That is exactly right. I operate Loon Lake Tool Works as a side business to my
full-time job at the university. It is not always possible to "schedule" regular
work hours for projects, so I never pre-sell anything since that puts too much
pressure on the work and takes the fun away. Instead, I insist on having the
item(s) in hand before offering them for sale. I do keep a Wait List to gauge
interest and to contact people when the item they have interest in is ready, but
I do not take deposits - ever.
The Hamler Scraper Insert is a case in point. I built the initial batch in 2019,
which sold out fairly quickly. I started a Wait List of those who had expressed
an interest in one. Due to delays caused by COVID shutdowns, foundry issues, and
supplier shortages, it took me almost three years to get the next batch done. I
fronted all of the money for castings and materials. They were not offered for
sale until they were completely ready to ship. I communicated with customers on
a regular basis through my website and Facebook page. Despite the long delay,
I've heard no complaints directly nor through the grapevine.
The saw sharpening side of my business is very brisk, with jobs from three to
six people in the shop at any given time. I strive for a two-week turnaround
time on most saw work. If I cannot meet that timing due to the size of a job or
the work situation at the time, I tell the customer this up front. I do have a
few longer term projects right now, but again the customers know this and they
are okay with it. Some of the repairs I do are quite tedious and involved, so
they just take time. On others, I may have to hunt for the perfect piece of
apple wood with which to make a replica handle. Good apple wood doesn't grow on
trees these days, it seems.
My mantra has always been "Under-Promise and Over-Deliver". It works for me.
In da U.P. of Michigan
On Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 02:50:33 PM EDT, Paul Gardner wrote:
Given that disappointment always stems from not meeting expectations, I see
only one safe business model for the "cottage industry" craftsman who's
strengths, more often than not, lie on the creative side rather than the
business side of the operation. Sell only what you have already made and
avoid the process of taking orders completely.