Everyday Woodworking Podcast Ep 16
Turning Your Woodworking Hobby Into A Business
Hey everyone. I’m Ricky with Everyday Woodworking, your Podcast Home for tips, tricks and information on how to make the most of your woodworking time and money, every day.
Well welcome back to another week of Everyday Woodworking.
Boy this week’s show covers a subject that I get asked about all the time. And that is…How you can make the leap from hobbyist to business owner, as a woodworker.
And it seems like a really daunting task, but it really isn’t. However, it’s not something I think you should take lightly. And with that in mind, I want to talk a little about how we did it, and then give you some tips about how you can do the same.
Before we do though, let’s take a quick break…
DO YOU WANT TO MAKE THE LEAP?
A lot of us dream of taking our woodworking skills as a hobbyist, and turning them into a full-time profession. Hey, I’m as guilty as anyone of watching The New Yankee Workshop and thinking “I could do that”.
And most of us could…do THAT. But running a successful and profitable business for any length of time means you have to do “that”, plus about 20 other things!
It ain’t for the faint of heart, brother. But I know, I’m just spitting in the wind…you want to have your own little woodworking empire going, don’t you?
It’s a fascinating goal and with good reason, it’s something that we would all probably love to do.
In 2015, I was working in corporate sales, making more than I had ever made in my life. I travelled a lot. Had a very stressful job. And my health suffered for it.
At just 46 years old, I had a major heart attack, and my wife and I decided that life was just too short to waste it being miserable any more. We started working on our exit strategy.
While on medial leave after my surgery, I started tinkering with hand lettering some wooden signs. I posted them on Facebook. People asked for more. And before we knew it, I was a busy guy.
After returning to the office, we quickly found out that I was losing more money in turned-away orders than I was making at my day job. So I put in my notice and traded in my office desk for a table saw.
After that, we stumbled, readjusted, failed, recovered, shifted, and generally kept our eye on the prize. And here we are, six years later.
We took many, many chances, and were blessed that most of them paid off. But we just kept trying, kept guessing, kept at it and it seems to have worked.
And this is exactly NOT the approach I would suggest! :)
No, I do wish I would’ve had a mentor back when we started. But I was really stubborn and independent and we learned a lot, the hard way.
But hopefully, after hearing today’s podcast, you won’t have to do all that!
So what are some things you should be doing if you want to turn your woodworking into a full-time gig? Well…I’m glad you asked! Let’s take a look at a few areas…
WORKING FOR YOURSELF
So let me just say that entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody. And this is aside from the ability to keep a lot of plates in the air, all at once.
Don’t get me wrong…working for yourself is awesome. There are tons of benefits that make say “I’ll never work for someone else (intentionally) again”. But it does require a certain level of “stick-to-it-iveness”.
When we started Apple Valley Farm, I was not just wanting to strike out on my own, but because of my heart attack, I was motivated to find and pursue something new. And that momentum sustained me for several years.
But make no mistake, you will burn out.
For me, the key to making it thru the burnout, was to find my focus, stay on the path of what I loved, and not get “too crazy”. What I mean by “too crazy” is…I have a real tendency to fixate on whatever I’m doing at the moment. It’s a gift (I think) as well as a curse.
The problem is, attacking a task like that is great, in the short term. I’m like a fighter jet that blasts out of the gate at Mach 2, tearing it up like there’s no tomorrow. But that pace eats up a LOT of fuel.
And when you run out of gas…and you WILL run out of gas…you’ll have to find a way to stay afloat, or you’ll crash and burn.
When I say “Don’t get too crazy”, I mean, find your zone and then ride it. I’m not saying to be complacent and lazy, but you MUST find your “marathon pace” and live in that space.
Trust me, your sanity depends on it!
GET SOME HELP
This could be a book unto itself. My advice is not to go it alone. And I’ll get more into this in the next section about taking a look at yourself.
