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Thread: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full time.

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    Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full time.

    First off, Happy Thanksgiving! Iíve asked some questions before, and love the constructive feedback I receive here. Iím still doing this on the side, and love it. Problem is, I love my full time job too. Itís a dream job, it pays good, benefits are pretty good, all that. Realistically, I wouldnít even decide to quit until my wife finishes her masters program and able to get benefits through her work. But, before you started your business, did you love your job before? Itís hard to not like what Iím doing on the side, money wise. I make almost what I make off 1 railing, what I make in a week of my full time job.

    Secondly, do you network with other companies? I feel like kind of an *** because recently, I reached out to a company Iíve seen around that seems to be flourishing. They do a lot of structural steel and cool big projects like that, even though itís a small crew. I recently saw on their Instagram that someone asked what they did before starting a business. He said he had his dream job before and it was tough leaving but ultimately decided to. I felt, with what I said above, that I related to that so much. So I decided to send an email to him and tell him about myself, that Iím in that boat that I love my job, but love doing what Iím doing on the side too and itís been going well and been busy. But he never responded and feel like an *** pouring myself out to network and ask a little about that.

    Thirdly, shop rent is becoming increasingly attractive, because my garage I work out of is small. But rent is so high. Here and there something will pop up where itís reasonable but I am just afraid to take that plunge. Is there a better way of finding shops to rent? Drive around industrial parks? Word of mouth?

    Lastly, is structural welding and fabricating the only way to make money in this? Iím absolutely terrified of heights. I could probably go up a story or 2, but nothing massive. Iím afraid Iím limiting myself severely by being afraid of heights and not being able to do that work. Which sucks because I love structural fabrication. I did it before, but the pay was ***.

    Thanks for reading, hope to hear something.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by rugrat View Post
    Just as an add to your post, dont forget to add in the cost of liability insurance in case down the road one of your customers decide to sue you and take you to court. Court proceedings and lawyer fees are not cheap. And if you lose in court, it can wreck your life! Just saying!
    Lol definitely! So far most of my work has been railings and small fixes to things that wonít cause death or small fabrications. But yes, I add in liability. I charge a minimum and people will think itís unreasonable when they want their China made patio set fixed.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by rugrat View Post
    But do you have the liability insurance? Charging extra is not the same as having the liability insurance. You can charge extra all you want but without the liability insurance you are hanging out on a limb!
    Yes I have liability insurance. But Iím not sure the relevance of it with my post...

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    There are a few sides to owning your own business. Today is Thanksgiving, and I'm out working on my small work truck because it broke down and needs to be operational at 7 a.m. tomorrow. I'll get it done, but there are sacrifices involved; today is just a small example of many. Other guys in the trade are working shutdowns today and will be doing so all weekend.

    To answer some of your questions from my perspective. I personally didn't love my job. I was good at it, the best in the (small) company I worked at, but I didn't like the way things were managed and thought I could do better on my own. I ate a lot of humble pie before eventually becoming successful. YEARS later, for me. Others have had a faster track, maybe they made better decisions, maybe they fell into better circumstances....the dice roll they way they will.

    I've found that the key to making money in this business is to truly understand what you're doing and why you're doing it. Look at what the customer's end goal is, consider if their ideas are what will get them to their goal most efficiently and cost-effectively, and offer your own ideas if they have merit. I have one customer who's a true genius, and I give a lot of weight to his ideas and approaches. I have other customers who are really good at what they do, and they leave the repairs and modifications strictly to me without giving any suggestions on how they be performed. I've largely moved beyond the customers who are basically trying to hire an extra employee and attempt to micro-manage their contractors...for one thing, that's super annoying, and for another, they almost without a doubt do not know what they're talking about, and finally, their idea of payrates border on insulting.

    Your product and your business plan for selling it work together to determine if you'll make your business profitable. In my area, it takes a crew to put up structural steel efficiently, and after having been the foreman at a welding shop earlier in life, I've got no desire to ever babysit grown men again. Not for love or money. So to answer that segment of your questions, no, you don't have to build structural steel to make it. Conversely, there are some guys who are able to make it and indeed thrive on residential work, and I've generally found that type of work in my area to not be profitable.

