I'm Thinking about Starting a Small Business, and I Need Your Help

Lowspeid

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I need some HELPFUL advice (I know it's an internet forum and anyone can chime in, but TDPRI has always been a pretty awesome group of people on the whole). I've spoken about this a little in another thread I posted earlier this year about burning out as a teacher, but after 10 years in education it's become clear I'm no longer suited for the industry. It's just not congruent with some injuries and issues I incurred while serving in the military (and growing up). In June I gave notice and took a job at my Alma Mater, moving my family out of state (again). My first day on the new job I knew it wasn't going to go well for me (sitting at a desk in a windowless office 10 hours a day, shuffling "digital paper" from one "pile" to another, no real sense of accomplishment, and son on. Some people can do those jobs, I'm not one of them. I started having panic attacks several times a day at work, and was becoming even less functional in life outside of work). My wife, two VA counselors, and my pastor all recommended I leave the position ASAP, and get into counseling for my anxiety issues. I took their advise and have been working to "heal", and while I'm not "better" I can start to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Now I'm thinking about getting back to work in some capacity, and it's been recommended to me by several good friends who are veterans and deal with similar issues that I should start my own "job".

I love working on guitars and have been doing set-ups and simple modification/parts swaps for friends for about 18 months before I moved. I know that a set up is very different than an actual repair/fretwork/nut work etc., so here are my questions that I need help answering:

1. How do I asses if my local market needs another guitar tech (I live in a college town with only one music shop)?

2. Where would I go to get more training/skills that I'd need to open a guitar repair shop, and what skills would I need? (I assume if I can perform a full re-fret job, pickup swap, small routing jobs, and small finish repairs I should be good, but what do you think)?

3. What tools are essential (I have a pretty sizable tool collection already from a lifetime of working on homes, but what specific tools make guitar repair easier/better/cleaner/faster)?

4. What avenues are available to market my services so local guitar players know there is someone in town who is dependable, affordable, and available to get their guitar in tip-top shape?

5. What do I need to know, but I don't know because I don't know?

TL;DR: I'm thinking about starting a guitar repair buisness. What HELPFUL advise can you give me?
 

stxrus

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Will you need a business license?
How extensive is your repair "catalog"?
Do you have any work you've done that can be documented? Make a scrapbook of all of your successful work
To get your name out there get business cards made up and hand them out to musicians playing at local venues
Offer a good product/service at a fair price and communicate with your clients. Don't BS, be straight up

Ood luck
 

birdawesome

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I think the best way to figure out if there’s need for a guitar tech in your area would be to google and find all the available people/places in you town or nearby that will do the work you’re looking to do. If they’re all booked up for weeks/months in advance, then there’s clearly a huge demand for the work.

You don’t need to know how to do complete re-frets, as that’s starting to get into luthier work and is a huge undertaking and can be really scary to do without a lot of experience doing so. Imagine if someone brought you a vintage guitar that needed a re-fret...yikes. I sure wouldn’t want to do it, because I don’t feel confident enough to not mess something up. However, fret work as far as levels, crowning, polishing, etc. are a total must. Nuts aren’t very tough, and if you have to buy a used affinity Squier or some other cheap guitar that you can practice making nuts on. Stewmac nut files are HIGHLY recommended. They works very well.

Also, electronics work is a must too. Become very very familiar with your soldering iron and how to replace every component in a guitar or build a loaded body from scratch. If you can do that, you can do any electronics work. But your work needs to be CLEAN.

As far as marketing goes, get a website from squarespace or something similar to build a really nice looking website with very little effort. They’re very affordable too. Post on Facebook, FB marketplace, Craigslist, etc. to get your name out there a bit. The hardest part is getting some customers initially. But, word of mouth is the most effective marketing technique. So, as long as people like your work, it should snowball a bit, and eventually you won’t have to market yourself at all. But, website SEO is super important. When people google “guitar techs in ____” you want to be sure that you appear in those results, and there are services and methods available to help you accomplish that.


Hope this helps, and I hope this works out for you! I feel for you, and hope this makes you happy! Best of luck.
 

teletail

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Given the uncertainties of starting your own business and the pressure and demands that go with it, I can't imagine suggesting that someone with anxiety issues start their own business.

If you are determined to do it anyway, I'd find someone that is already doing it and try to work with them, even if you have to work for minimum wage or free. You'll likely learn more in a few months working for someone else than you'd learn in a year working for yourself. It will show you what type of jobs you need to be able to do, how much you can charge for those jobs, how long they take, what tools you'll need, etc., etc., etc.

