My name is Andre and I am a, “creative.” Trendy, right? Haha that’s what people call me, at least. I work for Andre Jackson Creative, LLC, based in Waco, Texas. My mom always said, “You’re gonna get such a great job and make a ton of money.” She thought I’d be VP at some large corporation, probably. I looked at going corporate, and honestly loved the idea of sitting at a desk in a big company from 8-5 every day. I really did! I thought about joining AT&T in Dallas or Allstate up in Chicago. I decided to stay in Waco and get back to the “me” that I used to know: when I would do what I enjoyed, and nothing that I didn’t. I used to be creative as a kid, and I was excited about art and music. I even dreamed of being an architect. Sensing these forgotten ambitions bubbling back to the surface, I dove into them head first before I could make excuses like, “there’s no way it will be profitable,” and, “this won’t last,” or , “do I really have it in me?”
Starting slow, I asked a friend if I could borrow his circular saw for a few days to cut some wood. I invested $20 in a drill from Lowe’s. I got some lumber and drew up a plan for a dining room table. I wanted to think through how it should work rather than following a plan online – that’s more fun for me! The dining room table turned out, and by the end of the week I felt like I knew every detail of the piece intimately. I had knelt on each board while nailing them to the frame, sanded every inch of every piece of wood, and watched the stain dry each day in the living room. I was tasting success.
I attribute all of the nicks and blemishes as character, something I still do today. I never shoot for perfection, because to me, there is no perfect. I ebb and flow with the character of the wood, with the mistakes I make along the way, not stressing out, but pressing on with the project. By the end, my customers can appreciate the spot where I may have dropped the hammer, left an indent, or pre-drilled an extra hole by mistake. Honestly, in almost every project, something finds its way into the finished product that I didn’t expect or plan for and that’s okay.
Escape to Occupation
When I realized how much I was enjoying this new craft, I started teaching myself new things. I came across a jigsaw and thought of some pieces I could make: cut-outs of Texas, and California were among the first. I decided to use social media as my marketing platform since I had made so many connections in college and it was easy to direct friends and followers to my new business pages.
From January 2015 through February 2016 I was working 8-5 and doing woodworking in the evenings and on weekends as an escape from the mundane. It was also a way for me to self-start, and to avoid sitting around after work and vegging out. My spirit was doing everything it could to get back to the roots of who God created me to be. I was “working” an extra 20 hours per week, but those 20 hours were the most life-giving hours of each week, hands down.
Getting the Word Out (How To Start Marketing)
I wanted to choose a social media handle that stuck. I landed on Woodenthings. (@woodenthings_, on Instagram.) I didn’t want to call it ‘furniture,’ or, ‘designs,’ since there are so many of those out there. I ran the name by a few trusted friends, and they had great responses to the name. So it stayed!
Next, I looked for the fastest way to reach the most people possible. In Waco, we have a group on Facebook called Free & For Sale. There are 10,000+ members, and most people check it at least once a week. I decided to take quality pictures and post them there. The two keys were to make the images stand out and to make the blurb/paragraph short and sweet while still being informative. Because there are hundreds of posts every week, people scroll through the feed pretty quickly. I had pretty good success in that group, so I stuck to Instagram and Free & For Sale for marketing my products.
One practical tip I would give would be to use every project as a way to market yourself for that same product or for similar products. By that, I mean post what you’re doing/making while it’s in progress or when it’s complete, or both! I would do this to let people know that I’m making something exciting and to stay tuned, and also to offer the same piece as a custom order! I found that clients would DM or email me, asking if it was possible to do the same thing in another color or with a different type of wood.
One fun way to increase exposure was to send free items to popular or famous people! Steven Curtis Chapman has a son who married a singer I know in Nashville. I contacted her and asked if I could send her a free gift. I figured if everyone she has visit her home sees the piece, that’s pretty good exposure. I also banked on Steven Curtis Chapman visiting his son, and perhaps asking about the piece. If he got the idea in his head that, “my daughter in law knows someone who does custom woodworking,” I could gain access to a larger sphere of influence! I sent another free piece to a photographer with a large Instagram following, and made sure he posted about it on his feed. Why not, right?
What I love about woodworking is the answer is usually yes. When a potential client sends a request, asking if I can make something, I rarely am not physically able to make it. I love that! There are so many ways to get the same look in woodworking. I’ve learned that if I was to invest in thousand-dollar equipment and machinery, I could do what I do much, much, faster.
But fast is not what I’m into. I actually enjoy the craft. So as a result, I use hand-sanders and right angle markers to get tables smooth and square, instead of a planer and an industrial-size table saw. I have turned a handful of people down with their inquiries because they were too time-consuming or simply not something I’d enjoy. I don’t want to make things that aren’t fun to make. I may lose a few customers here and there, but the reason I went into business for myself was to enjoy what I do (and I absolutely love what I do).
The Nitty Gritty of Becoming Legit
There are steps I had to take to become an actual, recognized business. It’s really easy, in fact. The Secretary of State (Texas) has a link to their form 205, for the formation of an LLC. All you need to do is tell them what you want to be called, who you are, and where you live. Drop a check in the envelope for $300 bucks and you’re golden! Do some research to make sure no one has the name you want. It also might be a good idea to see if you can get a website domain that matches.
I opened a business checking account for free at Bank of America so that I could keep track of expenses and income separately from my personal transactions. It should make tax season much easier! Just like that, I was a business with a business bank account. In March 2016 when I formed, I decided to purchase a unique domain through GoDaddy. Andrejacksoncreative.com was only eighteen cents for the first year, and $10 per year following (Pro-tip: look up GoDaddy promo codes during checkout).
Getting to Know Thyself
I have truly enjoyed the pieces I’ve been able to make since the inception of AJC. I’ve learned so much about myself, about business, and about woodworking techniques and skills. I learned that I love time alone. I’ve learned that I love putting on my safety headphones and taking time to think. My thoughts wander far and wide when I’m building, and it’s super liberating! I make sure to listen to my body and take breaks when needed, to either digest a thought or to digest lunch. I have learned that I am capable of bringing an idea to fruition. I’ve proven this to my often-doubtful self every day by completing a project based on an image or sketch from a design consult. The feeling of accomplishment when I do that is amazing, and I get paid to do this! I get paid to explore my creativity and teach myself new things every day. I can never go back now!
Taking the Plunge
If you’re doing something you don’t love, with a side of what you do love, I’d encourage you to start adjusting the proportions so that what you do love can have a lot more attention. For those of you who want to make a living off of your hobby, craft, passion- let ‘eventually,’ become now! Just get started. Save up $300 bucks and fill out a form 205. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have created motive to get a return on your investment. Start an Instagram page where you can market yourself, and follow everyone! Show that you’re an active follower by liking and commenting and you will see great results. Start making things: write, paint, draw, build, weld something. Then post it and offer it for sale! Be bold about pricing. If you think your craft is worth a hundred bucks, list it for a hundred! If no one bites, you’ll learn what it’s actually worth.
Thanks for taking the time to read about me and what I do. Andre Jackson Creative will be constantly evolving, so stay tuned! If you are a ‘creative,’ or if you have questions about woodworking, business or photography, feel free to give me a shout at [email protected].