How to Price Projects

“What is a good guideline that is fair when charging for projects to sell or building a small cabinet for someone. What is fair when considering cost of material and labor? Do you mark up the cost of material? What is a fair labor rate?”

Submitted by: D. Bender

WWGOA Editor Response:

As a general guideline for how to price your woodworking projects try using your material costs multiplied by a factor of four. Use this as a starting point, then apply some common sense. Some projects can be small and labor intensive. Since they don’t require a lot of material, you’ve got to increase the price to compensate for your time.

I start by doing the math as stated above. Let’s say I’m going to use $150 worth of material on the project. My projected price would be $600. The next step is to subtract the material costs from the final price, which in this case, leaves $450. This is to cover your labor. You have do decide if that’s a fair amount. Estimate how long it will take you to get the material and build, sand, and finish the piece. Then decide if you’ll be happy with the profit amount. You’ll need to decide how much per hour or per day you’re willing to work for.

Here are a couple additional tips. If you do good work, don’t be afraid to charge fairly for it. Quality woodworking is a finely tuned skill that takes a long time to learn and can require a significant investment in tools, and you should be compensated for that as a professional. How much did you pay the last time you had work done by a plumber, electrician, or mechanic? Many woodworkers tend to undervalue their skills.

When calculating your material costs, include ALL the material. If I have to buy a full sheet of plywood but the project only calls for half a sheet, I charge for the full sheet. The same goes for waste that you’ll have when working with solid wood. If you’re looking at doing this for a living, remember that you won’t get every job you bid on and you won’t be in the shop building projects (that you can invoice for) all the time. You have a fixed cost of doing business that includes traveling to customer’s homes, taking measurements, doing drawings, writing estimates, and using disposable supplies, like sandpaper and glue.Your profit margin has to cover the fixed costs, plus some.

George Vondriska

Managing Editor

Got a woodworking question you need answered? Comment or Email us at editor@wwgoa.com

Discussion
  • (will not be published)

14 Responses to “How to Price Projects”
  1. DALE

    There is a computer program called CUTLIST, that will let you calculate all the materials needed for a project. You can also input your projected time and will then give you the price of the project. It will also show you the most efficient way to cut sheet products.

    Reply
  2. Dennis

    would you recommend the jet 22-44 drum sander or the jet 22-44 oscillating drum sander?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Dennis. Oscillation is a very nice feature and worthy of consideration. I’d suggest taking a look at supermax as well. George loves his.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  3. andre

    i have a allen sets screw broke in my lathe knife handle and i want to take it of please if you can help me thank ypu

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Andre. This can be a pain. The only thought that I would have is to drill it out if you can. You might be able to find a special bit that can be tapped into the broken set screw to reverse it out. I would suggest seeking advice from a metal expert for this for a more informed opinion.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
      • Victor Somers

        Be careful because most setscrews are hardened. I would start with a left hand drill (this is a special set of drills and actually rotate the opposite direction of a normal twist drill) use one that is a little smaller than the setscrew so you don’t damage the threads. Have a marker on the drill so you know when it has gone thru the setscrew. If you are lucky the setscrew will back out on it’s own (the advantage of using a left hand drill) and you don’t have to move any further. If it doesn’t then you need to use an “easyout”. This is a tool that fits in the hoe you drilled and allows you to back the rest of the screw threads out.

        Reply
  4. Wayne

    My guess is the innate judgement that any labor is close to a Trade Job. It is not worth as much as a Professional Job with the exception of a Snow Job. Until my brother received the counseling of a savvy person he barley charged enough to break even, After he was brought up to speed he was able to thrive in the repair and wood working working business.

    Reply
  5. PauL Y

    I watched your table router class and I noticed that you did not use the lock on the lift. What is the lock used for and when do you use it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Paul,

      It is used to prevent the router lift from moving down during the cutting operation. Some lifts need it more than others, but as a precautionary measure it is always a good idea to use it.

      Thanks,
      Paul WWGOA Video Membership

      Reply
  6. Nouman

    Hi, it will be really appreciated if you solve a couple of my problems. After reading and watching videos of wood working, I’ve decided to get my hands dirty and want to work on a simple project for my own house.
    I am planning to build a couple of decorative shadow boxes with paint job. To hang it on the wall, I have decided to drill holes in the wood and hang the boxes on the screws drilled in the wall so that the screws remain invisible. The problem is that I am unable to decide between MDF and Plywood. I have read the differences of both but still need guidance. Can you help me out with it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi. Either material will work well for your project. For painted projects I generally favor MDF as this material takes a paint finish better than most materials including plywood. Plywood accepts paint just fine, but the grain tends to project through the paint, whereas MDF has no grain so the painted surface is naturally flatter in appearance.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  7. Francis

    Thank you for making this public, I stress every time I estimate. Now that this info is printed in a respected Mag… online or otherwise, it give creedance to my argument of compensation and material costs. Your article I can quote as sensible words confirming all I have researched as fair!

    Reply