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Why should I not go into taxidermy full time?

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by Utahmountainman, Sep 23, 2013.

  1. Utahmountainman

    Utahmountainman Member

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    Maybe it is a stupid question but I just seem to get the impression from the posts on the forum that full time taxidermist are struggling just to stay alive.
    I do carpentry full time and I know all about the rat race of running a business!!
    I want to start doing taxidermy full time in the future. Right now I want to start taking in clients to fill in slow times with construction and hope the taxidermy takes off and becomes my full time work.
    Is it possible to make a good living at it? I'm in the Salt Lake city area and it seems to have a ton of demand out here. Guys prices seem to be a little higher than a lot of other areas.
    I'm not trying to get rich, I don't need to make 6 figures, just a comfortable living. I'm used to working for my money as stated, carpenters are not getting rich either. I'm happy with the income I make now but want to have a business of my own and I didn't like working for myself in construction.

    I've read the threads about starting a taxidermy business and so I have learned a ton from them. Just wanted to hear from the guys that have made it work and are happy with what they do.
    Thanks!!
     
  2. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Remember on irrefutable fact that so many budding taxidermists ignore: ONE MAN CAN ONLY DO ONE MAN'S WORTH OF WORK.

    I've done a few things in my life; carpentry being one of them, but carpentry has much of the work done BEFORE you get to it. Either the boards have been planed, the moulding has been shaped, and the drawer pulls and hinges are there for you to fix. Your measuing tape is the most important thing you possess if you have good eye/hand cordination.

    Taxidermy doesn't play by those rules. Even if you farm out much of it - as all of us do (whether it's premade forms, eyes, earliners, hide paste, staples, etc.) the biggest thing you're going to bring to the table is (1) TALENT and (2) redundant monotony. You can afford neither of those to be lacking. It's YOU versus your clients and you can only do so much in a given day. You won't make them all happy and the buck stops with you - literally. You won't be able to take comfort in someone else being "in charge" and when you promise to have them their work in a set time, that's the only thing they ever concern themselves with.

    Bottom line is that ONE MAN, working 5 DAYS A WEEK, 40-50 hours PER WEEK, will go bankrupt if he doesn't have another source of income. You can only do so much in the time alloted.

    Now if you're dumb like many of us, you'll be putting in 7 days, 80+ hours a week. When the season starts, you'll be gloating in the "money" you're bringing in and when you see the last one go out the door, will be the day you die. A GOOD taxidermist will never see the last piece go out the door unless he's able to just walk away from it.

    You can listen to all these young guys fill of piss and vinegar telling you to "follow your dream", but I'm not a poet. I've been a taxidermist for over 55 years. I've "burned out" far too many times to count and sworn I'd never go back. But I have this tattoo on my forehead. It says, "STUPID" and I simply can't purge it or my system to follow that dream.
     

  3. strutinh

    strutinh Member

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    IMO, well said again Goege !
     
  4. backcountrychad

    backcountrychad Active Member

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    LISTEN TO GEORGE!!! HE SPEAKS THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  5. KyleK

    KyleK New Member

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    Why do you guys keep doing it?

    Thanks,
    Kyle
     
  6. Justin P.

    Justin P. Active Member

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    George said it.
    You also state you didn't like working for yourself in the construction business. Why would you like working for yourself in the taxidermy trade? You already know you have to be a different animal all together just to be self employed....in anything.
     
  7. tazzymoto

    tazzymoto Well-Known Member

    We don't know any better!
     
  8. michael p.

    michael p. Getting better with age :)

    It's a [expletive deleted]ing disease, basically an addiction.

    I love my job & do fairly well, but you better believe its a stressful living.

    Last month, top of the world, right now, $6,000 of work done in the last month still sitting in the showroom not knowing when the money's coming in..... but we did enough last week to kick out the dents.

    I guess what I'm saing is 'you cannot slow down!' If you put out $3000 last week you better damn well do $3-4k the next because you never know who will pick up & who will not.

    Like I said, I love it and do fairly well... sometimes I struggle, sometimes I excel, but you better have the attitude and personality to stick with it like a marriage. I have seen way too many people get so back logged, broke and frustrated that they break, kill themselves or run away.

    You're dealing with everything from first deer to $10,000 deer to $50,000 hunting safaris.... they all think their mount is your most important...... the scary thing is they are right.
     
  9. Jerry Huffaker

    Jerry Huffaker Well-Known Member

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    Taxidermy is extremely labor intensive. If your doing it fulltime by yourself 40-50 hrs a week won't cut it. It is absolutely relentless, you will hunt and fish less and see less of your family. You can make a good living if done right and your smart with your money. If you expect it to be hard are honest and aren't afraid of long hard hours then you might can make it. Once you get it built to fulltime you need to remember, those off days you had in the construction business are GONE forever.
     
  10. KyleK

    KyleK New Member

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    Thanks Michael, that makes a lot of sense.

    Owning your own business usally means you have to work harder, longer and deal with a lot more stress than a person the works for a business, but thats a tradeoff some are willing to make to work for themselves.

    Utah, I'm not the one to ask, but if you have the passion and the desire, you won't know until you try. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    Kyle

     
  11. Utahmountainman

    Utahmountainman Member

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    I actually love being self employed. I did it in construction for years but the bottom line was I didn't like the rat race of construction. Your schedule that you set for your clients is dependent on about 3-4 other trades and it is always a nightmare. Perfect example is the kitchen I'm doing on the side for a lady got pushed back 6 weeks!! That happens when you are working for yourself well, your next jobs are all messed up and being bumped around and now you have to try to find 6 weeks of income, or just live off your savings.

