Tag Archives: Startup

Enhance Your Woodworking Business for $5 a Pop at fiverr.com

Somehow I found fiverr.com. Their tagline is “The place for people to share things they’re willing to do for $5” which at first, sounds a little sketchy. Is this the website where you can pay the neighborhood kid to eat a booger? Well, I’m sure you could, but I was looking for something more and I found it.

Here’s How it Works

  1. Find a gig you like and order it
  2. Pay $5 by PayPal or credit card
  3. Track your seller’s work progress, exchange files and communicate
  4. Get your finished work!
  5. You will have 48 hours after work delivery to ask for fixes from the seller
  6. Provide feedback and review

This is pretty similar to other sites like elance.com and 99designs.com – remember I used 99designs.com for the Upper Cut Woodworks logo. But on fiverr.com everything is $5 and it is very easy to make a purchase. After checking to make sure it was legitimate, I decided to try it out. I focused my purchases on things that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do, things that were great deals for $5, and some impulse purchases. A lot of my orders will be incorporated into my videos to take them to the next level in production quality.

Take On Me, Take Me On

This first one is a pencil sketch of me working at the bench. The idea here is to fade from the real picture of me to the pencil sketch. Much like the A-Ha “Take On Me” video from the 1980s. Yes, I asked the artist to remove some of the pounds I’ve added in the last four years. But those Popeye forearms are for real, yo!

Picture of Matt from Upper Cut Woodworks at the Bench from fiverr.comPencil Sketch of Matt from Upper Cut Woodworks at the Bench from fiverr.com

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Beautiful Calligraphy

The art below was a bit of an impulse purchase but I’ve already incorporated it into the exit sequence of Video #8. I like this because it is nostalgic and reminds of how the company name might be written by the founding fathers. It’s also gorgeous, and was done by hand which as a woodworker I love.

Upper Cut Woodworks Calligraphy Logo from fiverr.com

Thank You for the Music, the Songs We’re Singing

I need music for my podcast, and there are great sites out there that showcase musicians from all over the world, offering music in many genres, for just about any purpose you can think of. A couple of my favories are Free Play Music and Audio Jungle. There are musicians on fiverr.com as well, and they create custom music for you.

Here’s a track I bought, titled Beautiful Strength

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Listen to Me Now, But Believe Me Later

But there is another kind of audio for sale on fiverr.com, and that’s custom voiceovers. Write the script, order the gig, and literally within a day or so I have a nice 30 second audio spot.

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If You Build It, They Won’t Care

I admit it. I feel like I’ve done a lot of work on the website. I know the Number One Rule is to just make sure your site is full of lots of fresh and relevant high quality content, but I guess I also believe there is some trickery behind the scenes. I am constantly reading things like Google’s SEO Starter Guide and running web analyzers like WooRank.com and Websitegrader.com. I work hard to fix the things those analyzers point out hoping that the number of visitors will magically increase, my ad revenue will skyrocket, and I can retire to my own private island. And yes, I will own a Unicorn that farts rainbows.

Do You SEO What I SEO?

There were some tempting offers on fiverr.com, things like “I will send 10,000 visitors to any website for $5″ and “I will tell my 27,000 twitter followers about your web site for $5″ and these seem really tempting. They conjur dreams of living on your own island, cashing checks from Google. Some of those gigs (as fiverr.com calls them) are popular and highly rated. So, I tried one. Yes, I did. Consider it an experiment.

Sure enough, Google Analytics and WordPress saw the traffic, but it wasn’t real traffic. It wasn’t users that care about what I care about, and they weren’t really viewing the content (or the ads). So while this may pad some Alexa ratings, and trick search engines into thinking I am suddenly more awesome than I was last week, it could actually hurt my rating with search engines. I am sure they know which traffic is real, and which traffic isn’t, and will soon start ignoring the fake traffic. They’re smart like that.

The New Phone Books Are Here!

There were some other SEO things I did that will hopefully be more useful. There are a lot of directories you can submit your sites to, but the submission process is a pain. Being listed in a directory is kinda like being listed in the phone book. Navin R. Johnson was excited to be in the phonebook, and that’s what the directories are like. Big lists that some people refer to some of the time. But if no one is looking for you in the first place, just being in the directory doesn’t help much.

