The initial/starting phase is always a little daunting, over-whelming, and sometimes uncomfortable because we're entering a territory we have less a clue about. There isn't a fixed way to go about it. All the above suggestions are great ones. You can try beginner sample sets at Theperfumedcourt.com. Better still if you have malls/shops within decent proximity, that carry niche/artisan fragrances. There will be a lot of hits and misses, so don't expect too much from something just because it is considered (or priced) as "niche".
There are houses that are known for a certain style that may or may not suit your taste. You'll slowly be able to narrow down to your favorites, as you realise and understand your preferences more and more along the way.
The whole "cheap vs expensive" idea is a debatable one. I'm just more inclined to believe that niche may
not use more expensive ingredients, but they are created to smell a little more bold/specific/precise/provocative, and are a little more more well-executed than say a designer scent. Of course this is just a humble opinion of mine / a generalization, and there are many exceptions to that. Some niche houses actually use more expensive materials, and some designer scents actually smell
more expensive than some niche ones, etc etc. It all depends.
Hope this helps a little! Enjoy your journey and keep us updated.
Originally Posted by rogalal
I personally just picked a company and tried as many as I could, then picked another one and another one until I kind of "got" it.
This was a method I chose too. But I don't exhaust the entire profile of each house before moving on to another. I do tend to try as many as 5-10, then move on the another house, then along the way revisit and sample other offerings from the (first) house. But basically, I enjoy exploring/acquiring by house.
Great advice and suggestions too, rogalal.