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

Blackmore Fan

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I'm in sales--I'm a Realtor. And here starts the advice. Embrace the *fact* that ALL businesses are in the "sales" business. If you bought an insurance company, what would you have to focus on? If your answer is "insurance", you're missing the fact that all of the insurance knowledge you could acquire won't mean a thing if NOBODY knows you offer insurance, and a COMPELLING reason why they should buy it from you.

It would be no different if you bought a mattress store. So you have beds--why would anyone know you even exist, and why would they buy a bed from you?

The biggest mistake people make is to focus on the "product" while not addressing how ANYONE will even know that THEY offer the product. All of the product knowledge in the world just means you're qualified--it won't prevent you from going broke if nobody buys from you.
 

Blackmore Fan

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I've been around small businesses my entire life, and the thing that gets most small businesses in trouble is not understanding that operating a business requires a completely different set of skills from whatever it is your business does. Being a business owner means doing a lot of paperwork, even if you pay people to handle most of it.

What ultimately *kills* small businesses is the lack of REVENUE. If you can't sell your service, why are you open?
 
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beyer160

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What ultimately *kills* small businesses is the lack of REVENUE. If you can't sell your service, why are you open?
I've actually seen businesses that had revenue, but failed because they couldn't keep their books straight and failed to pay vendors, failed to send invoices, and worst of all got the tax man after them. A friend of mine actually called my office once, and asked what we owed him because he had no idea. I know another guy who was mad that his customer resisted paying an invoice that was sent 18 months late. My dad was going to invest in a small business that did bathroom remodels (or something, I forget) when he discovered that in spite of the fact the guy was working 6 or 7 days a week, the IRS was about to levy the business due to non-payment of taxes. The guy had a stack of unopened IRS letters going back years.

Lots of talented people open small businesses without realizing that they can't just go to work, they actually have to run a business, too. And yes, part of that is selling your service. Just because you build it, doesn't mean they will come. I worked for a while in a converted warehouse, and across the street was a row of empty storefronts. The one on the end had most recently been a high end baby boutique. The storefront was at the end of a row of vacants, adjacent to railroad tracks where homeless people lived. I wonder how long it took the owner to realize that the wealthy mommies they were counting on as customers were never going to get out of their SUVs in a bombed out industrial area filled with hobos.
 
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jvin248

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Musicians are notoriously starving artists -- not a lot of spare cash to splash around and at more recession risk.

Biggest competitor is the DIY guitar repairs by players... Because they don't have cash.

Most M&P music stores make their cash flow from lessons and selling strings.

How cheaply can you live? That reduces risk a lot. To support your current expenses, including tax rates, how many '$50 dollar' setups do you need to complete a month, a week, a day? Can you complete ten setups a day? Now can you figure out how to acquire ten customers who want setups every day? Every week? All year long?

LLC and make sure you keep up on self employment tax payments plus wage taxes for any help, sales tax for strings etc.

review all the forum threads where a player bought a new guitar, found some tiny scratch or wood variation or gap neck to body and want to send it back. They will pester you endlessly about getting their guitar back and think you dinged it when they did it. Or be mad that it took you a week or two to fix it due to prior jobs or waiting on parts.

Everything I've seen of the guitar repair business revealed it's like modern farming -- you need the day job to pay the bills while guitars and farming are side hustles. Sure, a few get a profitable niche, but most need a second job.

.
 
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Flat6Driver

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I've actually seen businesses that had revenue, but failed because they couldn't keep heir books straight and failed to pay vendors, failed to send invoices, and worst of all got the tax man after them. A friend of mine actually called my office once, and asked what we owed him because he had no idea. I know another guy who was mad that his customer resisted paying an invoice that was sent 18 months late. My dad was going to invest in a small business that did bathroom remodels (or something, I forget) when he discovered that in spite of the fact the guy was working 6 or 7 days a week, the IRS was about to levy the business due to non-payment of taxes. The guy had a stack of unopened IRS letters going back years.

Lots of talented people open small businesses without realizing that they can't just go to work, they actually have to run a business, too. And yes, part of that is selling your service. Just because you build it, doesn't mean they will come. I worked for a while in a converted warehouse, and across the street was a row of empty storefronts. The one on the end had most recently been a high end baby boutique. The storefront was at the end of a row of vacants, adjacent to railroad tracks where homeless people lived. I wonder how long it took the owner to realize that the wealthy mommies they were counting on as customers were never going to get out of their SUVs in a bombed out industrial area filled with hobos.


This why I laugh when someone makes a nice meal or a bakes a good cake and someone says "you should open a restaurant/bakery". That's a whole different thing...
 

Red Ryder

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I've been a stone Mason over 40 years. The things I do when I'm at home are what I do to relax. I've had a hundred people tell me wow you should start a business doing whatever it is they see me doing at the time.
I'm a stone Mason, I don't want to start over. If I build something something or fix something for someone, I do it for the hell of it. I know what pays the bills.
Be happy with what you are.
 

