Go where the money is. It's not going to come looking for you - and that includes websites. The internet is not marketing magic, despite what the search engine companies want you to believe. The vast majority of magazine readers look at pretty pictures, order free catalogs, pester custom makers with time-consuming questions... and then spend their knife budget at WalMart or Cabela's.
That means having a presence on forums and at shows - these people already know what they want and are looking to put some cash on the table. My website is essentially a reference resource for potential clients to learn how/why I make what I make, not a retail outlet. Use your real name and be yourself online and at shows, warts and all.
For goodness sakes, if you fall behind or goof up an order, come clean ASAP. Do so in public. "Look, it's my responsibility, I'm on it, here's what I can do to fix it for you" goes a long, long way. Making excuses, telling sob-stories or just hoping a problem goes away will haunt you. No one cares if you got divorced or your dog died, they want their damn knife.
Make mostly knives that you would actually use or collect. Bizarre custom orders can be fun and help keep bread on the table in lean times, but too many "options" gets tiresome real quick, eats up a lot of time and money, and doesn't really distinguish you from anything other than a machinist who's not charging enough. (seriously - call a local machine shop or tool-and-die factory and ask for a quote on one or two blades or guards - you'll be stunned at the cost. Knifemakers work cheap in comparison.)
Carry your own. Every day. Use it, abuse it, break it, and figure out how to make it better. Be open about that. I've gotten orders based on that alone.
Last edited by james terrio; 08-08-2012 at 12:56 PM.
I do not entertain hypotheticals. The world as it is, is vexing enough.
Beckerhead # 350
Member, AKTI and KnifeRights