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When to turn a hobby into a side job.

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Brento

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#1
When i decided to get my own machines i knew i could possibly make it into a hobby as well as get a little extra cash here and there to either further the hobby or just spending cash for the wife and I.

I havent gotten the machines up and running yet due to looking into houses right now and do not want to do all of the work to set up and tear down to move and set up again. With this in mind i have time to atleast plan out projects i would like to do as in make some tooling to make life easier, make tools so i dont have to buy the like a fly cutter or a dovetail cutter, make fixtures for setting up angles in a vice or even a fixture plate to grip onto the stock while machining to full depth of a part. The more i get into planning these jobs i am seeing ill have projects to do for a while to keep me busy however the materials. Oh the materials will cost me a fortune.

As seeing how much material i would need to do these jobs i wonder when is the best time to try and get a little side work for extra cash for these projects. Does everyone think i should make these fixture and tooling projects first before trying to grab a side job?

What i have in my arsenal as of now would be just a 4 inch vice for a mill and a 3 jaw chuck for my lathe. A few of these fixture projects would include an index using spare lathe gears as well as maybe turning it into a rotary table.

Just looking for opinions from some of you experience guys as it was a thought that popped into my head while mowing the lawn this afternoon.


*EDIT* sorry for the long wall of text/rant. If this question isnt allowed then admins may delete this thread.
 

P. Waller

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#2
The short answer is no, however if you manage to befriend someone in a high position in the maintenance department of a VERY LARGE COMPANY they will throw you work that you consider large money and they consider the cost of lunch for the office everyday.

I owned a small shop for 20+ years, a friend was promoted to head of maintenance at a DC for a VERY LARGE COMPANY, I got a good deal of their work when they changed a process or there was an equipment failure. This was one of their smaller DC's moving $4,000,000/6,000,000 per day of product. Eventually all the work that I did was for this one customer because it was just so wildly profitable you simply could not turn it down. This lasted for 10 years.

Then they built a new DC several miles away and promoted everyone that I knew , I could have spent 3 or 4 years waiting for the new place to need my services but didn't have the money for a dry spell that long, so I closed shop and went to work for one of my competitors just making parts on the clock, this is much less stressful.
 

Brento

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#3
Well i am an apprentice cnc machinist as a small company right now and im sure i could get work from them maybe dont know yet bc the stuff i do at work im not sure if i could do yet doing manual. Ive seen a guy say he would post on craigslist and say looking for side machinist work as a hobby but would look at the job up front to see if he could do it. I was thinking of doing this but again when to do this is the opinion im looking for.
 

P. Waller

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#4
I am an apprentice "CNC" machinist at 60 years old, I used manual machines for a living for 30+ years until I closed shop and went to work for the shop where I am now, about 5/6 years ago give or take a year. My new employer new that I had no experience with NC machines but was very competent with lathe work, he threw me to the wolves straight away.
Here is the machine, here is the part drawing, I need 20 by the end of today.
Needless to say this did not happen, I knew exactly what was needed to make the parts, feeds, speeds, doc, tooling, work holding, order of operations, exactly the same as a manual op but without all of the tedious knob turning. It took me about 4 hours to figure out basic turning op's and the another 6 months or so to become fast at fingercad.
After several years I can now bang out a fairly complicated 2 axis multi tool lathe program in minutes.

Good luck
 

Brento

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#5
I would have to say im doing good where i am now but i sometimes still feel like i know nothing when i set up jobs and such.
 

JimDawson

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#6
As seeing how much material i would need to do these jobs i wonder when is the best time to try and get a little side work for extra cash for these projects. Does everyone think i should make these fixture and tooling projects first before trying to grab a side job?
Anytime is a good time to take on some side work.

I just made fixtures and tooling as needed for specific jobs as they came up. Some tooling I buy, some I make. For instance, I've had my lathe for about 25 years, but it wasn't until last year that I needed a steady rest for it for a job. So first I built the steady rest then did the job, I have used it twice now. Nothing wrong with building tools, doing so can only increase your skills, but they are pretty useless sitting on the shelf collecting dust.

