New Joinery Business - Advice Please

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will1983
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New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:04 am

Hi, I've been a member here for some time and an avid thread reader but not really been much of a contributor.
As a hobbyist woodworker/diyer I was a bit daunted by the number of professionals here but I think this place is the right forum to ask for some advice.

After over 15 years working as a professional Civil Engineer I have decided I am ready for a change and to do something for a living that I really enjoy. I want to set myself up as a Commercial Joiner doing domestic cabinet making and joinery work in the Cheshire area.

Presently my intention is to specialise in alcove units, floating shelves, kitchen islands/renovations, installation of fitted furniture and the usual sort of bread and butter work of fitting doors, skirtings and architraves.

I have a 300sq' workshop (converted garage) with the usual stationary tools, table saw, mitre saw, bandsaw, morticer, drill press etc and the usual host of cordless portable stuff. I have plans to buy myself a TS55 and domino with the accompanying extractor. The actual woodworking side of things doesn't concern me to much, I think I'm more than competent to be able to do a decent job.

However I am at a bit of a loss with the actual running of a small business, advertising, work winning, invoicing and record keeping. What advice do the Pros have for a new starter on these?

Hopefully someone will be willing to share some of their knowledge, if so thank you in advance.

P.S. I have set up a website (another first for me), https://www.cheshirecatsworkshop.com/ What are your thoughts? Criticism welcomed!
Mods, if this is in violation to the rules I apologise, please remove if so.
Check out my Instagram account cheshire_cats_workshop for more stuff I have been working on.
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby davidpidge » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:41 pm

Hi Will. I love the cat. Nice angle that will appeal to people who want to use a small local business that has heart. Honestly I don't think a website is much use for bringing in new work but that's just personal experience.
I used to use myBuilder.com which will give you an endless source of door hanging/2nd fix work. You just need to find a way to let local people know you exist.
And when you work out your price. Add another 20%, then you'll still be under! But not by so much!

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby davidpidge » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:42 pm

Oh. And buy a pocket hole jig.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:55 pm

Thanks for taking the time to reply David!
I've gone for something a bit quirky with the business as I think it will make it more memorable.

I've got myself registered with Google my business and I'll be getting myself an advert in the next edition of our local A5 trade directory booklet.

Will
Check out my Instagram account cheshire_cats_workshop for more stuff I have been working on.
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Sat Dec 08, 2018 1:55 pm

:D Oh and I've already got one! :D
Check out my Instagram account cheshire_cats_workshop for more stuff I have been working on.
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby davidpidge » Sat Dec 08, 2018 2:00 pm

Nice one. Good luck with it!

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby Meccarroll » Sat Dec 08, 2018 8:26 pm

Hi Will, nice to hear about your new career and business.

I took a look at your website and a couple of things took me, first the site is missing your photo and as you are trying to be personal I'd say that is important to a customer seeing who they may be dealing with. Second you don't show what you are fully capable of in so far as cabinetry. Apart from that it looks quite professional.

I'm not sure about advertising but you could try approaching some local architects to offer your services to their clients also local builders (House builders) may be interested in your services. I'm not saying builders are the best approach but I do know some use contracting joinery companies for built ins, custom kitchens etc so could be worth considering.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby promhandicam » Sun Dec 09, 2018 7:35 am

Welcome. I've had quite a few jobs from adverts in parish magazines over the years. Some get delivered to all houses in the parish and they give are the best leads. I think I pay around £140 a year in one of them. Best of luck.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby mark270981 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:57 pm

I can’t talk too much for domestic as we very rarely do it unless through a designer and even then it’s a PITA

First of all you will need to work out your overhead.

Electricity
Your Wages
Van
Insurances
Rates
Accountancy fees
Work clothes per year
Etc etc etc.

Work out how many hours production you are likely carry out
Per year, I look to work on 1520 hours per year for each of the 12 people I employ.

However you being on your own, you either need to say you won’t do any house calls, quoting paper work between 8am and 4:30pm so you can get 1500 hours in a year (so overhead divided by 1500hours gives you your labour rate) or you say you are only going to be productive for 750 hours per year (or whatever you think) and do the relevant sums this way.

I would expect your charge out rate needs to be at least 33 quid an hour plus profit.

Never ever charge less than your charge out rate, even if you work something out and you deem it expensive!

