by Mark Aylward
I have been making timber furniture and other pieces for many years, however for the last five years I have been producing these items professionally, mainly from solid Australian hardwoods.
Most of my work comes through my website, www.solidwoodfurniture.com.au.
I do not use any other form of advertising and the majority of my work is by commission.
I have found this way of working to be very interesting and diverse as I get to meet a lot of different people with a wide variety of work requests.
There area lots of examples of the type of work that I can do which helps new clients to work out what kind of piece they require.
For a successful commission the key is constant communication and information flow. Most of my clients are from out of the Newcastle area and have been from as far afield as Normanton in Far North Queensland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Alice Springs and many from Sydney. Only a sprinkling are from Newcastle.
I have had clients that have spent up to twelve thousand dollars with me and we have never spoken a word. The clients ask the initial questions, mostly by email, “how much will it cost for a piece this size? I would like it to be outside/inside, this colour” etc. I then generally, still by email, say, yes I can make that for you. I usually need more information before I can give a price so I narrow down the main points that I need to know to be able to give a price. All the time evaluating the potential client, do I want to work for this person? How are they to deal with? How well do they communicate – it has to be a two way flow of information.
If all goes well you have a shinny new client all full of enthusiasm and keen to get underway. You have a budget or a quoted price that maybe worked to a finer price as the details are worked through. I ask for a 25% deposit to “book in” the work – this ensures the customer is serious and enables me to purchase the materials for their project. It also locks in a time slot for them. I usually need 6 – 8 weeks lead time with another week or two construction time, some pieces may be up to 4 – 6 weeks construction, depending on the complexity and size of the work.
From the deposit on I email or phone – almost everything I do, through to the clients. For example – “Hi Guys your timber has arrived but the copper is running a bit late” I email photographs of the timber on the truck or being cut up etc. As the project progreses I continually send photographs. This way the clients feel part of the process and involved along the way. I let them know of any changes I may have to make or contact them with questions on issues I think they would like to have a say in. By the end of the project they will have seen the project from most angles and will have seen how it was constructed.
In doing all this, at the end of the day they cannot say, “that’s not what I wanted”.
I also stipulate payment on completion (not delivery) and so far (touching my forehead) all my clients are happy and paying clients.
I can thoroughly recommend commissioned work as long as you are willing to communicate. If you like to smuggle yourself away and work quietly on your own, this way of working may not be for you.