Turning Your Hobby Into a Business | ToolsToday
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Hey guys, how's it going? My name is Matt. I’m here with ToolsToday to give you a talk about how I turned my hobby into a business and then eventually into a career. I just wanted to say a quick thank you to the entire Vectric team for putting all of this on. They've done a fantastic job with this, and I just wanted to say a quick thank you for them for trusting ToolsToday and myself with a live presentation like this. Also wanted to say thank you to all of you for joining. Can't wait to get into this.
So, we'll be talking today basically about how I got started with woodworking; the things that I was making; things that I was selling; where I was selling those; all those kind of tips. I will talk about the power of social media and then the mistakes that I made and basically what you can learn from that, and what we can take away from it. So without further ado, let's get started.
So basically, I think I have probably a similar story as most of you do, as far as how you got into woodworking, or any sort of making anything with your hands, that kind of thing.
So basically, I needed furniture for my first apartment. I was pretty broke; I didn't have a whole lot of money for anything and couldn't stand to go spend a bunch of money on furniture that was... I really was into the rustic reclaimed look, that kind of thing, couldn't stand to go spend money on furniture that was like a big box store, like Walmart type stuff, that was the rustic reclaimed look but it was just particle board, basically.
So, I decided without really ever doing anything with power tools before, that I was going to go get some pallets and was going to make something for myself. So that's exactly what I did. This was the first project that I ever made. This was a coffee table. This is just like some sort of stain on the edge, a really dark stain on the edge. This was the first thing that I’d ever done, there's screws visible all over the top, but it's still a coffee table that we use today. It's held up pretty well. So that was the first thing that I made for the apartment, and then I made a matching end table for it. Made a matching end table for it; there this is all, a burnt edge along all of the fronts and stuff like that. Figured out the fireworks a whole lot easier than layering stain, that kind of thing.
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So I made a desk to match it, and then ended up making an entertainment center as well. So I basically outfitted my entire workshop, or outfitted my entire house with things that I had made. Up till this point I have basically $150 investment in tools, maybe $250 because I got a miter saw, so I had a circular saw, a drill, a jigsaw, and a miter saw, and made basically all of this stuff here.
So that was always my goal, was to not invest a whole lot of money into it, and while I’m doing this I’m posting all of this on like my personal Facebook page so I’m getting people that are asking me to make stuff for them. So I started making random little things, and kind of ended up accidentally developing my first product.
So the first thing that I ever really got popular making was these wall arrows. So they're basically just a wall decoration. I ended up doing them in a bunch of different finishes. So I made one for her, posted that up on a local Facebook page it was like a Pinterest swap and shop page for our local area, and ended up getting about 60 orders off that first image that I posted. At this point I’m selling them for about $20 a set. These are really simple to make, basically it's an angle cut on a miter saw, matched with the angle cut on a miter saw, pocket screwed together.
So it's a, it's a really simple product to make, and I didn't think, you know, I was charging too little or anything like that for them. I was making a decent amount since it's like a couple dollars or whatever in wood, but it's about 30 to 40 minutes or so to actually make an entire set.
So I made them all in different types of colors to match different people's decor, that kind of thing, and then basically every time that I would meet somebody on Facebook they're like, "Oh you need to be on Esty, you need to be on Esty, you need to be on Esty," so I finally signed up for Etsy and basically started posting all of the arrows on there.
So I did it in like a bunch of different finishes like this and that's basically what people would do with them; they'd hang them up on their wall in different directions and make it part of their home decor.
So this is the point where I started realizing that things were going pretty well and I ended up making it to where I started, I started transforming this hobby into an actual business.
At the time I’m still living in the apartment. So I have garages at the apartment. I ended up with three single car garages that I was renting out to be part of my workshop. So it started to transform into a business, and as that went along I ended up learning the value of my work. So with those arrows I continued making those throughout the entire process.
By the way this this whole timeline spans between about seven years or so leading up to today. Basically so the first, five and a half years are of me doing my own business, that kind of stuff, and then we'll move to the later, later areas.
So I started to learn the value of my work. With those arrows I ended up selling them for about thirty dollars a set, which, with the time that it takes to make those, is not really a livable wage. It just, it ended up being a lot of work, and it was kind of never-ending work. I ended up making about 5000 sets of those arrows over the course of like four years. And then I ended up stopping making those because it wasn't worth the time that I was doing.
But those are a huge seller, something like that in the home decor, if you start off with the right price from the beginning that's definitely something that can be a great seller for you.
So this was really the product that changed everything. On Etsy I started posting different types of products, things that I was a little bit more excited about learning, or more excited about doing that kind of stuff. So this was the first thing.
