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 Post subject: Reflections
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 4:06 pm 
Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:06 pm
Posts: 2739
Location: Magnolia DE
First name: Brian
Last Name: Howard
City: Magnolia
State: Delaware
Zip/Postal Code: 19962
Country: United States
Focus: Repair
Status: Professional
So the first of the new year will mark the beginning of my 11th year in this as a business. So I've been reflecting on that lately and how I wound up here..... idunno

This has lead me to a few things I thought I would pass along to help any others on this path.

When I first started a much wiser Luthier asked me a seemingly simple question. A question that proved more difficult to answer then it appeared on the surface. In fact I am not sure I have a complete answer yet all these years later..... That question?

"Who is your customer?"

My initial response was "Anyone who plays guitar!". This was met with a sigh and a bit of very short but very useful advice. That advice was that this was absolutely not true and if I didn't figure out who my customer was I would not have enough of them to survive.....He also could not tell me who "MY" customer was because only I could answer that. I can tell you from here that he was right on all counts. To make it in the land of guitars you must specialize in some way in order to stand out. Trying to be everything to all doesn't even work that well for GC, and it won't work at a small scale. It took me 5 years to even begin to understand my customer, or who I wanted for customers from the general guitar playing rabble. That last part is key.... who you want for a customer. I actually will turn down a "customer" pretty much as a whole rather than specific jobs. Sometimes for the obvious reason that this person will be a PITA Grande Mucho but also at times because what they are into isn't really my thing or they could be better served by someone else I know. In the case of the latter they will often return when they have something more my forte' and the former will find me constantly to busy.... So first off figure out who your customer is, he's easier to find then. ;)

Another piece advice given me by a legend in this business was " If your gonna make it in guitars you better learn how to sling it!" You have to be constantly making some noise to be heard over the din. Don't confuse this with tearing others down. I never speak a bad word about another Luthier even if it may be warranted, we all have bad days. What this means is find a way to keep your name in circulation. When you speak of what you do do it with authority. You'll never be anyone in this trade until you convince your customer (that guy again) that you already are! Basically you need to apply heaping helpings of skill, poise & confidence at all times. Remember unlike Gibby or Paul Reed you are not selling tradition or factory precision. Until you are selling a few hundred guitars a year the only product you have to sell is yourself!

This is a game of attrition. There are dues to be paid and often it comes down to just being to stubborn (or stupid :D ) to quit. You got to make it at least 5 years before the general population of guitardom will start to pay any real attention.

In retrospect this was both the easiest and the hardest thing I have ever done. Here's to seeing whats up after my next 10 years.


You never know what you are capable of until you actually try.

Last edited by B. Howard on Fri Dec 20, 2019 6:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

These users thanked the author B. Howard for the post (total 8): runamuck (Sun Dec 22, 2019 2:06 pm) • Conor_Searl (Sat Dec 21, 2019 12:52 pm) • SnowManSnow (Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:44 am) • Colin North (Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:30 am) • Dave Rickard (Fri Dec 20, 2019 9:51 pm) • DanKirkland (Fri Dec 20, 2019 8:10 pm) • Clinchriver (Fri Dec 20, 2019 6:21 pm) • Michaeldc (Fri Dec 20, 2019 4:23 pm)
 Post subject: Re: Reflections
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 4:30 pm 
Contributing Member
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Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:36 am
Posts: 6300
Location: Southeast US
City: Lenoir City
State: TN
Zip/Postal Code: 37772
Country: US
Focus: Repair
Good writeup Brian.

Funny is that I just got into the business side of this to just make enough money to pay for my shop expenses and parts for my builds. Turns out the same points are key if you want to make it an ongoing gig.

These points really resonated with me:
- ... who you want for a customer.
- ... the only product you have to sell is yourself!
- ... often it comes down to just being to stubborn (or stupid :D ) to quit.

Best of luck to you as move on into the future and thanks for all the time you spend helping out other folks (and me too)!

Steve Smith
"Music is what feelings sound like"

These users thanked the author SteveSmith for the post: Clinchriver (Fri Dec 20, 2019 6:22 pm)
 Post subject: Re: Reflections
PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:13 am 
Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Tue May 13, 2008 10:44 am
Posts: 5253
Location: Virginia
I have deep respect for anyone who is doing this full time and making a living off it. I'm not sure I would even want to. I tried it once and it lasted about two years and that was 25 years ago. At that time Identifying my customer was a bit easier since I was doing repairs for 4 music stores in my area. Then along came eCommerce and now all those shops are closed. Of course most of the local musicians come to me even after all these years and once in a while they bring in someone new.

In theory if you do good work then it should continue to grow that is as long as the guitar doesn't fall out of popularity which I don't really see happening.

The key point is indeed, sell yourself. I only build about 4 guitars a year, if that, and every person who buys one isn't just buying a guitar they are indeed buying a part of me, myself. That's what they want a relationship with a guitar maker that they will carry with them forever.

Good points.

 Post subject: Re: Reflections
PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 12:14 pm 
Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood
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Joined: Sat May 22, 2010 10:32 am
Posts: 2614
First name: alan
Last Name: stassforth
City: Santa Rosa
State: ca
Zip/Postal Code: 95404
Country: usa
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
one of the best posts ever on the forum.

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