Thanks for the link. Cool article. Gee, my waiting list is somwhat shorter than SEVEN years! Well, at the rate I am going, it could be seven years until I finish my first one.....
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone
I sent my pal Lynn an email complaining that he didn't mention me. I'll get over it.
I've been thinking about telling a couple of people that I'll build them a mandolin for free. All they have to do is wait 7 years. That way I could say I have a 7 year waiting list
Sunburst, thats funny! Well, he says he builds 12 a year, so thats only 84 mandolins to make and he will be caught up!Originally Posted by (sunburst @ Feb. 24 2004, 14:03)
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone
Wow, 12 a year at $25K! No wonder the left his "day job".
Yes, I know, that is the secondary market price not what he is getting...
I don't think he's getting $25,000 per mandolin. #
"Unfortunately for Dudenbostel, he's committed to fill the orders in his seven-year backlog at prices much lower than that. "
I do wonder how much he is getting, though.
No matter what he is getting it is not that much. Even for a small builder the cost is substantial. You have to consider the cost of wood, parts, hardware, labor, shop space, tooling, utilities, phone, shipping, packaging, cases, insurance and vacations and all the other things that go with any business. When you consider he will make at most 12 a year it is not that much if he was getting 25k for them. Since he is actually getting quite a bit less, it is even harder to make a real living. I'm sure most of those on this forum will make more money than any of the builders. While it sounds quite romantic to be a builder of reputation with his own little shop, it is still without substantial financial rewards. We build for the love of the instrument, not for the cash. Just thought I'd throw this little insight into the mix. .
Have a Great Day!
Maybe he shouldn't have accepted a 7 year waiting list...
I guess that's a tough call though..
A couple of those expenses he probably doesn't have to worry about. Labor-who is he paying other than himself? Shop space-doesn't he work out of his basement? Yeah, the rest will add up, but obviously he is making a living the way he wants to, otherwise I am sure he would have enough good sense not to do this full time. Way to bring the mood down BigJoe.Originally Posted by
Ah! must --
Designer Infinite --
Ah! must thou char the wood 'ere thou canst limn with it ?
Maybe its all perspective. #I heard last night on the news that OJ's lawyer was talking about how OJ "only" makes $300K per year. #
I don't doubt the "love of the instrument" but someone with a viable day job who gives that up to make instruments full time is making enough to support his desired lifestyle - or at least the lifestyle he has chosen. #
One serious question, how many guitars does he make each year or is he solely doing mandolins now?
Added comment: #I'm fully in favor of Mr. Dudenbostel or anyone else getting as much for their product they can in the current market. #At the same time I don't feel sorry for someone who committed to providing a mandolin in 2010 at 2003 prices. #No one forced that decision on him, he could have closed his waiting list at any point - or had a wait list to get on the wait list where one year out from production someone could accept the going price or drop off the list.
Say he gets $10,000 a mandolin and builds 12 a year=$120,000
Say half of that goes for expenses=$60,000
That still leaves $60,000 a year! I know a lot of folks that hate their jobs for a lot less money than that! Thanks goodness it ain't always about the dollar.
I never wanted them all, Just the ones I wanted.....
..Bingo Ben....and let face it..a man as smart as Lynn sure whouldnt be doin it just for the love of it.....ya gotta live..and as the Rally's commercial says.."Ya gotta eat"....so..I would have to conclude that the man is making a comfortable living...as with any other great luthier out there....may not be gettin rich,,,but hey, who is?....but they are enjoying themselves. Since I have known my builder he has made and sold 12-13 mandos at $3200-$3500 a piece...thats not a bad livin..even after expenses..not gettin rich...but ya gotta hand it to them..they have the cahonies to do what they want, being comfortable...something I wish I could do...but Ive been at my job for 15 yrs..I cant go any place else...or quit for that matter. I sure do envy these builders...
I know a guy who has had a Dude on order for $6,000 for a very long time. I've been asking him about it for probably 2 years. Do you think someone paying $20,000 might get put higher up on the waiting list?
Keep it acoustic.
True, but throw in self-employment taxes that are sky-high. But the real reason it's hard to be self-employed which I have experience with: medical insurance. Haven't quoted it for a family lately but I'd guess you'd be looking at $14-16K minimum a year, probably more and count on it increasing at double-digit rates annually. Dental coverage for your kids? There's a decision. Suddenly $60K becomes 30-something after taxes, probably 20-something. Nothing wrong with that amount but now try raising a family on that and doing your own 401K/IRA retirement and saving for kids for college possibly. Paid vacations? 40 hour week and lotsa posting on the Cafe message board during work time? Possibly.Originally Posted by (BenE @ Feb. 25 2004, 09:40)
This has nothing to do with luthiers really but just goes to show that self-employment isn't for those with weak stomachs. I've done it before and will likely do it again in the future (maybe sooner if my boss sees this during work time), but it's no easy road. I think those guys building are doing it because it's what they really must do for the love of it. It's being done somewhere every day so it's not the worst thing in the world but I don't think the individual builders are getting as rich as some folks imply, not that you were Ben.