But let me specifically give you some of the examples of things that helped me when I needed help.
You just don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time you do something…you need someone to turn to. And that’s why I do highly recommend a mentor.
Your mentor would most likely be another, older, more experienced woodworker. But they may not be. But they should be someone you trust and respect.
Also, get involved in some online communities. And not just woodworking groups. You never know who you’ll meet and what benefit that information will have on your journey.
Finally, become a reader. And that could involve audio books or even (ahem) podcasts. But my preference is actually reading a physical book. (I won’t bore you with my opinions on that.)
I’m a self-help sucker. I just thrive on it. And the people who thrive in that field are folks I love to read about. I confess, I do take much of it with a grain of salt, but there are definitely nuggets of gold to be found.
There are dozens of people you could read, but Tony Robbins is my boy. I love Tony. And his book Awaken the Giant Within is one I’ve read at least a dozen times. Get a copy and start letting it inspire you. Your brain will thank me later.
TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF
As I said, self-employment isn’t for everyone. You have to be dedicated, organized, creative, able to handle stress, and willing to do the things that nobody wants to do. It’s tough.
And you must take an objective look at yourself before you embark on the journey.
Aside from the obvious questions about talent and giftedness and marketability, there are the emotional traits you should consider.
Are you scattered? Are you disorganized? Are you a worrier? Are you bad with money?
And if you aren’t sure if you can be completely objective with yourself, then find a mentor you can trust and ask them to be brutally honest with you. My wife is my sounding board.
She will tell me the truth, even if it hurts. And I need that, because I’m a dreamer. She’s a realist. And if you’re a dreamer, then you need someone to keep your feet on the ground.
You could turn to your spouse, a sibling, a great friend, an older mentor, a pastor. I would avoid folks like mamas and current co-workers.
Don’t misunderstand me, you don’t have to have money to start your business. If that was the case, I’d have never gotten going.
But you do need to try to be in as healthy a financial place as possible.
Frankly, we were blessed. When we started, we hit the ground running from day one. But the overwhelming majority of businesses won’t see a profit for at least a year. Statistically, probably two.
It will greatly help, if you can have some money stuck back to keep you going in the beginning.
And I would strongly, strongly encourage you to be as debt free as you can possibly be.
Having said that, let me mention credit cards. As a business owner, you’ll have to have at least one. You just can’t run on cash alone. But you MUST treat it like a hand grenade.
If you lose respect for it, it will destroy your business. That’s all I’m going to say about that. But be smart. You already know it. Debt is bad.
It’s hard to be blunt with yourself when it comes to what you think will “work”. And again, I’d go back to my go to person to get candid advice.
But sometimes you’ll take a chance. And that’s just part of it.
But don’t be foolish.
Know your market. Study your demographic. Understand your profit margins, to the penny.
Before you quit your day job to stay at home, making widgets, you’d better have some proof that there’s a profitable demand for your widgets, first.
If not, then revise your widgets or revise your approach. But either way, know who your people are before you bet the farm on your “big idea”.
WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?
As the old saying goes “It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going”.
So as business goes, you’ve got to have a goal. Or as they call it in the business world…a “business plan”.
I like the idea of a business plan, even though it might now be essential for you. But I guess I’d say, I love the bones of the idea.
I’ll be honest though, we never wrote a formal business plan for Apple Valley Farm. But what we did do was write down our goals, short term and long term. We crafted a mission statement. We penned a vision. And we knew what we wanted and why we wanted it.
IMO, these things are a basic minimum requirement for any business owner. Especially knowing the WHY.
For us, my wife and I knew the big reason we wanted me to work for myself was to give us the freedom to be a family. That’s it. It was that easy.
And once we knew our why, then everything else just lined up behind that.
And now, even today, when an opportunity comes up to expand or modify our process, we weigh those choices out against our ultimate goal. “Does this help me be more available or less available for my family?” That’s our fulcrum and how we weigh all our business moves.
