How to start a carpentry business in 14 steps
Carpentry jobs are projected to grow 8% over the next several years. Demand for carpentry work shows no sign of decreasing, which makes it a great business idea.
If you want to open your own small business as a carpenter but you’re not sure how, we’ve got you covered. We’ll go over the 14 essential steps to starting your own carpentry business in this guide.
However, before we begin, let’s tackle one burning question that might be on your mind.
Can I start a carpentry business with no experience?
Carpentry is a highly skilled trade. You will need experience in woodworking to find success in this industry. However, this does not mean that you need to have an apprenticeship or an official contractor’s license under your belt (though that’s entirely dependent upon where you live).
If you don’t need an official license to operate in your state, you can gain the necessary carpentry skills through study and practice in whatever way works best for you. Watch videos, read books, and take on home projects. Once you’ve developed your skillset—and you know you’re really ready to take on a new business venture—it’s time to tackle the following steps and start your business!
1) Business plan
A well-written business plan has two major functions:
- To keep you on track to meet your business goals even when you hit turbulence while growing your business
- To help you secure funding from banks and investors
Include the following topics in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: What is this business, and what are its goals? Highlight the relevance and importance of your new carpentry business. Provide a high-level overview of each of the following sections here as well.
- Industry Analysis: Outline your market research findings. What insights did you glean regarding market size, trends, gaps, and level of opportunity?
- Competitive Analysis: Who are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How are you different?
- Marketing Plan: What is your strategy? Through what channels will you reach your potential customers?
- Management: Who are you as a business owner? How will you develop your team? Will you work alone to start, or will you hire employees?
- Operations: How will you run your business day-to-day? Go over any specific systems you plan to put in place to streamline your workflow.
- Financial Plan: What are your startup costs? How do you intend to fund or finance your new business? How will you generate cash flow? What are your anticipated profit margins? Detail your financial goals and projections for each of your first five years in business.
2) Business structure
You will need to choose one of the 4 main types of business structures for your carpentry business. These are:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability company (LLC)
You have a variety of options within those 4 main categories. Review each one in relation to your business plan to determine which business structure makes the most sense for you.
3) Business name
To select a name for your carpentry business, consider that a great business name is usually:
- Easy to say, to spell, and to remember
- Descriptive of your type of business (for example, yours could include the word “carpentry” or “woodworking”)
- In line with your brand
4) Ideal clients
You may serve various clients, but defining a single ideal client will help you develop your business brand and marketing strategy. It can be a challenge to determine your ideal client. Here are some questions to assist you:
- Are they residential or commercial clients?
- What is your ideal client’s annual income or revenue?
- What do they do for a living?
- Are they homeowners? Do they value home building or home improvement?
- How do they feel about the DIY approach? Do they understand, value, and appreciate the hard work of a skilled tradesman?
- Are they married? Single? In a relationship?
- Do they have children?
- What sort of style do they like?
- What social media platforms do they use? Where else do they spend time online and in the world?
- What is most important to them? What are their values?
Your market research can help you here. If you get stumped—no worries! Let it be an iterative process. Start with what you know for sure and build from there as more information becomes available to you.
5) Niche, unique value proposition, and branding
You may not need to select a niche in your woodworking business. However, if your market research indicates a need for a specific type of carpentry you offer, perhaps that niche will help you stand out among your competitors.
Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
A UVP is what customers can expect from your company that makes you different from the rest. Your UVP can be anything from a signature style only you can provide to unparalleled customer service. Whatever you choose, make sure you advertise it on all your marketing materials.
A solid brand makes you more memorable—and more easily identifiable. When you think about your brand, consider the following:
- Color palette
- Design aesthetic
- Mission statement
- Managing style
- Target clients
Remember that consistency is synonymous with branding. Your brand should be the same on your website, business cards, and any other marketing materials you create.
There are several categories carpenters work within to provide services to clients, such as:
- Rough carpentry
- Trim carpentry
- Finish carpentry
- Cabinet carpentry
You may find that you want to work in just one of these areas, or you may offer a smattering of services across all of them.
As you think about pricing, consider labor and material costs and the ability level and additional skills required to complete each project. As a starting point, know that the average carpenter charges anywhere from $13 to well over $30 per hour for labor alone.
You may find that you do not need to lease a brick-and-mortar space to run your business. However, think about storage and construction needs. Where will you keep your equipment, and where will you build pieces like tables, chairs, and other transportable items?
If you feel that leasing a warehouse space at the start of your business will be profitable, connect with a real estate agent to help you find a suitable space.
Proper carpentry tools and equipment allow you to take on an array of project types. Here are a few key pieces you’ll need to perform your work and keep your business running smoothly.