I love the story of Bill Davis in Wichita who was driving to work one morning, stopped on the side of the road and called his boss on his cell phone to tell him he wasn't coming in and that he was resigning his position to build mandolins. Then he calls his wife next and tells her he did it and turns the car around and drives home. They're still married so I guess it all worked out. And he sure builds a great mandolin.
Look at the math again....$120,000 before expenses...and that is figuring $10,000 as the cost of the mandolin...I estimated half of that for expenses...That is $60,000 to cover vacations, medical, supplies, and anything else that might pop up....Still leaves a $60,000 profit...give or take....Originally Posted by
I don't think that money is the motivator for most builders but it is nice to know that they are happy and hopefully comfortable in their choosen profession.
After being laid-off from the aircraft industry after 9-11....there is a lot to be said about being your own boss. #Good luck to all!
BTW....Vacation----what does that word mean? #
I never wanted them all, Just the ones I wanted.....
Hi folks, I've been enjoying the discucssion on this topic and thought I'd weigh in on it. #BigJoe and Scott have a good grasp of what being in business for yourself is like. #Some may view it as "bringing the mood down", but the reality of the matter isn't as rosy as some might think. #My friend and fellow luthier Marty Lanham refers to this as being "self unemployed".... not far from the truth! #$120k a year? #I hope to hit that some day, and I hope it's before my kids start college! #I'm afraid it's years off though. #When I took the guaranteed orders, it seemed to be a good thing, but who could have predicted prices would have skyrocketed like they have. #I don't think anyone saw that coming. #Fortunately, not all of my orders have guaranteed prices, but far too many do. #It seemed to be the right thing to do, guaranteeing some job security after having been layed off of a job I held for 16 years. #A few generous customers have graciously offered to re-negotiate the price to something more in line with current values. #My family and I certainly appreciate them! #They are rare individuals. #But, I took the orders. #No one held a gun to my head and made me take their money! <G> #Also, A few kind folks have consigned their "Dudes" back #to me when they decided to sell, allowing me a percentage of the current market. #I've got some great customers. (Got an A-5 and a Brazilian OM-45 DLX on consignment now if anyone is interested!):D
While I am running terribly behind schedule, I am committed to delivering all of those instruments I promised, probably not according to my original estimates on delivery date, but the folks will get them. #One thing early along, I severely under estimated the amount of time it takes to build a mandolin (already had a good grasp on the times involved building guitars). #That too slows things down, and one thing I absolutely will not so is compromise quality or work to a "schedule" in order to get more instruments out the door. #That's not how I built my reputation. #The reality is I try to make about 12 instruments a year, but don't always manage quite that many, and it's not all F-5's. #There are a few A-5's and guitars in that mix. #I think if I were building only F-5's, the numbers would be more like 6 a year.
The problems associated with being in business for yourself are many. #Taxes.... wow, that's a biggie. #I don't have an employer that kicks in on the Social Security tax anymore. #Not only do I have the usual income taxes that we all pay, but I also have the priveledge of paying city AND county property taxes on my shop tools/computers/fixtures/materials each year, and they NEVER depreciate to zero like they do on federal taxes. #There's always some local/state/fed. government agency with their hand in your pocket! #Insurance.... not just health insurance (my dear wife is working just so we can have affordable health/dental insurance), but there is shop insurance to cover my tools/materials/work in progress, and life insurance that I get to pay for in full on my own. #Disability insurance? #Forget it. #Ever price it on your own? #I just have to roll the dice and hope I stay healthy. #My wife is at work or I'm sure whe would add a few more things I haven't thought of. I try not to think about the "overhead" and let her worry about it.
My workday consists of answering the phone/e-mail, although when my wife is home, she does a great job of helping here. #But, these things can cut significantly into my work day. #I also get to clean the shop, procure/order materials, pack instruments for shipping and take them to fedEx, handle repairs (and the more you build, the more of these you have), do the banking, pick up the kids from school and take them where they need to go, and then with what time is left, work on my backlog. #Often, I'm working well into the night to catch up on the time I missed during the day. #Some days aren't near as productive as I wish.