This literally changed everything. This is just a walnut and Baltic birch plywood pencil holder. So it's just walnut sandwiched with Baltic birch going all the way down, and this piece right here takes the same amount of time to make as those arrows did, and I was selling this for $55 apiece, and had maybe ten dollars or so in materials. So I was making a whole lot more money on this particular thing, and this really transformed my idea of it.
People are willing to pay for a higher quality product. One of the big things on Etsy too is that you, with Etsy in particular, people are going there expecting things to be handmade. So a lot of times when you have stuff that's priced way too low people are thinking, "Oh it's just a lesser quality."
People equate price with quality. So if you're, if you're selling something on there you need to make sure that it's priced appropriately and properly valuing your time and your work. People will appreciate that and actually pay you more because you're valuing yourself and they perceive that as perceived value of a higher quality product.
Obviously, you've got to back that up and make sure that you are giving them a high quality product, but in general that's a great thing with Esty, is that people are going there expecting to spend more money.
You can also, another great market to get into is like your local Facebook pages, it's another great way to sell your stuff locally. Generally people on Facebook are more looking for a deal - at least that's been my personal experience - but Etsy is another great resource for online selling.
So here's that same pencil holder with a bunch of pencils in it. These aren't very big at all. So it's definitely something that really transformed my whole idea of how things like that would go.
So another thing that I started selling was just these log slices. These were from my parents' backyard, and I would just go and take the log slices and turn them into clocks. So it's recessed out in the back and then I have a hole drilled through the center for the clock movement, and I was selling these for $60 a piece. And this is about nine - ten inches wide. So I do larger ones that were a bit more expensive. So this was really just working with the materials that I had available to me, and then profiting off of, off of that, and people see this; it's totally unique, like it's not something that you can go to the store and just, just buy off of hand.
So anyways that's; those were the, the things that really changed my opinion about how to, how to, how to market myself. So I came up with kind of the best-selling markets as I figured things out. I started to get into weddings, and then more kid decor, that kind of stuff.
So I’d already done quite a bit with the home decor; people are always willing to spend money on their house, on weddings, and on kids, and they don't really think much about spending money on that kind of stuff.
So one of the big things that I really want to hit on is weddings. People spend a lot of money on weddings. So for your business that's definitely something that you need to look into.
So I started off, this was before I ever had a cnc machine, I started making these, basically their wedding guest books, so people, I would make these, this is all wood burned up here on top with their name, the date that they were married, and then their, their initial, their last initial. And then this would be a guest book. So people would go through and sign these, and basically it becomes instead of signing like an actual like guestbook, they would do this and they'd hang it in their house and they have those messages forever.
So... introduce a cnc machine. Up until this point I’d been doing software development and I actually went to school with a degree in graphic design, so I’d never used that and I’d been doing software development. So when when the idea of woodworking got started it was really cool with, being a software developer where you never touch anything that you're making, it's all intangible, something that's on the internet that kind of thing. With woodworking it was like, the fact that I was able to make things with my hands was was really cool, and being able to hold something that you put a bunch of time into was, was just fascinating to me. So I really dove deep down into the woodworking rabbit hole.
All of the the products that I was selling basically paid for all of the shop upgrades so even now I have basically a $250 investment in my shop. All the things that I was selling paid for new tools, paid for upgraded tools, all that kind of stuff, and then that eventually funded a cnc machine as well. So I started making these.
These are wedding decor pieces. So this is a picture of a wedding, and then this is all v-carved in. So essentially I took it into photoshop, converted into a pure black and white image, transferred that into the vectric software, did a bitmap trace on it, and then now I did a full v-carve. So the black area is what's all carved out. It's been carved and painted and the rest is the natural wood. So I did these and realized that people were really willing to spend a bunch of money on these. So this is like, I think this is a 10" by 15" piece, something like that, I ended up selling this one for about $450.
And then same thing with these guys here so this is just another design -- there we go -- just another design, and people are really willing to spend a bunch of money on that. And this is one of those areas where you can really separate yourself from somewhere like Michael's or Hobby Lobby or any of those places. You cannot go to the store and buy this, and that's where people are willing to spend the money with you rather than going to a store. They can't go out and just buy this from a store but you can make that. So you're offering something unique, that they can't go out and otherwise find.
That way you can kind of set your own price point on it. And this is the point where I really realized the value that a cnc brings to the workshop.
So another area that people are always willing to spend money on is on kids. So I kind of went with that portrait idea too, and this is another one, this is a piece of cherry. I think this one ended up being like 5" by 8", somewhere in there, and I believe I sold this one for about $150. It takes a little bit to design these, but as far as the actual work, the cool thing with the cnc is that I’m able to let these things run, while I’m working on building the arrow sets at the time.