    The guy who you wrote to asking for pointers likely looked at your email, remembered his own past and how difficult it was, and decided that there was no reason for him to help his potential future competition get it's feet under itself. It's possible to network with other guys in the industry, yes, but rarely with someone doing exactly what you do. For example, I looked at the cost of outfitting a shop (I even already have a building) and the zoning and the issues with having customers coming to *me* instead of the other way around, and I quickly decided that mobile work was where it was at for me. My shop stores my equipment and that's all. I'll occasionally use it to work on my company vehicles and equipment, but I haven't done any customer work in it for years. Instead, I've learned what types of things I can efficiently build onsite and then I partner with a local welding shop who doesn't have a mobile component for the larger work that I need done. I also do some of their installations for them.

    Reality is that there's no way to shortcut the path to success. For almost everyone it'll be littered with failures and wrong guesses until you find your way and get your name out.

    Finally, the insurance thing and accounting things that people harp on in this section are real. Running a business successfully is a completely separate skill from doing the actual welding. Most failures are because somebody is good at welding but has no ability to run a business and doesn't even know enough to recognize that. It's called Dunning-Kruger syndrome, look that phrase up for some interesting reading on human psychology.

    As for me, I use Quickbooks Contractor version and keep my own books. I have a local tax firm do my taxes and figure out my estimateds, but I do the actual mailings and keep track of the various contractors' and business licenses, as well as re-up insurances and keep current on my customers' changing requirements. I also do my own quotes and invoicing. All of this probably adds, on average, a couple hours of non-billable time per week, so about 100 hours a year non-billable. That's thousands of dollars' worth of overhead, but not enough to make it worth hiring anyone full or really even part-time beyond taking care of tax figuring.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by tbone550 View Post
    There are a few sides to owning your own business. Today is Thanksgiving, and I'm out working on my small work truck because it broke down and needs to be operational at 7 a.m. tomorrow. I'll get it done, but there are sacrifices involved; today is just a small example of many. Other guys in the trade are working shutdowns today and will be doing so all weekend.

    To answer some of your questions from my perspective. I personally didn't love my job. I was good at it, the best in the (small) company I worked at, but I didn't like the way things were managed and thought I could do better on my own. I ate a lot of humble pie before eventually becoming successful. YEARS later, for me. Others have had a faster track, maybe they made better decisions, maybe they fell into better circumstances....the dice roll they way they will.

    I've found that the key to making money in this business is to truly understand what you're doing and why you're doing it. Look at what the customer's end goal is, consider if their ideas are what will get them to their goal most efficiently and cost-effectively, and offer your own ideas if they have merit. I have one customer who's a true genius, and I give a lot of weight to his ideas and approaches. I have other customers who are really good at what they do, and they leave the repairs and modifications strictly to me without giving any suggestions on how they be performed. I've largely moved beyond the customers who are basically trying to hire an extra employee and attempt to micro-manage their contractors...for one thing, that's super annoying, and for another, they almost without a doubt do not know what they're talking about, and finally, their idea of payrates border on insulting.

    Your product and your business plan for selling it work together to determine if you'll make your business profitable. In my area, it takes a crew to put up structural steel efficiently, and after having been the foreman at a welding shop earlier in life, I've got no desire to ever babysit grown men again. Not for love or money. So to answer that segment of your questions, no, you don't have to build structural steel to make it. Conversely, there are some guys who are able to make it and indeed thrive on residential work, and I've generally found that type of work in my area to not be profitable.

