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Thread: Am I crazy?

  1. #1
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    Am I crazy?

    As some may or may not know, I am currently 16, and a Junior in high school. I am the guy who has at one point or another mentioned wanting to MIG from scratch a 20+ foot plate alloy center console inshore fishing boat (3/16 bottom hull, 1/8 inch sides, built on a frame of transverse bulkheads, with longitudinal stiffeners of tubing), before I graduate, which I still plan to do, provided the money gets here in time.

    Because I am too stubborn to work for anybody, I have ended up working for myself, and doing alright, considering my age, the hours I am working, and what I am making, especially seeing as I enjoy what I do (I couldn't get that bagging grocery's, no offense to anyone who does). Anyway, I am doing various work on smaller boats, outboard motors, and boat trailers. While some of these jobs are ones for customers, I am also doing a lot of buying, fixing, and reselling for a profit of small boats and motors. I MIG weld some jobs, both on things I flip, and ones for customers, and once I log a few more hours with aluminum, plan to do that too (been approached for that on a couple of occasions). But, while I do enjoy the wood fabrication, motor repair, and electrical work I often do, I much prefer welding to all them, and would like to pursue a small job more associated with welding.

    My ultimate goal is to weld full time later on. I am fairly sure that I want to own my own shop building the welded plate alloy boats, similar to the one I wish to build for myself, but at this point, I am not certain what actual field of welding I would like to enter. I do know that I would rather stay on the owner/operator side of a small business, rather than be an employee of a larger one.

    Recently, I have given some thought to starting my own mobile welding business. Basically, starting with a gas powered welder/generator (Lincoln Ranger 250 GXT looks awful nice), torch set, and all the necessary tools to get going, mounted on a trailer, and go from there.

    My question is this. How well could something like that work for a younger person. I don't question my welding skills, or the ability to constantly work the logistics of it, but I am unsure of the level at which I could find work. All my current work has been small jobs, "under the table," so to speak, so no certs. are really needed. How much "under the table" demand is there for mobile welding? And, how much is not yet having the certs. going to hurt. Scanning through Craigslist, in the "labor gigs" section, there are usually one or two small jobs for a mobile welder, usually "under the table" sorts, but obviously these wouldn't cover my costs fully.

    Does anybody on here have a gas powered welder/generator, and do mobile side work? If so, how does that work for you? The level I plan on working at, until later on, once I gained the correct certs, would be considered "side work" by most grown folks. Or, how many of you do in shop side welding, and if so, how is that working for you?

    Thanks,

    Dawson

  2. #2
    Contributing Member MXtras's Avatar
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    Re: Am I crazy?

    First of all, let me say this - I admire your motivation. For being 16, you are heads above the majority of your age class with regards to thinking things through.

    Now, I can not speak from personal experience with a mobile welding (service based) business, but I do weld, it's a core part of my business, but my business is stationary and is not based soley on service - I have a product as well. My customers come to me with their welding work.

    But - generally speaking I can speak from experience when it comes to running a business. It is one tough gig. If you plan it it being your sole source of income right off the bat, you are setting yourself up for a big suprise. It might take several years to build a client base. Based on how much thought you are putting into this, I seriously doubt this information comes as a suprise to you.

    No - you are not crazy. Going into business is every motivated person's dream.

    My advice is this -
    Go for it.
    Advertise, advertise, advertise.
    Listen to the older folk when they give advice - especially if they have been there/done that.
    Be kind to everyone all the time - it's amazing how stopping to help with a flat tire can turn into a $15,000 job a month later - you never know.
    Do one thing and do it very well.
    Advertise, advertise, advertise.
    Keep good records. Always.
    If you tell a customer you will do something, do it.
    Word of mouth is not too reliable unless you really stand out, so stand out all the time.
    If you tell them you will be somewhere by 7AM, be there by 6:45.
    Follow up (briefly) with your cutomers a few days later - see if they are happy with your work/performance.
    Stand behind your work.
    Clean up after yourself.
    Plan your work and work your plan.
    Do not hesitate to turn down work if it doesn't look or feel right.
    Keep your overhead low. New stuff is nice but can be addicting. (one of my pitfalls!)
    Find trusted help and use it when needed (another pitfall of mine!).
    Keep your equipment maintained and ready to go at all times.
    Advertise, advertise, advertise. People need to see your name 8-10 times before it will stick in their head.
    Get an accountant. Seriously - Big help. (I did not at first but wish I had)
    Get a decent liability insurance policy. This can be a tad pricey, but a failed weld that injures someone or damages property is a lot more expensive.
    Don't let your customers see you dragging your butt - they will remember you as being lazy.
    Poor craftsmanship advertises just as fast as good but brings a lot less work.
    Never count the cash until it's in hand - it's not a job until you actually get paid (those are favors), so don't run out and buy supplies until the customer commits.
    Be up front with the customer about pricing and make sure all pending charges are understood. If you run into a problem, stop and review it with the customer.
    Advertise, advertise, advertise.
    Never turn away work, but be honest about when you will be able to get it accomplished.