So I was basically doubling my production, while, while making more money doing it. So the, the business side of it really began to take off. So I got into the cnc and then really got into like kids decor type pieces. So I made stuff like this.
This is, you can get into all different themes for nurseries, whales are really popular, so I’d do stuff like this where it's, it's just stained, and then I carve through to show the natural color of the plywood.
And then you can get in, I got in really deep into all of these; these are little 7"x7" tiles, that I would sell for $20 or $25 or so. And then again, these are all being carved while I’m working on something else. So I’m basically treating the cnc like an employee at this point.
So here's a close-up one of those; again it's just a stained piece of pine that's been carved through to show the natural color of the pine.
So those are the popular markets that I really got into and things that worked well for me.
So next we will talk about the power of social media. All throughout this entire process, sorry guys, all throughout this entire process I had been posting everything on social media. So from the very beginning I basically got on ins… most of what I’m talking about here is going to be uh geared towards Instagram.
Instagram is a fantastic way to get directly to your customer. You want to make sure that in the beginning you decide on what direction it is that you want to go with it. I personally didn't have that forethought. I was mostly posting it as a catalog for myself, so that I could look back and see what it was that I was making, and basically have a catalog showing that, “Oh I have made some cool stuff!” is essentially how it all got started.
Long story short I ended up with about 85,000 followers or so, and yeah it was a pretty crazy experience but Instagram is a great way to get started.
So some tips on Instagram are to post daily, that's a huge thing. You want to make sure that you're staying on brand, on topic, all that kind of stuff with what it is that you want to do. I personally, I personally was kind of interesting in that in that fashion.
So I was I was a software developer and so I was working from 2 a.m. in the morning until about 7 a.m. in the morning and posting stories throughout that entire process. That was the time that I had available to myself before going to work, and basically that's how I turned a hobby into a business. Definitely takes quite a bit of hard work and determination to do. but it can be very successful.
So you need to make sure that you're posting daily, whether that's stories, whether that's actual content, and you want to make sure that you decide on your audience from the very beginning. The big thing here is, is that, so I went down kind of a different road. From a sales perspective it was probably a bad idea, but I went down the road of basically catering my content to other woodworkers.
So essentially that kind of led to people taking the ideas of the things that I was making and making it themselves, which was fine, wasn't a huge deal, but I had an audience that was catered more to woodworkers. So that turned to be kind of a good thing once I got the cnc, because I actually started using that audience to market things to.
Instead of making a whole lot of decor type pieces, I started making like zero clearance inserts for table saws and those sold extremely well. It was something that I could have the cnc do while I’m working on other stuff, and basically batch those out.
So you can start to develop products for your audience. So I did like custom push sticks and various jigs, that kind of thing, that I was making on the cnc.
One of the big points of social media is that you want to make sure that you're being professional. Whether that's not posting pictures of your food or pictures of your cat or dog or whatever. It's fine every once in a while but make sure that 90% of your content is staying on topic with what people are following you on.
With your audience you can always decide that you want to do, you know, the, the really stage shots, showing your decorations, or showing your furniture, whatever it is that you're making. And then that will be your audience; your audience would be the people that are buying the decorations that you're making, so you they don't necessarily want to see, you know, a whole lot of behind-the-scenes.
Behind the scenes stuff is very good. People do want to see, you know, that you're putting in the time to make things, but they want to see things that are on brand, on topic. You can certainly use these, like in particular on Instagram, or on Facebook, you can use the stories as a way to get more of a behind-the-scenes thing, but your feed, like the actual portion of your feed, should be mostly about what it is that they're following you for.
The other thing you want to make sure that you're engaging with others, whether that's people that are within your own hobby, or that's people that are your customers. When somebody comments on something, make sure that you comment back.
One of the big reasons that I really like Instagram is because it's really easy to talk to people. You can talk through the comments, you can talk through your messages, DMs, that kind of thing. There's tons of ways for people to interact with your content. So you want to make sure that you're engaging your audience. You want to develop relationships with others, whether those are potential clients or other woodworkers, there's a lot that comes from just talking with other people, whether that's different ideas, whether that's new product ideas, partnerships, that kind of thing.
Eventually you're going to want to find your voice. This is something that takes time. My voice ended up being that I was the guy, the crazy guy, that was up at 2 am working in the shop. So that's, it just takes time to develop your voice. It's not something that you're going to have in the very beginning, and it just takes repetition and time and it, you will develop it as you go along.
