It’s a new world, physically, emotionally, and economically, and everyone is adjusting as best as they can. And although the woodworking industry is considered vital, many shops are still seeing negative effects of from this pandemic. Projects and orders, and well as supplies, are being canceled or delayed and cash flow is becoming a concern. Like many, woodworkers are also looking for other sources of income.
Some are stepping up by donating their stock of dusk masks and gloves and/or joining forces to help make personal protective equipment, using creativity and skills like sewing, CNC machining and 3D printers. I gave my few P95 and N95 masks to some of my elderly neighbors, which brought a few of them to tears and drove the point home for me how desperate some people are. In New York, many places won’t allow you in without a face mask, and for critical medical care like weekly dialysis or chemotherapy infusion, a good mask can literally mean life or death.
All the good will is great for society and karma points add up quickly, but it doesn’t pay the bills and supplementing income is now becoming an issue. The one-time payout from our government is not going to cut it for me, and I don’t qualify for unemployment.
You can use this time to clean up your shop and at the same time make some cash by selling off extra inventory. Post on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Imgur, Pinterest and TicTok to reach the masses. Many of these sites have business-related pages with easy buy buttons, as well as cost-effective paid advertising options, to help boost sales.
Online shopping and payment applications like Shopify, Square, and PayPal are easy to use, too. Each has online resources to teach you how to get up and running with an account.
You can also generate income through affiliate links, recommendations that a YouTuber or influencer makes in the form of a link to Amazon or other providers that have affiliate programs. If a viewer clicks on the link from your channel or website and buys the item you suggest, you get a cut of the purchase. In fact, no matter what a person buys on Amazon, as long as they go through your link, you get a cut. I once received a $32 check from Amazon because a person clicked through a link on my site. There are lots of informational videos about becoming an Affiliate member on Seller Central at Amazon.
Another income source is to sell plans and eBooks online. Share your projects and processes in clear sequential steps; include good, well-lit photos and closeups of the steps; add illustrations if necessary; and make sure it’s well written. Include a tool and cut lists, and you can have a big seller on your hands. Uploading to Amazon is easy, and you can create both on-demand hard copies that are printed when they are ordered. You can also offer it as an eBook for Kindle.
Besides selling physical products, others are selling knowledge. With YouTube as the prominent platform, (it is the second largest search engine next to Google), it is a great place to create how-to videos on just about anything, from how to apply a French polish or cutting dovetails, to making a work bench or armoire and yes a bird house. Popular (and good) instructional videos can generate some income.
The maker movement is in full swing and many influencers are YouTube stars that make a good living. YouTube pays $1,000 for every million views.
Although most makers aren’t making it on YouTube by chasing fame and fortune, there are ways to monetize videos. Producing a viral video is not easy: you need the right combination of knowledge, good sound, quality video, and humor to add up to entertainment value that may convert to income. But with today’s smart phones with HD cameras and good microphones, I see a lot of new online players that are producing quality videos and supplementing their income.
Interactive Remote Demonstration (IRD) is making a big surge, too. This is where an instructor teaches via a video conference call rather than a one-way stream like on YouTube or Facebook Live. IRD is a two-way interaction that allows students to see the instructor, his or her work, ask questions, and show what they are working on, all within the safety of their own home. An instructor can teach to many students all over the world, to any device, all at once.
Good instructors have multiple cameras, pre-loaded time lapse videos, PowerPoint stacks, images and even a green screen where they are super-imposed over another image. It takes a learning curve, but frankly if I can do it (I now teach to clubs, schools and private lesson with IRD), you can too. These IRD classes can be recorded for future students to view either for free or paid per view.
All of these possible income sources are in perpetuity, meaning that once they are published online, they are there forever, generating income. You might get only $10 a week but having 100 of these online translates to $1,000 a week. Making money while you sleep feels pretty good.
Scott Grove is an art furniture maker, sculptor, and YouTube personality who selectively teaches and lectures, most notably at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking and The Chippendale School of Furniture in Scotland. For more, visit www.imaginegrove.com and www.scottgrove.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue.