I'm just getting into the Repair / Luthier business and I'm looking
for ideas or information on how to find work.
I already know about the need for a Web Site and Business Cards.
The problem is getting my name out there. Who do I give my Cards to?
How do I get people to come to me instead of Guitar Center for example?
Thanks for any help in advance.
Maybe put an ad on Craigslist or a local paper. Pass your card out to players at events.
I knew about Craigslist but I didn't know you could put up business ads like that.
That was useful.
You need to do all the website, social media stuff. Getting good reviews on Facebook and Google is very important nowadays. Every week, someone tells me they chose to come here because they read a positive review online. So it's important to ask customers to leave reviews. I include a little sentence on the repair slip just to jog their minds. I don't beg, but I've build up a lot of really positive reviews. You can also include them as testimonials on your website or Facebook page.
I post to Facebook 2-3 times a week. I don't think you need any more than that, really. But if I do some interesting work or work on a cool guitar, I'll take a photo and store it away. Then, if I've a quiet week or just a week full of boring setups I can bring that out and post it.
Having said all that, a lot of my work is still word of mouth. If you do good work for active musicians, your name will get out there pretty quick. Guitarists will always talk at open spots or jam nights and your name will spread.
I've business cards, but I don't get that much use out of them. They work in some more business-oriented contexts. I do repairs for music departments and so on, and it's nice to have a slightly more professional thing than a mobile number jotted on a old string packet. Likewise, if someone rich has a big collection they want checked over, or if you're brought in by a music store, it helps to dress a bit better etc.
Oh, and get a nice apron. People love a workshop apron, in my experience!
You said you do work for music departments. But what if they already do set up work?
Or are these places not doing their own work?
I have a couple place I'd be in direct competition with and I'm not sure if I should even talk to them
or not? I don't want to make any enemies. I was kind of hoping I could build a relationship with them
but I don't even know how to approach them. I keep thinking why would they want to help me
or give me their extra business?
Sorry for the confusion, I meant music departments in schools and colleges. But I think instrument retail and repair in general is quite friendly and supportive, and we all have our niche.
I get referrals from guitar stores fairly often. Sometimes they're too busy. Or the customer needs a job done for a gig tonight. Or it's not a job they're comfortable taking on: maybe it's a 'weird' instrument. Sometimes if just a matter of geography. Or the customer's housebound. Lots of reasons.
So it pays off to build up a good relationship with other repairers and stores. I've been brought in by stores and shows for big events: string manufacturers often run promotions to do restringing days and they need all the help they can get. Or they'll have an instrument appraisal day or whatever. I get a day rate for those things, plus a bunch of referrals. I've had work from a guitar store for flood damage in a studio: a lot of instruments, so we divvied up the work. I had referrals for appraising instrument collections for insurance, or most recently in a divorce. If those instruments are to be sold to the guitar store or at a guitar auction, they need to be checked out by a third party.
Likewise, I kick on jobs to other repairers every week. I don't take on amplifier/FX repairs, so they all get passed on. I pass on a lot of refinishing work, and a lot of those guitars come back to me (or come to me first) for setups, refrets, etc. I pass on most violin-family work, knowing that the string repairer will give me guitar work. If you give your local woodwind repairer work, he'll think of you when someone mentions, "Oh, and our daughter has a guitar that needs some work." Likewise, if a customer mentions in passing needing a new violin bow or saxophone reeds or whatever: send them to the right person in the right shop.
It takes a while to build up these links, and it's probably a tricky thing to force, but I think it's a natural progression that comes as a result of doing good work, getting a reputation and being the man that people think of, like, "Oh, I don't really do much of that. Try Jeff." People pass on these jobs because they don't want to do bad work: because that will kill their business more quickly than turning jobs down.
If you are web media inclined go to the following link https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/1722043?hl=en-AU (for example), there are lots of targeted search function out there and that will get in the general place for targeting your website (and the people who search for repairs) to a local area. Most customers looking for guitar work go local first. Have a single mobile phone number and a dedicated email/sms address for your business POC on your website and have a voicemail which you check every day and return calls promptly. This works for start-up but voice mail gets out of control fast and we ask on our voicemail greeting message for customers to try our number again.
We don't advertise other than having a Repairs Tab on our website and most of our repair customers come from word of mouth or referrals from our local music shops. After a while you get mentioned on local forums (if you are good , or bad) and when you do repairs always put two card in the instrument bag or case. This sort of stuff may work or it may not - our experience is that print advertising and social media advertising does not do much other than suck money with little return. A Facebook presence however, is essential and linked to your website
But, our business mainly built from having good relationships with the local music shops and the local musicians.
You need to accept that a lot of customers won't know or trust you no matter how good you are and will go to the big music shops regardless. But, you get your customers one at a time and if you are good they pass it on.
You said "But, our business mainly built from having good relationships with the local music shops and the local musicians."
How did you do that when you first started out?
Lots of great advice here. It does take time. I am finally employed full time with benefits, but have spent several decades working for myself. Meet as many local luthiers as you can to understand your competition. I have made some great friends and mentors this way. IMHO We are kinda in this together. They may be busy enough to refer work to you. The other end of that is remembering when to say NO when the job is outside your skills. Refer to your competition and you may be rewarded. Yes you'll find jerks too, but ignore them. Saying NO to jobs (and customers) that are diminishing returns when time vs cash is considered is best learned early. Master the disciplines one at a time. Word of mouth has been the most effective method of gaining new customers for me. Best of luck. Tom