What does it take to be a successful self employed woodworker/carpenter?

This is what I would like to do: be able to craft things out of wood-furniture, cabinets, anything-and be good enough at it that I can work for myself, crafting things ou of my own home vs working somewhere else on site. I’ve only recently started this as a hobby but I enjoy it and am conviced that with time I can be really good at it.

To partially answer my own question I think it’s safe to say that to do this you need to be damn good at it. So how do I get there, and what other things do I need to be succsessful at this?


The right tools

And time to spread the quality of your work by references.

You won’t make a living at it until you have a large enough client base. You don’t want to start selling under your business name until you are sure your quality is up there.

You shouldn’t need a storefront or anything like that for personalized projects but you should have an array of sample showing what kinds of cornerings you can do, joinings, and your detail work. This can be photographic, but having actual examples on hand at your workshop would be better.

Any business owner needs three things: skills, resources and connections.

Skill is pretty self-explanatory, but remember that working for yourself isn’t just the carpentry. You’ll want to borrow or pay for skills you might not have - bookkeeping, tax preparation, legal advice, insurance expertise.

Resources includes all of the tools you’ll need, a space to work in, the time to make it all happen, and enough money to survive until the business becomes profitable, which will probably take two years in a good economy.

Connections should never be overlooked. Who do you know who will buy or help sell the stuff you make? Do you know the people you’ll be buying wood and tools from? I would join local hobby groups if you can find them. Get to know antique dealers and interior designers who might buy from you. Consider joining formal networking groups like Biznik, BNI and LeTip.

Since the OP is looking for personal advice, this is better suited for IMHO than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

Most of the people I know that have tried this have failed. Not because of their shortcomings as woodworkers, but because they were not successful salesmen.

Yup, if you plan to make a living at something like this, you have to be a salesman. And a good one to keep work in the pipeline and food on the table.

Without exception these individuals I know were skilled craftsman in an area where there is a fair amount of custom woodwork being bought each year. But their skills were in woodworking and not in sales and as a result they weren’t able to make a living on their own.