I wouldn't get too far ahead on specialized tooling, you might wind up building things that you never use. I've had a whole set of fly cutter holders on my shelf for about 25 years, only used them a couple of times. It is a good idea to stock up on lathe bits, end mills, and other tooling when you can find deals on them at garage sales, Craigslist, and Ebay. I'm guessing I have 300 to 400 end mills in stock right now, most of them bought from Craigslist sellers.
 

Brento

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#7
When you had the job with the steady rest did it push your job back a little? Did the customer care that it had to be pushed back a little?
 

Asm109

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#8
For work, schedule is THE MOST IMPORTANT item. Make a promise and keep it is the only way to keep me as a happy customer (that and parts to print).
If I am having something done for personal use I want the best value for the project, I let schedule slide and value price and quality higher.

So it depends on who your customers are.
 

JimDawson

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#9
When you had the job with the steady rest did it push your job back a little? Did the customer care that it had to be pushed back a little?
It pushed the job back a week. But in this case it didn't really matter because I was doing a machine design/build and this was only a small part of the overall project.

If the customer would have asked me to just drill the hole through the part and wanted it ''today'', I wouldn't have accepted the job or I would have told him he could have it ''next week''. I'm not afraid to turn down a job that there isn't enough money in, or conditions won't allow me to meet a schedule.
 
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SCLead

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#10
For work, schedule is THE MOST IMPORTANT item. Make a promise and keep it is the only way to keep me as a happy customer (that and parts to print).
This cannot be overstated. I shop out a fair amount of work at my day job, either when our guys can't meet our schedule, or it's cheaper to do so. I've personally blacklisted a half dozen or more shops because they agreed on a delivery date, then missed it wildly. There's enough competition out there that if you miss the first job I give you, I will never give you my business again. Under promise and over deliver. If you don't think you can meet someone's deadline, tell them as much. They'll either work with you to see if you can find a date that works for both of you, or they'll find someone else for this job, but they almost certainly won't write you off completely for being up front about your limitations.

I've now found a local shop who often cannot meet my deadlines (fault for this is on "our" end, since we prefer waiting until we're late before we start), but they're accurate in their time estimates, often delivering earlier than quoted. I don't even entertain other shops at this point, I just bring them the work directly. The more work I give them, the more able to fit me into their schedule they are. Needless to say, they also do very high quality work. It's a winning situation for everyone involved when you can establish these relationships, like P.Waller said.

You won't get a returning customer out of every job, but every job has the potential to steer other customers away. If I've learned anything through my own time in the shop, it's that I will underestimate how long a given job will take me, 100% of the time. Bidding jobs accurately is not easy.
 

Cooter Brown

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#12
Find a product that is difficult to make and sell it.
 

Brento

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#13
If i knew any difficult products id be working on it already lol.
 

DavidMTL

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#14
Rule number one of starting a business is have a business plan. Before you spend a dime on tooling, fixtures, or even raw materials, you have to have a business plan. Otherwise you're probably throwing money down the drain. You'll probably make more and better cash pulling some OT than you will machining on the side. Another good investment might be skills improvement. Check your local continuing education facility to see what they offer to improve your metal working skills to increase the chance of promotion and advancement.

To more directly answer your question, when do you take your hobby and turn it into a side business. When your business plan says it makes sense and you'll make money. Yes it's possible to score side action from CL but it's generally not quality work. For the most part it'll be people who were turned down by local machine shops because they're to busy, or the quote was to expensive and they want you to do three hours of work for $ 25.