HappyMangle

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Good luck with your business, hope everything will work out for you. If you come to the point when you need to do a mailing list of your clients - please just don't do it. All those emails are very annoying and people never ever read them. It is much easier to use microsoft teams phone number if you want to deliver particular information to your customer.
 
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Cyberi4n

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My parents once wanted to emigrate to Portugal, live life in the sun, and were interested in buying a cleaning business. Villa cleaning. They asked me to look over the books for them. So I did. Now I'm no business expert, and certainly have never run a business before. But it was fairly obvious from the books I saw that something was amiss. My parents were keen to stress that they had plans to build up the business themselves, but none of the ideas they had took into account leverage of time, which I tried again and again to explain to them with no success. Simply, there was a HARD LIMIT to the amount of properties they could service, BECAUSE there was a hard limit to the amount of time they had to clean, and the amount of properties in the area they serviced. The more properties they took on, the more work they would have to do, but the limit would be quickly reached by how much time they had to give to each property. And if they took on staff to help, then the lower their profits would be as the higher their outgoings would get. Similarly, if they branched out to other villages, then the increased travel time would eat into the cleaning work, meaning that although they had more properties, they had less time to actually clean them. In the end, they decided not to undertake the venture.

Moral of the story? If you are a luthier, there is a HARD limit to the amount of time you have in a day, and therefore a hard limit to what you can achieve, and ultimately how much you can earn. Competition in a notoriously "cheap" environment (as someone else has mentioned, musicians don't have much money) dictates how much you can charge, your own time dictates how much work you can take on, and that should give you an indication of how viable the idea is.
 

dlew919

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start part time. advertise - at the guitar shop, on local social media pages, at venues, and etc. If you have savings or a safety net, use them if you need to get out of work.

BUT... before you start any of that, get an accountant to do a business plan. What is your hourly rate? (Ask techs what they charge - you can probably google that). How many guitars can you realistically work on a day? Some jobs, of course, will require all day. A quick set up might take 1/2 an hour. What jobs will you take? What jobs won't you take? (Can you do fret jobs, or neck resets?) How much can you realistically expect to make a year? Both minimum (probably 0.00, but realistically the minimum might be 2,500 while the business sets up) Maximum would be trying to work out how many guitars you can realistically work on a week.

Now, if you have anxiety issues, do you have a plan to deal with those? (Not a judgement at all - you need to practice self-care) What about holidays (vacation in the US). What about sick leave - flu, colds and the one we're not allowed to mention? You need to think of those.

Then a deep reflection - can you fulfil your obligations? TDPRI (and other forums) have plenty of posts about people who paid for various jobs to get done and for whatever reason, hadn't. Customers will pay you for good work, but they will complain for any small infraction, no matter whose fault. Can you take that? Are you prepared to put up with the worst thing about dealing with the public - and that is dealing with the public. (It's also the best thing, and there's no middle ground).

I read your original post, and probably commented. I'm hoping you're going well. I don't want to discourage you at all - I want you to succeed at this - I suspect you'll be great. But I want to support you practically, so I hope this advice helps.

(If I'm ever in your area, I might get you to do a set up!)
 

Trenchant63

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Build your business plan (as if making a pitch to investors) and look at every potential point of failure through size of potential market, competition, marketing, sales, delivery/operations, finance, cash flow, etc.. Have other seasoned folks scrutinize and challenge the plan. If you can’t answer the hard questions and mitigate risk to an acceptable level, don’t do it! Otherwise - congratulations on your new business!!
 

Strat Jacket

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All of the advice above is good and well-intended. I finally realized my dream of owning my own shop (with partners) about ten years ago and after 5 years of trying to stay afloat, was more than happy to abandon ship, which lead to our senior partner calling me a 'quitter'. Within a year I had doubled my salary and now it's tripled working for someone else...
My suggestion would be to find a 'daily bread' job, perhaps at a music store, and start your side gig by buying guitars and doing setups and mods and selling them. You get the practice time, keep any and all profits, don't need insurance and carry no liability. Imaging the guy that brings you his '59 Stratocaster for a setup and it falls off the workbench and gets damaged? Now you are liable to pay him for his $20k loss...Insured or not, that's the risk you run when working on other peoples' stuff. If and when you have done several hundred setups and decide you still want to go for it, then you can re-explore the service side of the business. But you're going into it cold and 80% of new businesses fail within the first year.
 

2HBStrat

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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. Get a job at that one local music store working on guitars and amps and learn the trade before jumpstarting your own business not having the skills to do the work.
 

Telenator

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Your questions point to someone who needs several years experience in this business before taking on certain types of repair work. The last thing you want is a router slip while your cutting the single coil pickup cavities for humbuckers or some similar disaster. And this takes a lot of training.