Like Navin, I want to be in the directory. For $5 a seller on fiverr.com submitted my site to DMOZ and the Yahoo directory. The upside is that the seller provided proof of their work with screenshots that prove the process was completed. The downside is that the submission could take weeks to be reviewed. The seller also submitted my RSS Feed to 60 directories for free. We’ll see if that has any impact.

Back to Rule Number One

Just make sure your site is well organized, full of lots of fresh, relevant, high quality content, and inviting. By inviting, I literally mean it – make sure it’s easy for users to subscribe to your content, or get notified when you update. So in recent weeks I’ve done a ton of things to the site to improve it including:

  • SEO: Geolocation information
  • SEO: Dublin Core
  • Performance: WP Super Cache
  • Performance: Apache gzip compression
  • Inviting: IE9 Site Mode
  • Inviting: High quality favicons
  • Inviting: Updated banner area with subscription icons
  • Organized: Built pages for Archives and Categories
  • Content: Six posts in eight weeks, including four videos

The Fiverr.com Verdict

Like etsy.com I could get addicted to browsing through the listings and finding interesting stuff. Purchasing with PayPal, communicating with the seller, and receiving your order are super easy. The pricepoint is just right and there are a lot of gigs on fiverr.com that are well worth a Fiver. I’ll be back to get more, but I’ll probably stick to pictures and audio.

What sites or services have you used to enhance your business, create your website, or build your marketing materials? Have you ever outsourced a business task like book-keeping? What about a woodworking job to someone with a specialty, like a turner or a finisher?

Starting Upper Cut – A Great Laptop Recommendation

Upper Cut needs a laptop so that I can email customers & vendors, maintain the website, blog, stay in touch with other woodworkers, archive project photos, run the business with Quick Books, and most importantly design projects and visit customers!

I have been researching and debating laptops for a long time now. I was focusing on laptops with 14” screens and avoided the gigantic desktop replacements. Here are the 14” class laptops I eliminated:

  • Mac – I work at Microsoft prefer Windows. Although I can run Windows 7 on Mac I didn’t want to pay the Apple Premium for a Mac. Nice machines though.
  • HP dv4i – great processor, RAM, and HD. Cruddy display, it’s low-res and LCD.
  • HP envy – these things are basically expensive heaters.
  • Toshiba – I liked almost everything about the Toshiba except the screen resolution. There was another model that had really bad trackpad buttons.
  • Dell – I just couldn’t get a Dell configured with the right options unless I went to the really high-end expensive stuff.
  • Gateway – I didn’t bother to look.

I learned more and more about the latest processors, display technologies, and other tech I’ve been ignoring the last few years. I knew I was going to order online because I get a discount as a Microsoft employee – but I wanted to see and touch the laptops first hand, so I have made a few fieldtrips to Best Buy. I started to hone in on the faults in each model, hoping I could take pieces from multiple laptops and combine them to create what I wanted. Today I explored some Sony options, and I was happy even though Sony competing against Xbox 360.

I looked at the Sony Vaio VPCS111FM/S which came with free Intel Wireless Display tech – it’s essentially a thing you hookup to your TV so that you can display your laptop on your TV without wires. That’s cool but I didn’t really need it. The on board display was low res, the hard drive spun at 5400rpm instead of 7200, and the graphics chip was an Intel which isn’t great.

With more searching I found the Sony Vaio CCW26FX/W on the Best Buy site, it’s not available on the regular Sony site because it’s a B2B model. It matches the specs of the other Vaio, and is the same size & weight, but it beats the other Vaio (and all the other laptops in some key areas):

  • Higher resolution display at 1600×1200
  • Nvidia graphics card
  • Better processor
  • Cheaper because it didn’t include the Intel Wireless Display tech.

This deal was smoking, so I definitely bought it, the optional large battery, and the extra AC adapter. QuickBooks Pro is on the way as well. This is exciting, next step is to get it setup and sit down with the accountant – he sent me some great information over email that I’ll blog about later.

