Hi, I am 17 years old and im begining to learn how to do taxidermy. My first task is deer. I do know some what of what im doing but not a great deal of expierence. I have bought books and videos that are hopefully going to teach me what to do im just waiting for them to show up in the mail. My questions are if I watch these videos and read and study each hard, do you think that would be enough to have what it takes to start a small business just doing deer untill I learn later on down the road how to do other things like fish and small game. I have a small shop now that my grandpa owns and is going to let me use free of charge. Only think i have to get is the supplies and that i have no clue on how much the cost is and what I need to begin. If you can help in anyway with this and give me some advice I would really appreciate it. Im just wondering if this is even going to be worth my time, But we will see hopefully it turns out to make some money and will be a fulltime job for me a couple years down the road. Thanks Alot everyone
Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu
Making a Living in Taxidermy Part Two
We learned a lot of information about the general business end of taxidermy from the school of hard knocks (personal experience) and from the works of notable men such as Onno van Veen (now deceased), Archie Phillips, John Rinehart and several other professionals both in the United States and several from Europe. All of these men have done great things for the taxidermy industry and are an example of success. The truth is, in my opinion, the best of almost everything is located right here in the United States. No need to search elsewhere. Unless that is what you desire. Adventure can be anywhere!
Each profitable taxidermy business gives a certain measure of satisfaction and delight to their respective owners. You can do it too! But, as I and many others have said over and over again: It will not be easy! You get to be your own boss and the success or failure lies squarely on your shoulders. Big responsibility isn't it? You can't blame somebody else if you fail. If you don't want hard work, forget it. Take a desk job some place and never go for your dreams of independence.
You have to learn and be willing to do everything from skinning, fleshing, cape /hide prep, tanning, form measuring, alteration, sculpting if needed, mounting, finish work, dealing with customers and clients (yes, there is a difference between the two terms used), running a business, advertising, budgeting, investing, employees (if needed) and on and on. If you can't or will not, you will fail. How can you get ahead in life without sticking your neck out once in a while and taking a chance? It is a little scary, but this is America! No better place than here to give it a try and your best shot.
The rest of my "sheepskin" in general business management comes from college, the military and various academies and associations. And guess what? It all flows together! The basic mathematics is the same. You learn how to set prices, inventory, investment, taxes, record keeping, etc. You learn how to answer many questions that are routinely asked on this forum. All of which are business questions that you as a business owner and operator, should already have a grasp on how to answer or figure it out. When it comes to business, a person must understand the fundamental basics and be able to adapt to changing situations, if you don't you will perish. I'm talking about more than just a hobby. It is more than just a money in and money out proposition. A real business dealing with a real future...your future. You can do it! Don't be afraid to learn and then earn!
A very simplified beginning and course of action (change as needed):
1. Get a good taxidermy education. (Lots of options here) Many top quality taxidermists in various fields found right here on this forum, are more than willing to train and educate you for reasonable amounts of money. Forget the big schools asking over twenty thousand or more. You get better training working with the individual craftsman that works at taxidermy for a living and only teaches to supplement his/her income. There is a difference!
2. Develop, practice and refine your acquired skill and expertise for at least two years before you try to open a shop. Do some side jobs as you grow and gain experience. You need more training!
3. Develop good work ethics and habitats. Become organized.
4. During number two above, go to college or another specialty school and learn how to operate a business and how to think like a business entrepreneur. Remember those basic business classes I am always talking about? Success or failure is your option. Why not choose success?
5. Using your new knowledge of business, create a business plan and proposal, total [expletive deleted]ets and acquire financial support or investment for your taxidermy business.
6. Follow your business plan and make adjustments as needed.
7. Get a website! Word of mouth is great but in reality, in the year 2006, you have to advertise. If someone tells you it is not needed, that person is not a true business individual and does not grasp the possibilities. Business cards (keep it simple), specific advertising and then the awesome website. With a website, you advertise all over the world. Guess what? Many big-name clients (and these are clients and not customers) routinely use a computer to choose their options. Why can't one of those options be your shop and your business? When you get your first really big contract, you will know exactly what I mean and your education will explode.
You can learn quality African, Exotic and North American taxidermy techniques and have great instruction from top artists at a reasonable cost. Again, look at the people that advertise on taxidermy.net. Take a few courses at a time. You don't have to jump in and take everything at once. Build up and get ready for your adventure. A complete education will vary in cost but you can only find out if you try. Have you? Saving up money? Checking out a possible loan? Equity in your house or a land sale? Sale a car? If you try and are serious, you WILL find a way.
