you sell them for to make money? Again, this can take a little time to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of any business – marketing. Without a sufficient marketing plan, no one will know your business exists and it will be incredibly hard to find. There are many business options when it comes to woodworks, one that is becoming popular and highly needed is the firewood business, one thing is mutual for any kind of business – in the beginning, you will need to invest a lot in advertising and promotion your business. Hence, it’s crucial to consider your marketing strategy even before officially starting a woodworking business.
Whilst online selling platforms, like Etsy and Folksy which I mentioned at the beginning, do offer the advantage of having an existing customer base, your products will still be sat amongst thousands of other sellers listings and so marketing your own products elsewhere is vital.
Marketing comes in all shapes and sizes and it’s a good idea to utilise both traditional and modern methods. This includes both online and offline marketing solutions.
Although it is competitive, online marketing in some aspects is easier than ever nowadays. Social media offers a free platform to get products in front of a global audience in an instant, no matter where you are. Once you have more funds for marketing you can invest in paid advertising on these platforms too. Overall, the best place to get started is to build a website. Thankfully these days there are plenty of website builders that take the guesswork out of making something look great and appealing to customers. Plus, many of them are extremely affordable.
Offline marketing for furniture and woodwork businesses is still valuable. Word-of-mouth, business cards and brochures showcasing your products are all effective ways to market your business away from the internet.
One thing is certain when it comes to marketing. Photos are the key to showcasing your products in their best light. Good images sell products and it’s vital you get this right. It’s affordable nowadays for anyone to get a good quality camera or smartphone with a high definition camera, but to add professionalism to your furniture images it’s often worth taking things a step further.
Hiring a professional to do a photoshoot is one option, but for one of a kind product images then nothing beats 3D product rendering to grab your customer’s attention. From a single photo and dimensions, a 3D model can be created of your product to be showcased in numerous ways for marketing.
From 360 degree product spins for your ecommerce website and product placement in all kinds of interior design, to variations in colours and finishes for print advertising, the possibilities with 3D modelling are endless.
If you have the marketing budget available then high quality product imagery is worth the investment. If you’re just starting out then take the time to get good quality photography as these images will sell your products, especially digitally when customers cannot see your products in person.
I finally feel that my business is moving in the right direction. I’ve taken some key learnings in the last couple of years and hopefully things will continue to improve from here. I know that all new businesses start off slow and learn a great deal in the first few years of trading. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to keep things moving so I hope this post adds some value to those of you who are also thinking about starting up your own woodworking business.
Take a look at some of my other posts:
- Essential woodworking tools for beginners
- How to build your own shed from scratch – on a budget
- Practical furniture for holiday homes
- How to brand your wooden furniture creations with your logo
- How to start your upcycling business
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