Instagram also creates a unique opportunity to work with other brands. It's really easy to get seen by other brands and be able to interact with those brands. So in particular with ToolsToday throughout that entire process; so I have, I’ve been into cnc stuff for about three years now, so for basically two years of that I got to know ToolsToday, and we kind of became friends.
So you, you really never know what's gonna happen with social media, and that's kind of the really cool thing about it. So basically what ended up happening is we, we got to be friends, and got to chatting, just more about, more than just about woodworking or shop stuff, and I kind of jokingly asked one day, “Hey, you guys want to hire me?” and basically they said “We'll call you in about an hour,” so I got a call in an hour and for a phone interview, and within a week I was flying out to New York to go meet with them and take the job.
So you have no idea who you're talking to, where things might lead, so that's one of the reasons why it's always great to be professional. It's really difficult to market to people that are, are unprofessional on social media.
One of the things that I recommend is staying away from the, the politics, staying away from religion, all that kind of stuff, all of the really divisive topics are something that you generally want to try to avoid talking about.
You can certainly do that if it's really important to you, or if that's part of your brand, but in general those are topics that I tend to try to avoid.
So that is the social media. Social media is really key, from either an exposure standpoint or gaining customers or just interacting with others. It's always great to be around like-minded people and I can't tell you how many good ideas I’ve gotten from others through social media; so along the way I made quite a few mistakes and definitely learned from everything.
So I’ve never personally had a, I’ve never personally had any professional woodworking training. Everything that I’ve done is either mistake-taught, or learned from watching videos on YouTube, especially in the beginning. I watched a lot of YouTube for getting started but everything that I’ve done I’ve learned from making mistakes.
And so these are some of the biggest things that I can take away from turning my hobby into a business that things that I should have done earlier, big thing is pricing. Do not underprice yourself; make sure that you're valuing your time, because others will too. As long as you're presenting a product that shows the time that you've put into it. So don't underprice yourself, that's a big deal, it not only hurts you, it hurts other woodworkers. I can't tell you how many times I’ve had a project where somebody sees something that's on Facebook that they're selling for 250 less than I could even price it out for, and so, but they're not understanding particularly on Facebook they're not understanding the quality difference between the two things.
On Etsy that's a little bit easier to manage because people are going there expecting to spend more money. I wish that I would have hit on the target markets from the beginning, especially the weddings and kids. I did pretty well with the home décor, but the weddings and kids definitely is what kind of took the business to the next level.
Treating your cnc like an employee is a huge deal. Make sure that you're having it doing things while you're working on something that the cnc cannot do.
So having different types of products is always a really good idea.
Make sure that you're using quality tools. This is a huge one that took me a while to learn. Before using the Amana bits from ToolsToday I was using cheaper quality bits, and basically that led to me having to do more cleanup work and spend more time off the cnc machine doing things. So switching to a high quality tool ends up saving you money and time in the long run, because you're having to spend less time worrying about issues coming off of the machine, that kind of thing.
So as long as you're getting clean cuts, that'll make a huge difference.
So another big thing is taking a leap of faith. And this is something that's going to be individual. It's something that you have to decide whether it's something that you can do. I can tell you that as you move along in life this becomes a whole lot more difficult.
So I got married about two years into woodworking, or about a year and a half into woodworking, and then, and then we had a kid, my daughter Katie who's the love of my life for sure, other than my wife of course, but she kind of changed my whole mentality.
So the idea of taking, taking a stable job. So like as a software developer, the idea of leaving a stable job for something that has completely variable income, and something that makes, that takes away, like, our insurance and all that kind of stuff, it made it really difficult to make the decision to possibly leave that.
So had I done something like that earlier I think that that would have been more successful or it would have been easier for me to take that leap of faith earlier.
So the other big thing is always trying new things. New things don't always work out. There could be designs that you think are going to sell really well that may not work, but making tweaks to a design, or just the way that you've taken pictures, the way that you're marketing things, that's another big thing on Etsy, make sure that you have high quality pictures, but trying new things, new different products, that kind of stuff can lead you into markets that you didn't expect to be able to sell things into.
And then obviously a big one is learning from your mistakes; whether that's with particular projects, or with things that didn't sell well, or things that you thought were going to do well, that ended up not doing so great, make sure that you're always learning from mistakes and trying out new things for sure.
So we'll move into a project that I made within these categories.
This is going to be something for my daughter. Really the cool thing at this point, working for ToolsToday is that the, the content itself is more of the product, not necessarily what it is that I’m making.
So I do content production for ToolsToday, that's my full-time job, so I get to make a lot of stuff for my daughter. So I’m going to show you how I made something for her, real quick. We'll design it out in the Vetric software, and then I'll show you a video of getting that all cut out.