As a relevant side note: The business of America IS business. Just look at the freedom and possibilities all of us have and exercise everyday. Needless to say, the United States is the greatest place on earth. And that is precisely why we must be ever vigilant in watching and holding those that are in positions of authority, power and leadership accountable for their actions or inactions that affect every person on our soil including every small business entity or venture. If you doubt what I have just said, go out and price all of those benefit packages we talked about in my other post. How about an average $1,800 more per month that you might have to endure if you had to pay on your own and desired such coverage. A business, such as a taxidermy business, is eligible for substantial discounts just like the large corporations get. Did you know that? I'm talking like 70% or more. Sounds good to me. Start checking for BUSINESS discounts.
Another example taking its toll on a business owner: Wonder why shipping is so expensive? Have you noticed escalating fuel prices? It is mostly politics and bad decisions used to control a population. There is a reason for everything!
It is not always possible but it is highly recommended that you should not only invest in a sound taxidermy education but also invest in at least the following business classes: BUS 101, 102, and 103 and then include business economics and world economy. There are variations on the class names and what is being taught. Yes I know; that is why you hire an accountant right? Well, yes and no. You can only be spread so thin and then you start to make mistakes, fail to report income, spend too much, have no direction, fail to plan and then you and your business just simply fail.
Having a degree in business does not guarantee anything and you don't need a degree just in business. There are many factors that come into play. You can succeed!
Something as simple as the customer/client getting his wife's permission to spend the money with you for taxidermy could be all it takes. But this little point was never taught in college! You see, we are in a specialized trade. Each business, trade, profession has its own special circumstances and mix of doing things. So, how can you convince your customer's wife to say yes? Got any ideas? She is standing with her husband in front of you. He gives her that look of can I? What can you say to close the deal and get the job? What works for you? I often make them laugh and sign them up within 20 seconds or less. No more secrets given out on that one. You have to get in the game to play!
As with any business venture, you need PMA. PMA simply means a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. You have to start off each day with an organized list of work that needs to be done and the desire to GET IT COMPLETED. Prepare things the day before and keep a flow going in your shop. Learn to concentrate on your work and have a list of what should be done each day. Question yourself, can you do more? You have to discipline yourself to separate what IS important and what can wait until another day. However, can you accomplish more in the daylight hours? In my case, I work in the daytime and the nighttime. Either way it goes, I like to get in around twelve hours a day when ever possible to do so. Most of the time a lot more hours during the big game season. Rush work and special projects are guaranteed time frames for completion.
We try to take Sunday off regardless of the workload...but we do have exceptions! Please Note: Weekends (mainly Sunday) and Mondays through Wednesdays during the big game season are big money days! We have had as many as 70 customers per day! It usually gets to the point that we forget about appointments and simply tell people to come on down—what time will you be here? I must say that if a customer sets an appointment to bring in X amount of work on Sunday, we have to be willing to accept this interruption of rest and relaxation to continue the cash flow. Are you willing to do this? We have made many thousands of dollars EXTRA because we were willing to say sure, what time would you like to schedule your appointment for? If we can't answer the telephone, our machine will answer it for us. If we can, we will return the phone call that day and try to make arrangements. And at times we loose business because we don't answer the telephone in person. People don't like to talk to a machine. ...I always thought that was a personal problem but I won't venture there. LOL Make no mistake, an answering service and/or an answering machine setup properly with the right message will make you money and can save your business. It is a fact!
You will notice that many taxidermy businesses are not open on the weekends. Many people seem to foster the belief that you NEVER work on the weekends. We usually are working to one degree or another. If we decide to travel any weekend and camp, fish, hunt, etc. we just do it and let the machines handle the inquiries. But of course, by virtue of our business system, we are by appointment only. So if a customer/client sets up a time, we gotta be here at the shop. This system weeds out the lookie-loos, time wasters and the not-so-serious crowd. This system works for us!
