Make Money Making Things
I’ve been selling my furniture since 1999 – that’s when I sold a Shop of the Crafters Morris chair that I’d built on eBay. A young couple from Texas bought it and were so eager to get it that they drove up to Cincinnati to fetch the thing. (I probably underpriced it.)
Until 2011, selling furniture was a side gig to my job at Popular Woodworking Magazine. But that entire time I was preparing my shop and paying off our house so that I could survive as an independent furniture maker/writer/teacher/publisher/human Roomba.
Since 2011, most of my income has come from making furniture. In fact, for the last two years, nearly all my income has come from making furniture and teaching a few classes. Wait, you might be thinking, doesn’t he run a publishing company that pays him a salary? Yes, I do. But here’s a dirty secret (the first one is free – all the others are behind the paywall): I pay more in estimated federal and state taxes for LAP than I receive in salary.
And for the last couple years, my partner and I haven’t taken many draws on the company’s profits so that we could buy an old factory building and fix it up. (Don’t worry about me, however; this is all going to plan. And I’ll be much better off in the end.)
As a result, I now make about 20-30 furniture pieces a year and sell them. Some of them are sold on my blog. Some go to customers from the days I accepted furniture commissions.
So I have a few things to say about making money making furniture. Some of it might help you along if you are considering a life like this. Some of you might be interested in how I price work. Still others will be interested in absolutely none of this and can return to diddling in your corporate cubicle.
Everything is About One Thing
I make furniture. That’s my thing. But I also know how to write, so I write about making furniture. I also am a decent photographer – so I take photos of furniture. In graduate school I learned to become a teacher – so I teach people to make furniture. At my last corporate job, I learned about edition publishing – so I publish books about furniture. If I knew how to dance, I would dance about furniture. If I knew how to write code, I would build websites for furniture makers.
I get asked to write freelance articles all the time about music and food. But those aren’t my thing, so I say no (even though I love music and food). I get asked to repair furniture and do contract work building shutters or windows. They’re all great offers. But they aren’t building furniture. So, I don’t do them.
Because everything I do is about one thing, these activities feed each other. My books bring in new furniture customers. My teaching makes me a better how-to writer. My photography makes my books cheaper to write. And the objects I build for my books are then sold to customers.
I’m not saying you should become a writer or a photographer. But it helps if every activity relates to your one thing.
I Love to Sell Stuff
It’s kind of sleazy to say you like selling stuff, especially among my lefty friends. Whatever. I think you have to love selling things if you want to sell your furniture. In fact, that might be a more important skill than making the furniture.