Starting Upper Cut Woodworks: Project Workflow and Documentation

I imagine the workflow of a job will go like this:

  1. Customer contacts me, describes what they want, perhaps sends pictures.
  2. I discuss the project with the customer: needs & wants, budget, materials, finish, hardware, timelines, etc.
  3. I sit down a design the project in SketchUp, create an initial cutlist, and price things like hinges, knobs, and other hardware.
  4. I then write the project up, with the sketch and the estimate, into a document.
  5. The customer signs the document, provides half the payment, and I begin work.
  6. Upon delivery the customer pays the rest, signs that everything was delivered as promised.

It’s interesting to note that I am only billing the customer for step 5. If the customer doesn’t sign on the dotted line, I’m out my design time.

There are some things i need to figure out here though:

  1. What should I do if my estimate is way too low?
  2. What should I do when it’s difficult to get the customer to pay?
  3. What should this document look like from a structure perspective, and what should the content be to make it legally binding without being too unfriendly?
  4. How do I incorporate customer visits and design change requests during the build (between steps 5 & 6)?
  5. What should the relationship with the customer be post-delivery: warranty, follow-up, etc.?

Potential customers: I’d love to know what you think of this process and how I can make it great for you.

Woodworking buddies: I’d also love to know your opinions on how to make this work from a business perspective. If you have sample documents that you’re willing to share, email them to me.

One thought on “Starting Upper Cut Woodworks: Project Workflow and Documentation

  1. Josie

    Yes, you will be out your design time but to me that is just kind of part of the risk you are taking on by starting this kind of business. Just NEVER get rid of a design once you have created it! Come up with a filling system for them. As for a difficult customer in terms of payment, they don’t make the final payment, they don’t get the furniture. I would include something in your initial contract that says they only have X amount of time to pay once the project is finished or their deposit is forfited and you then own the piece and sell it on Craigslist! As for changes, write up any that change the cost and present it to the customer as an additional contract and halt all work until they sign, approve and provide the 50% deposit for the change. You just need to worry about wording things so they protect both you and your customer and I wouldn’t sweat it being too friendly. If you are ever questioned on it, explain that you are protecting both you and them. Biggest advice I can give you coming from being intimately involved in running a small business is, don’t make exceptions for ANYONE! Your policies are your policies and you need to stick to them.

    Only thing I can say on bidding is you will learn as you go and you will most likely have several projects that you will end up taking a beating on. Take them in stride as learning experiences…if you are worried you may not being giving yourself enough time on a project, pad it with a few extra hours and if you don’t end up needing them, give the customer a break at the end. Same goes if you think your material are going to cost XX.XX and you find them cheaper, pass that break on to your customer, these will give you the reputation of being a fair and honest person to deal with. To protect yourself if the materials cost most than you thought, put a line in your contract that says it the cost of material is more than say 10% what you quoted, you will contact the customer for approval before purchasing the materials and going ahead with their project….

    Just some thoughts I had for you!


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