This Q&A is the first in The Farrier Guide’s series of Q&As conducted with established farriers to provide readers with tips on working as a farrier. In this Q&A we asked Mike Poe of Alpha Farrier Services about his decision to become a farrier, how to start a farrier business and how he successfully promoted his business using the Internet.
Why did you choose to become a farrier?
Honestly because I had nothing better to do and there was an opportunity to learn. It wasn’t until after I had learned the basics that I realized I loved the work and would like to make a career of it.
What do you like most about your job?
Playing with fire! Seriously, I feel best about my job when I can help sort out a horse that’s in pain.
What do you find the most challenging part of your job?
The financial side of it. I’m fortunate that I have a wife who is willing to tackle that for me.
When you were first starting out, how did you find clients?
I visited veterinarians and feed stores. Not to hang up a card on the board, but to talk with the people that talked to my prospective clients. Make friends with people that can bring you work.
Have you since employed any marketing strategies that have been more successful?
Oh yeah, I have a website that built my current business in less than a year.
That’s fantastic that you built your current business in less than a year using your website. Does that mean all your clients came via the website? Can you give readers an idea of what it takes to build and run your website in terms of cost to build, maintain and promote?
The website brought me seed clients (the kind that bring in more). We did a marketing push through local horse periodicals with vague ads to spark curiosity in the website. As far as cost, I honestly couldn’t say. My wife is a web designer with a journalism background. She worked her magic to make it happen. Her name is Sarah Poe and her rates are very reasonable for the results she brings.
In general, was there anything you wish you had done differently when starting up your business?
Yes! Pay your taxes as you go. If you can’t make that bill, you aren’t actually making a living at this.
What qualities do you feel someone needs to have to make it in a career as a farrier?
Self motivation. Physical and intellectual qualifications are adaptable. No one will make you be on time but you.
Can you tell me about the training you did to become a farrier. Was it enough? Would you have done gone a different route for your training or done more?
I went to a school and apprenticed. Education is like fun; you can never have too much of it.
What do you recommend to farriers wanting to stay on top of their skills once they leave school?
Never stop. Clinics, competitions and certifications provide opportunity to be judged by your peers.
Can you explain your choice of certification? How important has that certification been to you in your career as a farrier?
I followed the AFA certification process and then moved onto the Worshipful Company of Farriers in the UK. These are the most reputable organizations. Again, I like to be critiqued by others to know where my knowledge and skill are.
How did you first go about pricing your services?
I decided what the market could bear and priced accordingly. At this point I find myself charging less for extras. No one wants to be nickel and dimed.