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Marketing Woodturning Skills

1. Introduction

Once they have become competent, and found out how much they enjoy their activity, some woodturners may think about transforming their hobby into a full-time career. It need hardly be said, however, that this is a big step, which should not be undertaken without considerable thought. In these notes I will look at the ways in which well-established marketing techniques may help prospective professional woodturners approach the problem of selling their skills.

There are a number of ways in which turners may use their skills to create an income. The chief of these are:
  • Selling their work
  • Teaching
  • Demonstrating
  • Writing
  • Making and selling videos
Most successful professional turners will be involved in more than one of these activities but only a few will participate in all five. In a typical case a professional will start his career by selling his work and then find that some combination of the other activities listed above pay better. Unfortunately, although those activities may pay well, they will not always provide a full-time income; as a consequence many professional turners may still have to spend part of their time making and selling their work.

It may have been noted that a distinction can be made between the selling of turnery and the other activities. The first concerns a physical product; the latter are methods by which turners can augment their incomes by passing on their skills and knowledge to others. Because of this, and because pricing can be considered as a separate issue, it is convenient to split this document into three parts:

1. Marketing turnery
2. Marketing other woodturning skills
3. Pricing woodturning

In Part 1 I have concentrated on the way in which general marketing principles may be used to help prospective professionals sell their turnery. In Part 2, which I am currently writing, I will consider how marketing principles can be applied to the other four activities referred to in the second paragraph above. I will also provide detailed guidance on the planning and performance of these activities. Whilst pricing is dealt with as a separate topic in Part 3 it is important to recognise that a pricing strategy should be an integral part of a marketing plan.

Please note that I am writing from the viewpoint of a turner in the UK. However, I think that turners in North America and elsewhere will have no problem in relating these notes to their own circumstances. I should add that I believe there must be a lot more to say on these topics but I am offering these thoughts as a starting point.