Always remember we are a sort after trade!
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 10:57 pm

Cheers Mark.. That's pretty much exactly how I was going to work out my hourly /day rate.
Check out my Instagram account cheshire_cats_workshop for more stuff I have been working on.
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby Tomyjoiner » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:01 pm

Hi Will, you need more pics of work so people know what they are getting. personally speaking i would be put off using you because this is your "second trade" it doesn't give me faith in your work. Thats what i would think as everybody isn't interested in "the story" just my opinion though. i find my facebook page is all i need, its easier to do an you can chuck on a few pics an a write up in 3-4 mins while you are boiling the kettle. Remember everything is an expense. Keep every receipt an get a little receipt book to make receipts urself when you use cash. You can take a percentage of your house electrics an gas as you have an office in your house DONT YOU! new computer or phone or camera, clothes, stationary, insurances ,diesel, mot the list is endless. once you have a facebook page put a few pics on marketplace an you will soon get a few enquiries, as said above local free papers advertise in there or the parish magazine, word soon gets around. Remember you are only as good as your last job. We all make mistakes, pricing is a learning curve an i still muck up if I'm doing something for the first time an it takes a bit longer. Dont beat yourself up it won't do any good but you will remember for the next time. Take pics of work you have done on your own house, update your kitchen an take a few pics as work just done. Ask as many questions as you need to, every day is a school day. Ive been doing it for 30 years an am still learning an most of the others on here will say the same. Good luck.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:49 pm

Hi Tomy,

Thanks for your reply. Noted about the second trade thing, the whole about me section needs rethinking and putting on a dedicated page to remove it from the home page.

I have a Facebook and Instagram page which I update regularly. The FB one has led to a couple of leads in the past week. This has lead to another quandary however, both quotes have been declined, even at a reduced labour rate to try to get some work under my belt the feedback is that I am too expensive. I'm not sure if this is just the Ikea symdrome of "I want everything for next to no money" or if i am indeed too expensive.

Your right about the more photographs, i'm presently in the middle of several projects in my own home that are all destined for the website/Instagram/Facebook pages. One of these is a kitchen refresh, restore the wooden worktops, replace some hinges and drawer runners and a general clean up, should make a pretty good before/after picture.

Thanks again
Will
Check out my Instagram account cheshire_cats_workshop for more stuff I have been working on.
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby Tomyjoiner » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:54 am

Hi Will, try an do a bit of work for friends/family at a reduced rate/free even just to get those pics. I find with pricing when you go for a chat you soon get a feel for a person an if they are wasting your time or if they actually want the work done an can afford it. If you win every job you price then you are too cheap, if i get a third of what i price i am happy, any more an the work load would be too much. i know i have work in my diary for the next 8 months.We have all done the scenario when you look at your quote an think "i wouldn't pay that, ill just knock a bit off here an there" don't do it. If they don't want you to do it they either thought it was going to be ikea/argos prices therefore they can't afford it or they went with someone else. Remember you need to make a living. If you think you are out pricing yourself get your other half to call a couple of 1 man bands similar to yourself an get a fake quote for work so it gives you a ball park figure what others charge for similar work. When your starting off pricing is a mine field an probably 1 of the hardest bits of the job. IMO.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:50 am

Thank you Tomy, that's really good to hear from someone well established, I was getting a bit disheartened that both those quotes had been refused.

How does the 8 month waiting list go down with your customers? In todays world of Amazon Prime Next Day Delivery I would have thought most people would just go to someone else rather than wait.

I'm a very systematic / methodical person so my approach to pricing is pretty mechanical. I have found however that this can take quite a bit of time which is time/money wasted if I'm not successful, have you got any tips / methods / standard prices that you would be willing to share?

Talking to my partner last night we have decided to canvass all our friends to see if any wants some relatively small jobs doing cheap or free on the understanding they would be done for advertising and review building purposes.

Will
Check out my Instagram account cheshire_cats_workshop for more stuff I have been working on.
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby MJ80 » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:20 am

Generally I found people would be happy waiting for a slot especially as they are paying for your service. I was always upfront with starting prices for projects, it weeded out those who were not interested quite quickly and allowed me to spend more time designing and quoting for jobs with a better chance of happening. After the first plan and quote and a subsequent revision I would think about charging for more plan revisions, its your time after all. Put it this way I found the quoting time for a kitchen would be on average 30 hours over a couple of weeks. That would involve a couple of visits lasting a couple of hours (getting to know the client....), then drawing and re drawing, pricing, sourcing, chasing (subcontractors, materials, building works/control...). All of the client stuff would generally be done in evenings (people are at work during the day so meetings are usually after dinner/kids in bed) so its taking more time out of your life. 30 hours sounds like a lot, but if you are doing a couple of hours on an evening or morning at the weekend then the evening or morning written off. It soon starts stacking up especially when you have a couple on the go plus the jobs you are working on. It is so important to separate the wheat from the chaff so being up front with a starting price and lead time really does whittle out those less serious.
You will quickly work out how much you need to budget for materials for a job, its pretty simple and then how long it takes you.
Completely on the other hand if someone has a small fixed budget (and they are often very upfront about it) you will soon know how you can give them the most value for money and if it is profitable enough for you. These little jobs can be pretty profitable, sometimes it is easier to outsource the manufacture and just do the fit.
Make good relationships with your suppliers and find other trades that you can rely on and who compliment your work, stick with them.
Get a carbon copy receipt book and when you are on site if any extras come up or are requested write them down and get the client to sign them so there is no arguing when it comes to payment. Send the extras in writing as soon as you can so there is no surprise at the final reckoning.

