Am I ready to make a living from my woodworking hobby?
At CustomMade we hear the above question from many woodworkers who desire to turn their nearly-full-time hobby into a full-time job. We understand that leaving your day job to pursue your passion full-time is a big leap and can be a tough decision to make. To that end, we’ve put together a guide of sorts, to help anyone begin thinking about making the transition from amateur to professional woodworker.
Can your hobby support you? Start sketching a Business Plan
In a previous post we talked about finding a niche, or a market segment in which your specific woodworking skills and services can compete. The concept of operating within a definable niche plays an even larger role when you earn your living by your woodworking.
Ultimately, because running a business is all about serving clients, it’s wise to make sure that your proposed business niche has the type and number of clients to support your career move. This means either reaching numerous clients, or developing a core of frequently returning clients, to put food on the table.
Of course, you may not currently service that many clients, which makes it more difficult for you to determine your niche’s potential. This is where your years of experience with your hobby will be invaluable; you have been in the woodworking space long enough to be able to discern available demand for your products.
This first step is crucial; putting in the planning upfront and working out a cursory business plan can save you loads of work later on.
The switch from amateur to professional can be shocking. Often, new professionals adjust from earning a steady level of income to earning one that is lower or more sporadic. As you likely know from firsthand experience, building up a steady business takes time and dedication. The new professional must prepare him or herself for abrupt change, uphill months, while keeping a steady focus on the career move as one for the long term.
Before taking the plunge, think about what it would feel like to actually turn your hobby into a job that you must do every day. When you previously did your hobby, you did it for you and only you. You didn’t have to sell your product. You had the freedom to pick up and leave off at will.
When you “go pro”, that all changes. Your clients will dictate to a certain degree both when and how you will practice your passion. This may not necessarily be a bad thing (working with clients to create something that pleases you both can be quite rewarding). However, this can sometimes be a challenge; it helps to prepare for situations in which your artistic vision doesn’t mesh well with that of your clients.
Take the plunge
Many people have successfully switched careers by turning their hobby into their full-time job. Regardless, every amateur reaches a certain point at which he or she must “take the plunge”. It is at this point that the amateur must decide whether to dedicate the time, energy, and focus to developing a business or whether he or she would be content to keep woodworking as a hobby.
If you have planned well and thought things through, you too can turn your woodworking hobby into a full-time business. Be brave, and reach out to others on FineWoodworking and the online community for support.
Growing up, CustomMade.com contributing writer and MBA candidate Scott spent time in his grandfather’s carpentry shop in Tennessee, learning the basics of building his local hardware store. Scott has since left Tennessee to finish his MBA and law degree in Boston, but every time he goes back to Tennessee he always returns to his grandfather’s shop and reconnects with the joy of woodworking.