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Woodworking Business Startup Guide, 5 Simple Steps

How to Start a Woodworking Business the Right Way: choosing a name, logo design, legal registration, setting up an online store, and more.

Before starting Walrus Oil, we had a fairly successful woodworking operation, producing thousands of commercial products for restaurants per year. Since we’ve been through the headache of setting up a business legally, beyond tool and hardwood suggestions, we wanted to share some steps to make things easier for first time business owners in the area of administration. Any income made above $600 is taxable, so if you’re expecting to sell more than 3 or 4 cutting boards in a year, following these steps will be helpful. Also, if you want to sell at farmer’s markets and stores, most of these steps will be required anyway. And these steps can also be applied to nearly any type of business, not just woodworking.

1. Pick a Name and Consider Trademarking it
It’s obvious that you’ll need a brand name, but its also important to pick a strong brand name, something other than “John Doe’s Woodshop” is ideal since there’s probably at least a few hundred people with your same name. Once you choose a name you can see if its already taken by searching for it at the US Patent and Trademark Office website, uspto.com. Federal trademarking can be done through Legalzoom.com, but sometimes states offer local trademarking for less money. Registering your business name through a state by purchasing a business license or llc does not automatically trademark your name.

2. Get a Logo
Perhaps your single most important investment starting out is your branding. Truthfully, a great product with an excellent brand name and logo is unstoppable. A good resource for logo inspiration is dribbble.com. You can connect with and hire artists directly from the website. You can also just hire a friend or make one yourself if you have the right software, but ultimately make it a priority to have a logo before you start hitting the markets.

3. State and Federal Registration
Through your state, get a business license or llc and state tax id number. This is usually required if you plan to sell at farmer’s markets, flea markets and so forth. This sounds intimidating, but it’s fairly easy and most states offer online filing. A resource for finding the right instructions for each state is cityapplications.com. A business license or llc cost under $100 in most states. Tax id numbers are free, although some states require a deposit. To get a federal EIN number, which is basically a social security number for businesses, go to IRS.gov. If you plan to have employees, things get slightly more complicated however Quickbooks.com offers an affordable monthly service which manages all of your employee filing and withholdings for you.

4. Choose Your Sales Channels
There’s only two ways to sell a product, physically and digitally. You can sell out of your car and garage, but you’ll have more longevity selling at farmer’s markets, swap meets, flea markets, and wholesaling to gift shops. To sell online you can easily create a store through Etsy, Squarespace, and others such as Shopify. Etsy is an online marketplace with thousands of other sellers, which can make it easier for your products to be discovered. Squarespace and Shopify operates as a standalone website and online store. All of these online channels can be set up to automatically collect sales taxes for you and you can calculate shipping and print shipping labels yourself.

5. Manage Your Money Well
This is last on our list but probably the most important step. It’s better to have a business bank account separate from your personal. Set aside a small emergency fund in case your tax bill is higher than expected or you have a machine that goes out. Pay your bills on time. When starting out, don’t get loans and credit cards unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you do need credit to help keep you afloat, try to keep your cash and accounts receivables higher than your outstanding credit. Bad debt is the quickest way to kill a good business idea.

Make an Excel sheet and keep track of all your income and expenses for end of the year taxes, and definitely save all of your receipts. If you use your vehicle for work, such as picking up hardwood and supplies, keep track of your mileage since that can be a tax write-off.

Dave Darr

Founder and CEO of Walrus Oil®. When not creating things in the shop, Dave enjoys cold weather travel, warm fires, and camping. He's also fond of classical music, oil paintings, and reading books on Orthodox monasticism.

3 Comments

  1. This is a great article. Thanks for educating us, it really does provide guidelines especially to the ones that would like to get into this type of career.

  2. Amazing advise thank you. I’m venturing out this year and finally trying to get to market myself. After a couple of years tinkering and gifting I’m attempting to turn a profit.

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