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Thread: Selling Your Work

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Tyler, Texas

    Selling Your Work

    I've only sold a couple of turned pieces but I have this crazy idea that I'd like to make my woodworking hobby self-funding or at least supplement my tool/material costs.

    Towards that end, I've been doing a little research regarding art/craft shows and everything that goes along with them. I've read nearly every thread at the IAP "Marketing and Shows" forum but I have a few questions for you guys that sell your turned stuff.

    How many of you have set up a business account? Do you offer credit card service and how involved is it? Most importantly, how do you handle state sales taxes?

    Any tips or advice is appreciated. I'm trying to decide if any monetary gains are worth the paperwork involved. I certainly don't want to run afoul of the tax man.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Goodland, Kansas
    Cody that is a hard one to answer. I have went to 4 art and craft shows. One I made about $300. I sold a lot of pepper/salt mills, mini birdhouse and Christmas ornaments plus several bowls with a couple of HF's. 3 were a bust. I sold maybe $50 at each show. There were a lot of lookers but just nobody buying.

    As far as a sales tax license goes I already had one for my clock shop. So I just use it for all my shop stuff including my turning sales. I pay quarterly sales tax. I also use quickbooks for my bookkeeping. I also use a accountant because I depreciate my lathes, tools, buildings and equipment.

    I think Pete Jordon had a post on here about a business. I would suggest you check your local and state laws on sales tax, etc.
    Bernie W.

    Retirement: That’s when you return from work one day
    and say, “Hi, Honey, I’m home – forever.”

    To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Inside the Beltway

    The quality of your work speaks for itself, and portends future success. But I think there's something here beyond markets and commerce and tax regulations: we are, after all, talking about art. There's this guy out in Tahoe who does some things and has a fascinating story. There's a guy in Houston who does very different stuff, but his story is pretty riveting too. Oh, and some guy up in Penn. And a woman in Colorado.

    As you know, I don't know much about woodworking, but I know a tiny bit about art. People are fascinated by it, and they want to know the story behind it, so *they* can tell the story to their friends when they show off the piece in their living room. Did you ever see that movie "Girl with pearl earring?" The whole movie is the story behind the painting. I keep telling Vaughn he should produce a little booklet for each piece he sells: the story of how he found the wood, his approach, the problems he faced and how he solved them, how this piece fits in with the rest of his work, and a few details about himself. This is, after all, "process art." What's interesting is not simply the piece itself, but how it comes to be, and its relationship to the maker. If I just wanted a wooden bowl, I could get one at walmart...

    Read this, and then tell me I'm wrong:

    Except for one part you may object to, it kind of makes you want to have one of her pieces, even before you see them!

    Now, I know, your roughneck buddies will make fun of this idea. Heck, they'll make fun of you for even watching a movie called "Girl with pearl earring"! But if you can tell the story of the things you make in a way that lets the people who want to buy them tell it to their friends, you can find success.

    Others will give you better advice than I ever could about the niceties of taxes and booth setup and the like. But please don't forget that what you do is art, and worthy of consideration...



  4. #4
    I recently started down that road. The first couple of shows, I did it all under the table so to speak. But getting into the larger shows, they most all require a tax liscense number. Essentially a liscense to do business here in AZ. I assume all states have some version of this. I did a little research and got that all taken care of on line. Although I'm still not really sure if I'm filing my taxes right. You are required to file (and pay taxes if you sold anything)monthly here in AZ. It only takes a couple of minutes on line. As far as credit cards, I signed up with an outfit called PROPAY. They are similar to PAYPAL but geared more for hawkers and vendors than for on line transactions. I use the old style receipt that you use with the old knuckle buster card machine, give the customer a copy as reciept, and file the card info on my PROPAY site after the show. The money shows up in my account a couple of days later, minus about 3% that PROPAY charges. The last show I did, over 80% of sales was by credit card It seems people tend to be more impulsive when they can lay down their plastic. I learned the most about this stuff from other vendors at the shows, they are a wealth of knowledge, many are old pros with lots of tips to share. Barry

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Beaverton, Oregon
    We have a credit card machine from a company that specializes in craft shows and artists. They claim no monthly fee but it really costs $10 per month, the machine and training is $500 and works at a show without phone line. For power we got a portable inverter from QVC that supplies 120 volts for 8-12 hours running the credit card machine. I agree about 50% of the purchases and all large purchases are by credit card. Send me private mail if you are interested in this machine.

