Let’s take a closer look at how to create a custom furniture business from scratch.
Step 1: Learn Woodwork
You won’t have to have any formal qualifications to start or operate this business, you’ll just have to have the gift of creating beautiful, one of a kind pieces and the network to sell them to the right buyers and collectors.
Learning woodwork is something you can do on your own time either alongside another business or as a full-time pursuit. It won’t take long and you should have the hang of it within a few months.
Woodwork is an art, and it’s often said you either have it or you don’t. Assuming you already know you have what it takes, you’ll be able to create pieces you can sell within 3-6 months from the time you begin learning.
If you want to learn formally, attend a class at your local community college or find a master tradesman willing to teach you as an apprentice.
Step 2: Get the Necessary Woodworking Tools
Every trade requires tools and woodwork is no exception. Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need:
1) Saws – Cutting wood is an everyday part of making furniture, but saws come in various shapes and sizes. You might require an electric band saw or a traditional hand saw, but it’s best to have a range as different tasks will require different types of saws.
2) Clamps – You’ll need a range of clamp sizes to hold pieces of wood together and let them set when you use glues and adhesives to hold them together. Look for a well-made set of iron clamps from a professional woodworking website or store. Ensure the clamps have soft, flat faces so as not to dent the wood.
3) Lathes – The finished product you see in furniture stores didn’t start out that way. Wood is often rough and jagged and requires a lathe to smooth around the edges and shave off rough, ragged layers. Lathes can also help you take millimeters off when required, since furniture making is a precise craft.
4) Varnishes/Lacquers – When you put together unique pieces you’ll want to add some finishing touches. Varnishes of various colors and lacquers to seal them are the bare minimum you’ll need. They come in a range from matte to shiny, and you’ll need to have a range so you can get each piece just as the customer wants it.
This is not an exhaustive list of tools a furniture maker will require, but it does cover the basics.
You may also want to learn design for woodworking with software
Step 3: Source Timber & Raw Materials for your woodworking business
Depending on the type of furniture you intend to make you may need materials including wood, metal, glass, and plastic of various kinds. While it will be easy enough to source these to begin, as you grow and start receiving more orders you’ll need a reliable, steady supply of materials.
In this kind of business, it’s always better to source locally, so that you can physically inspect the quality of the product and ensure the wood has no cracks, scratches, or dents.
If you can’t find a local source look for suppliers on websites like Alibaba.com, but note that they usually require a minimum order which can be quite large.
Step 4: Make Your First Pieces & Connections
Most work in this business comes via word of mouth, just like all art.
The first thing you need to do, then, is create some pieces for show and to sell to your first customers. If you can create completely unique ideas you won’t need much help here, but for those who require some inspiration Youtube and the internet can provide endless ideas to work with, which you can put your own spin on.
Once you have created these pieces get them into the hands of customers ASAP. If you want to focus on the local market, talk to furniture store owners and auctioneers who will likely have connections in the industry and who might let you display your pieces in their stores for a cut of any sales. Forge partnerships and get to know everyone you can from dealers to retailers. These connections will be invaluable in the long run.
If you want to reach further afield, look online at existing auction sites or even build your own website and advertise. There is also a range of trade magazines and you could advertise in to reach your target market. In the connected world we live in today, your market is global, if you decide to make it so.
Step 5: Grow, Expand & Build Your Reputation
As your reputation grows, you’ll begin to receive orders from interested customers.
Make sure you have a way to thoroughly discuss what the requirements per piece are and come to some sort of an agreement – the last thing you want is to create an expensive piece and have a customer reject it due to a misunderstanding.
There is 3D design software like SketchUp which can be very useful for this exact reason as it will let you create a 3D digital model and get the customer to approve before you begin the actual work.
Pro Tip: You can also choose to source unique pieces of furniture made by other craftspeople around the globe. If you’re willing to travel you can find some unique pieces and act as a middle man. This can actually be more profitable as it doesn’t require the purchase of physical materials.
For every satisfied customer, get a testimonial and use it to market your business. A client smiling with their hand-crafted table speaks a thousand words and is very useful for generating new sales when displayed on a website or in a brochure.
START A WEBSITE – Here’s how
1) FIND A DOMAIN & SETUP HOSTING – bluehost $3.95 / month special.
2) INSTALL WORDPRESS – one click wordpress install after sign up with bluehost.
3) CHOOSE A FREE OR PREMIUM THEME – Studiopress is who I use for premium themes (SEO ready, Fast Load Time, Solid Genesis Framework)
Launching your writing website can add the credibility you need to grow your writing business. Increasing your profit margins by cutting out the middle-man doesn’t hurt either.
Rare, different and one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture are always in demand. Whether you want to create them yourself as this article has recommended, or source them from other craftsmen and create your own market locally, you can make top dollar in the furniture business if you connect with the right clients and customers.
Everyone needs furniture, and in our throw-away culture more and more people are changing their ways and will pay for top-quality furniture that will last a lifetime and will add a stylish ambiance to their homes.
Could you be the one to supply them with what they desire? If so, the custom furniture business could be for you!