I've been doing taxidermy now for 5 1/2 years. I have a full time day job and do taxidermy in the evenings. So basically for the last 5 years I've putting in no less then 65+ hours a week working. I'm tired, crabby and sick of customers!
I can't seem to make any money at it. I don't collect a pay check for my time out of my business. I make enough to pay the bills in the shop and the few helpers I have. My prices are pretty close to everyone else in my area.
I am so frustrated right now that I just want out and I want out now!
I have about 80 jobs to do right now (Deer, small mammals and fish). What do I do about these?
Please give any advise you may have.
Thanks for listening.
Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu
Give them back along with any deposit money they've given you. Your health and sanity aren't worth it. And wear and tear to your family aren't worth it either. A person only gets one shot at this life and doesn't get a second chance to do it over. Losing your family or health [mental or physical] is too high a price to pay for the "glory" of being a taxidermist. Taxidermy is fun, the taxidermy business sucks. Take it from somebody who knows.
First things first,congratulations are in order. You just identified the problem and it's a great way to start to make the needed adjustments. Second,if you're sure taxidermy is not for you,stop taking in any more work. Begin to make referals to your competitors in a friendly but businesslike fashion. Next find a taxidermist you can depend on to finish the work you already have and don't hesitate to tell your clients you hit a snag in your production time either. Most will be very understanding. If need be,offer to return their prize and all or part of the deposit. Keep in mind that everything we take in is some ones' dream come true,otherwise they never would have brought it to us when they did. Most important,GET OUT OF YOUR SHOP MORE THAN YOU HAVE BEEN! Take in a movie from time to time. Go for a walk in the woods or any place that gets you to unwind in a different setting and atmosphere. Talk to friends,family and perhaps even a doctor about your feelings. Don't isolate yourself either. Be careful who you unleash on,you are a loved member of your family who depends on you.
One of the most amazing things about taxidermy is that you can set your own pace. Try to focus on all the things that attracted you into this business. For most of us,it satisfies a craving in our lives to the point that WE MUST DO WHAT WE DO in order to survive. You're an artist,nothing less. Want some inspiration? Go rent a movie called "The Agony and the Ecstasy" the story of Michaelangelos' Sistine Chapel master piece. If you do not become invigorated after seeing it,you are indeed burned out but not burned up.
Last, I'd like to you to read these verses that Louis Paul Jonas always kept over his work bench. Read it a few times for me will you?
Work thou for pleasure,
Paint sing or carve
The things thou lovest
Though the body starve.
Who works for money,
Coin is his very soul;
Who works for glory
Miss oft' the goal.
Work for the work's sake;
Then it may be
That all these things
May be added to thee.
Author: Kenyon Cox,taken from vol 12,#4 Taxidermy Review
You have my email address,feel free to use it anytime.
I have been working a full time job and doing taxidermy in the evenings/night for 3 yrs now. I am married and have a family. The secret is not too get piled up with work like you have done. Do you want to go full time taxidermist? Maybe not now that you are burned out. I myself still enjoy it very much. VERY IMPORTANT......raise your prices to the point that you are receiving enough work to complete in 9 months turn around time ....working at your pace.... and make MONEY! Get rid of the helpers. In my opinion your prices and work schedule should be where u handle everything yourself. Myself, i try to complete one "bird" or one "mammal" a week. Look at your overhead. To make money that has to be low for YOU to make money. And yes we all have to deal with customers. If you are performing a service, there is no way around it.
Take a few days off, immediately...your burned out and frustrated, no time to make decisions. Rest up a bit, laugh a bit, spend some time with family and friends, above above all relax. The world will not end no matter what your decision regarding your taxidermy shop.
Make an assessment of your 80 items and resolve to finish them on a timely schedule. Make up a realistic scedule to finish the work. A scedule that allows time for other job, family and for yourself. Don't take in any new work. Cut overhead and get rid of helpers. Finish the 80 on your scedule, maybe farm a few out to a friend, maybe return a few of the latest "new" items with refund,
or as suggested return them all with deposits.
Write down the reasons you enjoy taxidermy, why you got into it in the first place.
Write down what you hate about the taxidermy business.
I think you will find that most of your dislikes revolve around the business and money end of taxidermy. Hopefully it's not to late to salvage the five years you invested in your good name. This does not mean you can't quit for now! Just do so, in a professional well thought out manner. All anyone can ask is you do the best you can for your other job, your family and your taxidermy customers. Now is the time to move forward implementing your decision and your plan.
Resolve your issues on a daily basis, moving forward to your goal.
Hopefully, you can salvage your good name and leave it at that. You may wish to return to the taxidermy business when you have more time or on a limited basis.
There are no easy solutions, just remember being honest and straight forward about your intentions to complete or return the work will work better than avoiding your customers.
I used to make a list of problem customers and I would call them before they called me. Some are not worth the hassel. (I would refund these first). It's hard to get anything done when your on the phone with heat cases everday.
Good luck to you and your family.
Remeber family first , real job second, then everthing else.
job and I went to a taxidermy school in 1999. I have always worked a full time job and done taxidermy on the side. I have learned to raise my prices and to land a different clientele. It helps. I have started taking in less and I picked a group of animals that I enjoy, therefore specializing in something. I prefer mammals and reptiles over birds and fish? Maybe you need to pick something you really enjoy. I never seen the since in doing everything if you don't enjoy it. My opinion is that if you don't enjoy it how can you give your customers a quality product? You can't. You have to truly enjoy what you do. Stick in there, take less work and raise your prices. When all the price shoppers call during deer season I ask them 2 questions before I answer them. The always ask "how much to mount my deer head?" thats when I ask them whats the most important thing to you about your deer head, the price, or the quality? If they say price I just kindly tell them they need to take it somewhere else. No one has seemed to have a problem with that. It does 2 things for me, makes my work load less and gives the other guys around here more work, increasing their turnaround times! LOL Hang in there man and keep plugging away. Just don't take any work in this year until you get the rest done. Good Luck, Dan Hudzik
Since YOU say that your prices are in line with everyone else, your work is probably just average quality. Since you didn't give your prices, I can only guess at that. The normal solution to your problem would be to raise your prices so that you actually make money. That may not be possible because of the quality of the work. I have to assume that, becaues YOU haven't priced it to be anything other than average.