    Keep your advertising simple, clean and catchy. You have one second to grab somone's attention, so make it count and make sure they associate your name with welding.

    ANY business requires the same set of rules, whether you are selling jewelry or septic tank service. The type of business changes the advertising and execution of the business, but the core business principles are the same. A successful businessman knows this and a failed businessman realizes this.

    As far as how it's going for me? I now get work from several states for welding - engine cases, frames, etc. I will run into people at the track that I have never met before and they know me as the 'Aluminum welding guy' or the guy that gussetted Joe's and Chuck's four wheeler frames. I do a lot of frame welding - sometimes three four wheeler frames a week (I race two-wheelers, by the way). Pretty cool. As far as the money? The sevice welding I do is just a portion of my business but it adds around $5k-$8k per year part time in the evenings and weekends. I also weld (repairs) restaraunt equipment for a local chain - fry baskets, mixers, tables, slicers, etc. The work load is pretty inconsistent, though but then again I am not advertising for this type of work. Not bad for basically word of mouth. It took about 7 years to get there, though.

    Scott
    Last edited by MXtras; 09-02-2009 at 11:28 AM.
    If it wasn't for the last minute I wouldn't get anything done

  3. #3
    Registered User VegasBruce's Avatar
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    Re: Am I crazy?

    Very well put Scott, the only thing I would add to that is;

    Keep a clean and professional appearance. In a mobile business, you will end up at someones house. You want an appearance that won't offend anyone. Be clean in appearance and language. If at a later date you want a tattoo, Cool but make sure it is tasteful and can be covered.
    Bruce

    A craftsman is someone who does a better job than anyone thinks is necessary.

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  4. #4
    Registered User Neuswede's Avatar
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    Re: Am I crazy?

    Typically, folks like us set out to be in business for ourselves after some time in the work force and becoming a little jaded by the idiots we are forced to tolerate from 8am to 5pm. I spent 23 years in commission sales, owning my own business for nearly half that tiime. Find people in your area to talk with. At your young age, you NEED business mentors: people who can take an active interest in helping you succeed by offering their advice. Someone else's experience can be much less expensive than having to learn it all on your own.

    Setting out in business means some capital outlay, and some operating expenses to get started. If you are working mobile, you'll need insurance (contractor's, with liability coverage, protecting you and your customers). Depending on your state of residence, you'll need to pay into the Worker's Compensation and Unemployment systems, too. Factor in these types of expenses when setting your hourly rate schedule.

    You'll need to map out a strategy and business plan. Look for SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) in your area. These folks are retired business people who can help you avod pitfalls, which ultimately saves you money. Don't let your pride get in the way...ask for help early. Set out to be a business person, and conduct yourself in that manner. Stay away from under the table work...if people can't afford you, you can't afford them. Once you start working on the cheap, you will have a hard time convincing your customers that you are worth more money later. Favors are one thing, but it is not the way to be successful in business. I take in some projects from time to time, but never at a bargain rate. If you are going to work for free, it's cheaper to sit around and have a cup of coffee. Also remember that to be successful in business, you not only need to be skilled in your chosen vocation, but you need to be at least equally as skilled in running the business. There are thousands of skilled people who fail every year because they do not have the necessary skill set to run the business or don't have enough working capital. Most (80%) startup businesses fail in the first year. Of the successful ones who last one year, only about 20% will last for the next 5 years. The numbers are stacked against you, so planning is essential to your success. lastly, working for yourself means being able to work 1/2 days, everyday....all you need to do is pick which 12 hours that day you want to work. Good luck!

  5. #5
    Contributing Member MXtras's Avatar
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    Re: Am I crazy?

    Dawson -

    Don't let all this talk scare you off - this is the reality of doing business, though. It's not all it's cracked up to be but it is very rewarding making it work. It can be stressful at times and it's those times where your preparation either makes or breaks you.

    Scott
    If it wasn't for the last minute I wouldn't get anything done

  6. #6
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    Re: Am I crazy?

    Thanks again for all the help. Figured I would throw an update in here.

    After this, and having read posts by countless mobile welders over on weldingweb.com (not an issue to post another forums name on here, is it?), I decided that the mobile welding business probably isn't my best course of action, at least for the current time. I can definitely see it happening sometime in the future, but at the current, my best plan is probably to expand upon the in shop work I currently do, as well as start marketing a few more production pieces, as opposed to working solely off of flipping/customer jobs.

    On that note, I am currently looking at upgrading to a better MIG machine. Anybody know of a reasonably priced Miller 251, and/or 30A spoolgun?
    Who is John Galt?

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