On larger projects I always worked on a contract and payment schedule.

50% deposit - covers materials (never pay for anything yourself)
40% on delivery
10% on completion

Also get your insurance sorted, make sure you get works in progress covered. If something happens to your workshop... and you are in the middle of manufacture you need to be covered for the value of the goods not the materials.

You are selling yourself and your skills. Enjoy

Hope this helps

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby Tomyjoiner » Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:11 pm

As MJ daid 50,40,10 thats the way i work aswell, whenever their are extras ir changes to plans i do it all by email with them confirming before any changes/extra work is done then you have a paper trail for when they try an get out of paying as it does happen, they often conveniently “forget”. You will soon be able to look at a job an have a ballpark in your head. I know roughly how much it costs me in materials to do a kitchen an how long it will take so when they say their budget is 8k an they want a oak faceframe then i can tell them streight away it wont happen then advise them accordingly. End of the day its experiance an you soon learn.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby promhandicam » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:43 pm

re. facebook - I have tended to keep clear of it as at least for me it is a bit like yellow pages of old - a lot of timewasters just getting quotes with no intention of getting the work done. One I looked at last year - alcove cupboards and shelving - the 'customer' told me he'd be in touch but it would be a while as he had 8 other people coming to quote. That said I have had a couple of good jobs after being recommended by a previous customer on FB.
The other thing is that when starting out don't turn anything away. One job I did in my first year - trimming a couple of doors after new carpets were fitted has resulted in me becoming an approved contractor for a retirement housing managing agency and well over £70k's worth of work over the last 9 years.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby martin.pearson » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:02 pm

Firstly I am not a woodworker as such, secondly I can't really claim to have run a successful business. I was doing pretty well in my industry but then got CFS which stopped me working at all for a while, I can now only work part time & have to watch what I do.

Thought it best to put that at the top so you knew a little background. As has already been said if you win every quote you submit you are way to cheap, there is probably some sort of relationship between what you win & what you don't but no idea what that is lol. If you have worked your rates out correctly & the 2 quotes you have done have gone against you then that is just how it is, reducing your prices isn't going to pay your bills if you have worked things out correctly & you could end up just working as a busy fool. Where I have seen people go wrong is the amount of time a job takes, if you are new then you may be slower than a more experienced tradesman, if you charge the amount of time it actually takes you then you could be far to expensive if someone else can do the job much quicker, you have to make some sort of allowance for this as it's not the customers fault your stiill learning.
Comments have already been made about your website but to add to them I would seriously look at buying a domain name, you can still use the dite you have built BUT the difference is your email address would have a proper .com, .uk address ather than gmail. i work as a signmaker & think a gmail, hotmail, etc address looks so unprofessional. A domain name can be bought very cheaply & you don't need to have a hosted website to make & use email addresses associated with the domain name. The other thing is I have no idea who you are, can't see anything on there with your name & if you want customers to relate to you that is pretty important, I may have missed it but if I have then so will others.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby Johnboy70 » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:11 pm

I wish you good fortune with your venture. I'm of a slightly different opinion and I don't mean any insult. If your skills are good and fast enough I would be amazed. Working doing joinery/cabinets is not easy at a pace and quality to make some money it is a skill you'll learn over several years. Your competitors will be way ahead in this respect. They will also be better equipped.
Does this mean don't do it.....of course not. The problem is you haven't been a full time woodworker. Imagine you dropped £30000 On machinery say all felder stuff you still wouldn't be in a position to succeed. It may take 6 months or more to be confident operating everything.
My advice is to find a mentor. and soak everything up like a sponge. Some people have been woodworking in well equipped shops since they left school. These guys could run a shop but may struggle with the business end.
£33 an hour as a new starter is crazy(plus profit!) That's £264 a day. Think £120 a day.
You'll also need to accept you'll be out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby thatsnotafestool » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:25 pm

Don't be tempted to chase after every enquiry. If someone wants something made..ask them to send you a photo of the area where it's going to be so that you have a better idea. Before you waste any time visiting or even thinking about it. A lot of the time you'll not get anything back so saving you time and effort.