    The guy who you wrote to asking for pointers likely looked at your email, remembered his own past and how difficult it was, and decided that there was no reason for him to help his potential future competition get it's feet under itself. It's possible to network with other guys in the industry, yes, but rarely with someone doing exactly what you do. For example, I looked at the cost of outfitting a shop (I even already have a building) and the zoning and the issues with having customers coming to *me* instead of the other way around, and I quickly decided that mobile work was where it was at for me. My shop stores my equipment and that's all. I'll occasionally use it to work on my company vehicles and equipment, but I haven't done any customer work in it for years. Instead, I've learned what types of things I can efficiently build onsite and then I partner with a local welding shop who doesn't have a mobile component for the larger work that I need done. I also do some of their installations for them.

    Reality is that there's no way to shortcut the path to success. For almost everyone it'll be littered with failures and wrong guesses until you find your way and get your name out.

    Finally, the insurance thing and accounting things that people harp on in this section are real. Running a business successfully is a completely separate skill from doing the actual welding. Most failures are because somebody is good at welding but has no ability to run a business and doesn't even know enough to recognize that. It's called Dunning-Kruger syndrome, look that phrase up for some interesting reading on human psychology.

    As for me, I use Quickbooks Contractor version and keep my own books. I have a local tax firm do my taxes and figure out my estimateds, but I do the actual mailings and keep track of the various contractors' and business licenses, as well as re-up insurances and keep current on my customers' changing requirements. I also do my own quotes and invoicing. All of this probably adds, on average, a couple hours of non-billable time per week, so about 100 hours a year non-billable. That's thousands of dollars' worth of overhead, but not enough to make it worth hiring anyone full or really even part-time beyond taking care of tax figuring.
    Thank you so so much for this detailed reply! Definitely nothing against the company owner for not answering me, I specifically said I wasnít looking for any crazy inside info for how he does things, just why he chose to leave a dream job to be on his own. But what you said makes perfect sense as well.

    I see what you mean about it being thanksgiving and needing to have equipment up and running for the morning. Itís still just so hard to gauge what I want to do. I have at least 1.5-2 years to meet that fork in the road. I typically work after I get home at 3:30 in the afternoon and work till 6 or 7 in my shop. Sometimes till 11 at night if Iím painting something. Sometimes I have 4+ railings in line with more coming every day. With the climate I live in, itís now colder and I donít feel comfortable doing installs in the cold with the possibility of really having to use my liability insurance.

    The reason why Iím doing this, is I work in a union aerospace plant. We were met with a very controversial contract last year(they re-up every 4 years). I was in danger of going from a full time check, to striking 8 hours a day and getting $100 a week for it. Now, I know owning a business doesnít add any more security either. But I donít dabble with much to bring work in. A lot of people find my business listing through google. I am on a leads app as well, but other than those Iím on Facebook and use community groups too.

    The thing I hate about working out of my house is people dying to bring me stuff. I hate bringing people here or dropping stuff off. Makes me feel super illegitimate, and makes them feel like I should be doing it for a case of beer even though Iím sitting on thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Anyway, thanks so much for the reply, I hope your equipment is up and running for tomorrow!!!

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by J93Welder View Post
    Yes I have liability insurance. But Iím not sure the relevance of it with my post...

    If you are not sure of the relevance to your post, then you do not have the right kind of insurance. You need a special Liability insurance for contracting, a 2 million umbrella policy is a good start. You will also likely need a contractors license, a bond, a sales tax license...

    I build a 2000 square foot shop behind my house and I work out of it. It was built as my hobby shop, and later turned into my business. It is a cost effective way to stay competitive.
    Last edited by walker; 11-26-2020 at 10:41 PM.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by rugrat View Post
    But do you have the liability insurance? Charging extra is not the same as having the liability insurance. You can charge extra all you want but without the liability insurance you are hanging out on a limb!
    Quote Originally Posted by walker View Post
    If you are not sure of the relevance to your post, then you do not have the right kind of insurance. You need a special Liability insurance for contracting, a 2 million umbrella policy is a good start. You will also likely need a contractors license, a bond, a sales tax license...

    I build a 2000 square foot shop behind my house and I work out of it. It was built as my hobby shop, and later turned into my business. It is a cost effective way to stay competitive.
    I understand that much, yes. I have the liability, 2 million in coverage annually. Itís just not what I was asking is all I was saying...