When I was a pro photographer, someone in the art department would occasionally take a decent photo and start on about doing more photography for the publications I worked for. I would then remind them that the difference is, they got lucky on a single shot. I had to go out and produce excellent work on demand. Every time. No exceptions.

Do you have the time to procure the necessary tools and skills without the income for a few years? If so, get started now.

If you need to earn a real income right now, then you'll need to do something else.
 

sax4blues

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All of the advice above is good and well-intended. I finally realized my dream of owning my own shop (with partners) about ten years ago and after 5 years of trying to stay afloat, was more than happy to abandon ship, which lead to our senior partner calling me a 'quitter'. Within a year I had doubled my salary and now it's tripled working for someone else...
That’s funny. I just listened to a podcast talking about how successful business people know when to quit the wrong business so they can get going on the successful track.
 

24 track

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Take it from a guy who has turned his hobbies into work , several times ( low key out of my house were possible)

1) Airbrush illustrations + airbrushing commercial 3-D models
PROS- work at my own speed , in my house, I set my prices , and did quite well
CONS- breathing that amout of atomized particulate , will kill you , even in a well ventalated room

2) Salvage Diver to remove debris from community owned public warfs, private diving to retrieve personal belongings
PROS-Got paid well enough to maintain my life style , had full local government backing and financing, the managing of this venture lead to several future management positions both private and government.
CONS- I found my self in trouble ( I ran out of air ) I surfaced there was a storm I had to swim in 4 foot waves a 1/4 mile to safety.I was exhausted .I had to learn a quick course in science, biology, and government laws and safety regs for me and the other divers.

3) Private recording studio/ tech/audio engineer/ live sound , fun job worked with some great local talent in the 80's
got to work on a 48 channel neve console ( studio A that was Necammed to studio B ) an additional 36 channels , also 48 hannel Trident board , all studer mahines etc.
PROS-lots of fun worked with some big names at the time , learned from the best of the local industry
with my home studio ( at the time) I was able to build and design the studio after professional studio funcioning , learned to design and build my components ( and they all worked ......Gasp)
CONS- I had clients lined up 24 hrs a day ( I kid you not) 7 days aweek , had to devise a standard for payment to ensure I got paid, seriously . the bigger the artist the more they dont pay . equiptment costs a fortune period and you have high over head to maintain / repair etc.

all of these jobs I did to bring in income while I was not employed some times it worked some times not

what my point is , no matter what you do or what opportunity you take there is good and bad PROS/CONS and this is not for the faint of heart.If you do go into the guitar repair realm , check out your local music stores to see what they offer for setup and repairs, remember if you botch a repair you have to fix it at your cost

I now have my dream gig doing repairs for a large music chain at home under my own steam ,no pressure but the repairs are my responcibility this includes me saying the repair is above me , I wont do mods to musical gear, A) the customer will always ask for more, B) they get pissy with the cost of the venture and because it was a dumb idea to begin with they will never be satisfied and you are the bad guy.

point in question some one asked me to take several caps of different flavours Orange drop, tropical fish, PIO, BBee, and their combined value to equal a standard filer cap ( that way they could have all cap qualities in one cap ) I laughed and told them to bread board it out nd try it themselves to see if it worked for them ........ never mentioned again ,
 

Happy Enchilada

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I started a pioneering virtual freelance one-man business over 20 years ago and still run it.
There are a few things that you need to be truthful with yourself about:

1. Is this business VIABLE in your local market?
Is there enough work out there to keep you busy?
Find out who else offers these services and if you can, ask them these questions.
If you can market yourself via the WWW like I did, you have a far wider scope.
But it sounds like your idea is highly localized.

2. If this business doesn't generate X amount of dollars, will you be living under a bridge?
If you have a significant other with a "steady job," you may be able to get it going.
But your significant other may get tired of floating you along and bail.
Can you deal with that?

3. Is this something you could be doing in say 5 years? Or 10?
How about issues like eyestrain, arthritis, and sheer boredom?
Do you think you have what it takes to commit to this?

4. Are you generally a self-motivated type?
Trust me, there will be days that test your resolve.
Can you grit your teeth, swallow some coffee, and get 'er done?
Mark Twain once said that what marks us as professionals is the ability to do our best work when we don't feel like it. Very true about any kind of small business.

5. How will you track income and expenses? I use Excel spreadsheets.
Lots of people use Quick Books. I quit them because it got too spendy.
Have you talked to an accountant about what you will need to track and how?
Good to have a "tax guy" you can go to to prepare returns and give advice.

These are the basics. If you mount this up, you will discover a bunch of additional challenges inherent in your business that will need to be addressed. But it's a place to start.

Good Luck!
 

Cosmic Cowboy

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It very easy to build a website by yourself. Maybe look in to hiring someonewith experience to work part time and show you some of the tougher jobs until you feel you have them down.

If a job seems too much, or a customer too demanding...pass on the work.
 




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