I guess what I'm trying to convey here is, it's not just "get up, go to the shop, work 8 hours, turn out a dozen $25,000 instruments a year"! #Far from it. #But, I'm not complaining, these are just the facts of how things go for most all of the luthiers I know. #I didn't write this to get everyone feeling sorry for me, on the contrary, I'm the luckiest guy on the planet! #How many fathers get to take their kids to school in the morning, and pick them up in the afternoon and be with them as much as I do. #My kids are 8, 11, and 14. #I've been doing this full time for 7 years now. #I've been here to watch them grow! #I have an incredibly supportive wife. #She's the one that gave me the kick in the seat of the pants to go out and do this on my own, and then takes a job to provide insurance for us. #I love her LOTS! #I get to rub elbows with the likes of Chris Thile, Andy Leftwich, Mike Compton, Roland White, Alan Bibey, Ronnie McCoury, F5Joe, Charlie Derrington, Steve Gilchrist, George Gruhn.... I could go on. #These are great people as are my many friends who are not as well known that I've met thru this business. #PLUS, I get tremendous satisfaction from building these instruments, but not near as much satisfaction as seeing the joy they bring to others. #Hopefully, most of these will be around long after I'm gone and continue to bring pleasure to future generations. #It's a good feeling and not much else can compare to it. #Would I ever go back to a "regular" 9 to 5 job? #Not unless it came to the point I couldn't support my family doing what I do now. #At the moment, the money isn't great, but someday it will be better. #I figured I'm "paying my dues" now. #To borrow a line from "The Mike's" (Compton and Stangeland) "Life Is Good".... and it keeps getting better.
Now, it's time to get back to work. #Hope I haven't bored you kind folks too much with my ramblings.
Good to hear that from the Dude himself. Anybody who can make it by being self-employed has my respect...
Heck no. It's the unvarnished truth. You would think that the government would want people to be self-employed and cut their taxes in half instead of doubling them. So, if the gains are minimal on the income side, they are doubled on the self-satisfaction side. In other words, you do what you do because of the love of the craft.
Great post Lynn
I sort of got kicked into "self unimployment" and keep my fingers crossed for continued good health 'til I can afford more insurance, I pay the taxes, etc.etc.....but I wouldn't have it any other way!
Lynn: #Thanks for that great post. #As an aspiring luthier myself it's always good to hear these kinds of real life stories.
I also wanted to share something that I heard Bob Benedetto say once. #He said that every time his waiting list got above 2 to 3 years he raised his prices. #That cut back on the orders and let him get caught up on his guitars (which he produced at an outrageous average of 30 per year). #By the time those 2 to 3 years were up his waiting list had grown again so it was time to raise his prices again.
Before he retired his base price guitar was $17,500.
Also, one thing I've discovered is that I can build a ton of mountain dulcimers (which is what I've been building lately) for example. #But I also have to SELL those instruments. #To sell those instruments I have to go to festivals, jam sessions, and I have to advertise. #Advertising is a significant expense. #Of course, I love going to festivals and jam sessions so that's kind of fun.
Self Employment tax is 15% !!! #I'm probably lucky that my income hasn't exceed my expenses yet so I havn't had to pay it yet. #If Dubya really wanted to give out a tax cut that would help the middle class and spawn entrepreneurship (which is the ONLY place where new jobs are coming from right now) then he'd eliminate the self employment tax. #
But man, I dream of the day when my commute is the 50 foot walk to my shop and I can listen to the birds outside while I plane an instrument top. #I hope I can get there some day.
This is happening some, from what I hear. A lot of these customers know one another.Originally Posted by (GBG @ Feb. 25 2004, 11:45)
Thanks for replying! Wow!
As a self employed chiropractor, I am in a similiar boat - with taxes! It's ridiculous. It seems the more you make the more you pay taxes, the less you earn!
But, I got a new accountant this year and he saved me a ton! I set up a retirement plan (a SEP) and that really helped to reduce the tax burden.
I started my practice with 0 patients and now 5 years I am finally seeing some profit!
In my profession, my main source of income is through health insurance companies - try dealing with them! The paper work is unbelievable!
I do love my job & I firmly believe that if you love what you do & you can help people, you will make money!
Hopefully I'll someday be able to afford a higher end mando!
I have a friend who is on the list at $4500.
Right on, Scott and Lynn...I've been self employed for fourteen years now and invite all those who have an employer and are envious of those of us who don't punch a time clock to tell your boss to "take this job and shove it!" # Now, better get back to pickin' my Bill Davis A!
Hats off and a heart-felt thanks to all the self-employed luthiers who are building such great instruments.