Never forget, you must sell yourself to a new customer. If they are just price searching and most are, how can you hook this person and bring them in? What makes you any different from the other taxidermy shops in town? What can you or should I say what will you do to gain fresh business? Do you have any incentives? Price break on multiple mounts? Quicker return time? Payment plans or options? People want a choice and must feel that they are getting a good return on their money. Let's say quality work is a given and that is the norm between several taxidermists... The average customer is looking for something special so they can feel the same way (special). Again, I ask you, what do you offer the average customer to make them do business with you? WHY should any person bring you their trophy? Is it friendly service, the price, the extra details, the quicker return time, just what is it? We can argue quality all day but IF several taxidermists in your area are more or less producing about the same quality, how can you convenience the person across town or even fifty miles away to travel to your shop and employ your services? Do these other people even know about you? Advertising and a website will pay for itself on the first two jobs you get in! But you learn this in business class...or someone will tell you like I just did. You see, you need more than a quick fix and a simple answer as to what should you do.
Many times the new customer does not want to spend money for quality work. If that is the case, just say goodbye to them and let it go. You don't need them or want them. The serious, educated and resourceful hunter will not even ask how much. They simply set a time that is convenient for them to show up at your business and then cut you a check, or pay in cash for what they desire and it is a done deal. Everyone is happy.
You see, a cash flow is very important to any business. Doesn't make a difference as to what size of a business we are talking about. Part time or full time a no cash flow equals no business. That means you will have no money. Starting to get the idea? If you don't want to deal with any customers and don't need the cash flow, just tell the potential customer you're closed and not available until tomorrow or just let the answering machine pickup the call. Do you want to give up $500 or a whole lot more when all you have to do is take in the specimen, fill out the paperwork, receive a deposit or the whole thing up front, hand the customer a copy of your work order and then your done? You tag the specimen and skin it right away or place it in the freezer, cooler or whatever until tomorrow. Depending on the situation and details, from twenty minutes to a few hours have elapsed. Not bad for an extra $500 is it? You can now continue with your day off. This trifle amount of inconvenience is not a bad trade for a little bit of CASH flow. Granted, if you are not able to do this, you very well may loose this income and business. It is your choice. Just don't turn away money because you have become inflexible and unwilling to go the extra distance to prove some point or other personal requirement on your day off.
Private time and family time are important and should be a priority, but don't be foolish and loose business because you want to sit at home and watch a movie with the family. There is plenty of time for that. Now obviously, family comes first! You simply evaluate each request that happens to fall in and on you're off duty time. -starting to sound like the military but you understand what I am getting at.
Have you noticed that we have tried to stay away from a quick fix? And instead of giving the exact answers we just gave a little here and there and tried to guide you. We want to encourage you to step forward and decide if taxidermy is for you or it is not for you. There really is so much that can be done. ARE YOU READY for your adventure?
The best thing you can do is take action now for your future tomorrow. If you possess the initiative, drive and desire to do it and find the answers yourself; then you are ready to take that leap of faith using the simple guidelines provided. Your future and your eventual success will be yours and nobody can take it away from you.
I hope you have gained some helpful information and a bit of guidance. If you have any specific business tips you wish to post for others to benefit, please do. Any complaints, please e-mail me.
Once again, I wish all of you good fortune and a prosperous adventure in life.
Geez , by the time he finishes reading that last post he will be 21 .
Michael , before you start doing any work for customers you better have about 5 years experience so you know what your doing . It might be okay to do some work for friends cheap until you get better but for paying customers , I wouldnt . Rick
I think 5 years is a long time. New birdman did you wait five years. my first year I
I think 5 years is a long time. New birdman did you wait five years. my first year I spent going to competitions and I did well. I mainly do deer and water fowl,water fowl being my passion. my second year I decided to take it further and went to school still competing. This is my third year opened shop and going strong I have taken first place, best of show best of category and peoples choice in both deer and birds. I think its how bad you want it and how hard you are willing to work.I love what I do and wish I started when I was 17. Alex
Your best bet is to get a job in a taxidermy shop being their slave. That will start you out in the shed prepping hides and capes. Cape prep is 50% of the mount. If you cannot prep a cape correctly, you are never going to produce a good mount. Don't take in someone's trophy until you know what you are doing.
Notice a few posts up that "Geez , by the time he finishes reading that last post he will be 21". If anybody is to damn lazy to READ and STUDY, how in the world will that person advance and become successful? Or, I know, they will come on a forum like this one and ask for all of the answers to their questions and never really learn anything. THESE TYPE OF PEOPLE will always ride on the backs of those that really do the work and KNOW from experience.
So why read or try? Just pop in and ask a question and let other people solve your problems...