5 Things You Need to Know BEFORE You Get Started

Starting a furniture business from home, or from your home workshop, is a dream for thousands of woodworkers.

At the Florida School of Woodwork, many of our woodworking students are already in the custom furniture business and operate from their home woodshops. But many of our NEW woodworkers have yet to start – but it’s in the cards.

So we put together this list of things you need to consider, before you start your Furniture Business. Some apply to ANY business you start, and others are pretty specific to our topic.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to stick with things that apply to both:

  • Someone starting a completely custom furniture business
  • Manufacturing a specific furniture product at home

A custom furniture business is one that works with clients to produce unique pieces. Original designs and builds done for specific situations.

Manufacturing, however small the quantities, is making the same piece of furniture, same design, again and again. Like if you made a specific rocking chair, or coffee table, and made those for sale.

In any case:

What You Need to Know | Starting a Home-Based Furniture Business

#1: It’s a BUSINESS:

If you’re going to make something and sell it so you can make money, then it IS a business.

If you do not care whether or not you make an income of some kind and are just doing it for fun, satisfaction or a hobby – that’s great. Just don’t try and treat it like a business.

Don’t ignore this idea! It will help you make very important decisions about pricing, the time you spend on a project, whether to take on new customers. And it will save you from resenting your customers for ruining your love of the work.

Since it is a small business, make your decisions based on the health and profitability of the business.

#2: Do You Paperwork

The great parts of having home-based furniture making business include low overhead, flexible hours and a really, really short commute.

Some of the not-so-exciting parts are everything any small business owner needs – legally – and you ignore at your own peril:

  • Business and/or Occupational License – every city, county, and state has their own rules, regulations and zoning laws. Before you start anything, make SURE you are operating legally. You can start investigating this with your local government or Small Business Administration Office
  • You will have to pay taxes – That’s your own personal income tax or business tax depending on how you’re set up. You’ll probably need to charge sales tax and make monthly filings to the Department of Revenue where you are.
  • Bookkeeping and Accounting – on top of the tax bills you’ll need to set up a proper way to invoice your customers, pay your bills, etc Quickbooks, Freshbooks or using some kind of local service is up to you. But do this right from the beginning!
  • Insurance – Get business insurance and a business credit card.  Do not co-mingle your business and personal assets.  You want to maintain personal asset protect through the use of your business licensing.

#3: Price your Customer Furniture for Profit

One of the most common reasons any small business fails is because they neglect to charge for their goods or services properly.

It may SEEM like enough. Or even that you’re charging a LOT for your custom furniture. But you’re probably not.

The first problem most entrepreneurs usually have is that they don’t value their time. At all.

Is a project profitable if when you add up all the hours you spent designing, building and finishing you only make $20/hour? $50?

Even $100/hour of your skilled labor may not be enough to make your business profitable.

You have to do the MATH. Because if you spend 40 hours building a piece of furniture-artwork and don’t end up with a week’s worth of your effort in the bank – you’ve wasted your time.

You can read our article on How to Price Custom Furniture here. Please!

#4: Invest in GREAT Equipment

You do not have to spend $4,000 on a table saw. But what you do have to do is think past the weekend woodworkers needs and get professional quality equipment.

The tools you use to power a furniture making business from home are going to get 10x more use that a home-improvement/weekend warrior Home Depot special is designed for.

In most cases, a piece of used commercial equipment will suit you better than a brand new consumer product.

We’ve got some recommendations – but whatever you do, think before you outfit your workshop.

#5: Plan How you will Sell your Custom Furniture

If you don’t have a ready audience of potential customers at then you’ll need to answer the following questions BEFORE you spend a dime on..anything:

  • How are people going to find you, your business and your work?
  • What do you do once they DO find you?
  • And how do you make sure they never forget you?

The answer is that you will need at least the basics of a marketing “plan”.

Let’s call it a marketing punch list that shows everyone that you’re not just a hobbyist that needs to pay for their new tools.

Depending on your market, your area and the kind of furniture you’re going to sell you’ll need one or more of the following:

  • Someplace online to send potential customers. It doesn’t HAVE to be a website, but you will need somewhere to show your work and attract people interested in buying. Examples:
    • Facebook Page
    • Website
    • Shopify Store
    • Etsy Store
  • Ways to drive people to your “someplace online”.  Just setting up a website or other page doesn’t mean people will automatically find you. You’ve got to have 2 or 3 ways you’re going to actively promote the site and your work. Here are a few options to get you started:
    • Networking Online – Join Facebook, LinkedIn, or Reddit style online Groups that cater to your potential customers. Local Homeowners groups, interior design or architecture groups – find places online where your local customers are already talking to each other.
    • Consistent Social Media Marketing – Instagram and Facebook are both great for building awareness about a custom furniture business. Pick a platform, then learn as much as you can about how to extend your audience and your business reach.
    • Send People there in the Real World – use business cards, brochures and your voice to send people to your online presence. The VAST majority of small businesses succeed by word of mouth – this is how it’s done.
  • Real World Marketing Strategy – Your customers probably live within about 25 miles of where YOU are. That’s a function of most businesses like this drive their customers locally – through word of mouth. And the most effective way to make your business successful is to ENCOURAGE that word of mouth by being everywhere your potential customers are. So consider the following for your Plan:
    • Local trade fairs and events
    • Join, and PARTICIPATE in Chambers of Commerce for the area
    • Personally make sure that every architect and designer in your town knows you and your capabilities
    • Wear your work! Make sure you attend events wearing a company cap or shirt and with a hand full of business cards.
    • Do PR – Cultivate relationships with local tv and news -they’re always looking for something interesting to talk about. Invite them into your workspace, announce the completion of a new piece. Make sure you promote your business at every opportunity!

You will also need to plan for downturns.

  • The people you know now will eventually run out of room or the money to buy your custom furniture.
  • When you finish that big, 6 week, 24/7 custom furniture piece that took up all of your time – there will be no sales in the pipeline. Nothing for you to work on next because you’ve been wrapped up in the big job.
  • The 2 interior designers you were selling to will close up shop, retire, or just not need any custom work anymore.

If you have priced your product for profit, you will have a some cushion on these downturns and know that you can ramp up your marketing harder during these periods.  Having a plan makes all the difference between success and failure.

 

Starting a furniture business from home can be a great business and lead to a rewarding source of income. Consider the 5 points made above to help ensure your success!

[Article by Mark Stephenson from Owner Marketing School]

We want furniture makers to thrive so please share your thoughts and comments with us!

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