Phillip Morley’s Three Ring CircusUnfortunately, being a professional woodworker requires more than the ability to design and build a piece of furniture. In the daily grind of the business, I am required to keep track of income and expenses, submit sales tax, maintain a website, and market myself.
Furniture making feels natural to me. Unfortunately, being a professional woodworker requires more than the ability to design and build a piece of furniture. In the daily grind of the business, I am required to keep track of income and expenses, submit sales tax, maintain a website, and market myself. Sometimes it feels like a three-ring circus that is completely out of my control. I don’t make enough money to hire others to take care of the non-woodworking aspects of the business, and much to my dismay, if I want to earn a living, I can’t just ignore them. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a balance between these two masters, but here’s how I do it.
First of all, I have a wife who is an awesome partner. She takes care of the books and taxes. However, neither of us knows much about website design or marketing. We have spent quite a bit of time banging our heads against the wall reading articles and understanding about 5% of them, trying the few tips that we actually do understand, and banging our heads against the wall some more. It’s not a perfect system yet, but we are slowly learning.
Although I’m not gifted in managing these business elements, there are many people who do have such gifts. Just talking about my passion for woodworking, my goals, and my vision for the future reveals people who genuinely appreciate that vision and want to help in any way they can. Many folks are willing to barter or help out in other ways if they find your vision compelling. The key is to be open to those around you.
I have learned to take advantage of any opportunities I can, even if it is not clear that there will be immediate results. For example, arts festivals have been a form of advertising that I can afford. They give me a chance to show my pieces in person and to meet with people who are interested in my craft. These days, it’s more important than ever for me to interact with my customer base. I don’t necessarily hope to sell anything at these festivals (and sometimes I don’t), but I do hope to make connections and demonstrate what I do and why I am passionate about it.
This is a long game and I intend to stick with it. I strongly believe that if you are passionate about what you do, good at it, and willing to stick out the hard times, things will work out. I am still learning and still plugging away, but I have confidence that this investment of time and energy will pay off in the long run.
What has worked for you in your professional life? Share any tips or tricks in the comments section below. You never know what we can teach one another.