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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 2:39 am 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo

Joined: Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:20 am
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Location: North East England
First name: nigel
Last Name: forster
City: Newcastle upon tyne
Zip/Postal Code: ne12at
Country: england
Focus: Build
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Reading over this thread it's clear to see that people are not charging much for their work. That's fine - if you make for fun or just want your hobby to pay for itself. If you are looking to earn a living though, it's tough. It means you're now competing against people who are making for a hobby. I stopped marketing on one player's forum because of that - a couple of retired amateurs makers were selling what looked like decent guitars, for less than what it costs me to make one. I estimated how much time I'd spent on the forum - reading, posting and checking, then looked at how many enquiries I'd received from those who visited it, and how much work resulted from those enquiries. It was clear - I was wasting my time on that forum. So I stopped.

The thing about pricing is, it's an important tool the luthier has to control demand. There are lots of levers he or she can pull to try and increase demand, but pricing is the "handbrake." If your price is already low and no one is biting, you're not doing enough to increase demand. And that takes time and patience. A bit like building.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 3:07 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
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First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
True. We quip about Walmart wages, however, I would rather make subWalmart wages building excellent musical instruments for beautiful musicians than to actually work at Walmart as a greeter.



These users thanked the author meddlingfool for the post (total 2): Michaeldc (Sat Nov 04, 2017 9:17 am) • ernie (Sat Nov 04, 2017 7:26 am)
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 6:48 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

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" a couple of retired amateurs makers were selling what looked like decent guitars, for less than what it costs me to make one."

I guess I'm part of the problem (although I don't sell a lot of instruments, so not a big part of the problem).
I make a number of different instruments, and most sell for under $1K. As a retired cabinetmaker I have the tooling and know how to complete a typical guitar in about 40 hours of actual work (not counting time futzing around in the workshop). I try to keep material costs under $100 + tuners so I use AAA grade and under soundboards (no Mastergrade), resaw some B&S woods and laminate veneers (have a few thousand feet of old BRW and exotic off fall for free or bought cheaply). I build what suits my fancy - for fun, if not for profit.
One recently completed instrument is a 4 course baritone tuned Cc Gg Dd AA with laminated BRW back and sides.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 9:20 am 
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Cocobolo
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Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:45 pm
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First name: Michael
City: Port Townsend
State: WA
Focus: Build
meddlingfool wrote:
True. We quip about Walmart wages, however, I would rather make subWalmart wages building excellent musical instruments for beautiful musicians than to actually work at Walmart as a greeter.


and you can go fishing pretty much whenever you want during the openings!


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 9:49 am 
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Cocobolo
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I don’t think hobby makers are really part of the issue. A hobby builder isn’t going to drive down prices unless they are able to produce instruments as good as the pro, which normally doesn’t happen (does it?).

Now, if folks are buying hobby built guitars and don’t know that there are some really fine professional guitars for near the same price then that falls on the pro for poor advertisement (I think).

There SHOULD be basically 3 groups here : 1 those who just want a 1 of a million factory instrument. 2: those who want a hand made instrument 3: those who want a professionally crafted functional work of art.

There are very few hobby builders who can produce items for #3. However there are fewer OF those folks in the 3rd camp, thus forcing pro builders to drop down and offer to group #2 (relying on marketing to beat out the hobby builder which ALSO decreases or eliminates any profit).

Those of you who do it for a living.... hats off to you. Really. What a great thing to do, but how difficult!

I hope I’ve not offended anyone.... I think I’ve just had too much coffee, so I’ll stop commenting for a few hours.

I KNOW there is so much more to this issue....
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro



These users thanked the author SnowManSnow for the post: Michaeldc (Sat Nov 04, 2017 10:28 am)
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 10:05 am 
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Koa
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Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 7:33 am
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First name: Willard
Last Name: Guthrie
City: Cumberland
State: Maryland 21502
Zip/Postal Code: 21502
Country: United State
Focus: Repair
Status: Semi-pro
This comes up from time to time in a shop that sees four or five builders dropping by. The only point of agreement is to charge as much as possible, and to avoid charging too little.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:16 pm 
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Yep, charge as much as you think you can. The free market will take care of the rest.

Can of worms:

As far as charging too little, that's just the way it is in a free market. Look at teachers in America. They should be among the highest paid, but they are among the least because people love to do it. Garbage men? the other way around! My dad is retired from a good career and now he teaches kids for peanuts because he likes it.

