Establishing Your Woodworking Niche - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

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post #1 of 7 Old 01-11-2017, 09:27 AM Thread Starter
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Establishing Your Woodworking Niche

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.
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post #2 of 7 Old 01-11-2017, 04:59 PM
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Good post, but IMO not only do you need to "find your niche", but you should also have all the tools, area, and experience to use those tools safely for the projects at hand. Continue to learn new skills related to your chosen specialty and beyond, take notes/pictures for future reference & jobs. Most of all enjoy what you are doing not just for the $, but for personal satisfaction. Be safe.
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post #3 of 7 Old 01-11-2017, 06:34 PM
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These suggestions apply to most creative ventures. If this is an income generating venture the thing people forget to take into consideration is how to operate a business and the time it takes away from the work. There is a myriad of things that require your time from bookkeeping, invoices, collections, taxes, insurance, advertising, and on and on. Not trying to discourage anyone but it is hard work.
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post #4 of 7 Old 01-11-2017, 08:40 PM
where's my table saw?
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your niche may find you ...

I don't know if you can project what you will become an expert on when starting out, or even after years of woodworking....
Luthiers may get into making guitars after years of woodworking in other areas, but having a passion for music may lead them down that path. Model makers of scale vehicles may discover that is their passion later on...? Cabinet makers are more of a trade than a niche, it seems to me, but there are some awesome builds out there. Furniture and high end custom built-ins are another specialty that you may "grow into" after other areas have been exhausted OR if you are throw into it by a customer's request.

I don't if have a nich per se, but I do enjoy making small chests and boxes. The size and scale of the pieces are easily managed in a small shop and the variety of woods available has a lot of appeal to me. I wouldn't restrict myself to that genre alone however. I've built cabinets, shelving, furniture, repaired musical instruments, done construction and framing, some lathe work, and metal and mechanical work, but I would have a hard time being restricted to one area. JMO.

One of the big advantages to taking a college degree is the exposure you get in many different areas. I took Industrial Design and had all sorts of classes from Art History to Engineering and Marketing. Figure drawing with live nude models was a whole new experience also.
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specfic. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo

Last edited by woodnthings; 01-11-2017 at 08:44 PM.
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post #5 of 7 Old 01-11-2017, 10:54 PM
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One thing to consider when "finding your niche". Don't turn your hobby into a job!
Sorry, but it's a truth that can't be ignored.
Many young people find something they really love doing. Then, they put the effort into finding a job, or building a business doing that "something". THEN, the hobby is the job, and they find they no longer want to do that on their own time.

In my case ... I LOVE fishing. It's my passion. But I will NEVER try to be a guide, or anything else that involves fishing. I love my job. I truly do, but fishing is what I do to get away from my job. Fishing is what I do to relax, to get excited, to forget any troubles that need daily tending for a while. The last thing I want to do, is to make that a job ... where, then, will l go to escape THAT???

While it is possible to turn a hobby into a job, and to then love that job for the rest of your life ... it is more likely that you'll stop doing that as a hobby. The old adage is true, "The painter's house is the last one to ever get painted."
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post #6 of 7 Old 02-10-2017, 12:13 PM
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So, this post is fantastic. However, if doing this for a living, sometimes it's necessary to be well skilled in a large variety of areas. The reason is, you need to make money and you need to pay the bills.

I do agree that while starting out, it's tempting to do a variety of different projects but it's almost required to do so. I consider myself an expert in the field of woodworking and while there are certain things I prefer doing more than others, I still take on the jobs that are not my favorite thing in the world because, well, I need to support my family. It's definitely very possible to find a niche and eventually focus on one item, but you can't just go out overnight and say I only make tables and nothing else and expect to make much money. It takes time, a lot of time, to develop a presence and a following. You need to have a HUGEEEE following in order to be able to market a one of a kind item.

I recently worked for a small company that was in business for 3 years and had a fantastic thing going. They were into the farmhouse style furniture and were quite busy, even had a storefront. They ended up laying me off and shortly after went bankrupt. They had a huge initial investment but had no following, no online presence, and very little marketing and advertising. They ended up doing a lot of low budget jobs towards the end while the economy slowed down a little and weren't able to survive.

Making a living as a furniture maker or woodworker is very challenging. Making money, is near impossible. You do it out of love and passion and not greed.
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post #7 of 7 Old 02-10-2017, 04:36 PM
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mikechell, good advice. I know fishing guides who guide for others and never have the time for themselves. Making a hobby into a job/business is like kerrys says. It is more involved than most people realize.
I built custom fishing rods for a few years. I was looking into moving into a particular niche in this area of TN, but gave it up as I realized it would be a full time job and not allow time for other things as church and grandchildren (I have nine and they all live here in town).

My wife gives sound advice. 99% sound and 1% advice.

Last edited by Pineknot_86; 02-10-2017 at 04:39 PM.
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