Seminar in D.C.


You never know where a comment on an Instagram or blog post may take you. In this case, a comment by woodworker Adam Godet was the impetus for a seminar in our nation’s capital.

“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.

Ms. Hiller,

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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?
  1. 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.
  1. 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)?
  1. 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.
  1. 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

About nrhiller

cabinetmaker and author
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12 Responses to Seminar in D.C.

  1. Keep sharing amazing things! Much love ♡

  2. Great class idea and I would note as a writer that your curriculum would easily apply to any venue/craft. Honestly, though I’m mostly commenting to say that I’ve never seen an italicized smiley before. I always take a moment to applaud new advances in typesetting.

  3. Andrew Brant says:

    I would love to attend, but I probably cannot! This is something I would definitely pay for a recording or transcript of at the very least. Just sayin’

  4. robmelby says:

    Where in Dc?
    Sent from my iPhone

    • nrhiller says:

      It will be held at Shop Made. I updated the post with a link to the venue’s event. I think it’s near DuPont Circle. (My apologies for neglecting to do so in the first place.)

  5. Barry MacDonald says:

    What’s the deal with some of those “woodworkers” on instagram? They seem to have all the fancy tools and huge shops? I saw one person hack out a giant spoon with $2,500 worth of arbor tech gear and three different stihl chain saws. Who pays for that? So Nancy, I know you do it the old way with real clients, a humble shop, and goods delivered… but how do these Instagramers “make things work”?
    Boomer living in a milenial world.

    • Two words: Corporate sponsors.

    • nrhiller says:

      What Chris said is true in many cases, but in some cases family money or other forms of family support are a factor. In other cases the person with the tools/whatever has a lucrative day job or is retired from a well-paid career and does woodworking in his or her spare time; it’s impossible to tell from Instagram posts who is making a living from the work.

      • Nancy’s answer is much more nuanced, of course. So let me try to give a better answer.

        For me, it’s obvious when someone is a corporate tool. They put out content full-time, as much (or more) than I can, or a media company can. They have new equipment that is remarkably color-coordinated. They travel to amazing places to hang out with other people who have similar lives. And they are vague about where all this comes from.

        This is *nothing new*. For decades, the sponsorship money went to magazines and book authors. The magazine or publishing company provided the cover for the largesse.

        In the grand scheme of things, it’s mostly harmless. It encourages silly over-consumption and promotes a view of the individual woodworker that’s skewed. Most of the companies and the recipients are good people who are trying to make a living and don’t see anything wrong with giving out and taking free stuff. Our world has much bigger problems than this.

        • nrhiller says:

          Chris wins the award for nuance, as well as information.

          • Barry MacDonald says:

            I dont want to rain on anyones instagram parade. They are obviously going places and enjoying themselves in the process. It’s also easy to stop following any person you dont care for; so maybe this is on me and not them? But lately I can’t turn away! I get a guilty pleasure from loathing each post and, begrudgingly look forward to their next instalment. In a weird way, I’m hooked.
            I dont want to be a hater or a troll so good luck to all instagramers, young or old, rich or poor, sponsored or unsponsered. I promise to “like” more in the future and keep an eye out for those color coordinated power tools

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