Starting a woodworking business comes with many challenges. Owners spend a lot of time on administrative tasks like organizing finances, developing a strategy and marketing. However, artisans who truly love their craft say every struggle is worth the result — getting to improve their skills and do what they love every day.
Taking the idea for a business and turning it into reality can feel overwhelming. However, woodworkers can take several practical steps to set themselves up for success. Laying a good foundation today will prepare them to expand several years down the road. Here’s how to start a successful woodworking business.
1. Gain Woodworking Experience
The service and products artisans offer are the foundation for their business. The more experience they have, the better equipped they’ll be to do good work and engage clients with confidence. Artisans can gain experience by building projects for themselves, finding an industry mentor or getting a job in a woodworking shop.
It’s always possible to learn more. Beginners should set a goal to master the basics so they’re equipped to move out on their own. They shouldn’t let a lack of experience keep them from getting started — no one ever really feels ready to start a business. Working with clients enables them to continue learning and hone their skill sets.
2. Build a Professional Portfolio
The first thing new clients will want to see is evidence that business owners do good work. This can be tricky if artisans have just started and don’t have anything to show them yet. Thankfully, there are several ways beginners can build a strong portfolio. Woodworkers can begin by creating some pieces for friends and family.
All finished work should be photographed by a professional. The goal is to let clients see an artisan’s style and know their woodworking business is credible. People who can’t afford materials can run a contest on social media and build the winners some quality pieces at cost. Or, they can simply apply for a title loan serviced by LoanMart to help them cover the costs of getting materials.
3. Meet Legal Requirements
Woodworkers must follow all legal requirements before getting their business up and running. The first step is to choose an official name and then register with the government. Tax and legal requirements vary by state — artisans may need to get a permit or special license before beginning.
This is also the time to choose the business’s legal structure. Artisans should think about where they are now and where they’d like to be down the road before making this decision. It’s also wise to create a separate bank account strictly for the woodworking business and make a financial plan so it’s easy to track expenses and payments.
4. Set up a Physical Shop
Woodworkers will need a large well-lit space that stays dry to complete projects. Many people start working in their garage or a small shed in the backyard. They’ll need a secure connection to electricity and safety gear like gloves and eye protection if they use power tools.
Foundational woodworking tools include a circular saw, clamps, chisels, planes, files, drills, hammers and mallets. It’s important to do research to see what items are necessary to complete specific projects. Artisans should also learn how to maintain and repair all their tools safely.
5. Start Marketing the Business
Business owners can start a marketing campaign to secure new clients once they have all the necessary equipment. They should set up a website so customers have somewhere to land and open a social media account like Instagram or Facebook. The platform they choose should depend on their target clients — different kinds of people use various ones.
Artisans don’t have to create a complicated marketing plan to be successful. The most important thing is to be consistent and learn from experience. For example, they may start posting on a certain day of the week because it results in more engagement. Good marketing helps people hear about a business and makes it easy for clients to work with woodworkers.
6. Organize Legal Paperwork
Running a business means keeping track of a lot of paperwork. Artisans should keep records of every sale they make and how much money they put into their business initially. That way, they’ll know how long it takes before they start making money from their work. Clear records help business owners make good investments and become more profitable.
Paperwork can quickly become confusing or go missing without a system. Business owners should create an organizational system for paperwork so it’s easy to keep track of to save themselves a headache later. This could look like physical folders and a filing cabinet, or they could scan and store every document on a backed-up hard drive.
7. Build a Solid Community
One of the best parts of getting into a craft is connecting with other skilled artisans. These people support each other and achieve much more together than they could individually. Business owners can refer clients to each other and learn new skills by spending time together.
Woodworkers should treat these relationships like they would a quality friendship. Instead of thinking about what they can get from others, they should do everything to invest in other artisans’ success. They should build trust over time, never take advantage of these friendships, and always pay others for loaned equipment or any work they do.
8. Develop a Good Reputation
Woodworkers build a reputation from the first day they open their businesses. They should begin how they want to end — with high standards for their work and strong ethical convictions. The goal of every successful business owner is to make clients happy by delivering on their promises.
A quality reputation will attract quality clients and bring business owners respect in the artistic community. Everyone makes mistakes. However, the important thing is how woodworkers respond after something goes wrong. An artisan’s reputation is as much a part of their woodworking business as their website and products.
Start a Woodworking Business Today
The best time to start working on a business is right now. Artisans that need more experience can start building at home or get a part-time job in the industry. However, they shouldn’t let a lack of knowledge keep them from getting their business off the ground.
Woodworkers will need to take care of legal and administrative work as well as learn their craft. They should follow state guidelines to ensure their business is legal before they start engaging with clients. It’s also important for them to keep good records, invest in other artisans and remember the value of a good reputation. These things will take them far and help lead to success.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations change our world.