    We did a lot a large shows that cost $200-$500 for one to three days in a 10x10 booth and after expenses never made our money back. Recently we found artists shows adjacent to a weekly farmers market that runs May through October, they charge $20 per week for a 10x10 text or $5 for a small table. They judge the vendors before they let them show and everything must be made by the artist. At these type of shows people are looking for "arts and crafts" and are more likely to buy, so far this has been the most successful venue with the exception of old age homes who hold twice yearly shows before Mothers Day and Christmas and invite the neighbors and family.

    In Oregon you need only file a DBA with the state and pay $50 for a business license. There are large benefits to a home based business too numerous to list here (see your accountant), but for starters you can deduct a portion of your home expenses used for your shop, the deprecation on all your equipment (and car?), the mileage to the wood store and the show. You can even pay your kids (age 7-19) to help you set up and legally transfer income. Whatever you do you need to keep very good records and demonstrate you are trying to make a profit. If done correctly you can deduct the expenses against your other income. Change your W2 from 2-9 withholding and use the extra money to fund your startup business.
    Last edited by Paul M Cohen; 05-28-2008 at 04:38 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Cody, I'm about a year into the local art show circuit in the LA area. I think next weekend will be number seven for me, so I'm still a relative newbie. Since all the shows I was interested in doing required a business license, I got that set up and did the DBA thing that's also required here. I'll be doing my first sales tax filing in a few months, so I don't have any experiences to share there...yet. I've kept good sales records, but I learned when I did my taxes this year that I should have kept better expense records. I got a nice deduction due to business losses, but if I'd kept better records I could have shown an even bigger loss, and therefore paid even less income tax.

    Like Barry, I'm also using ProPay for my credit card processing. For my estimated 6 to 10 shows a year, it was the most economical option. There are LOTS of companies who will help you set up a credit card account, but ProPay is the only one I found that doesn't have some type of monthly charge. If you're doing a lot of shows, the other, electronic options are more viable.

    I also accept personal checks. Before I started, I did a lot of research and asking various questions of vendors at shows. One guy in particular told me that in 16 years of doing shows at least once a month, I think he'd received only one bad check. He figured it was worth the risk. Keep in mind he was selling artwork, not low-cost crafts, so he was dealing with higher-end clientèle.

    And that brings up positioning. Bill's points are very valid. You can be Cody the Wood Turner, selling at craft shows, or Cody the Wood Artist, selling at art shows. Both guys can sell stuff, but one will be selling pens and pepper mills and bottle stoppers in volume, and the other will be selling semi-functional bowls and other vessels, a few at a time. In the local circuit here, there are several woodturners. There are a couple guys who specialize in pens. There's another who specializes in little pill boxes and desk accessories, but he has a few small bowls and hollow forms on the back shelves. There's another similar guy, but he stocks mostly bottle stopper sets (with holders and corkscrews) as well as other kitchen stuff. He also has a few nice bowls and hollow forms, but he always seems to have the same ones, so I don't think they are moving off his shelves very fast. All of these guys are turning as their sole income, and the small stuff is what makes then money. They get into production mode and churn out a pile of pens/bottlestoppers/business card holders, etc. They make very nice stuff, but sell in volume at a low price point.