So we'll start off in the Aspire software. Let me move this around real quick. All right. So we'll start off in the Aspire software here, this is, I just got all the material all set up. So we'll start designing something out. I want to make a sign for her kitchen area so we will start with some text here. One of the great resources too you can check out dafont.com that's a really great place to go to get different fonts. You're not limited to what it is that's on your actual computer. You can go out and there's hundreds of thousands of fonts on this website, and pick out all of the different stuff that you'd like.
So for this one we'll do Katie’s, so this will say Katie’s Kitchen. I like to make these look kind of like logo signs. So, yeah, they they end up looking pretty cool. Usually this will be a layered design, so we'll have a bunch of different colors on here. We'll just go ahead and get this all twisted and sized somewhat correctly.
So about there looks all right. And then we'll convert this to curves, and then select … oops, wrong way. It's not that one. And then we'll weld those together so that's all done. And then we can move on to the actual “kitchen” text. So this one will be the Britannica bold.
We'll get that sized out. I want this to be a little taller.
Something like that should work. So another great resource too for the, for getting different types of designs, that kind of thing, is actually on Google. You can go and search whatever it is that you're looking for, and then just add “svg” to it, and generally you can find something that will work for that. So for that I’m gonna make this a sandwich, so we'll get that drug in here maybe.
uh oh - That's because I have the text thing open -
Well I have no idea why this isn’t working. Let me copy it from the other file that I got ready to go. So we'll get all of this; actually I'll just move to this file.
So this is an svg. I sized everything out. I’m not sure why that work didn't work, sorry, but basically I added a offset here to all of these.
So basically I took this, went over to the offset panel, and then added a 0.2 offset. This ended up not working correctly. So it's funny that 0.2 inches looks like a whole lot when you're zoomed in like this but it's not so much in real life. That's less than a 32nd of an inch. So this probably needed to be increased for this project to work out correctly, but anyways, this is basically what that ended up looking like after I added all, all the offsets. Sorry I couldn't get that going correctly.
And then the cool thing too with the Vetric software is all of the ways that you can add color to it so I ended up doing this one and we'll do a preview.
Preview all tool paths and so this is going to show what this carve is going to look like. I’m going to be using the rc-45711 90-degree insert bit. You can definitely check that out on our website. It's a great bit for doing this type of work. It carves super cleanly, but basically I use that. It's a 90 degree insert carbide v-groove bit for that. And I added all the different colors to it.
For that I’m going to be using milk paint. Milk paint is a great product. We'll talk a little bit more about that in the actual video, but this allowed me to plan everything out really easily, and the cool thing too with the Vetric software is that you could take this image and basically give it to a customer to show them, exactly show them exactly what's working.
So yeah the, hold on, so yeah, the sandwich is going on and, go in there… Let's see.
Oh. Sorry about this guys. There we go. So this is what I’ve been talking about the entire time. That's definitely my bad. So the, this is the sandwich design that I was talking about, here's the offset, this is, it looks like a whole lot more on the screen, this is a 0.2 offset.
So anyways that's what the sandwich design ended up looking like. Sorry about that. And then this is what that looks like with all of the different colors on it.
So yeah, that's what this project will end up looking like. It turned out pretty nice.
So anyways we will move into the video now and I will show you what that all looks like.
Okay so basically I’m using double-sided tape here to hold this piece down. This is the XFasten brand double-sided tape. Almost everything that we're using here except for the tape is available on our website, so you can definitely check that out.
We're using quite a few different tools; if you have any questions about any of these certainly feel free to ask and I will get to those at the end of the show.
So let's move into the, let's move into the video. So we're just going to peel that double-sided tape back. I’m using the Stepcraft m700 cnc machine. You can definitely check that on our website as well to get this all carved out so we're getting the Oramask placed. This is Oramask 813. It's a really great product. Basically this allows you to do two color or multi-color designs, and the masking basically protects the wood from the paint that you're using.
So we're getting that all spread out using a spreader, and getting it all pulled off. The big thing is to make sure that your piece is perfectly clean and that you have everything pushed down.
So we're using the rc-45711 90 degree v insert bit to get that all carved, and it's just going to go through and get all of the cherry carved.
So this is the first part of that, and again, this is where I mentioned that a high quality bit makes all of the cleanup easier. Basically this bit requires zero cleanup at the end. So it saves a lot of time in actually making it.
So the, the paints that I’m using are all General Finishes milk paint. The cool thing with this paint is that it's a lot thicker than just regular spray paint, so it doesn't tend to bleed at all.
