Sell Firewood for a Side Income
Shared From MOTHER EARTH NEWS Written By: Glen R. Smith
How to Market Your Business
Bear in mind, at all times, that the season of the year and the day-by-day weather your area experiences will have a very decided effect on your firewood sales. Late fall, winter, and early spring—obviously—is the time of the year when you can expect to really move those cords of wood. Perhaps not so obvious, however, is the effect that daily weather can have on your business. When the mercury takes a sudden dip, you’re liable to sell three cords of cut and split wood in a single afternoon. Let the thermometer soar during the following 24 hours, though, and you might be lucky to get a call for a single automobile trunk load of kindling. You’ll find this venture much more enjoyable once you’ve learned to philosophically ride these ups and downs: use the lag time to stock up in anticipation of the next cold snap.
Most of the dealers I’ve talked to sell a cord (a stack four feet high, four feet wide, and eight feet long) of wood for between $40 and $55. Half-cords go for $20 to $35. A face rick (any length of log stacked four feet high and eight feet long), on the other hand, sells for $30. Buyers generally look for the least expensive cord that a dealer will deliver.
Advertise in the want ad sections of your local papers and—if you live on a busy street—set up a sign outside your house. That should be about all the “real” promotion you’ll need for this venture.
It never hurts the business, though, when you throw in a little something extra in the way of service. Don’t, for instance, limit yourself to the sales of cords and half-cords only: If someone drives out to your place and asks just for as much wood as he or she can fit into the trunk of a car … make the sale and do it with a smile. Chances are that customer will be back for a full cord sooner or later. And when you sell those full cords, throw in some kindling at no extra cost. It’ll soon become one of your most appreciated promotions.
Few buyers of firewood, it seems, own a pickup truck or a trailer. Most of your customers, then, will call in their orders (in response to your newspaper ads) and ask you to deliver the wood they purchase. And they’ll usually want that delivery NOW.
Tip Number One: Don’t accept orders that must be delivered more than 20 miles from your place of business unless you have a clear understanding that you’ll be paid extra for the service. you simply won’t be able to afford the mileage.
Tip Number Two: Always give yourself enough time to make a delivery . . . even if your truck breaks down and everything else that could possibly go wrong does go wrong. Your customers will stay far happier if you promise delivery in “three or four days” and make good in one . . . rather than the other way around.
Follow Up on Sales
You’ll find it worthwhile to write down the name and address and—if possible—telephone number of everyone who buys firewood from you. Then contact all your customers early next year … before cold weather inspires them to lay in a new stock of fuel. By the time that first winter storm hits, you’ll have gotten the jump—by several sales—on every other dealer in your area.
What Will it Cost to Start a Firewood Business, and How Much Will I Make?
If you already have a good vehicle that’s capable of hauling the logs you cut and you build your own splitter, you should be able to get into the firewood business for under $800. And—if you only work the venture on a part-time basis—you certainly won’t get rich your first year (when you’re paying off your equipment at the same time you’re spreading the word about your new service). But by the second and third season of operation, you should be clearing between $1,500 and $2,500 a year. . . depending on the weather, how well you maintain your tools, and how energetic you are.
And that’s not too bad for a spare-time, seasonal source of income that you can run at your own pace and in your own way … almost anywhere in the country.
To continue reading about Glenn R. Smith’s Homestead Business, check out Start a Home Business Selling Firewood on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.