“Great post!” he wrote. “Love your work on this topic…have you ever thought of doing an in-person class on this topic? I would love the opportunity to go in depth on this stuff, imagine others would too…”
Undeterred by my reluctant reply, he contacted me a few days later. I’m sharing most of his note here, with his permission, because it’s the best way I can convey what this event will be about.
There is a charge to attend; part goes to the owner of the venue, and part will go toward the cost of the extra day away from my shop required for me to put this on.
I am following up on our brief correspondence on the LAP blog regarding my recommendation for a class on the business of woodworking. I did not respond sooner because I wanted to go back and look at the blogs and your book and make sure I wasn’t just being lazy and missing things.
While I can always learn more from reading things multiple times, I do know that I learn better when I’ve discussed the ideas and tried to apply them (especially if that application takes place in classroom and not in real life). That is how I think a class on the business (and life?) of a professional woodworker could be most helpful: simply taking the ideas you’ve written about and taking a group of students a little bit further with them.
I’m imagining a seminar in which we go through several modules…each student brings his/her own experiences and together, we discuss how we could best handle situations and talk about shared challenges. You could perhaps frame out some general overarching principles to all of the experiences you’ve shared.
A few topics I’d love to cover:
- Difficult customers has to be one…your writing on this hilarious and I know there must be details that haven’t made it into print. While helpful and entertaining to read those stories, I think people could benefit from trying to discuss how they would handle a situation, and perhaps share how they have done it in the past.
- Pricing. This is the biggest challenge for everyone I know doing this kind of work. I’d love to hear how you do it, in detail, and discuss with a group when to use fixed prices vs. time/materials, how/if you negotiate prices, etc. Do you have spreadsheets or other technical tools you could share?
- Accounting tips. Again, this is a big challenge…and information is available in other places on the general concepts, but working through your experiences and discussing class member’s approaches could be useful.
- Marketing/Scaling…you talk in the book about the aversion to having an employee…I think many feel that and want to do everything (except maybe the literal heavy-lifting) on their own. How do you market to get more work and then what do you do when you have a long backlog (and have a life)?
- Work-life balance. Woodworking in a time-intensive profession…how do you extricate yourself at the end of the day? How do you organize your day–splitting up writing, woodworking, client meetings, etc.
- Social media…how do you do it effectively and still get pieces out the door on time. Is it actually beneficial to your bottom line?
I actually read Making Things Work twice, and then bought more copies to give away. To me, this class would be an extension of that work and help some of dive deeper into the topics you’ve laid out there.
Why I think this is a good idea:
– You already have a ton of material
– It does not require a woodshop, so it could be anywhere.
– Much of the book focused on opening the eyes of daydreamers…this class would take the next step of helping those of us who read your warning, but are hurtling forward anyway 🙂
If you are interested in pursuing this further, I am ready to help with whatever I can offer to help get it off the ground.
Adam has gone above and beyond to make this event a reality. I’m really looking forward to it.–Nancy R. Hiller, author of Making Things Work