Starting Upper Cut Woodworks: Woodworking Project List

I’m starting to build that project list I blogged about. I’m surprised at how many projects people have asked me to do so far. Here’s the list non-prioritized.

Size Customer Description
Large JP Bed for her daughter similar in function to this, but without the headboard and footboard.
Medium JP Mirror unit for her daughter, similar to this.
Medium TZ Garbage can storage enclosure adjacent to his home, sided and painted.
Medium MT Dresser, inspired by a design he saw online, but drawn up by his fiancé.
Small BC Custom gates in his home to help keep his pets and children safe.
Large AS Deacon’s bench for her mudroom.
Small AS Raised bed for her garden.
Medium RI Buffet

Now I really need to carve out the time!

Starting Upper Cut Woodworks: Dedicating Time to Woodworking

One of the the things I’ve been figuring out is how to dedicate time to Upper Cut on a consistent basis. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a rewarding but demanding full-time job and a wonderful family that I like to spend time with. Even without a business, woodworking is something I enjoy, so I definitely want to set aside the time for it. So how do I make sure I dedicate enough time to the business in a healthy way?

Step 1: Talk to the wife

If your spouse is supportive of your hobby, they’ll help problem solve this for you. Support comes in many flavors: from encouraging you to spend the time doing something you enjoy to actively participating in the shop. I don’t think I’ll get my wife in the shop, but having her support is great. She doesn’t complain too much about my shop taking part of the garage, she’s bought me tools as gifts (and done well), and she’s asked for more projects – which means she likes what I’ve done so far. She’s also showed off my work to friends, and asked me to build things for them as gifts. This appreciation for my work feels good and motivates me to do more. Over Christmas Break she actually said “we need to get you a dedicated shop!” So yes, I drew up my dream shop – I’ll share that in a future post.

Step 2: Find a shop buddy

If you have someone to join you in the shop, that’s sometimes better than working alone, depending on your personality. Two people working in a shop at the same time might get busy but it will also be friendly and helpful. Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to push you forward, and someone to help get those big pieces through the saw.

Step 3: Be in the shop when you’re not in the shop

If you can’t always be in the shop, you can be connected to your hobby and building your skills. There are great podcasts to enjoy during your commute or workout, and blogs to enjoy during your lunch hour. Stay connected with your hobby, stay up on the latest trends, tools, techniques, and materials, and get inspired! I listen to Wood Talk Online in the shop. Wacky, huh?

Step 4: Create two lists and check them twice

Create two lists of things you need to get done in the shop: one is for projects, and the other is for maintenance. Assign a T-Shirt size representing the time investment for each task, and prioritize your lists. Anytime you get free time for the shop you will have a backlog of things to get done. You’ll know when you last did your maintenance, and you’ll spend your time wisely. I don’t like to work on large projects in lots of little time slices, I’d rather fill those with the small projects and do the large projects in long stretches. It doesn’t always work out, but the continuity of work helps me. For example, if I have three hours free on Wednesday night, I’ll probably skip over my Priority 1 project, and go straight to Priority 2. I bet I can complete a pencil holder in three hours, especially because I know I have the stock ready, and I have already built quite a few. If I’m in maintenance mode I could just go in the shop and put away 10 things (thanks Wood Whisperer and Grandpa Olsen), or I could complete something from the maintenance list.

 

Priority Project Size
1 Dresser for Mark L
2 Pencil Holder for Grandma’s birthday XS
3 Cutting board for Auntie S

 

Maintenance Item Size Last Completed
Annual Table Saw tune-up M 11/11/2008
Annual Sharpen Planer Blades S 6/13/2009
Periodic Wax Tools S 6/13/2009

 

So, how has this worked out for me? Well, I’m still working through the steps.

  1. Step 1: My wife supports me turning Wednesday nights in to “shop nights”
  2. Step 2: My buddy Greg wants to join me
  3. Step 3: I’m already crazy about blogs and podcasts
  4. Step 4: I need to make my project lists and maintenance logs – when those are done I might publish them

How do you dedicate time in the shop, stay connected to your hobby, and maximize your time?