Sunday, August 21, 2016

Carving Wood Signs for Money -- Intro


For the last 9 months or so I have been making a little bit of money on the side by carving wooden novelty signs and business signs, and selling them on etsy and in person.    There are many resources on youtube and online on how to do this, with several different methods of doing it, but I decided to go ahead and post exactly how I go about it and give my thoughts on various options.



It is a lot to cover in blog form, so I will be splitting it up into four parts:

Now, that may be a lot, and you might be wondering if this is worth wasting your time on.   I was worried about presenting this like Ive seen others, with this gleaming positive slant that you'll be quitting your job and racking in the cash doing this.  You won't.  So I'm going to let you decide based on the information I give.

Some Numbers (9 month period):

Etsy Sales:  9
Gross Revenue: $215.20
Shipping Cost (3day usps + packaging): $67.00
Material Cost (estimated):  38.50
Etsy Fees: $9.20
Net: $100.50

Facebook Sales: 5
Gross Revenue: $125.00
Shipping Cost (3day usps + packaging): $28.00
Material Cost (estimated):  27.11
Paypal Fees: $2.13
Square Fees: $1.57
Net: $66.19

In Person Sales: 3
Gross Revenue: $210.00
Material Cost (estimated):  41.15
Net: $168.85

Total Gross Revenue: $570.20
Total Net: $335.54

Most of the sales above happened in December and January, then in April thru July. with nothing in between.  Some caveats:


  • I did zero advertising. 
  • Etsy rewards your listings with higher rankings using a number of factors, a major one being the number of listings you have.  I usually only kept about twelve listings.
  • Material costs can be reduced significantly, I learned as I went along.  
  • The amount I charge per square foot of sign is way below what others who make the same signs charge. I also don't charge extra for artwork in addition to text, others do.  This is one reason  you never tell them how much you charge per sq. foot. People just have bad associations with sq ft and prices, probably from carpet and flooring dealers :D
  • My local area is poor, and novelty items or artistic items are not valued highly.  I have a primitive decor seller in the area who charges $10 for everything he sells, so they are conditioned. 
    They were also hit with a major natural disaster, so home decor was low priority. Your location probably will differ.
  • I am an intimidating 6'4, 300lb nearly bald dude with a beard, and not the most amazing sales person.   Sitting at a flea market I probably scare away more people than I entice.
The above sales do not include a barter I made for vehicle repairs. I made a business sign worth $240 dollars in exchange for repairs to my van. Material costs for this sign were around $49. The repairs probably were less than the signs value, Id say $150 tops.  This did get me additional work in references and paying gig from the same person so I think it was a good exchange.



As you can see, it very much behooves you to do in person sales, especially business signs and custom orders.  Shipping fees on wood items are expensive, I started including the shipping in the price to positive results.  I also started shipping at a cheaper (slower) rate.  I started charging extra for customization of 'stock' signs (signs I pre-made for sale).


Start up Costs:
Ill go into what you need to make and sell signs in more detail in the next part, but for now my personal startup costs for tools and equipment were $259.71.   This included router, router bits, sander, and printer,  but does not include a laptop, which I already own.  If you are reading this, you probably own a computer already too.

As you can see, I have made back my statup investment plus $75.83 in profit in 9 months, given the above caveats.   None of this includes taxes. 

In this tutorial, I will present cheaper alternatives to everything, so your startup costs and material costs might be lower.

Those are the numbers I have, which are not themselves indicative of anything you might do, or the next guy.   As with everything I post I want to be as transparent on money matters as possible, because hiding these things, for some reason, doesn't really help anyone.

I will say that there is some definite benefit to making something with your hands that goes beyond financial.   I think even if I had a good steady job, this would be a hobby.   People might not buy when they look at my wares but almost everyone compliments them.   So there is something to be said for pride in your work.

Carving a Wood Sign for Money Part 1:  Tools and Materials will discuss everything you need to get started.

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