When does it work. When you've got some kind of niche to service. A friend of mine used to make 50 BMG bottle openers. He got the used brass and projectiles dirt cheap, the fixture took less than an hour, the endmill was $ 30. 60 seconds and done. 4 hours on a Saturday and he'd have 150 done and ready to go at $ 4 each. Easy money.
 

savarin

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#15
There is another side to the coin. Consider if machining is mainly your hobby or mainly your business.
If its predominately your hobby then you may find that having to defer to customer expectations with delivery times etc may cause a lot of stress and eventually destroy it as a hobby.
I used to do a fair bit of gem cutting and silversmithing.
I loved it.
One Christmas I took on board too many orders and had to devote all my time to finish them within the time constraint.
It virtually burnt me out of the hobby rushing to fullfill all the orders.
 

ddickey

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#16
Are there any tax benefits to turning your hobby shop into a small business, whether you make money or not?
 

Brento

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#17
Not sure. Idk if i would turn it into a business persé either just try and find like local work to pick up some extra money depending on jobs around was my main thought.
 

Cadillac

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#18
Are there any tax benefits to turning your hobby shop into a small business, whether you make money or not?
Yes once your a business and pay Uncle Sam taxes you can write off all your expenses. I have a good friend that just did so. He purchased a cnc plasma table about 2 years ago. We’ve got aliitle niche making custom signs of any kind. He registered his business through the state and he doesn’t have to pay tax on his materials and he gets to write off all expenses tooling,machines,everything. Not a bad gig. He actually just bought a new 5x10 table that I have to go help setup this weekend.
 

ddickey

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#19
I want to do this. Need to find out what the authorities consider a business. Do I have to have a sign a certain size and distance away from the road. Do I have to be bonded and do I have to have a shop with certain amount of sqft. On second thought forget it. Lol
 

Cadillac

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#20
As far as I know a business is when customers pay for your services. As for signs as so on that would have to do more with your local zoning laws. You can have a business and not sell anything so??? My wife has a great business self employed. Up until we married she didn’t show a profit some 6yrs.:D
Their is no criteria on building or space you can work in the shed for all they care just as Uncle Sam gets his cut on sales.it just filing the proper paperwork.
 
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SCLead

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#21
Like Cadillac said, be sure to look into local zoning laws. I know some cities won't allow businesses of any type to be run out of a residentially zoned property. Some places have accidentally written laws to that effect to curb AirBnB type vacation rentals from competing with hotels, but left it too broad. Should be an easy question at your city offices.
 

Kenny G

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#22
I actually fell into a quasi side job/business I had made a tool for personal use in my other hobby lapidary. It is a very simple concept but uses lots of metal working techniques. A lady was having trouble with the aspect the tool was used for so I volunteered to make a set of mine for her. She liked them so much that she wrote a review on a forum like this that we were members of. Since then I have had several orders for the product but i state before they order
"So a little about me I am a hobby machinist my equipment is just that hobby level so NASA specifications no... but I will fit everything prior to sending. That being said I am only human so if something does slip by me I will fix no questions asked forever (thats a lie, as long as I am alive and capable). "
I also tell them I am old and slow (which I am) so no rigid time frame. This being said I probably work for Chinesium wages but thats okay I'm retired.
When I get into a hobby I always keep a couple things in mind.
1. I do it for fun
2. I expect to spend a lot of money on it
If I try or turn it into a business it no longer is just fun. A hobby is just that and I don't expect to make a profit on it but maybe and I say maybe pay for some equipment .
 

JPMacG

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#23
Some wise man once said that nothing ruins a good hobby faster than turning it into a business.
 

