Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a side hustle of refinishing furniture and making large signs out of old fence slats. I’ve even converted an old piano into a wine bar.
Things got more serious about a year and a half ago when I started working part-time for 4 Chicks Furniture by helping them build large pieces of furniture and custom home offices. I’ve learned a lot about designing, building, finishing, and installing custom pieces.
All along the way, I’ve continued the Internet marketing that I’ve been doing for 20 years – building new websites, marketing them online, and sending out email campaigns. It’s been a nice combination of using my creative skills on my computer and getting sawdust in my hair every so often.
You’d think Internet marketing and woodworking would be too divergent to be compatible, but they aren’t. I’ve enjoyed both the diversity of working at my computer and also working with my hands with tangible materials.
Here are some of my thoughts about combining Internet marketing and furniture building:
Market Furniture Building Online
Most furniture builders outsource their website building and marketing. But not me. I can make changes to my website quickly and optimize my site for search engines. Just the other day, I changed some things on my site so I could rank on the search engines for the term “Denver upcycled furniture.” I’m now ranked #4 for this term and hope to get in the maps section soon.
Charge for Extra Work
Clients in both areas will ask for changes along the way. This is to be expected. I anticipate paying additional money to someone doing work when I ask for work outside the agreed-upon scope of work. Having done my Internet Marketing for two decades, I know little things add up, so I’m up-front in my furniture business contracts that additional work requires additional compensation.
On my latest furniture project, my client wanted another tabletop and a couple of pieces of wood cut and finished for his own project. I was explicit with him that these would be extra and there was no hassle when I invoiced him at the end of the project.
Come Up with a Plan
I’ve always been a planner when it comes to building out a website. I will normally create a Web Design Plan after signing a contract. This plan includes all the pages that will be included on the site and the elements that will be on each page, including any additional function.
A recent web design project went sour because I didn’t create a good plan. I also didn’t nail down the elements of the individual pages and didn’t have all the content before starting. The content ended up being revised 2-3 times, so I had to keep changing it out. I had to edit product pictures a couple of times as well. Plus, the client changed a major design element in the middle of the project, which really goofed up things. This was in addition to working on a web host that was four times slower than my normal website host.
With my recent furniture project, I wrote up a specific outline of the work in my proposal. After signing a contract and before cutting a piece of wood, I added a lot of specifics to the outline about what I would do and how I would do it. Even though there were changes along the way, having the plan helped me not waste time and materials during the project as I might have without the working document.
Make Sure Websites and Furniture Have Looks, Function, and Stability
This is self-explanatory. Your website and furniture both need to look nice. They can’t be falling apart. Plus, they both need to work the way they are supposed to.
As I mentioned earlier, I repurposed a piano into a wine bar. A store was interested in buying it to resell, but the store’s owner was concerned the front legs weren’t attached strongly enough to the rest of the piece. He said he would still buy it from me if I fixed the legs, so I had to put it back in my truck and fix it. I eventually sold it to him, but it was a hassle to take it in and out of my pickup a couple of times.
A website must look good and work correctly before being activated. And a piece of furniture needs to look good and be sturdy before delivery.
Hurry Up Already
It’s easy to be lackadaisical when working on a project. When I’ve worked with web designers and programmers in the past, I’ve always been surprised when they say something will take 2-3 weeks even though it’s only 10-15 hours of work. I know they have other projects, but I also think they could be done more quickly.
With furniture building, I need to keep my head down and continually work on a project as fast as I can, so the customer can get the project as quickly as possible. They are very eager to see the outcome. There’s no time to get off-course with other projects.
I’m guilty of this especially when it comes to spec projects, like a wall hanging or a repurposed piece of furniture. No big rush. But the sooner I’m done with a project, the sooner I get paid, and the customer is happier.
Be Deliberate in Your Work
The flip side of getting something done quickly is not rushing things. It pays to make progress and then letting things stew overnight so you don’t make mistakes. This helps you come up with better solutions. This is especially true if you’re tired or hungry, or if you rush onto the next step when you should be experimenting on a test web page or testing cuts on a scrap piece of wood.
I was working on a large table with another woodworker, and we worked hard to get the angles right when cutting the pieces for a couple of different sides. We were going to wait until the next day to cut the other side pieces, but my partner cut one side piece that night, and it ended up being two inches short. So, we had to spend money and time getting another piece of wood, and since it was from another lot, it ended up not looking as good as it could have. Time is your friend, as is experimenting on scrap pieces of wood.
Charge the Right Amount for Your Work
When I first started my web design business, I charged too little and struggled until I nailed down a good pricing structure.
My last furniture project was profitable, but I probably underpriced it by 25 percent. Since that project, I’ve developed an Excel spreadsheet where I easily price out my time, materials, and profit, so I’m giving a fair price and being compensated appropriately.
If you want to be around for the long haul, you need to charge enough to cover your time, materials, and profit.
Get to Know People in the Industry
One of the highlights for me in the digital marketing industry has been making friends. You could say they are my competition, but Denver is a pretty big city, so I don’t bid against them very much. I had a mastermind group with a couple of guys where we would share our proposals and talk about how we handled client situations, like changes to the scope of work or collecting payment more quickly.
I’ve gotten to know some of the people in the woodworking industry as well. I met a guy who had a small shop and needed extra room for bigger projects. He started working out of the same workshop where I work, which allowed him access to a big paint booth, space for assembly, and high-quality equipment. We gave each other advice on solving problems. Plus, I helped him on a couple of installations.
I’m a big proponent of having a side hustle and building furniture works nicely as a side hustle for me. Whether I’m looking at a beautiful piece of furniture I created or pulling up an intricate website I designed, my pride in my work is the same, and for now, I’m content to mix the two types of work.