I'm sure there are plenty of great Hobbyist Built guitars out there. And plenty of Duds too. Some probably sound great, some probably look great, some probably feel great (although great setups are the most elusive part for the inexperienced). If you can bring all three of those together then you are really cooking! And you should probably be raising your prices.
nkforster wrote:
..a couple of retired amateurs makers were selling what looked like decent guitars, for less than what it costs me to make one.
Anyone who has sold instruments to anyone other than family and friends is not a hobbyist but at least a part-time professional. Part of what it cost you to make one is the wage you decide to pay yourself. After a quick glance at your site, you spend winters traveling on other continents which is great, and I assume you pay 50ish% in taxes. My point is what we need to pay ourselves is relative to our situation.

A kid just out of high school came to visit my shop and asked, "how much could I expect to make in my first year of guitar building?" Lol. I tried to keep a straight face as not to discourage him. If you did a business model and added up every conceivable cost including your "livable" wage it probably wouldn't work unless you charged 6k+. That's why most "professionals have another job, wife with good job, etc

I try to pay myself modestly for building (I get twice as much for repairs and four+ times as much in my other business), but I don't really factor in all my investment in time, education, tools, materials, and I work in my garage. I could also have a $60k poli-sci degree and work at Starbucks so...


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:36 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

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First name: Ed
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City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
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Michaeldc wrote:
meddlingfool wrote:
True. We quip about Walmart wages, however, I would rather make subWalmart wages building excellent musical instruments for beautiful musicians than to actually work at Walmart as a greeter.


and you can go fishing pretty much whenever you want during the openings!


Yes, I do that and actually caught a years worth of tasty dinners this season, a first.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:46 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:15 pm
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First name: Ed
Last Name: Bond
City: Vancouver
Country: Canada
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The problem in general is oversupply.

When I first started out, I knew half a dozen people with the same interests. Now I bet I could name 30+ builders in Vancouver alone, let alone the western seaboard.

An entire industry has been built on building luthiers. On line courses and on the ground clasess spit out newbies by the thousands every year, the vast majority of whom will fail utterly in the same way most music school graduates wind up as trench diggers.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 1:58 pm 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo

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Location: North East England
First name: nigel
Last Name: forster
City: Newcastle upon tyne
Zip/Postal Code: ne12at
Country: england
Focus: Build
Status: Professional
The point I was trying to make (perhaps badly) was it comes down to marketing in the right way. If your marketing mix consists of a Facebook page and hanging guitars in the local music shop, you're not creating much demand for your work. If you want your price to go up, demand has to outstrip supply.

So you have to get your work out there, either in person, online or through teachers and musicians. You have to keep looking at your marketing to see what is working and what is not - hence the story about wasting time on a forum where hobby makers were mopping up the orders. The issue isn't and never was hobby makers being a problem. I look forward to being one myself one day! The issue was - I wasn't spending my marketing time wisely. So I stopped. That alone is a time saving worth making.

That's what most folk do wrong: they never really question their marketing choices. They keep on doing the same old thing and expect the result to change. If you want to sell your work in a saturated market you have to be creative, not only at the bench but also when it comes to marketing and selling.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 2:20 pm 
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Yeah, I hear you there. Prudent marketing advice. I just wish I was as interested in marketing and accounting as I am in jig and instrument building. Necessity will get me there I'm sure!


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:29 pm 
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Cocobolo
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Joined: Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:43 am
Posts: 126
I do agree, for what it’s worth, w most of the comments. I wonder if most luthiers by trade, when they want to make a run at it, should hire a marketing firm for a while instead of hiring another hand in the shop


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 6:27 pm 
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First name: Alex
Last Name: Kleon
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Zip/Postal Code: L1N8X2
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Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
There SHOULD be basically 3 groups here : 1 those who just want a 1 of a million factory instrument. 2: those who want a hand made instrument 3: those who want a professionally crafted functional work of art.

In regards to #2 and #3: the trick is finding a customer who is willing to spend fair money to get one of those guitars.
In my business, I used to run into lots of tire kickers who thought because I was a one man operation, my prices should be akin to Walmart. I think we all know that the opposite is usually the case, and in custom guitar building, almost always.