    I'm the odd man out in the circuit. I'm referred to as "the bowl and hollow form guy" among the other turners. (We all send potential customers to each others' booths.) That's primarily all I show, aside from a dozen or so pens and maybe five or six bottle stoppers. I'm trying to position myself as an artist as opposed to a crafter. I don't have the booklets Bill suggested, but I can (and often do) tell a story about every piece I have displayed. At the shows, I refer to my "studio" instead of my "shop". I'm intentionally seeking out the more affluent "art shows" instead of the lower-end "craft fairs". Both types of shows can cost the same to enter, but they attract different crowds. My dream client is the one who walks into the booth, sees a hollow form and says to her husband "Wouldn't that look perfect on the table in the Tahoe house?" I'm looking for people who are willing to spend $150 to $300 without flinching. On the other hand, I figure for those sort of prices, I need to make as high of quality work as I can. It's my motivation to try to get better, and it makes me more meticulous about the details (like sanding scratches and finish blemishes). I've still got LOTS of room for improvement. I know I'm a relative beginner and no better than many, many other turners, but by putting myself in an environment where quality and perfection are expected, it helps me improve my skills faster, I think.

    I don't sell a lot of volume, but my price point makes up for it (since I position my work as art). If I sell one or two pieces, I can generally pay for the show entry fee, which has ranged from about $250 to $350 per show. So far I've had two shows where I didn't make my entry fee back, but I've had others that more than made up for those losses. But unlike the other guys I mentioned, I'm not relying on my sales to put food on the table. Any sales above and beyond the entry fee are gravy to me. I've got a day job, so I'm not as reliant on the income from turning. In fact, I'm still not even making a profit, by the time I include the cost of turning tools and equipment, materials, and consumables. But the sales so far have helped support my woodturning habit. I tell my wife I'd be spending the money turning anyway, whether I was selling my work or not, so any income from sales is like found money. I could maybe make more money if I went into production turning and did pens and bottle stoppers instead of bowls and hollow forms, but I wouldn't be having any fun. I'd rather turn what I want to turn, and sell less. With perseverance and time getting my skills and reputation built up, it may ultimately be more profitable in the long run anyway.

    Another unexpected bonus from doing the shows has been having fun with LOML. Her help has been vital and appreciated. She really doesn't do much in the booth...lets me do all the talking, but with her there I have company, and someone to cover for me during bathroom breaks. Plus, she enjoys checking out all the other booths, people-watching all day, and the camaraderie among the vendors. The vendor community here in LA has been very helpful and hospitable to us, and that's made things even more enjoyable.

    Cody, your work is easily in the "art" category should you decide to position it (and yourself) there. On the other hand, I'm sure you could do well selling craft items if that's what interested you the most. Whether you make any real money or not depends on a lot of variables (including your location), but I'd say go for it.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Pickles Gap, Arkansas
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Lantry View Post
    I keep telling Vaughn he should produce a little booklet for each piece he sells: the story of how he found the wood, his approach, the problems he faced and how he solved them, how this piece fits in with the rest of his work, and a few details about himself. This is, after all, "process art." What's interesting is not simply the piece itself, but how it comes to be, and its relationship to the maker. If I just wanted a wooden bowl, I could get one at walmart...
    I can testify to this. The last two shows I've done I wrote up a detailed description of each piece. I told as much as I knew about where the wood came from and anything related to the tree that I could tell. Such as, the tree was blown down during a storm... the tree was removed for new home construction... etc. I put this description on a a small sheet of paper with a nice color picture of the piece. Folks really seem to like that.

    Cody, I set up a merchant account at my bank. They provide (for a small fee) a credit card machine. I have to call in each transaction, but after you do it a few times there is nothing to it. It takes about two minutes and I've never had anyone complain about the wait. I would have missed out on quite a few sales if I didn't accept credit cards. I also had to set up a DBA at the County Clerk's office.

    Good luck!
    If you have a pulse you have a purpose...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Tyler, Texas
    Thanks for the responses guys and for the encouragement, too. I'm going to give all of this some more thought before I commit to anything but I'm thinking it's something I want to do. It's also a natural progression from where I am in woodworking right now. More and more, people are starting to commission work and it's either grow or stagnate. Like Vaughn noted, when people are willing to pay for your work, it makes you want to improve your skills.

    Bill, that site for Cindy Drozda was enjoyable reading. She's living the sort of artists lifestyle that a lot of us fantasize about but usually don't have the daring to pursue. BTW, if she wants to live with a "life partner" that's her business. It's certainly not my place to judge her whether I approve or not.

    Thanks again for the advice and encouragement.

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