I have started to do some simple woodworking for acquaintances, and they
keep bringing me more requests from themselves and friends, and I am
starting to have real issues pricing my services and wanted to get some
advices knowing that the "client" choose and pay for the wood (ie: the price
is only labor and tool wear) and that I am by no mean a professional.
How much would you charge per hour? $10, $15?
Do you have a job? What does it pay per hour? You can base it roughly from
there taking into account the value of your free time.
I only ask to reimbursed for materials when building something for friends.
I don't charge labor. I explain it thusly:
"Woodworking for me is enjoyable. I am not about to turn it into a job and
stop enjoying it."
By trade, I am a software engineer, so I am the person my familiy and
friends call whenever they have a computer problem, or need a website
developed etc.... what I do is just tell them they owe me one. :)
So far I have had drywall work done, a shed built (well, they helped me
build it), automobile repairs, gravel hauled (I paid for the gravel) and
probably a few other things I am forgetting.
It comes in handy being able to call in favors when you need them. :)
Ahhh - the barter system lives other places as well. We're big on bartering
around here. I'm a software sales guy myself these days but was a Systems
Engineer for several years before moving into sales. That makes me the
go-to guy in our circles for computer problems as well. On top of that I am
the guy that does a bit of a lot of things. Woodworking, construction,
wiring, autobody repair, auto mechanical repair, I can operate heavy
equipment (backhoe, bulldozer, etc.), and some other stuff. Things I hate
to do include sheetrock finishing, plumbing, masonry, anything that requires
a ladder, and some others. It sure is nice to have a few of those
ya-owe-me's in your back pocket when some of these tasks roll around.
Well, when new tools are the incentive, that is a different story.
"Gee, I would really like to build those picture frames for you but I really
need a 24" drum sander to do it. They are on sale this weekend!"
I'm with you on this one. I make toys and small gifts to sell at the
local monthly markets. I make enough to buy a new tool every now and
then and to keep me in smokes. The point is I only make what I want to
and what I enjoy. This way labour is not a problem as putting a price on
fun is pretty hard.
work, and how good you are.
If you are a busy person, do good work, and have enough woodworking of your
own to keep you busy, charge $50/hour. If you have a lot of free time, need
a project to do, and are still learning, charge $10/hour. Etc.
I've done some work for an acquaintance where I built two custom tables.
Personally, I'd forget about trying to figure out an hourly rate. In my
experience as an intermediate-level woodworker, I'd be very depressed if I
figured out the amount I charged for labor and divided it by the number of
hours it took to find my hourly rate. Instead, decide the amount you want
to clear out of the deal to make it worth your time. If your real concern
is generating additional money to cover tool expenses, I'd bet you could
find something else that could generate $$ faster than woodworking. As a
computer network consultant, it would be *way* easier for me to pick up some
side work for $500 than to generate that much profit from woodworking.
I've never bought into that at all.
So, if you build the identical item from painted MDF, at @ $0.75 bd/ft,
and highly figured cherry @ $11 bd/ft, you'd charge different labor
numbers? You'd be working for peanuts on at least one of the projects.
Also, I can put many more hours into a fighly detailed mini-chest than I
can in a California king sized bed. Compare the materials costs in
To charge truly profitable "labor" (in ANY business), the only correct
way to figure it is to calculate _all_ overhead costs, including but not
limited to utilites, tool & shop upkeep, salary, incidentals, productive
and non-productive time, and of course, PROFIT, as an hourly shop rate.
Chances are, you only need to do this once, and fine tune it
Don't forget, the best time to raise prices is when you're booked solid,
not when you "need" to make more. Let the cheaper work leave when
you're booked. Got open time? Attract new work with a sale!
Now, if you're doing it as a sideline, simply figuring out a flat rate
(or a new tool, barter, etc...) what you'd like to get for a particular
project is fine, regardless of material costs.
If you use the second method because you truly don't care about the
money, do yourself a favor and DON'T keep track of time. If you do,
you'll probably find out that you don't pay yourself minimum wage. <G>
The MDF is going to go together with little to no sanding and a paint
job while the cherry is going to go through a much more eleborate
preparation and finishing process. Plus expensive materails assumes,
not necessarily correctly, a higher degree of craftsmanship.
That said, if you make the same table out of oak and walnut, it makes
more sense to add the cost difference between the two after the
Use your head. It's a general guide, a starting point.
I can build something in 5 hours. It takes you 10 hours to build the
exact same thing. Is yours worth twice as much? You probably should
be making half as much as I do, but how do you know that? If you are
just doing things for friends you don't really have a market to help
you gage where you stand.
If you really want to be profiting, you charge whatever the market
will bear. Then from that you look at what your hourly wage works out
to be to decide whether it's worth doing. But if you're just doing
the odd job you need some way of coming up with a reasonable figure.
Woodworker A builds a piece in 50 hours and woodworker B does the same
piece in 25 hours. Are they both worth the same hourly wage. Of course
not. What the market will bear is the true value. I am now building a
reproduction piece and learning new skills so its taking me longer to
learn carving etc then some of you more experienced people. That said I
agree with $0 and you owe me one., after paying for material.
Not a single person in this thread ever said that, because that's
stupid. <G> A certain level of ability and efficiency is required, and
for discussion purposes, it has to be assumed. The person who works too
slowly simply won't make money, regardless of the cost of materials, or
How does this fit in with pricing the work as a multiple of material
cost? That's what I'm discussing, actually making some sort of profit
on your labor vs. multiplying material costs.
It's easy to say " charge what the market will bear", but what does that
really mean, and how does one find out on a one-off job?
A good starting point is KNOWING what it truly _costs_ YOU (or your
organization) per hour to work. If your personal hourly rate is way too
high, the discussion is over and the job leaves. A little high?
Negotiation is possible. When you're flat out you actually want some
jobs to leave.
If all of your prices are accepted, your price is too low. Don't get
any jobs at all, but people are still asking? Time to look deeply at
your overhead costs (including your hourly pay), production processes,
customer demographic, etc...
These are very basic business principles used in everything from custom
furniture making, to car repair, to home theater installation, to
driveway paving, to asbestos removal... Any time there's some sort of
billed labor involved.
"Art" is a whole 'nuther story...
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