Make your woodworking make money

Unique items that can be produced quickly and inexpensively en masse make good choices for products.

People love receiving handcrafted gifts—one of the many reasons woodworking is such a satisfying hobby. So regardless of your skill level or experience, friends and family in awe of your prowess with a saw will inevitably say, “You should sell these jewelry boxes!” 

“Really? You think people would pay actual money for them?” 

Steve Ramsey
Steve Ramsey

At this point, it is perfectly normal to see floating dollar signs, hear cash registers ring, and imagine yourself quitting your day job to pursue your passion. 

The reality? You probably won’t be sailing around the world with your newfound riches, but you certainly could earn enough extra money to support your hobby and maybe purchase a new tool or two. Here are some tips for selling your projects:

Think unique. Personalized items sell well, as do inexpensive impulse buys. Niche markets are also good to pursue. 

Woodworker Steve Carmichael hit upon an idea that makes his handmade pens stand out in the crowd of pen makers by targeting a specific market: musicians. He makes beautiful pens from recycled drumsticks (below). 

 pen and drum stick.jpg
Look for projects that cater to a special-interest group. For example, musicians—especially percussionists—love pens made from drumsticks. A good brainstorm starting point: your own hobbies.

Select projects with a high profit margin. Even though it might sell for $200, that beautiful inlaid jewelry box you spent 20 hours building earns you less than minimum wage. Calculate your cost to produce: Factor in listing fees, transaction fees, materials, shipping supplies, postage, and a reasonable wage for potential for-sale projects. Then consider if a customer would buy it at that price. If not, consider other projects. 

Forget about craft shows. Instead, sell online. It is time consuming and difficult to eke out any profit by selling to the relatively small group of potential customers at a local event. One great way to sell handmade wares is on etsy.com, a site that specializes in all things handcrafted. Sales fees are small, and you get worldwide exposure.

Put on your marketing hat. Listing your work for sale online is pointless if people don’t know about it. Use social media for getting the word out. When drumstick manufacturer Vic Firth shared a photo of one of Steve’s pens with its 500,000 Facebook fans, orders started rolling in. Now, drummers are asking Steve to make custom pens from their own drumsticks. 

Skip the high-pressure sales pitch. But share your work honestly and openly. Generate interest on Facebook and Pinterest. If the people who see your work aren’t buyers, the friends they share with might be. 

Find ways to show off your building process in addition to the completed product. Maybe shoot a video. Give away free plans. Don’t worry about people “stealing your idea.” People will respect your goodwill; your transparency will generate sales. Shoppers want to buy items that have a maker’s face and story associated with them. Your job is not only to make a sale but also to make the buyer feel excited about you. You want their friends to ask, “Where did you get that?” as well as, “Who made that?”

Read more about

Tip of the Day

Cornstarch prevents sticky sanding drums

Drum sanders save a lot of time in the shop. You lose a lot of that saved time, though, when... read more