As far as marketing, get a TON of cards made up and hand one to every musician you see. Go to open mics, clubs, everyplace and anyplace that musicians go. Just throwing your name out on the internet won't cover it. I'd also suggest a $5 or $10 discount for referring NEW customers. I had a friend that started doing minor repairs in his spare time. Within a year, he had more work than he could handle. 90% of it was just simple setups, pickup swaps, installing tuners, installing bridges, wiring, etc.

Good luck.
 

Boreas

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A local bank, chamber of commerce, and BBB can be helpful in dipping your toe into small business. Perhaps you are well-enough off that you will not need business loans, but the guidelines and help they can offer can at least lay out what you need to do before, during, and after putting out your shingle.

Just like setting up a guitar properly, properly setting up a business or trade should be done in a logical sequence, which isn't always apparent to most of us dreamers. Getting the sequence wrong sets you up for frustration and failure.
 

imwjl

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My mom's basement.
TL;DR: I'm thinking about starting a guitar repair buisness. What HELPFUL advise can you give me?
At your age without vet benefits I honed strong tech skills and moved to work I knew could not be moved off shore and would remain valuable and relatively stable.

The guitar repair people in my pretty strong music area only seem to really make a living if they have a lot of pre-booked work that pays $80-$120 an hour depending on their overhead.

At a horrible time that included cancer and a huge out of pocket medical expense I was able to see all the bs in crap from counselors and clergy. Only two things saved me or helped. First was looking in the mirror, getting to work, controlling some demons. Second was understanding all help what was not about how our brains work was bs.

As same age I revisited the best advice ever from when my dad died young. It always applies. My mother said to look at myself in the mirror, put on a smile, and get to work. She pointed out the whole world won't care or stop.

If I had vet benefits I'd be on an ASAP path to know something like InfoSec or commercial refrigeration and keep guitars a hobby. At your age my assistant got a tech school and tech certification fairly fast. She will NEVER have her former struggles doing hands on types of IT in the food business.

One of the commercial refrigeration people I work with was a vet with a lot of struggles. In commercial refrigeration it is hard work but now he always steps into places where people appreciate him and have doubled his income.
 

Preacher

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I need some HELPFUL advice (I know it's an internet forum and anyone can chime in, but TDPRI has always been a pretty awesome group of people on the whole). I've spoken about this a little in another thread I posted earlier this year about burning out as a teacher, but after 10 years in education it's become clear I'm no longer suited for the industry. It's just not congruent with some injuries and issues I incurred while serving in the military (and growing up). In June I gave notice and took a job at my Alma Mater, moving my family out of state (again). My first day on the new job I knew it wasn't going to go well for me (sitting at a desk in a windowless office 10 hours a day, shuffling "digital paper" from one "pile" to another, no real sense of accomplishment, and son on. Some people can do those jobs, I'm not one of them. I started having panic attacks several times a day at work, and was becoming even less functional in life outside of work). My wife, two VA counselors, and my pastor all recommended I leave the position ASAP, and get into counseling for my anxiety issues. I took their advise and have been working to "heal", and while I'm not "better" I can start to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Now I'm thinking about getting back to work in some capacity, and it's been recommended to me by several good friends who are veterans and deal with similar issues that I should start my own "job".

I love working on guitars and have been doing set-ups and simple modification/parts swaps for friends for about 18 months before I moved. I know that a set up is very different than an actual repair/fretwork/nut work etc., so here are my questions that I need help answering:

1. How do I asses if my local market needs another guitar tech (I live in a college town with only one music shop)?

2. Where would I go to get more training/skills that I'd need to open a guitar repair shop, and what skills would I need? (I assume if I can perform a full re-fret job, pickup swap, small routing jobs, and small finish repairs I should be good, but what do you think)?

3. What tools are essential (I have a pretty sizable tool collection already from a lifetime of working on homes, but what specific tools make guitar repair easier/better/cleaner/faster)?

4. What avenues are available to market my services so local guitar players know there is someone in town who is dependable, affordable, and available to get their guitar in tip-top shape?

5. What do I need to know, but I don't know because I don't know?

TL;DR: I'm thinking about starting a guitar repair buisness. What HELPFUL advise can you give me?

I actually looked twenty years ago about buying a music store in my hometown. I had become acquainted with the owner even though I did not buy a lot of gear from him (I was too cheap to pay retail and bought used on CL). I would buy strings, picks and the occasional part from him and once while browsing the shop he approached me about buying the business. I was intrigued and we sat down and discussed the business.

One thing that bothered me about his store was the brand of guitars he offered, Samick, Series 10, Washburn, Indiana, and the like. No Fenders and only the occasional Squier or Epiphone was hanging on the wall. I mentioned this and he told me that he did not sell higher end guitars as no one would buy them. Only the cheap models moved. I asked how he stayed in business and he pointed to the work bench which had a guitar laying on it and an amp sitting next to the bench with its guts hanging out.

