How to Start a Custom Woodworking Business

Robert Linder

Starting any business is not an easy task. But it helps when you have a talent for something noteworthy. With most everything being made by machine these days, many people seek out the artist who can make their project unique. The challenge for the woodworker, who's been doing it for years, is not in making their product, but in marketing it and doing all the bookkeeping needed to start the business. You may need some help at first, but it will soon be as easy as staying organized.

Check with your county government office to get a business license. Even if you conduct your business from home, most counties require a license. If you have an actual store front, the license will have to be displayed and you will most likely need to have a safety inspection before opening.

Build up a stock of available product for the customer to see. Most woodworkers do custom work, but the customer still wants to see your workmanship. Always have a few pieces on hand.

Have business cards and brochures made, and distribute them. Hand out your business card to everyone you meet and give extras to friends and family to hand out. Put them on bulletin boards at grocery stores, convenience stores and home improvement stores. Leave a pile in real estate offices. Join the local Kiwanis Club and other organizations to get your name out there.

Set up a website with various pictures of your work. Talk about your reputation and customer service. Have a designated email and phone number just for your business. Put a senior citizen or new customer discount on the website. Make sure when using a website that you explain shipping prices. If you don't know how to set up a website, you may want to call the local community college and hire a student to help you. They will normally charge you a lot less than a professional web designer.

Have an accountant set up your bookkeeping for you. There are many things to consider when keeping track of a business. You will have equipment that can be depreciated each year by a certain percentage. There may be sales tax in your state that you will need to charge, keep track of and send to the state periodically. The accountant will tell you what business expenses you can write off your taxes, and how to keep track of receipts.

Install a money management program on your computer. Once you have all the information from the accountant, set up a program like QuickBooks or Microsoft Money using each category the accountant suggested. At the end of each day, input all income and expenses, sales tax and purchases. If you have hired any help, you will need to set up a payroll section too.

Set up a filing cabinet to file all receipts under the categories you set up in your money management program. Keep a file for each customer so you can follow up with them on a regular basis. Keep a copy of every invoice you've made. Set up a section for bills you pay with a file for each vendor. Keeping copies of everything will make tax time much easier. If you find you did not need the paperwork for taxes or customer information, you can throw it away at the end of the year.

Advertise in your local newspaper, on and in woodworking periodicals. Advertising is a very important part of any business, but some can be expensive, so be careful or you'll spend your whole budget in one place. Get creative. Set up a table at a local flea market for a few weekends or try getting a store to take some of your pieces on consignment. Tag all your work with your name, phone number and email.