You have to know what your fulcrum is and then you have to stick with it. Some people will say you have to be willing to change and yada, yada, yada…and I get it. And that’s a discussion for another day. But I’ll say for now that you have to have a defining value that will be your litmus test for all your decisions.
That’s how we do it, and it works for us.
Are there downsides to being a business owner? Yep. A lot of them.
Is it worth it? Well, for me, it’s an absolute yes. But that’s up to you to decide, for you.
You will definitely work more than you ever did for someone else. I work somewhere around 70 hours a week. But that’s because I’m working late at night or on weekends or holidays…but a rarely work a full eight hour stretch. It’s usually an hour here, then a couple hours there, and an hour tonight. Because I’m mingling work and family and freedom, all during my day.
People are fickle. And that’s not a dis against our friends or family or our clients, but it’s just a fact. One day, you’re the hot new kid on the block, the next, you’re old news. It really isn’t a personal attack on you, but it feels very personal at the time. Just be prepared…your fame will come in waves.
Haters gonna hate. Especially if you’re online (and surely you will be). You would think that people who dislike your work or your video or your choice of impact drivers or the way you pronounce the word “chrysanthemum”…would just move on. But they won’t.
They’ll be compelled to let you know how wrong, mistaken, stupid or ignorant you are, and they’ll do it publicly.
You can’t get bogged down in the hate. It’s going to happen, but you’ve got to let it be what it is…someone’s opinion. Glean what you can, then file it away. Focus on your victories and let the droppings fall by the wayside.
Trust me…this is one of my biggest challenges.
Finally, understand that you don’t have a monopoly on woodworking. There are lots of other full-time woodworkers out there. There are lots of part-time woodworkers out there.
And here’s the shocker (for me)…basically every other husband in the world has a handful of woodworking tools in their garage. And guess what? Most of them can do the same thing you do. In their spare time. And many of them can do a better job at it.
That was a HUGE blow to my ego as a guy who’s supposed to be “the guy” who woodworks around town. But the fact is, a LOT of folks take part.
But remember…even though you might be a great cook on the grill, there are still plenty of chefs in your area who aren’t in any danger of losing their job to you.
Do what you do and people will come to know it. And when it comes down to it, folks will always want a professional.
This is FAR from a comprehensive list of things you should consider when contemplating the move from hobbyist to pro woodworker, but I think they’ll be a great start.
I’ll plan to revisit this in a few weeks and we’ll spend a little more time going into detail on things like legal moves, market research, social media, digital income and more. All part of the fun of running a business in the 21st century!
That’s all we have time for today, but again, thank you guys for being here. I really enjoyed this. Sort of a walk back in time for many of these.
I hope y’all enjoyed it too!
One last thing…if you enjoyed this episode, please take a second and leave us a great review. It makes such a difference for us…especially if listen on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.
But, wherever you’re listening, we would still love it if you subscribed and became a regular listener.
Also, if you’re watching us on YouTube, then obviously we try to post a video of each Podcast Episode on our Apple Valley Farm (our woodworking business) YouTube Channel. Definitely like, comment and subscribe to us there as well.
And finally, if you’d like to learn even more about us, you can check out the show notes and head over to www.applevalleyfarmga.com for things like our store, our woodworking projects and lots, lots more.
That’s it. Have a great day. Thanks again. And I’ll see you next time…right here, on Everyday Woodworking.
Apple Valley Farm – http://applevalleyfarmga.com/
Apple Valley Farm Carpenter Bee Traps - http://applevalleyfarmga.com/product/556860
Apple Valley Farm YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/c/AppleValleyFarmGA
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FeedSpot - https://blog.feedspot.com/woodworking_podcasts/
The New Yankee Workshop - https://www.newyankee.com/
Tony Robbins website - https://www.tonyrobbins.com/
Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (on Amazon) - https://amzn.to/3vcOTac
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