He said that 80% of his business was fixing musical instruments. He told me that he would keep the shop open 10-6 during the day but would be at the shop at 8AM and stay till 8PM working on fixing stuff. He said he spent about 4 hours a day, six days a week doing that type of work when the shop floor was not open.

After looking into his books and the money he was making I decided I was better off doing what I was doing and working the guitar business as a side hustle. So let me throw my two cents in.

Your notes:

I love working on guitars and have been doing set-ups and simple modification/parts swaps for friends for about 18 months before I moved. I know that a set up is very different than an actual repair/fretwork/nut work etc., so here are my questions that I need help answering: If this became your sole source of income would you still "love it"? I have found that I like to do things but when you start adding deadlines, customers, and need the $$ it becomes a JOB... That is the first question to answer.

1. How do I asses if my local market needs another guitar tech (I live in a college town with only one music shop)? Ask around the local music scene. It amazes me how many musicians do absolutely nothing with their instruments, not even changing strings and pay someone else to do it for them. I have a small following of people I play with that will recommend me to their friends when they need something done. But most of the time when I quote a $50 string change and setup and they have to provide the strings they pass. I have found that most musicians are basically broke, and if they have any extra $$ they buy new gear instead of improving what they have.

2. Where would I go to get more training/skills that I'd need to open a guitar repair shop, and what skills would I need? (I assume if I can perform a full re-fret job, pickup swap, small routing jobs, and small finish repairs I should be good, but what do you think)? I think you are on the right track here, but also you need to be able to troubleshoot amps, guitar wiring and be really handy with all aspects of instrument work. I think a re-fret would be the least done work, and small route jobs as well, but string change, setup, pick up swaps, etc would be the main gig.

3. What tools are essential (I have a pretty sizable tool collection already from a lifetime of working on homes, but what specific tools make guitar repair easier/better/cleaner/faster)? You can buy a guitar repair kit on Amazon for less than $30. I have gotten two (I bought one for myself and my kids got me one for my birthday as they did not know I already had one. I will say their kit was closer to $50 and it had a lot of pieces I did not have) and they will have all the wrenches and such you need.


4. What avenues are available to market my services so local guitar players know there is someone in town who is dependable, affordable, and available to get their guitar in tip-top shape? I have found that word of mouth is the best advertisement. You mentioned your Pastor so hit up your churches musicians, most of them play outside of church as well. You might need to generate some goodwill with pro-bono work first to get your name out there. FB marketplace, Craigslist, and your local music store if they do not offer those services are good as well.

5. What do I need to know, but I don't know because I don't know? Customer service is a real issue. You need to make sure you are prepared to cover a bad job if needed. An example was I had a guy want to swap his tele control panel around. I told him it was just a matter of maybe adding some longer leads to the controls. I was wrong. It was a MIM tele and they have a shelf in the control cavity that won't let you spin that plate around as the switch hits the shelf. I was charging him $20 and it suddenly hit me as I pulled out the router that if the bit came loose, or something happened that I would have to replace the body on this guitar. That was a nervous time doing a routine thing. Also you have to be so careful with other people's investments. I had one person who had me do a setup on his American Strat. I did all the work and then got a call from him three days later asking if I had damaged his guitar? I told him that I did not think I had and he said there was a nick in the neck. He never noticed it before he sent it off to me to get set up. I asked him to bring it back and we looked it over and sure enough there is a dent in the back of the neck. Lucky for me I take a video of the guitar as I do the work to document the process. I showed him the video of my set up and that it would be highly unlikely that I would have damaged the back of the neck. However I did do a little work on it and smoothed the finish out and filled the dent with a little CA glue. It became not noticeable when he played and hard to see if inspected, it did take an hour to do though which I was not paid for. A week later he gave me a $50 bill, when I asked what it was for he said the neck work. I refused and he said that his bandmate mentioned he had knocked his guitar off of its stand and had damaged the neck and did not want to say anything. At one of their rehearsals his bandmate came clean about the dent and was happy that it did not bother the owner of the guitar as he never mentioned it. The bandmate did not know that I was blamed for the damage. Stuff like this happens and if you are not prepared to replace/repair/refund you will find this type of work problematic.
 

generic202

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All good advices above. I'll add my two cents.

