The Business Of Making A Living Making Stuff

This is a long ramble/read. There's one picture, enter at your own will. 

My business is small, really small, the smallest so I don't know why I expect turning over a million quid a year to be a reasonable request.

A QUICK BIT OF BACKGROUND: I started this venture with zero, well maybe not zero but at the most I had a grand or so and some tools. In that time I've had periods where I made loads of money, loads of money to me was a take home wage of about 2 grand a week, it lasted a bit and it was pretty nice, the stresses involved weren't worth it though I didn't think, I still don't think they were. With employees you can do more jobs and bring in more money but work doesn't finish at 4 or 5, it's 24/7. 24/7 isn't any fun when you don't see yourself as a business person, I just liked to build stuff and make things. When I made the transition from home renovating to "workshop maker person" I had to work out how I'd be able to make money and live...and eat.   END OF BACKGROUND SCHPEIL.


Not calling yourself a business person is fair enough but it is a business, as Gemma keeps telling me. I had a job to start me off from a previous client so it wasn't too bad but I had to find people who would pay for handmade stuff, they would be paying a lot more than what you would pay if you went to somewhere like IKEA. You can go on all day about how long it will last compared to mass produced but the majority are focused on price. I've been lucky for the most part but you still need to find ways to bring in new clients. I think we could be spoiled in this day and age with technology, advertising you is super cheap. Facebook costs nothing, Instagram costs nothing, this website is cheap at about £17 per month, I do it all myself so no fees to these website builder folk. Theres loads of ways to put yourself out there and get people to see your work. At times it feels like theres too much stuff getting fired online and how can someone come to you over everyone else. I think rambling on about what you get upto comes in handy, people know that you're an actual person, an actual person that says fuck and shit, has good days and bad days, it seems to work for me. Ramble early...Ramble often. 


To have a house and eat you need to make money, I've not had a set wage since I was about 18 and I'm still eating, Gemma tells me I'm eating too much but I'm trying to cut back. Not having a set amount of money enter the bank account on the same day each month doesn't really bother me, it'd be nice but I'd need to work for someone, do what they say and that'd be the worst.

While researching how workshops and furniture guys make money I read that they take money up front. I saw one person takes 75% at the time of order then the remind the week before the item was getting delivered. I saw another that took 60% up front. I didn't understand why and was told that it was because you need to get the materials etc, I still didn't understand because I bought materials for home renovation jobs up front and didn't take any money up front. I finally understood when I started stocking materials. Slabs of timber that I'd find for sale, timber going cheap and so on. You have your stock and it's not a case of getting a job then getting the materials, off saw timber that comes in big slabs is big business, it's an expensive game so you don't want to be chopping it up then the client turns around and says "ahh, we don't want it anymore, sorry" So a bit of doh at the get go solves that. I wanted it to be simple so I decided I'd take 50% at the time of order and the rest when the piece is delivered/fitted. It works for me and clients seem to be fine with it too, it's simple, I like simple. 

The problem I face sometimes is because It's a one man workshop, sometimes 2 and even once 3 but mainly just me, I can only do so much, if I take on a big job that will take me a couple of months, I'm on that job for a couple of months, the 50% covers the materials, a bit of design time and a tiny part of the labour cost. You need to get it done to bring in the money to cover labour, labour cost is the money that pays the bills. I don't know many one man band makers that have a massive cushion in the bank, it's a tough gig when you start out and try to build up some reserves. I've gotten around this by doing smaller jobs. Jobs like making a door, running some moulding, cutting up some sheet materials, furniture repairs. Jobs that take one day maybe 2 but never any more than two, otherwise you get sidetracked from your main job. You'd be surprised how much the smaller jobs add up. A hundred quid here, 60 quid there. It's a way to lift the cap on what you can earn in a one man workshop just slightly. I like to have a backlog of work too, lets not call it a back log, we'll call it a waiting list,  constant work coming in is the best, it keeps the machine oiled. A lot of it is just hustling along and finding opportunities to allow you to still be able to work in your studio and do what you like to do. It can be tough but the alternative is tougher (AKA shit)


Money going out is, what I'm finding out, the most important. Everyones heard the saying (that I'm not going to get right) The profit isn't in how much you sell something for, it's in how much you pay for it? Its something like that. I think of running a small business like that. I'm on a crazy path to bring my outgoings down to as near to zero as humanly possible. I wasn't always like this and wasted a load of doh over the years.

I used to have a landline and internet bill at £90 per month, I always wanted to change it but couldn't be bothered phoning BT to change it. Months and months went buy until I phoned them, I got it down to £30.19 a month. I don't even notice it coming out of the account now. We had SkyTV, something like £60 per month, seriously, £60 per month to watch the shit on the telly. I cancelled it. Netflix costs £7.99 per month and if you get AppleTV you can watch YouTube, YouTube is free. That was a great saving too, the next thing that annoyed me was mobile phones. We were paying £98 per month for 2 phones, mine and the wifeys! I work from home, I'm always on wifi, if I go anywhere I'm probably going somewhere with wifi. I though of just having a handset and no sim card, being wifi only. I felt that might be a tad too extreme. I decided to go sim only and got down to paying £15 per month each. Excellent, we're getting there. We have 2 cars that are paid for so no monthly payments, we have household bills and a mortgage, I'd love to pay off the mortgage but its pretty expensive, it's on the list though so I'll work on chopping that off too.

You decide to have a career in making stuff with your hands, cutting up bits of wood and joining them together, you think business type stuff won't be something you need to deal with, in actual fact you end up spending more time trying to work out the money/business side of things than anything else. 


When you get going and work comes in I don't think you can stop all of the above. I get periods of time where I can relax a bit and work on my own furniture design stuff. I don't really worry if I have a quiet spell because I'm always keeping in touch with designers and architects about a few jobs coming up. Even though I'm quiet I still do my regular posts on the old social media and here to let everyone know I'm still doing what I do and they should get in touch with me for work because I have 3 boys who grow and eat like nobody business.  It can be a nice way of life and it's 24/7 in a different way than being what I have in my mind as a traditional "business man"


This was mainly a ramble of my recent thoughts and what I'm working on business wise. It might not work for you but it seems to be working for me. Keep overheads super low, don't live ostentatiously, let people know what you're upto and making furniture from a small woodworking studio next to your house is possible.

Feel free to get in touch for any furniture commissions or anything else cool - No reasonable request denied.