Since you work another full time job, the time spent in the taxidermy shop is OVERTIME. If you don't consider it that way and even more importantly PRICE it that way, you are just digging yourself into an early grave.
You have TWO choices. Quit the business, like was suggested above. Or examine your work, and decide if it is just average or "really good" and deserving of a higher price. That means pricing yourself at least 50% above the next highest price around. I don't know what your work looks like and I don't know what the "average" price in your area means, so that's the best I can do, given the information you provided.
I am part time too. I turn away a lot of work, and charge a lot for the work I do take. That way I still make some money, but I still have time to work on my own stuff and actually have fun. I already have plans to increase prices next year and I am sure I will still turn away work.
What state are you in?
Just a question , what are you charging for this work your doing?
might be your too low and that is why you are making no money.
this is very common on new guys that want to take over the market by cheap work instead of quality work and they shoot themselves on the foot.
good luck to you, you have gotten good advise from all here.
I'm into my 4th year of advertising for commercial work. I too work a full time job which means 40-50 hours WITHOUT adding the taxidermy business,the family, and I work second shift to boot! It's tough and there's no way of sugar coating it. My original intention was that I'd work the full time job until the taxidermy business took off. I was way off base and truly did not realize what this would entail. I have a few fairly established taxidermists within 50 miles and business is tough.
Last December I took custody of my boy and realized some things MUST change. I forced myself to take a few time outs and do what I had to do. The thing that bothers me the most is that I don't have time to do the work(mounts) I want to do for me or a family member because the cutomer work load comes first. I really want to get back to the time when it invigorated my soul to be creative instead of having to get a mount done for someone else. I doubt this will be possible for a long time so on I go. Way to much time and money invested now to turn back now.
Many good suggestions have been made to you. I truly think it's time for you to sit down and prioritize. MANY taxidermists have lost their friends and family because they simply didn't know when to do a few things different. I hope you won't be one of those statistics. Best Wishes. Jeff F.
I'm going to weigh in on this one. I've been in taxidermy for 54 years and although I have days when I really don't feel like working, I'm pretty happy to go to work each day and do what I do TAXIDERMY. I've never employed a helper and I don't care what the "other guys" charge for their work. I never tell a customer when his mount will be ready. I just tell him "I'll call you when it's ready" and don't sit by the phone waiting. If this doesn't agree with him I tell him to take it somewhere else where they work faster than I do.I hunt or fish at least one day a week, and when they're biting or scraping you might not see me for days.I figgure, everyone has a freezer to put their stuff in 'till they can get it to me, so what's the rush. I mount anything legal and just mounted my first snake...(no one ever asked me to mount one), I just did it for myself.I think you're problems are self made.I bet you're prices are low so you can get more work than the other guys.Since you have a full time job this taxidermy work is the same as if you worked overtime at your regular job, so your hourly prices should be at least 1 1/2 times what your pay is at your job.If you work on Sunday it would be twice the rate....do you see where this is going? Each one has to make his own mind up over his prices, but nearly everyone prices their work based on "that's what I could pay" instead of what it's worth or what I need to make MONEY. I'm emailing you a copy of my price list to look over.These prices would cut your work load by half and you would still make the same money and have time to enjoy life. Good luck...JL
Deer $375.00 Rugs $130.00 per foot c/m coyote $500 c/m bobcat $475 WW fish 10.50 per inch cw fish 11.75 and inch.
JL I got your price list thank you.
John C. I tried to reply to your message but it came back.
Everyone else thank you for the advise. I appreciate it. Any one else have any advise please feel free to add you opinion.
Go to: WWW.ABCustomTaxidermy.com
Feel free to look over our site, pricelist, field care, etc. Try to work your prices upwards and CHOOSE your clientele.
Other than that, there is some pretty good advice in the posts listed above. E-mail me if you want to talk and I will help guide you through the rough times of burn out and should I say, burn off!
I would like to thank all of you for your advise.
I printed this page out yesterday and took it home with me. Sat down and read it over carefully. Gave it to my husband to read and then I hung a sign on my door that said, " Not taking in any more taxidermy work at this time. I have all the work I can handle for now".
Today I am going to type out a letter to my customers stating that I under estimated completion time on their mounts. I will state in the letter that if this is a problem for anyone they are more then welcome to pick up their specimans and their deposit.
I have decided to complete the work I have now (which will probably take me a year to complete) and take a break. I need some time to go fishing and hunting and run my dogs and have a beer and do some yard work, etc.... Maybe later on when I get ready to retire I will decide to go back into business but I just wasn't cut out for it right now. I will still do mounts for myself and maybe, just maybe a few for family but that's about it
Thanks again everyone for your advice. I truly feel alot better today about life in general.
...instead of tossing in the towel - simply raise your prices several steps above the others in your area? This way you will really slow down your intake. And when you do take something in you will make some good money on it and it'll be much easier to work on when you see that pot 'o' gold at the end of the rainbow.
I know for me I have a weak display room. I have extreme difficulty motivating myself to do work for which I'm not getting paid to do. But I keep on top of my backlog simply because the money is there...