    I don't mind working long days and weekends, I have done that almost my whole life.
    I plan on doing quality work and charging for it, I don't want to be the cheap guy I know that is a disastrous trap in all trades. You want customers fast and start off cheap with the intentions to raise prices later. I did that years ago with carpentry and you never find the guts to raise prices cause you clientele is made up of people that hire you because of your price. Cheap people have cheap friends!!

    My plan was to start off with the mindset that in the future I would need to rent out a small shop and my starting prices need to have that future expense built in.
    So are you saying that the amount of work is what burns you guys out more than a lack of income?
     
  12. gunner62

    gunner62 Gunners Buckhorn Taxidermy

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    W.I.
    So are you saying that the amount of work is what burns you guys out more than a lack of income?
    [/quote]


    I've been at this 25 years now , it's not the lack of income that burns me out it is the relentless attack of pressure from your customers that live in a I WANT IT NOW WANT IT TODAY world that we live in. Every thing is better, faster, easier to get than it was 25 years ago. so like wise we Taxidermist should be able to run these mounts out faster too. I like being my own boss, I never did like being told what to do. That's why I work the 70-80 hour weeks I'd rather do it then listen to some BOSS that I know that I am much more intelligent than he is.
     
  13. Utahmountainman

    Utahmountainman Member

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    Sounds a lot like carpentry, contractor, homeowner always wanting it done 10x faster than is realistic (also needs it cheaper and perfect llol..!!)
    I've gotten used to dealing with pushy people and have developed a very thick skin.
    I know what you mean by it is addictive!!
     
  14. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Trust me, it's NOTHING like carpentry. At least with carpentry, when you're done, you have the client over a barrel in a sense. He has the house, but until he pays, you own the addition which any competent lawyer can use to get your money if the client balks. Michael is talking about the guy who thought he wanted it, but spent the money on something else and now, he's just walked away from it. Sure, you get the deposit, but that only paid for the supplies and storage. Now you have a mount that won't or can't be sold in many cases. You can't afford to take him to small claims because it costs you to file the claim. Then when they rule in your favor and he still balks, you have to go BACK to court to have his wages garnished (IF YOU KNOW WHERE HE WORKS). Now you're out more money along with the hours in shop time you lost.

    You say you're going to charge top dollar. Again, this ain't carpentry. If your artistic ability is that good, you're going to loaded up rather quickly but only after the 2-3 years it takes you to have your clients spread your reputation. If your work ISN'T that good, they'll spread that too and you'll really be in trouble. You can CHARGE anything you want. It depends solely on what your clients think it's WORTH.
     
  15. Utahmountainman

    Utahmountainman Member

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    I know it is not like carpentry in most respects but you would be surprised how many guys go under because they homeowner doesn't pay the bill.
    I do high end cabinet installation and I have often thought about starting my own cabinet shop. The scary part is that when it comes to cabinets we are talking big money, some jobs sell for 300 grand, most are 10-30 grand. Yes you get a deposit but like taxidermy, that only covers cost. You get them all finished and installed and the owner is not happy with his roof or driveway and holds money from the contractor.. The contractor isn't going to pay you out of his pocket and the homeowner isn't going to pay till they are happy with the other parts of the job!!
    I guess both industries are similar in that the customer can put you out of business even if you do nothing wrong.

    So, what percentage of customers would you say don't collect they mount.
    George I like your straight shooting advice, this is what I was looking to hear!

    As for what I charge. I'm going to set a price that I feel I want to be compensated and stick to that price. If my quality level is not up to that standard I'll keep practicing until it is up to that standard and if I can't reach that level then I'll stick to chopping wood!! I have been the cheap guy in carpentry and it isn't the way to go!!
    I don't need to charge top price, just not bottom middle would be fine with me. However I want to strive to be at the top oneday.
     
  16. Keith

    Keith Well-Known Member

    You keep mentioning quality taxidermy, Are you doing taxidermy now? It takes some people years to reach that level of truly excellent work , worthy of a living wage. Some never get there.
     
  17. Utahmountainman

    Utahmountainman Member

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    I've done it as a hobby since I was 9. I have done mainly life sized mammals and birds. I got busy running a carpentry business I am now just getting back in to it. I am not trying to start a business tomorrow i know it will take time to hone my skills and then build a customer base. I would like to start taking clients within a year or 2. I have loved doing it my whole life but never set my mind to go after it full time.
     
  18. Jerry Huffaker

    Jerry Huffaker Well-Known Member

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    Just curious how old are you?
     
  19. Utahmountainman

    Utahmountainman Member

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    30 years of age sir.
     
  20. joeym

    joeym Old Murphey

    I could not survive on taxidermy alone. I have a pension check that pays the bills and health insurance. I've been doing taxidermy on and off since 1970. As a retiree, it is something I enjoy most days. I have more work than I need, being full-time since 2005. In the past year I have completed over 400 different projects, which means I MUST accomplish something everyday, or get hopelessly behind. Keep your carpentry career and do taxidermy on the side...life will be a lot easier, I promise. BTW, I have $6000 worth of stuff ready to pick-up in my little showroom right now. Some of it will still be there next year, or the next.