Introduction: How to Sell Custom Knives
Thanks for clicking in!
First of all - Disclaimer and warnings:
1. I'm a lucky, amateur knife maker - This is not THE way to make and sell knives for profit. It is only my way.
2. I stumbled on this by accident.
3. Monetizing your hobby can ruin it. Be ready for that.
Now, that the boring stuff is out of the way let's talk making money selling your knives.
It's hard ass work and it's fun.
It probably won't make you rich, but if it does, shoot me a message and teach me how.
Here's what we're going to talk about:
-Learning to make knives
-Marketing your knives
-Pricing your knives
-Completing the transaction
If you're only interested in seeing my knife making process in detail, click here... otherwise.
Step 1: Learn to Make Knives
This video shows my exact process in great detail. If you want to know more... ASK! I'll share everything I know.
Side note: If i'm worthy please like it, share it and subscribe. It really helps me grow and it tells me to keep creating content. If you hate it, leave a troll-ish comment, those are fun too.
This learning step is about 50% of the climb, which is why I thought this was worth sharing. In most business' the technical aspect is a very small part of the system that actually make it a profitable machine. In knife making, the market is very different. The product is simple, and the customer dedicated. People that buy custom knives... LOVE knives. Once you know how to make a kick ass product - The consumer will find you. (with help, but we'll touch on that later)
Know what you're capable of. Don't do things that you don't understand, if you don't understand something - stop and learn it, learn on the internet or ask a knife maker. They are friendly people. Dig in, learn it, and execute it.
So here are my recommended actions and links to learn how to make really beautiful, damn good quality, heirloom worthy, brick cutting blades.
1. Learn what questions to ask. "what design is best?" "what steel type and why?" How do I heat treat the specified steel type?" Where do I get the steel?" "What steel type is best for what knife?" "How do I make the handle?"
These questions will lead you down a rabbit hole of science, philosophy, opinion and craftsmanship you are not ready for... It's a huge part of the process, embrace it. I promise, you will come out a more educated person on the other side - And you will never look at a knife the same way.
2. Learn where to find answers to those questions and more: Forums - there are a bunch of really excellent people in the custom knife community - Tap in, be nice and they will help you. Here are the forums I lie, but there are other great resources out there.
3. Buy Materials: By this point you know what type of blade you want to make, and likely have a rough idea of how to execute it. Now it is time to buy materials. Here are the p[laces I have used, they are good, and I've heard great things about the other many places out there.
AND TONS MORE!!! Activated your google machine...
At this point, you have a plan, and you have materials... Now go make a knife!
And when you're done with that one... Make 10 more.
Make as many knives as you have to until you have the best product you can produce.
After that... You're ready for the fun part...
Selling knives for profit.
Step 2: Marketing and Selling
I wont lie.This part is harder than making them.
The reason is, to you your knife is art. To most - it's a tool, albeit a fancy one.
The very simple tactic below, worked for me and I honestly think it can work in many different niches.
Leverage your current social media network to share what your are doing.
Do not sell to them. Just share.
Social media comes with an unwritten contract - you two chose to "accept" each other in the this E-world w the understanding you've made a connection elsewhere - Maybe a wedding or work or whatever... So using that connection to move straight into an aggressive sell is violating the unwritten rules (in my opinion). They did not accept your friend request in the same emotional state as they clicked "like" or "follow" on best buy, or "hell-mart"...
I think: "hey guys here's what I'm working on - though you might dig it." is an appropriate way to generate interest without actually selling anything.
Bring them along for the the learning process, let them get to know you as a craftsman. Let them see your success' as well as your failures.
Let them in.
Build their trust, do not treat them like a bunch of wallets and purses.
Make sure to use the appropriate hashtags for your niche, this will help with organic growth. It will allow people who are randomly looking for #coolknives to find you. Or even better, #knifesale for that guy that just got paid and needs a new toy...
You will have people interested in buying a blade by the time your first one is complete. If you believe in your product and you're happy to stamp your name it, then by all means sell it.
If not, then politely decline the offer, but leave it open.
"Oh man, thanks for the love! I'm not really selling them right now, just wanted to learn a new craft etc... I'll definitley let you know if I decide to sell in the future"
That's a very good lead for a possible transaction in the future.
Continue this process for each knife you build - as you get better the clientele will improve. The nicer the knife, the more people in your network will start to take notice and inquire...
Now the kicker.
When you sell, do the business offline - Knife details, costs, timelines etc all happen over the phone, in text, email, FB messenger whatever you two are comfortable with. It's just tacky to talk these details in public. Nobody wants to see that shit, don't do it. The people that do want to see it, are prospective buyers and you don't them having any leverage when it comes to deciding the price on their knife.
Remember at this stage of the game you are selling art, not tools. You can't compete in the "tools" market. Robots can make the same quality knife 50 times faster and 10 time cheaper.
You're are now an artist selling your art.
Find a base price that you can feel good about and DO NOT go below it. Start your negotiation 25% above it and go from there...
Cost of good sold+ 15% + (your time committed x (hourly rate)) = Price of knife
Hint* when you're getting started, your time essentially needs to be free...
Step 3: Complete the Transaction
This is almost the best part.
Now you get to share your art with the world.
Collect your money:
Cash, check, money order, paypal, vendmo - Whatever you're into. This part is easy. Just look out for fees, fee's can get ya...
If possible I hand deliver, because its awesome to see someones face when they first hold something you poured you're heart into.
If not, I'm in the USA, so I use USPS flat rate shipping to deliver my goods, it's fairly cheap and they haven't failed me yet. You'll have to figure out shipping in your local area.
Pro-tip: I use shipping during my negotiations - if they're already sold before a price is set, I add shipping to the end price, if I feel the need to "add more value" to convince them to commit. I'll throw in "free shipping" and eat the $6...
Now package it up, make sure it's a cool exciting thing to open and the hardest part - ask for feedback - you can't get better if nobody ever tells you what they think. Give them permission to shower you with praise or (more importantly) tell you your shit sucks and to try harder.
Like I said - I'm no expert, but this process has and continues to work for me.
I am currently trading my time, for enough cash to build my shop and learn a new skill - I'm not getting rich by any means, but I'm growing my capability. Something that holds more value to me than making a ton of cash.
Feel free to follow me on instagram and youtube - I do all kinds of stuff and do my best to keep it entertaining - I'd love to have you along for the ride. If you want to buy a knife from me - Instagram is the place - See you there.
Thanks for reading, feel free to ask questions - I'm happy to help!