Behind the scenes of professional woodwork

Over the last few years we’ve seen many new professional woodworkers entering the field and a renewed public interest in custom designed and well-made fine furniture. However, many small designer/makers struggle to develop viable businesses.

In partnership with the Melbourne Business School at Melbourne University we established a market research
project to investigate the needs of small, emerging professional woodworkers to understand their businesses better. Arbaaz Tareen was contracted to undertake the project. He spoke to 27 woodworkers across Australia at various stages of their careers.

Some of his key findings include:
– More than half of those interviewed stated that woodworking did not generate a sustainable source of income
– One of the most common difficulties (more than two thirds) was in pricing work to generate sufficient income
– Somewhat surprisingly, almost everyone said they had no difficulty in finding clients although finding ‘the right client’ was harder
– Most said they had insufficient understanding of business practices such as bookkeeping, cash flow management, marketing, and managing costs and preferred to focus on the creative rather than the commercial side of their business.

Overall, we can conclude newly professional woodworkers appear to pay too little attention to their business needs to create viable businesses, and seem to get most of their business advice from family and friends, rather than professionals.

The results are being used to identify new initiatives the VWA can develop in order to help meet the needs of professional woodworkers.