Alex

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:28 am 
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Cocobolo
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Location: North East England
First name: nigel
Last Name: forster
City: Newcastle upon tyne
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SnowManSnow wrote:
I do agree, for what it’s worth, w most of the comments. I wonder if most luthiers by trade, when they want to make a run at it, should hire a marketing firm for a while instead of hiring another hand in the shop


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There usually isn't enough money in it to hire a firm to do your marketing for you. There are a few characters floating around the guitar world who have connections and offer the service but from what I've seen, the prices are high and the value unproven. Generally, marketing is something a maker has to take on themselves, along with building, finishing, accounting, selling, dealing with customers...and generally most forms of marketing are very poor value.

Actually, the most cost-effective way to market your work is to repair. Then you get paid by the hour, people come through the door, and see what you have on the wall. Some will try, some will not, some will buy, some will not. I believe Hesh sells his guitars this way. Very sensible.

But if you don't repair, and you have got a lot of unsold guitars, it's time to stop making and start selling. It's a skill, just like all the rest.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 6:25 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
First name: Hesh
Last Name: Breakstone
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nkforster wrote:
Actually, the most cost-effective way to market your work is to repair. Then you get paid by the hour, people come through the door, and see what you have on the wall. Some will try, some will not, some will buy, some will not. I believe Hesh sells his guitars this way. Very sensible.

But if you don't repair, and you have got a lot of unsold guitars, it's time to stop making and start selling. It's a skill, just like all the rest.


Thanks Nick, correct you are.

My university training is as a computer science/marketing guy with a minor in psychology. No wonder I'm all messed up...;)

I was avoiding this thread and even posted in it once, thought better about it and came back and deleted my post. Why? Because I got a lot more money than nearly everyone here did for my own guitars and didn't want to start an argument...... My pricing started at $5K and went though $8K for each one. I did not compromise, "the price is X, period."

I built what I wanted to build, never did any commissions and in fact am ethically opposed to the idea of commissions at least for me. No shows were done by me (or paid for, exhibit fees, travel, advertising, meals, partying, etc.) nor did I ever advertise either. I simply completed each one and hung them in my repair shop and in quick order someone wanted to try one when they saw it. Next they wanted to bring the significant other by and next they wanted to know if I took a check. By the way I only took certified checks, such a trusting sort I am.

Next. To coin a term from an old friend this strategy, this marketing strategy is known as the "numbers game" or "some will, some won't, so what, next..." It used to work in bars too....

I sold around 42 this way with no sales effort what so ever. I will also mention that I taught sales and marketing at the university level and specifically taught some of the highest paid and most successful marketing and sales men and women on the planet. These folks would sell little things such as nuclear power plants, 200 jet engines at a time, locomotives, and billion dollar contracts to make the interiors of US and foreign built automobiles.

There is NO money in building guitars unless you meet certain criteria.

1). You don't need much, maybe have a significant other with health insurance and a regular pay check.
2). You go larger like Olsen with a target for production, established REAL pricing. Real means you actually know what it costs you to build a guitar. 90% of people don't by the way and end up losing money. Real costs are not only material and time at a fair wage but the cost of heating, lighting, using, upgrading your shop AND the "opportunity costs" of not making much more doing something else. You can add in things such as time for complaints, warranty repairs (very difficult to estimate and recognize revenue) etc.
3). You supplement your income with a "real......" job.

I quit because I got bored with the same ole slog with another 140 hours or so in another one.... sheesh... what's on TV and because I got sensitized to mahogany dust making me feel like I had a cold when ever I sanded the stuff.

An important distinction about using repair work as a stalking horse to guitar sales. If your work is not stellar it only takes one mouth breather to give you a bad review OR your personal political leanings..... to get you a bad review and you're toast..... What times we live in eh.... Looking forward to Google and the others who function like media companies being regulated just like media companies. Sorry Brad, as we learned last year the stakes are too high.

Now to do great repair work you not only have to be a decent student of people because let's face it some people just suck and you need to avoid them coming in. You should know how to do decent repair work and some people will want to know if you are self trained which is not a confidence builder or if you actually have credentials that you have earned. Apprenticing, schools, Lutherie training and even building chops are all credentials.

