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How I turned a hobby business into a side hustle
There are many ways and ideas on how to start a business. We started out of a hobby that grew and were getting too big for handshake deals and craigslist sales.
There is no right answer or specific way to get your woodworking business started. The following steps could be done in a number of different orders, but this is based on our experience of getting things going. The main thing is to just get started and do something! If you have interest, and have made a few things here and there to sell or give to friends, this might be the best next steps to growing your side hustle!
Step 1: Create A Facebook Business Page
For the first year of our "business" we used Facebook heavily to reach new customers and share about what we were making. I had an idea of what "Revival Woodworks" should be, and I wasn't concerned about starting with a brand or logo. I led with my work, and shaped what the company would be from there. Facebook is a great way to reach people in your local area, and get some easy sales. It is also a low barrier of entry with no cost, so if you get into it, and decide it isn't for you, you have lost nothing.
Post often (at least every weekend, and when you are in progress)
Don't Spam your friends or ask for follows! - let your work reach people and bring them in. Asking for follows and shares is "needy". Your posts should serve both people that just discovered your page, and those that already follow you. Once someone is a follower, they don't want to see "be sure to share this" and will likely unfollow you at some point. Growth might seem slow, but you want quality followers, not quantity!
Make sure you have accurate contact information (phone and email)
Step 2: Find your Business Niche
Before you worry to much about the style of your logo, or the way you want to bill, figure out your style of woodworking business. Are you going to be known for repurposing furniture? Are you a barn wood builder? Will you be using pallet wood? Figuring this out early is important. It doesn't mean that you never do anything else, but if you have a niche, people have a good idea what to expect with custom orders, and interior designers can come to you for a specific thing.
Side note: Value your time, but Cash is King! when you are first starting out, don't worry about the argument that "your time is worth more than that". You. Will. Get. There. The most important thing is cash flow. It takes cash to grow and reach more people. It takes cash to buy tools and materials. It takes cash to apply for an official business, buy a website/domain, and really get moving.
Another Side Note: You don't need to buy every tool or have the fanciest tools or brands. When you are starting out, think about buying the tools that can be used universally, for lots of different things. Garage sales, Craigslist, and Harbor Freight can be a good source for things like clamps and hand tools. Holiday sales are another great time to buy power tools and packages of multiple tools. Don't go overboard though. You will find things are nice to have, but not necessary.
Tips to growing Cash:
Find free lumber to build with. Tearing Pallets apart isn't fun, but the free materials can make your profits grow! Your time has $0 cost on your cash, and the return is typically $100+ per project.
Build 2 of something at the same time. You can save time and materials by building 2 of the same items at once. For example, if you are building benches to sell on Craigslsit or a Facebook Selling wall, figure out the materials and get enough to build two. This way maybe buying a 12' 2x4 is more cost effective (with less waste) than buying an 8' one when building one. You also then cut double the pieces while the saws are set up and save time from re measuring and setting up the saws. Finally, paint them 2 different colors, or use the same varnish brush and get it all done at once. Now one effort leads to 2 sales! (or one package deal)
Step 3: Register as an official business
Once you have a customer base, and start doing work for larger clients, you will need to register as a business. Revival Woodworks is registered in Ohio as an LLC, and we are taxed as a sole proprietorship. Having a registered business is necessary for doing commercial work and jobs over $600. Companies will ask for a W9 to report your income to the IRS. This will be important come tax time.
At this point, Revival Woodworks set up:
A business banking account - specific to only business income and expenses
Quickbooks Online - To track quotes, Invoices, Receipts and expenses. Quickbooks make basic accounting easier and really allows for a professional billing experience to your customers, and peace of mind for your business transactions.
Step 4: Build Your Brand
Shortly after becoming an official business, we started building our brand. We used our craigslist skills, and negotiated with a graphic design friend to design some branding aspects, including a logo, in trade for a custom desk.
This is when we bought a domain and started a website. In a past life, I worked in internet marketing, and had some basic knowledge of how the internet world worked. However, I found the easiest way to get going was through the simple tools and packages.
How to Build A Woodworking Website:
Buy a domain on Godaddy - Easy to manage, cheap to purchase
Set up a Squarespace account - Select your template, and drag and drop elements onto a page and build out your content - There is no need for coding, and it is super simple to build something that looks professional without having web design experience.
Highlight your projects, connect your social media accounts and update a blog with some content.
Step 5: Build your Business
This final step are tips and tricks that we used to build the business once we had some cash flowing in. These can be sprinkled in throughout your business development, and can be a big impact on your overall success.
Start an Instagram Account and link it to your Facebook Page.
Order Business cards - use a service like Vista Print and get some professional business cards cheap! These are great to hand out to people when they buy, had to people that sell things, and send with small items that get shipped. - $10ish
Get some magnets for your truck. You can get nice large Magnets that stick to your doors and tailgate that make your vehicle look like its a company truck. (I was shocked at how many calls I got from the car right behind me in rush hour traffic).
Open an Etsy Store - To use up scrap wood, Etsy is a great place to sell small items that can easily be dropped in the mail.
Order some Swag - A jacket with a nice embroidered logo give the appearance of success (for super cheap). It is easy to buy a nice jacket from a place like TJ Maxx and get it embroidered at a mall kiosk. No one will ever know the difference. - $50ish
Custom Ink is a great resource for tshirts. Get some tees and give them to friends and wear them when you work on projects/in your Social Media posts. - $50ish
If video is your thing, buy a GoPro and start a Youtube Channel. Timelapse videos are fun and easy to make.
Use Houzz for more inspiration and to show off your work inside houses.
If you have any interest in starting a woodworking business at all, do it! The side hustle cash can be great! Don't get caught up in needing a brand or a "start-up" style. These things don't pay bills. Don't be romantic about it. Get started, and make profits.
I would be happy to connect and chat more about your business and getting started. Don't hesitate to contact me for further advice or guidance!