From time to time people will look at some of my marquetry work and say something like, “You could sell these.” Yes I could, but I don’t. I have thought from time to time of doing some kind of home based part time business. Now that I no longer work for a big company, the thought occurs more often than is healthy.
First, it’s a full time job to have a part time business. It’s a lot of work to run a business and many parts of it aren’t fun. Like the taxes. If you make enough profits to put into a bank, well, the IRS is going to notice and want their cut. Or more correctly, the state, the city, maybe county and my CPA will all have an interest in and want a cut of whatever little money I might make. There is also the amount of time spent on the business side that takes away from the fun side of making things.
Second, customers can be a pain in the rear. Okay, I could have used other words rather than ‘rear’, but let’s keep things family oriented for the moment. I use to work in customer service and did enough sales work to know. Once I was the general manager of a test lab and was responsible for the sales department. I had many customers who continuously asked me to sell my services below cost or would make all kinds of interesting demands – like just mark everything as “test passed” without actually testing the stuff. Maybe it would be different selling bandsaw boxes, but the thought of driving to the UPS store twice a week to ship stuff out and then keep track of all that doesn’t thrill me.
Third, profit. In general most wood objects I could make, boxes, trays, clocks, pictures, puzzles, etc would never sell for enough money to make a profit. For example take this fancy clock I made last year:
Now think of how much you’d be willing to pay for it. I’d expect that most people would say somewhere between $20 and $100. The cost of materials was about $15, but I spent nearly 15 hours making the thing. Then I’d still have to account for the overhead of my shop: tools, electricity, rent, and so on. The tools I used to make this clock would cost you around $2,500 for the saws, sanders, drills, knifes, clamps, etc.
To make a real profit – that is to pay for electricity, wear and tear on tools, and my time I’d have to charge closer to $400 for that clock. I suspect I’d get no buyers.
Fourth is the actual sales process. There aren’t many outlets for selling clocks or boxes. Craft fairs or art and wine festivals can be expensive and time consuming, plus you need a large stock of things to sell, which I don’t have (and in this time of covid, they aren’t running at the moment). There are on-line things like Etsy and it’s many competitors but again, it’s a lot of time to make sales on those platforms. I’ve looked into and most advice about selling on Etsy is how to rise above the noise of a million or so other people trying to sell stuff.
The art of selling things and making a profit is more complex than, “Wow! this looks great!” You have to find a way to reduce costs, time in manufacture, and have viable sales channels.
Honestly, I’d rather have a root canal.
I like to make art. I love to build things, I enjoy writing and telling stories, but take those activities and try to earn an income from them means changing the way I work – the way I create art or build things.
It’s a problem all artists face – do we work to please others so they’ll give us money or do we follow our own ideals and not concern ourselves with whether others value our work or not.
At this moment, I don’t need money to create my art and I feel the need to create a body of work that pleases me and that I am interested in doing. If others find that work interesting or valuable, I’d be pleased.
But, it is the act of creating that interests me at the moment. I have some ideas and projects in mind that I am working on.
Of course, once created I’ll share those projects here or maybe I’ll start a YouTube channel …