While I didn't run a business, I side-hustled a little bit with building custom pedals along side of my regular work. This was supposed to be a fun side thing that would allow me to continue having fun; basically I wasn't in it for the money. Then fairly quickly, it turned into all kinds of repairs/modifications: tube amps, keyboards, studio monitors, and of course guitar themselves. I was living in a big city at the time and all I did was post some ads on craigslist and the work was plentiful. While the thought of actually opening up a shop occurred to me, but when things were starting to pile in my apartment and turning into actual "work," it was no longer fun for me. So I stopped my side-hustle and just worked on my own projects instead then it was fun again. YMMV.
 

studio

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How would working on guitars in a room be any different than what you did before that might have triggered your anxiety?

I doubt the confined space was your fear, but it brought out a deeper sense of awareness of your position in life right now.

Some call it mid life crisis, others are stricken with some wounding from childhood etc.

You might just need to feel comfortable in your own skin. The responsibilities a family man has to deal with these days are overwhelming. You are a good man in an impossible circumstance. They call that, tragedy.

Your mental salvation is your intrinsic love. Instead of guitar repair, what are you good at that has kept your family afloat all these years? What can you offer from your heart right now that would be satisfying for your customer and yourself?

Lots of us here have gone through the same anxiety.
Do what you love and what your skills provide. That same love, passion for guitars will break down lots of negative barriers. There is no weapon against love bruh! Be at peace with it.
 

Toto'sDad

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I don't want to throw cold water on your plans, but a startup business is hard enough to get off the ground, a startup guitar repair shop would seem almost impossible to gain traction with especially right now. I'm almost 100% sure, you are never going to be able to provide for a family on the income derived from such an enterprise.

It's really time to take stock and get yourself together and do something that will earn a living for yourself and your family. In no time at all if you don't get going, you'll most likely have the wolf at your door, take action now before you get into a financial situation you can't extricate yourself from.

Sorry for the cold-water dose of reality, but I've been there, and know what you are facing. I didn't have personal issues, I just had to find a job, and quickly. I had spent the last money we had relocating from a small town to Bakersfield on the strength of being hired to a job. When I reported for work, the man who hired me was gone, the new guy didn't want me, mostly because his predecessor hired me, by his own accounting.

I was not going home without a job and face my wife. I opened up the phone book and found a company that had a product I had worked on in a previous job, went there and had a job within an hour. I went to work bright and early the next day, and it all worked out. I hope you can do the same.
 

Old Deaf Roadie

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Having been self employed in the past, my best advice is to create a realistic business plan;
Stick to the business plan;
Advertise (x10);
Have a sufficient line of credit.
I can tell you our business failed because we kept changing our business plan, quit advertising, and did not have the funding to follow through with our plan.
What they don't tell you is that is costs as much to go out of business as it does to start one.
Not trying to scare you, but there is more to consider than renting space & putting an OPEN sign in the window.
I would also give serious consideration to a business or accounting class at your local community college.
Best wishes to you and I truly wish for your success.
 

OmegaWoods

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You might consider applying for a sales position at the music shop you mentioned. If you have some aptitude and are willing to learn you could get some hands on to build onto your current skills.
I agree with this and what @Old Deaf Roadie said. You should really consider taking a position at a music store in the next town over (if you can) as a sales person or, better yet, junior tech.

If you could find a couple of months and some cash, you might also consider attending a luthier school. Thinking outside the box, you might also try to find an internship with someone who builds stringed instruments, even if you did that part time for no money.

Best of luck to you!
 

TurtlesnTanlines

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#1 Define the amount of money you need to live comfortably. Before anything else.

#2 Feel free to message me personally.
I work in mental health, but also going through some of the same issues.

I’ve been down that dark path…so I’m glad to see you exploring ways out of it and getting the support from those closest.
 

sax4blues

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What I did when I was considering photography career is get a job with a photographer. Within a year I was managing the business so I had full insight to all details. Also through being in the industry I was able to make many connections and grow side jobs outside the studio.

I decided it wasn’t for me based on full time working knowledge of the career.
 

uriah1

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A bank can help you write up a business plan.
As far as psycho-demographic data for creating a start up in your
area, sometimes you have to purchase. That would include
demand and competition.
Wish you luck.
 

Boreas

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One would think owning a business and being your own boss would be an ideal situation, but few people have the necessary qualities to pull it off successfully. It can take a hobby or activity you love and turn it into something you hate. I am too cautious and am very uncomfortable performing without a net. Personally, I would start with employment - even part-time - in the field, while keeping a day job. It will likely open your eyes as to how much you like it, and if you excel and learn most of the business practices necessary, then make a major decision. There is nothing wrong with moonlighting at something you love - and it can take the rough edge off of your day job. That is where I would start at least. After your 50th setup, you may decide it isn't as fulfilling as you thought.
 




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