When you're starting out as a woodworker, it can be tempting to create a body of work that covers broad areas so you can show clients you're able to do anything. In woodworking, it can be more helpful to find a niche and focus on it. If you like building cabinetry, become the best cabinet maker ever. Allow your work to show all the varied and intricate creations you can hammer out. Finding your niche and setting yourself up as an expert doesn't happen overnight, but planning your intentions clearly and simply can go a long way in establishing your market and clientele.
Find Your Niche
Before you establish your niche – find it. Don't say no to any job that's within your skill set. You'll quickly get a good feel for what you do and don't like doing. Take some time away from your leisure pursuits and browse woodworking projects off the clock. What draws you in? What inspires your passion and creativity? Explore these areas and hone your skills to enter that specific market.
Sometimes you don't find your niche, but may just fall into it. You might be so-so on built-in benches, but your work is exemplary and you show a latent talent for creating unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for clients. Roll with it until you find something that really resonates. At best, you get to spend your off-hours pursuing the work you find invigorating. At worst, you have a solid skill set and a reputation for good work that you can fall back on while pursuing other options.
Establishing Your Woodworking Niche
Setting yourself up as an expert in a niche means becoming a master at your craft. If you don't know how to perform a specific task related to that work, learn and practice it every chance you get. If you don't know the proper way to do something, don't just wing it. See how the masters do it and then go from there, finding your own way to break the rules once you learn them.
Soon, it’ll be time to show people you actually do know what you're doing. Create a portfolio of finished projects along with reviews and referrals from satisfied customers and clients. Take the opportunity to speak to writers and journalists about your craft and consider teaching a course or setting up a workshop (even at the local library) to establish your credentials as a leader in the field.
Network Within (and without) Your Niche
Networking is a necessary evil for any creative contractor or artisan. Reach out to other woodworkers in your niche to see what they're doing right (and wrong). Seek out other woodworking professionals outside your niche to see what they're doing for their marketing efforts and with their businesses. Forge connections and offer to take on overflow work they can’t handle or don't want – but reciprocate by sending work their way when you can.
Reach out beyond the woodworking world to other professionals that augment your niche. For example, if you're setting yourself up as the foremost craftsperson of scrolled canopy beds, get to know some seamstresses who can create custom canopies and curtains for your creations. Reach out to mattress makers and spread the word about your business – and offer to spread the word about theirs.
Setting yourself up as a niche craftsperson or expert in a certain field takes time and dedication. Limiting yourself to just one area can either cause your creativity to flourish or flounder – and can affect your income. Be open to change and adaptation while working toward your goals and remember to think outside the box once you've learned all about the box you built.