- Truck or van
- Quick clamps
- Pens and pencils
- Carpenter’s square
- Nail gun
- Power drill
- Claw hammer
- Hand saw
- Surface planer
- Accounting and invoicing software
Startup costs for carpentry businesses range from as little as $1,500 to as much as $25,000 or more. The amount of capital you will need to open your new business depends on what tools and equipment you already have available, as well as whether or not you need to purchase a vehicle or lease a space.
Whatever dollar figure you’ll need to get started, there are a variety of funding options available. These include:
- Bank business loans
- Private investors or lenders
- Friends and family
- Personal savings
You may use one or all of these to start your business. Know that you will likely need specific types of insurance coverage to qualify for certain financing options, such as a bank loan. You will also need to bring your business plan to show how your business will create and maintain a reliable profit over time.
As a new business owner, you will need multiple small business insurance policies to ensure that your business is well-covered. In fact, you may need to secure all of the following policies as part of your comprehensive professional carpenter’s insurance coverage.
- Workers' Compensation: Workers’ compensation protects you if one of your employees becomes sick or injured on the job. It used to be a much longer process to get workers’ comp, but now you can purchase workers’ comp online. Get a quick estimate of your workers’ comp premium with our 60-second workers' compensation calculator.
- General Liability Insurance: This insurance policy helps protect your business if you are sued for bodily injury or property damage.
- Business Property Insurance: Specifically covers your carpentry business's equipment.
- Business Interruption: If you must stop business operations for any reason, business interruption insurance will help supplement your lost income.
- Business Owner's Policy: A Business Owner’s Policy bundles several policies together. Your Business Owner’s Policy may include such policies as general liability, business property insurance, and business interruption coverage.
If you want to know how much you'll likely spend on small business insurance, you can snag a fast and free quote from Huckleberry.
11) Paperwork, licenses, permits, and accounts
You’re on a roll now! But, before you can officially open your carpentry business, you’ll need to get the following in order.
- Register your business name: Work through the Small Business Association (SBA) to register your business name
- Get your EIN: Your EIN is your Employer Identification Number. It’s like a Social Security Number (SSN) for your business. Your EIN provides you with multiple benefits, so get yours right away.
- Get your business license: Check with your state to secure your business license
- Achieve Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance: Review OSHA’s specific training requirements and ensure that you have fulfilled them all to maintain compliance.
- Open a business credit card and business bank account: Keep personal and business finances separate with a business bank account and business credit card. This will make tax time much easier (and the IRS much happier).
Check with your state's government for any other general or industry-specific licensing requirements.
You may choose to work alone to start. However, the minute you choose to hire an employee, whether full-time, part-time, or as a contractor, you’ll need the proper paperwork. You can find necessary hiring forms such as a W-4 and W-9 online.
If you do choose to hire employees, ensure that:
Whether they’re additional carpenters or administrative help, your employees will impact your business’s overall health and quality, so hire wisely.
13) Marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy will help you generate a consistent flow of new business—if designed and executed effectively. A great marketing strategy speaks to the heart of your target market and inspires them to contact you with their next project. Here are a few key marketing assets and channels to get you started.
Your carpentry business's website is a major asset for your business. An online presence gives potential customers a place to learn about who you are, what you do, and if they want to contact you to learn more.
Your website should reflect your brand and be designed with the customer experience in mind. Work with a web developer, copywriter, and search engine optimization (SEO) specialist to help you create the stunning, high-performance website you need to grow your business.
Grow your email list by offering a subscription box on your website. Then, devise an automated email marketing strategy that delivers targeted, high-value content straight to your subscribers’ inboxes.
Social Media Marketing
The key to social media marketing when you’re first starting is to keep it simple. Start with one platform, master it, then add another. Here are several social media platforms to consider as part of your marketing strategy:
Get found on Google local search. Register for a free account, upload your business information in your profile, and consider yourself searchable!
Encourage clients to tell others about their experience with you by incentivizing their referral. Give them a percentage off their next project once you complete your work for the new referral client. You can also offer an incentive for the referred party if you choose.
14) Additional resources
As you continue your journey to becoming a successful carpentry business owner, use the following resources to help you develop your skills and stay connected to the industry.
- Small Business Monthly Checklist
- Woodworkers Guild of America
- The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
- Fundamentals of Woodworking
And there you have it! The 14 steps you need to start a carpentry business. Congratulations on your new venture, and keep building!
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At Huckleberry, our mission is to help you get quality carpentry business insurance faster than it takes to saw through a 2x4. Snag a quick workers’ comp quote or see how you can get insured online in minutes.