So I’m doing this all without any sort of sanding sealer and it's not really necessary. So there's several different colors. The cool thing with it is, is that it is water-based so I can just rub that off with just a damp cloth, to be able to get a clean contact surface to put layers of masking on top of this.
So I got the first colors done and then I'll put mask back on top to cover the color, to make sure that it doesn't get on the next layer, since all the layers are going to be pretty close together. We'll get all of the text fully carved out and then move on from there, painting all of the different letters with the different colors.
These were a little bit further apart so masking really isn't needed. I'll just use some paint and that kind of thing on it. So these are really close. I’m not good with a paintbrush so I use tape to mask that off, to make sure that I don't get it in any of the areas that I don't want.
So again we're going through doing all the colors. I actually made a mistake painting that eye yellow, which is why I added the, the colors below them, so that I wouldn't forget again.
So I got all of the other ones painted as well. Wipe that off and then we'll start with the next carve after laying down another layer of this mask so the mask goes in between. The idea was that it would stick between the layers and actually create, and be able allow me to create the black outline on it.
So anyways getting all of the different colors painted as well, wipe off in between, and then we'll kind of rinse and repeat and add another layer of mask between all of the different colors.
So this is a great way to be able to get multi-colored designs really easily and it's definitely something that you could do with a larger sheet, so you could have like a bunch of these set up, carve all of the different colors at the same time and then customize them with the cnc after the fact with just their name after putting it back on the cnc.
So this is where things started to go wrong carving the outline. This is where I realized that my tolerances were a bit too tight; there wasn't enough left for the masking to hold, so it ended up peeling up that color. And this is kind of the point in the project where I was starting to freak out.
Luckily we have a really great team here at ToolsToday. I was able to chat with them in the midst of my freakout and come up with a solution for that.
So you can see where it is; this is not enough to hold; not enough holding wood to hold that mask on there. So the colored pencil trick ended up working out fantastically.
Basically I just used colored pencil around all of the edges. It took a little bit more time than paint, isn't quite as dark as paint would have been, but this worked out really, really well, and ended up leaving a nice clean look.
So after that's done we can pull off all of the masking to show all of the different colors and everything on the piece. So the hook weeding tools - again also available on our website - but basically that allows you to pull up those smaller pieces without damaging the paint.
So this is what it ended up looking like. Really happy with how that turned out. Even with the mistake I think it still turned out really nice. So this is what that should have looked like.
This is another piece that I did. It has a little, you can see there's a little bit more space between the pieces, but this is what that should have looked like. Being able to pull off the entire mask after painting everything with a single, as it pulls up, as a single piece. So you can see what that looks like on a different piece. I just had a little bit too tight of tolerances on this one, so, it happens, but we'll get that pulled off of the cnc and I’m going to be using some Gator finishing sponges just to go around the edges to hand sand everything over.
And as I do on all projects for my daughter I like to leave a note for her on the back. This is just some Helmsman Spar Urethane that we're using to finish the piece.
So this is definitely my favorite part of all of this, is that I get to have the best customer in the world, and she, she definitely loves anything that I make for her so we'll let you watch that here real quick.
I'm not sure if the audio is going through.
So we always hang up her projects and it's a lot of fun.
So the audio is not coming through on this. I’m not sure why; but yeah so that's the the project. We will move back over here.
So that's the project. I hope you guys enjoyed that. It's always fun to make things for my daughter we have. She is the best customer in the world. So I’ve moved from having a ton of different customers to basically having her and I absolutely love it.
She is, she's always ecstatic about the things that I’m making for her. So anyways for now we will take your questions and go from there.
We have a question from Todd. He asked: “I have struggled with shipping costs when selling larger items. Find with the amazon prime factor people expect low shipping costs. Curious how Matt deals, dealt with this.”
So this is kind of a really big question with, with anything. So, couple tips. So I always use USPS shipping for pretty much everything. USPS you can, I generally either built it in the price of the actual piece, on Etsy you can set your shipping costs by location. So that's generally how I did things with USPS you can actually go and get free boxes from them. So go to usps.com and they have like free shipping supplies. So I got all the free boxes from them that are all sized out for those, and with making the exact same thing every time you know the weight of everything so you can have everything pre-calculated. The customer pays for or you build it into the price of the price of the item, and those boxes are priority mail, so they'll ship within two to three days so they get it really nice time and then you have set costs based on locations or you can even go with like a flat rate box, that way it's always going to be the same no matter where it is that you're going, but getting the shipping materials and everything for free.
The only thing that I bought if you go on ebay you can buy boxes, like packing paper, really pretty cheap. I think it's like 50, 50 pound box for, I think it ended up being like $20-$30 or so.