Be ready for that customer who does all that, you visit, you come up with some ideas, you quote, you hear nothing for months. You might send a follow-up email or phone call but nothing. Then two weeks before Christmas they call you and say 'Yes please....we'd like to go ahead. We've got people coming for Christmas and need it by then'. Walk away.
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby promhandicam » Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:43 pm

Just one more thing about the website - I clicked on some of the photos at the bottom, and the text alongside was illegible - if you want people to read it change the font and make it bigger.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby mark270981 » Fri Jan 11, 2019 6:22 am

Johnboy70 wrote:I wish you good fortune with your venture. I'm of a slightly different opinion and I don't mean any insult. If your skills are good and fast enough I would be amazed. Working doing joinery/cabinets is not easy at a pace and quality to make some money it is a skill you'll learn over several years. Your competitors will be way ahead in this respect. They will also be better equipped.
Does this mean don't do it.....of course not. The problem is you haven't been a full time woodworker. Imagine you dropped £30000 On machinery say all felder stuff you still wouldn't be in a position to succeed. It may take 6 months or more to be confident operating everything.
My advice is to find a mentor. and soak everything up like a sponge. Some people have been woodworking in well equipped shops since they left school. These guys could run a shop but may struggle with the business end.
£33 an hour as a new starter is crazy(plus profit!) That's £264 a day. Think £120 a day.
You'll also need to accept you'll be out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.


Luckily for me I know how to run a shop and do the business end - if you think you can run a woodwork shop on £120 a day for a single earner and live then you’ll be out of business before you start!
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby Johnboy70 » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:46 pm

I imagine you must be worth 300 a dayplus but the original poster is starting from zero with a few power tools. How long was it b4 you had a fully equipped workshop that you were totally confident in operating?
How much was your machine investment. In fact what was your story? It's unlikely anybody emerged fully formed the finished article. What was your process. Apprenticeship? Years working as a journeyman?

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:43 pm

Hi guys, so I thought you might be interested in a little update.

The past three months have been somewhat hectic! I've not had a weekend off since mid January doing all sorts of jobs for people.

I am still doing the day job Monday - Friday so only able to do client work at evenings and weekends. This is a bit of a pain as I actually have work booked in for the next 6 weeks.

My goal is to go full time before September this year as that will coincide with the completion of the current project I am working on in the Civil Engineering world. It also gives me several more months to build up a bigger emergency fund and find a decent truck for reasonable money.

A bit of feedback from what I have discovered

Davidpidge - like you I have found that my website has not led to any work at all. This is likely due to the fact that it's still a bit sh*t though. I have a job this weekend for a customer whose daughter is a web designer, I am bringing her in to sort out the website and the SEO. I am also going to get her to sort out the whole domain email thing as I'm flummoxed (and not got enough time to learn) with how to do that. I took your advice regarding adding a % markup to my prices. I did an experiment to see if I would be told to b*gg*r off on one price and it paid off, I got the job with a 25% mark up.

Tomyjoiner - almost all my work has come through Facebook but like promhandicam I've had more than my share of time wasters. I'm getting pretty good at spotting them now though so they aren't costing me anywhere near as much as a few month ago!

Tomy, I took your advice about never turning your nose up at a little job and it paid off. I went to help a lady with a mouse (don't ask) and it resulted in three more jobs from the same client and one for her MIL.

In between client work, employer work and wife work I am converting the third bedroom into an office, needless to say it is taking ages as it's bottom of the priority list but is coming on. It is also proving to be a useful project for testing out new tools and methods of working. On that subject I invested in a decent track saw, wow that thing is awesome!

Anyway that enough rambling brain dump b*ll*cks, here's a few pictures of some stuff I've done recently.
There's a load more on my Instagram page if you wanted to see them.

IMG_1766A.jpeg
Ikea unit refinished

IMG_1818.JPG
alcove shelves

IMG_1791.JPG
window sill replacement in solid kerruing

IMG_1689.JPG
laminate and skirting replacement


Maybe not the most impressive stuff yet but I know they've all been done to a high standard, have made me money and the clients are happy.

Thank you for all the advice, this is proving to be a busy, chaotic, stressful but amazingly satisfying experience and I can't wait for more!

Will @Cheshire Cats Workshop
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby promhandicam » Tue Mar 12, 2019 10:27 pm

Well done Will - keep us posted and feel free to ask for advice as we have all been in your position at some point in the past.

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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby will1983 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:44 am

promhandicam wrote:Well done Will - keep us posted and feel free to ask for advice as we have all been in your position at some point in the past.


Cheers Steve.

I'll likely have to take you up on that offer as since my last post I've had a serious enquiry for my biggest job to date. If I get this I'll have cracked the "4-figure-price-for-a-single-job" milestone!!

Will
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Re: New Joinery Business - Advice Please

Postby Tomyjoiner » Fri Mar 15, 2019 10:32 pm

Glad things seem to be going well.


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