    Building a shop on my land isnít an option, in suburbia. Iíve been looking at plots of land to maybe sit on while I accumulate the funds to build what I want. My state doesnít require any of the other things you listed though, not for what Iím doing at least.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    What state are you in?

    Sounds like maybe New Hampshire. You would need a payment bond and a surety bond as well as a general liability policy.
    Last edited by walker; 11-27-2020 at 11:26 AM.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by walker View Post
    What state are you in?

    Sounds like maybe New Hampshire. You would need a payment bond and a surety bond as well as a general liability policy.
    Iím in Massachusetts, close. I donít see why I would need those for doing railings and smaller fabrication project projects. Payment bonds are needed with projects in excess of $35,000. My state, to my knowledge, doesnít require that for what Iím doing. Massachusetts mostly requires welders to perform a fire safety training to weld outside. Which I have done since it was listed into fire code 5 or so years ago. I got that in addition to my osha 30 cert. And I have the liability, that was the easy part.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Buildings are high and you are terrified of heights.
    This maybe a problem for you, most of field work is off the ground.

    Dave

    Quote Originally Posted by J93Welder View Post
    Lastly, is structural welding and fabricating the only way to make money in this? Iím absolutely terrified of heights. I could probably go up a story or 2, but nothing massive. Iím afraid Iím limiting myself severely by being afraid of heights and not being able to do that work. Which sucks because I love structural fabrication. I did it before, but the pay was ***.

    Thanks for reading, hope to hear something.
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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by smithdoor View Post
    Buildings are high and you are terrified of heights.
    This maybe a problem for you, most of field work is off the ground.

    Dave
    I could maybe do a story, or slightly more. I can get on a scissor lift okay. Just wanted to know what other work to market and itís profitability. I do well on railings. Winters here so plow repairs, trailer repairs and that stuff has been what Iíve been doing. Or just stick to my day job I guess.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    I had a very good job with excellent benefits, but didn't like it at all.

    The day after I left I had a part time welding job lined up, at about half my normal hourly pay. I took several other part time and come-and-go type welding jobs to gain experience and keep some $$$ rolling in for maybe 2 years.

    The people I met at those jobs paid off later as I grew.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    I done welding hanging with one hand and welding with other hand.

    But can tell the best money is in repairing earth moving equipment.

    I did both types and had to do over again I not get into metal construction. Just repair welding

    Dave

    Quote Originally Posted by J93Welder View Post
    I could maybe do a story, or slightly more. I can get on a scissor lift okay. Just wanted to know what other work to market and itís profitability. I do well on railings. Winters here so plow repairs, trailer repairs and that stuff has been what Iíve been doing. Or just stick to my day job I guess.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    I had a job doin exactly the same thing I am doin now repairing and rebuilding mining machinery...heavy equipment..very heavy equipment. I loved it. The guy who I worked with inspired me to build my own rig, so I did. Evrything i work with is on that truck and it aint a big truck. 1990 F super duty, weighs 15000 pds. Evrything i nedd is on it except for a crane, if i need a crane or somethin like a loader they will do that for me. But it all i got, i have no backup no spare welder non extra truck, i do have another air compressor to use if i need to but i have get a boom truck to take one off and put one on.

    I dont look for work, it either comes to me by way of a phone call or the guy I am contracted to calls me. I dont work at home, I found that if I work at home I get to many people with nose problems lookin to see what I am doin and it turns into a bull**** session so bein out in the dirt works for me. I work in just about any weather so Im either freezin my butt off sweatin it off or im soaked to the bone,there aint too many days I call it due to weather...which is one reason I always have work.

    There isnt too much work I will turn down, but what i wont do is stupid stuff that I know will not work...it always pans out that I am the guy that gets the blame for it even though i tried to talk the guy out of it, so these days i just flat out refuse to do it. He probly wont come for the next job but i dont really care Ive got plenty of work. I wont work on stuff that rolls down the highway, I dont want the responsibilty or the guilt trip if somethin goes wrong.