So that's how I packaged everything and how I shipped everything. So I tried to size and make products that would fit within those free USPS boxes so that I didn't have to buy boxes to add cost to the shipping. So hopefully that makes sense and kind of answers that question
Somebody said, “How do you compete with the mass produced cheap wood products on Etsy?”
Your pictures and how you set yourself apart. So the mass-produced cheap wood products on Etsy, generally people can see through that. You're definitely gonna have customers on there that are looking for something cheap, but I would venture to say that the majority of the people on Etsy are looking for something that is truly handmade and truly special. So as long as you have something in there that's setting your stuff apart from somebody else's; for me that was all the different color stains that I optioned, that I had for the, the wood arrows, the distressed look that I did, not a whole lot of people did that, and then doing like the wood-burned edge. that kind of thing really set everything apart.
I also had better pictures than anybody else. I have a description in there that's talking about how you make your stuff, detailing out what it is that you're doing. That way somebody can see that you know you're really putting in your time, your effort.
Set up your profile on Etsy to where you're, you're putting out there essentially kind of your life story; how you're passionate about woodworking, how you’re, this is your, your true passion in life, or whatever it is that you want to say, and people see that. People get into that, and that's definitely something, that's definitely something that I think a lot of people will, will definitely enjoy.
So I think that that's something that's really going to set you apart from, from anything else. You, you got to find something that makes your, your, you stand out from what else other people are doing, essentially.
Somebody asked, “How large and what brand of cnc machine do you have?”
Currently, or when I was making everything?
Currently I have quite a few cnc's. I’ve got, I think, four set up right now, but to build my business I had a Shapeoko xxl. That was my first cnc, and then I moved up to an Axiom ar8 cnc machine. So that those were the two cncs that I had. Now I have a Stepcraft m-700 and Stepcraft q-408 that I use the most often. Those two are the, the 408 is a large 4x8 cnc machine, the m-700 is the smaller, still production-ready hobby-style cnc. We do offer all of those on our website too so you can definitely check that out if you want to.
Somebody, Ian Denman asked, “How big is your workshop?”
So my workshop currently, so we moved to the Lake of the Ozarks area in Missouri. Before that I had a three-car garage. Well before that, so I had the apartment complex there was three single car garages that I was renting. One of them was basically for storage, one was for tools, and the other one was for finishing.
We moved to a house that had a three-car garage that was about 900 square feet or so. And then currently in our house I have a, our new house I have a two-car garage that's really small it's like 19 by 19, and then a little part of an unfinished basement area. It's about 950 square feet total that I was that I used to produce all the content and everything in the shop is set up quite a bit differently for producing content than it is for like production of items so that's a little bit different.
Deborah Kane asked, “What is the masking you're using?” That's called Oramask 813. It's a really great mask for doing anything like painting, even just two color designs, it's really great for keeping that out. That is available on… keeping the paint off of the wood so you don't have to do any extra sanding. That is available on our website.
And definitely combine that with milk paint, which again is also on our website, we're trying to make it more of like, the things that I like to use in the, in the shop, that way it's kind of like a curated list of products, but the, the General Finishes milk paint is easily the best paint that I use. Not only does it dry really fast, it doesn't bleed like a lot of paints do. Especially like spray paint, because it's a lot thicker. So it doesn't want to bleed quite like that.
So like I said on, on that project I didn't use any sanding sealer or anything like that to prevent any sort of bleeding.
“How does the Oramask work if you painted the surface first?”
It works fine as long as you have a smooth coat of paint. It doesn't do well over textures or anything like that. The other thing with the paint is that you want to make sure that your paint is fully cured before you apply the mask. So you need to look at the instructions to see what that fully cured time is.
The masking itself will pull up the paint if it's not fully cured, or leave some sort of residue on that paint, because that paint's still giving off gases so it messes with the adhesive on the mask.
So just make sure that your paint's fully cured or even just putting a clear coat over the top of that will kind of prevent that. But yeah, the masking will work over painted surfaces as long as it's smooth.
“Does using a heat gun help on the blue masking?” No, not really the masking you don't want to heat up because it will shrink. So it's not really going to be something that you would ever use for the actual masking itself. I just basically. You got to make sure that your surface is perfectly clean before applying it. I usually take an air compressor, blow all of that off and then just brush it with my hand once, see if there's any residue, and then repeat the process if necessary.
So yeah that's, the masking itself, you, you don't want to heat that up at all.
“Please talk about the bit that you used.” This is CW; “Please talk about the bit that you used. Is that the Amana?”