C-Bag

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#24
I actually fell into a quasi side job/business I had made a tool for personal use in my other hobby lapidary. It is a very simple concept but uses lots of metal working techniques. A lady was having trouble with the aspect the tool was used for so I volunteered to make a set of mine for her. She liked them so much that she wrote a review on a forum like this that we were members of. Since then I have had several orders for the product but i state before they order
"So a little about me I am a hobby machinist my equipment is just that hobby level so NASA specifications no... but I will fit everything prior to sending. That being said I am only human so if something does slip by me I will fix no questions asked forever (thats a lie, as long as I am alive and capable). "
I also tell them I am old and slow (which I am) so no rigid time frame. This being said I probably work for Chinesium wages but thats okay I'm retired.
When I get into a hobby I always keep a couple things in mind.
1. I do it for fun
2. I expect to spend a lot of money on it
If I try or turn it into a business it no longer is just fun. A hobby is just that and I don't expect to make a profit on it but maybe and I say maybe pay for some equipment .
My story is a lot the same. With the advent of the Internet my device/gadget/accessory took on a life of its own and has more or less dragged me along for 33yrs now. It has made itself into my retirement because nobody I ever worked for had a retirement except a useless 401k and my SSI would barely cover being homeless.

I have always lived in unincorporated areas and my biz is online so as long as I'm not doing selling out of the house, no problem. But I never expected it to keep going and didn't do a huge upfront investment. Never took out any loans and unlike typical business my only plan was to provide the best service and best product I could for a fair price. Kinda the better mousetrap idea always relying solely on word of mouth. When the design was pretty much perfected after 20yrs the pro's discovered it and it jumped to full time. As demand would jump I was able to plow profits into automating and buying inexpensive Chinese machine tools to build my machines instead of farming it out. I also never planned on it getting so big I couldn't do it all myself. So everything has just dovetailed and overlapped nicely. But for someone who expects to charge in and throw a bunch of $$$ in the form of loans and farming out production were doomed to fail IMHO. And several who tried did. Patience, situational awareness and thrift have been what's kept me going.
 

Boswell

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#25
I have turned at least 4 hobbies into businesses over the years with one resulting in a career in IT. All but one put money on the table when I needed it and the fourth I have been very careful to keep it at the level where it pays for toys that I could not or would not pay for from savings but no more. The hard part for me is to keep it at the level I want. No effort and any income goes away, more effort and it grows too much. As other have said when you let your hobby become a business, it can easy grow into a Job. This may be exactly what you want or need. but once it becomes a Job, it is not longer a hobby as you deal with accounting, taxes, deadlines, customer satisfaction etc. At the same time, having a hobby that can, will only a little extra effort pay for itself can be a way to afford the really cool toys.
 

Brento

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#26
I have turned at least 4 hobbies into businesses over the years with one resulting in a career in IT. All but one put money on the table when I needed it and the fourth I have been very careful to keep it at the level where it pays for toys that I could not or would not pay for from savings but no more. The hard part for me is to keep it at the level I want. No effort and any income goes away, more effort and it grows too much. As other have said when you let your hobby become a business, it can easy grow into a Job. This may be exactly what you want or need. but once it becomes a Job, it is not longer a hobby as you deal with accounting, taxes, deadlines, customer satisfaction etc. At the same time, having a hobby that can, will only a little extra effort pay for itself can be a way to afford the really cool toys.
That is very much what i would like to do. pick up small jobs doing the hobby i love and get extra cash to either play with my toys for personal reasons or just cash to put away for a rainy day. where i work i have no 401K either. This is why i ask for people's opinions that have gone and made that step of turning the hobby into a way for a little extra cash.
 

Tozguy

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#27
Turning a hobby into a little extra cash sounds good doesn't it. Persons who pay us generously for our hobby with a smile.
Aint gonna happen. Hobby versus business are diametrically opposed from the get-go. Happiness is committing to only one and doing that one right.
 

Cooter Brown

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#28
Print up some business cards.... Here is mine..... I get calls at least once a month for different types of jobs. I have a few friends, the manager of an Alro outlet store, and my LWS's manager pass out my cards.

Back
1533242809205-124263661.jpg
Front
15332428472431967518960.jpg
plug........

This is my current customer project that I just received a few days ago. I have some aluminum tig welding to do.
20180728_131401.jpg
 
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Brento

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#29
Im hoping i can find a niche that i can do.
 

C-Bag

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#30
I mean this sincerely, I hope you can too.
 
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