Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

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Demosthenes
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Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

Post by Demosthenes » Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:03 pm

There has been lots of talk on the forums about making some side income by fixing up bikes. About a year ago, I decided to make a go of it. I set up a Facebook page advertising mobile mechanical service for any job.

From June 2017 to April 2018 I gave away lots of free repairs in return for reviews on the page. This was done after hours moonlighting from my software day job. In May 2018 I "launched" my business in May and had all my friends like my page. This built up some business even though I was still working full time. I had 4-5 tune up / repair calls in May, but mostly I said I had openings only in June (as I was planning on quitting my software job at the end of May).

I just closed off my last appointment this June so I figured I would reflect on how it went. I had 41 customers in June, and I worked on average 3 hours per day including weekends. The average appointment brought in $53 with parts deducted. This totaled $2200 not including gas or vehicle depreciation. I drove 745km which used about a tank and a half of gas ($80). My car is only worth about $4000 so I don't expect there to be more than $100 depreciation from the drive.

With these assumptions, my net income for the month is $2020. Working 3 hours per day * 30 days = hourly wage of $22.44
This isn't great considering it's my own business and my expenses aren't that high, but it's more than I was expecting to pull in.

DutchGirl
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Re: Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

Post by DutchGirl » Sat Jun 30, 2018 9:58 am

Nice. Now hopefully your business will continue to grow. (And remember, you can stem the flow a bit by upping your prices, if you find yourself working more hours than you want to or need to).

Would there be an area in your city or so where bikes gather? In the Netherlands, bikes often gather at train stations, so there often are bike repair shops in or near train stations - if you develop a flat tire on the way to the station, you are likely to leave your bike at the repairshop at the station and pick it up repaired in the evening.

Perhaps in your area people have a favorite park to bike in or a favorite starting point where most bike rides leave from. Might be worthwhile to see whether you can get some customers there.

Oh, and one last thing: I'm betting that it is a bit of a seasonal kind of job. At least, if the weather turns bad for biking at some point during the year, it's likely that the amount of repairs needed will go down. (My bike shop offers discounts if you want to fix your bike in January).

FrugalPatat
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Re: Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

Post by FrugalPatat » Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:45 am

I once accompanied a friend that went to buy a second-hand bike. When we got into the seller's house there were like a hundred old bikes in various states. So instead of just repairing bikes you could also try finding cheap bikes that need repair, fix them and sell them.

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Re: Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

Post by jacob » Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:07 pm

@Frugalpatat - I did the latter. It didn't take long before it became clear to me that:

a) If you're going to make money on this, the price you buy and the price you sell at matters a lot more than any fixer-up value-add you provide. Fixing a flat tire on a good deal and reselling it again is a lot better than buying a major TLC case and repairing it. A friend of mine (guy from recraigslist, dealing in appliances) would have a system in which he would be amongst the first to see any new deals on craigslist. He'd go and load the appliance on his truck and immediately relist it so he could turn it around to a new buyer without ever taking it off his truck. I suspect all these "upscaling" businesses are more about knowing both people with more sense than money and people with more money than sense, respectively, and then connecting them ... and not creative or technical skill.

b) You need a good source and little competition. My grandfather did it on a similar scale to your friend. He had hundreds of bikes in his garage (and backyard). He got them for free from the junkyard. However, if there are competitors in your area doing the same thing, forget about it. For example, Chicago is chock full of people who want to go into the fixie-business. It's practically impossible to find a good deal anyway.

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Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Sat Jun 30, 2018 6:52 pm

Sounds like a good/fun business. For the winter downturn maybe you could get into mobile ski waxing, assuming there are customers for that in your area. Also, in the fall you could do jobs where you change people's tires over from normal to studded, again assuming there is a market.

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C40
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Re: Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

Post by C40 » Sat Jun 30, 2018 8:49 pm

Nice. Thanks for sharing.

How would you rate yourself as far as bike repair ability and quickness? (just out of curiosity, related to the $/hour, which seem pretty good for bike mechanics work)

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Demosthenes
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Re: Turning a bike repair hobby into a full time business

Post by Demosthenes » Sat Jun 30, 2018 9:02 pm

@DutchGirl
Interesting insight. For the most part bike shops are scattered fairly randomly throughout the city I live in. Most of my customers need 2-3 bikes tuned up so it makes more sense for me to go to them. The logistics of putting 3 bikes in the car to get to the shop doesn't always work...

I will probably be doing something else for the winter. Remote software jobs seem to make more sense when it's -20 out.

@C40
I'm certainly not the fastest in the business, but I'm faster than some of my peers at the local volunteer/community repair shop. My skill level is probably a 7/10 where 10 is someone who has been in the business for 30 years.

I spent a whole year watching repair Youtube videos and podcasts. There's a lot more to learn than I thought. I kept track of the time and it amassed to about 300 hours of content.

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