It is. So that's, so at ToolsToday, we are a full-line dealer of Amana tools. So on our website you can check out all of the different bits that we offer. All those are gonna be Amana bits. So that is the rc-45711. It is a, it's a 90 degree v insert bit. So that insert can be rotated four different times to get four lives out of the same insert, so you can definitely check that part number out on our website. And you keep that tool body for the life of the tool; all you do is just replace that inexpensive insert to get a new fresh clean cutting edge.
Someone's asking, GZ asked, “How do you handle people who copy your things on Etsy and undersell you?”
Again it's about setting yourself apart. So with Etsy the big thing with, with it is, don't expect to go into Etsy and start selling stuff immediately. It does take a little bit of time for your listings to appear higher in searches, and as people order things from you your listings are more prone to appear.
So it kind of ends up being a snowball effect. If you sell one thing and then you sell another within a couple days and then another day you sell another one and it just kind of snowballs from there. So setting apart, your listings having quality pictures, all that kind of stuff, is definitely something that sets you apart.
There's nothing that you're going to be able to do to keep people from copying you and that's with anything. Anything that you're doing, people are always going to try to be copying something, especially if you're successful at it. So it's all about setting yourself apart and going from there. So you just got to keep… It's kind of like you got to keep reinventing yourself, and keep inventing new products, and stuff like that, so that you're, you're always in different markets and stuff like that, so that by the time somebody catches up to you in one market, you're already moved on to another area, and then your other stuff will still continue to sell. Maybe not as much as it was, but you're already moving on to something else and that's true within any sort of business that kind of thing.
Brad asked, “Is it hard to get sales on Etsy without a lot of product and existing sales? Any pointers to get the ball rolling? Is there an example where underpricing at the beginning might help to get going?”
Um, yes and no.
So the, the tough thing about underpricing in the beginning is that, that's what people begin to expect from you. So if you were to sell somebody a custom cnc sign for let's say like $20 or whatever, just to get the sale, they're going to come back to you or they're going to mention it to their friends or something like that and say hey I bought this awesome design it was only $25 bucks. They're going to come to you expecting a similar price point. So that's always kind of an issue.
So it's something that you want to establish in the beginning, that you're, you're more high quality or whatever. You can certainly lessen that cost initially, maybe by five-ten dollars whatever, to be more competitive but that's something that you wanna make sure that you're, that's something that you wanna make sure that you put forth in the beginning is that you're not somebody that they can just come to to get cheap product.
So hopefully that answers that question along with the previous answer to the other question.
“Can I speak more on pricing; your time and materials, to get the best market share and make a living?”
So there's a really great video that I found from David Pachuto. He's “Make Something” on YouTube, you can go check that out. I think it was on his second channel but he was talking about pricing your work and he prices everything out as a daily rate rather than pricing for hour, materials whatever.
Sso you need to make, so let's say that to make your business, to pay taxes, to do whatever you need, to make $500 a day. So you're pricing it out based on how many you can make in a day. So if you sat down and made arrows all day how many could you make? And then you break that down, and divide that by 500, and that's where you, you line up with whatever it is that, whatever it is that you want to charge for something.
So you do 500 plus cost of materials, and divide that out. So if it takes you four days to make a, a chair or whatever it is, then that chair needs to be two thousand dollars to cover your rate. So your rate may be different depending on, obviously, what it is that you need to make to basically support yourself.
But that's, that's probably the best way that I’ve seen as far as how to how to actually price out all of your materials.
So anyways I think that's going to do it for us. Thank you all so much for joining. It's been a pleasure talking to you and I hope to see you guys…
Hey guys. So sorry about that. Thank you all so much for joining. I accidentally ended the live show a little bit early, a little technical problem there, but anyways thank you all so much for joining and I can't wait to chat more with you.
If you guys have any questions certainly reach out to us on Instagram, we are @ToolsToday, and I will catch you guys later. Have a great day everybody. Stay safe out there.
Thank you guys so much for watching. If you love this type of content be sure to subscribe right over here, and for more great videos click right over here.
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Have you ever wondered how to turn your CNC hobby into a business?
In the Vectric Worldwide 2020 session, Vectric welcomed Matt Plumlee of ToolsToday® as a special guest to give us his top tips on how to transition your hobby into a successful business.
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Thank you all for watching, be sure to stay tuned to the end for a special announcement! I hope you enjoyed seeing a behind the scenes look of what goes into making and filming a project. Please let me know your thoughts, questions or comments on this down below, and be sure to subscribe to the channel so you see all of our future videos; there's a lot more to come. I look forward to seeing you guys on the next one! Have a great day!
Tools Used in Video:
-Stepcraft M series CNC machine