But not to burst any bubbles though the honest truth from me is this is not a pursuit where very many at all make it in the sense that they could stand on their own and live on what they make..... Building is EXTREMELY "elastic in demand" with economic swings. Elastic in demand means that when push comes to shove things not considered necessities are avoided such as in a recession. Toilet paper is inelastic in demand (at least at my house it is... ;) ) where guitars are VERY elastic in demand. When you can't pay the mortgage and buy a new guitar hope you enjoy divorce court. That's elastic in demand.

Next there are a LOT of poorly built Luthier instruments out there already and I have even heard clients of Luthiers say that they won't do it again, buy from a Luthier because of the issues that they experienced (use double action rods....). They went on to say with a major manufacturer they get a REAL warranty from a company that will likely still be around......

So I have to ask though, what's wrong with being a builder because you love it? That's mostly why I built because for a time I absolutely was obsessed with it loving most every minute of it. Do we always need to make money to enjoy something.....

Lastly if you do sell the standards for measuring your work change dramatically and you have to be willing to have your production judged by others in the know with far more experience than you and not always favorably either. It can be humbling and that pretty rosette means nothing in terms of how commercially available instruments are judged......

When Dave and I know that someone is bringing in a Luthier built guitar unless it's one of the established Luthiers who we know and know their work the thing gets more triage scrutiny AND so does it's steward than say a G*bson. We know that the G*bson will suck and have flaws but we don't know what kind of flaws the Luthier built instrument will have and how much it will suck.

With all of this offered from direct, personal experience AND a clear leaning on my part toward not singing the praises of being a Luthier if you're in it for the money you can go live and learn yourself. It can be very rewarding in the non tangible sense, it has been rewarding in the tangible sense for me but my story is unique and I am a very fortunate person to have had a mentor in Dave Collins. OTOH you can burn though the family nest egg and be left with nothing, nothing at all.....

Dave L. sorry buddy but there is pricing in my post, like many things in life you just have to try to find it.... Hope you are doing great too!


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:13 am 
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First name: Don
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"So I have to ask though, what's wrong with being a builder because you love it? That's mostly why I built because for a time I absolutely was obsessed with it loving most every minute of it. Do we always need to make money to enjoy something....."

Amen. I make my living doing something else that I enjoy, and that actually provides a good living. I will never try to support myself by building guitars. It just would not make any sense, in my context.

When we start going down this road of talking about trying to make enough money from building guitars to support yourself, I am reminded of something a comedian once said: when you are driving down the interstate, everybody who goes faster than you is a maniac, and everybody who goes slower than you is a moron. Choices about what you do for a living, and your work/life balance, are just like that. You can't go too deep into such a discussion without comparing those very personal choices, and the things that other people choose to do may sound like really bad choices to you. Well, your choices sound like bad choices to them. Just something to keep in mind.

I don't sell my guitars yet; I'm working on building skills first. If/when I start selling, one of my goals will be to find, within the already small market of those serious about buying a handmade guitar, the even smaller niche market of those who want to buy the particular types of guitars I want to make. And I think having a niche market is pretty freakin' important for those of you who really do want to make money from making guitars. If you are making guitars that cannot be distinguished from a Taylor or Martin or Gibson, then I don't see how you win that fight. Those companies have economies of scale and dealer networks and all sorts of things you cannot compete with. But if you give the customer something those companies cannot possibly offer, and if there are real customers for that different thing that cannot be gotten from a major manufacturer, and you and those customers can find each other, then I think you have a shot at not going broke.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post (total 2): Hesh (Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:58 am) • Michaeldc (Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:28 am)
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 8:39 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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"one of my goals will be to find, within the already small market of those serious about buying a handmade guitar, the even smaller niche market of those who want to buy the particular types of guitars I want to make. And I think having a niche market is pretty freakin' important for those of you who really do want to make money from making guitars. If you are making guitars that cannot be distinguished from a Taylor or Martin or Gibson, then I don't see how you win that fight. Those companies have economies of scale and dealer networks and all sorts of things you cannot compete with. But if you give the customer something those companies cannot possibly offer, and if there are real customers for that different thing that cannot be gotten from a major manufacturer, and you and those customers can find each other, then I think you have a shot at not going broke."

I think this is very good advice for the person who wants to do lutherie for a living. Building instruments that are simply not available elsewhere or not available at a "professional level" (except from other luthiers) can help you find a space in the niche market.


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