|I personally know a bunch of fairly young woodworkers who have made a real niche for themselves. They are busy, they have a good client list, and they get good projects. How did they do it? In a phrase: "Relentless self-promotion". |
The people who succeed in woodworking are usually pretty good at making or designing stuff, but what they also do, and what a lot of talented people who give up don't do, is that they not only make furniture, they present a professional package to architects, designers, and end users. They are also doing constant, relentless promotion that gets their name out and they follow up with a proper portfolio. A website, business cards, and of course reliable pricing and delivery. Professional people want to work with professionals.
Just a small aside that might help illuminate this to people who don't get what I am saying. Back in 1999 when TFWW was first starting a friend of mine was just starting out as a graphic artist and she volunteered do to a lot of work for me. A few months later she went home to Germany and a grateful Joel wanted to give her a useful present. My present was I took her to "The House of Portfolios" and after careful thought she ordered her own custom portfolio to show off what little work she had. Complete with her embossed name on the cover, it looked a million (and cost a couple hundred IIRC).
Back in Berlin a few months later she told me that the portfolio not only was a confidence builder but it helped her get a job right away. Why? Of the beginners competing for the same jobs, she had one of the most professional presentations and a proper portfolio.
This was before personal website portfolios were common, but even today the professional (or the professional wanna be) will have something to show. Giving someone a URL and say look at my website - sure. Most busy architects won't type in the info. Give someone a card with a picture on it and a URL, if they like the picture you have a shot at it. A larger more formal presentation on an IPad can also be very effective and a proper portfolio gives you something can people can leaf through - which is fast, and far more satisfying than just having a website. It gives you something to talk about that will hopefully resonate with the prospect. What I am saying is that you will get most of your jobs by "word of mouth" the trick is that when you are given the opportunity to put in that word, you have materials and a presentation that reenforces your professional strengths and hopefully glosses over your weaknesses.
Aside from our website we don't have a portfolio but we try to do a little self promotion too. When we do shows or in the store we try to have a little giveaway so that you always come away with a little extra that helps you keep us in mind. When we decided to do this we wanted something that first of all had our name on it. Second of all was a tool, third of all was made in USA, forth of all had some connection with wood, fifth of all was unique, and finally, sixth of all was inexpensive enough to give away. We ended up with a wooden, made in USA ruler. Which by the way, while out of fashion now is in the long tradition of give-a-way rulers. What makes ours unique is that on one side of the ruler is a standard 12" rule, on the other we have Victorian era diagonal scales that will allow you to precisely set a divider to 100th of an inch. And when you buy something in the store we put it in a brown paper Gramercy Tools bag.
Now I get it, lots of you wouldn't mind a ruler but have logistical issues with coming to the store. And frankly, even if you live locally, it's far easier to order on the net and get it the next day. So for the next week or two or so we will be putting rulers into every package we ship that measures at least 12" diagonally. (while suppliers last)