    Tbone mentioned workin on the truck...yup thats a given, and with me bein a one man gang with one welder one truck and an extra compressor its just about evry Sunday...Saturdays Im always at work because thats the only day when the shovels arent diggin if they arent tore apart for a motor or somethin, so most Saturdays arent available to do my own maintenance. The next 4 days I am goin deer huntin and they are the first days Ive took off in 6 months other than Sunday when i work on my truck.

    Liability ...yeah you gotta have it now...30 years ago when i did this with my first rig the question never came up...now MSHA came up with a regulation stating you got to have it.

    With all that out of the way would i do it again? Absolutely. I was an ironworker when things slow in after 911, nobody wanted to spend any money, i traveled all over the US building power plants and such. Shipyards coal breakers tanks you name it, never did a bridge though. I was either hangin iron or biukding ductwork for power plants or tanks, Sometimes I was the boss, I didnt like that much at all. Someone mentioned baysitting ...yup that what it was and half the guys i was babysitting couldnt or wouldnt speak 3 words of English.

    So I got in touch with an old friend i did some work with years ago, and worked out a deal with him and built my own rig and contracted myself to him, if i need to use one of his rigs I can but i avoid doing that if at all possible. He says if i need it take it but i dont roll like that, so i rent it from him at my insistence. I been doin it all over again and i am content doin it this way.

    Its a simple life...eat work and sleep go huntin when i can, I am home evry night unless Im workin all night on disaster needs fixed NOW and i have dome that 4 days non stop except for fuel and coffee and they bring breakfast. Thats all I can say.

    That ol boy that inspired me to build my own rig told me once do it now if you are successful...good for you if not well figure out where you went wrong. But when your 75 years old if you didnt do it you will wonder what if???? Good Luck Be Safe and God Bless

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by J93Welder View Post
    I could maybe do a story, or slightly more. I can get on a scissor lift okay. Just wanted to know what other work to market and it’s profitability. I do well on railings. Winters here so plow repairs, trailer repairs and that stuff has been what I’ve been doing. Or just stick to my day job I guess.
    I don't know if this would work for you or not but I'll throw it out. While I am not afraid of heights I do have a lot of respect for them, what I used to be afraid of was being in a tight place like under a house in a crawl space so small you can't even lift your head up to look ahead or you can't even roll over. I would get all panicky. What happened was I had to do it to make a living, so I just did it. After a while it didn't bother me at all. Now I can crawl into the tightest places no problem. I don't know if this can work for heights but it might be worth a try. Like they say, Just do it.
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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    Quote Originally Posted by bigb View Post
    I don't know if this would work for you or not but I'll throw it out. While I am not afraid of heights I do have a lot of respect for them, what I used to be afraid of was being in a tight place like under a house in a crawl space so small you can't even lift your head up to look ahead or you can't even roll over. I would get all panicky. What happened was I had to do it to make a living, so I just did it. After a while it didn't bother me at all. Now I can crawl into the tightest places no problem. I don't know if this can work for heights but it might be worth a try. Like they say, Just do it.
    My general gathering of heights and how people deal with them is basically what you said, gotta just do it. I think Iím being slightly arrogant in thinking that Iíd ever get the work that builds buildings and what not too! But I have most of my fabrication experience in structural steel fabrication. If youíre able to have engineered drawings, which making buildings like that, you pretty much have to for permitting, itís fairly simple fabrication. We will see as time goes on though. Iíve only gotten 2 structural steel requests from people. But I was honest and upfront that I just am simply too new to handle jobs that size.

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    Re: Have a few questions, specifically for those who have their own business full tim

    I started off doing railings. I can tell you I am so glad I don't do them anymore. I only did them for a short time. Residential/ some commercial work just plain sucks and I would go back working for a company then go back to that. I had 1 insurance company non renew me just because I installed railings. I never had a claim ever.

    The best advice I can give someone starting out is learn 1 (one) [as in 3 minus 2] industry, and build things for it.

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