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Lockout business?

Already an established locksmith? Trying to get your new locksmith business off the ground? Need training or licensing? Have to get bonded and insured? Visit here to talk about running a locksmith business day to day, including buying a van, renting a store front, getting business cards and invoices made up, questions on taxes, pricing out jobs, what to spend on tools and what works and doesn't in advertizing.

Lockout business?

Postby Patch » Tue Aug 24, 2004 9:44 am

Hello everyone,

I would like to know if anyone could give me some advise? I am 31 yrs. old. Married w/kids and I am looking for a new line of work. It seems like you can get started in this business for little money but can you make a good living @ it? I live in southern California and I am currently making about $40,000 a year. My main question is could I make a better living? I've looked had some of the schools and say you can make anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 a year is this true? Thanks for any info
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Postby xorox » Tue Aug 24, 2004 12:00 pm

If you bust your (insert expletive here) I'm sure you could make a 80,000-100,000... It would be hard work though, I would imagine. I am also in Southern California, and there isn't really a shortage of locksmiths (or lock out specialists) so I don't think you would be able to bring in that amount of income. :(
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Postby CaptHook » Tue Aug 24, 2004 5:26 pm

To make 100k, lets say you average $50 a lockout. You will need about 5-6 a day, everyday. Seems like a pipe dream to hit those figures, but doing some lockouts on the side could bring in some coin.
Did you hear something click?
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Postby Hojo » Tue Aug 24, 2004 5:28 pm

You would barly make $20,000 just doing lockouts by the way, if you wanted to earn 80 grand + you would need to do the works....

Repairing/Servicing locks
Masterkey systems
Key cutting (mind you, all the equipment cost about 50 grand for a few basic cutters plus some new ones like two track cutters, disklock cutter and some more depending on what restricted keyways you sell)

Another few things is that you will not just start off by making 80 grand a year, you will need to pay for advertising, tools, staff (if you get them), plus to be able to sell restricted key way locks and stuff you need to be a member of a group like MLA (Master Locksmiths Association) when you get all this you might like to buy a shop, about 100 grand (I live in aussie and thats about right) so overall youll need about $150,000 just to get started, plus you need a locksmithing licence (trade school) plus accounts with locksmith supply companys so you can get retail lock tools, pins and all the other gear

So thats all that I can think of right now I hope it doesnt put you off, but once you get your name spread and you get a nice amount of work you can easly roll in the dough $$$

So goodluck and I would be intrested in hearing about what you do.
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Postby randmguy » Wed Aug 25, 2004 12:51 am

Patch you can make decent money just doing lockouts. I don't know where you are in So. Cal. but looking at the numbers for L.A. county alone you are running about average for locksmiths based on your population. I ran a lockout business for 5 years...3 years full time. My first year (evenings and weekends only) I cleared a little over $12,000. The next 3 years was full time work and I was earning over $35,000 a year doing mostly lockout work. The best advice I can give you if you want to try this is...1) Try it part time first. 2) While you're working part-time, make friends with every locksmith you can meet...Go to local association meetings...Find out which locksmiths can do VATS/PATS keys and ask them if you can refer people to their shop for work like this. Learn which shops have high security locks and what they carry. Talk to safe technicians and find out what their hours are. There is little that is more embarassing than telling a customer that you don't do safe work and then being dumbfounded when they ask you who does or who can make me a Medeco key or who do I call to get new keys for my Beamer.

If you can build a relationship with locksmiths in your area they will send you work. I've met few locksmiths in metropolitan areas that aren't loath to walk away from a contract job to open someone's minivan. Ask Varjeal or HeadhunterCEO if they like to schlep over to the mall in the middle of a job because their ad says 24 hour emergency service. If local smiths remember you as the guy that's been sending them $80 key cutting jobs they will call you and ask you to cover their overflow.

Don't be discouraged by some of the prices that are thrown around for startup costs. You can buy an HPC Blitz with the code software for less than $3000 add in a basic key inventory, some replacement hardware plus basic auto opening and hand tools and you can easily start a lockout business for less than 10 grand. You don't have to spend all that at once either. I started my business with a $2500 investment (used Foley-Belsaw 200 key machine $75, High-Tech auto tools $250, Foley-Belsaw key assortment $300...you get the idea) including a yellow pages ad. If you're willing to do a little digging to find used tools you can do the same thing.

The only thing to remember is that to make something like this work you have to be willing to put in a serious investment in time...both for training and hauling your butt out of bed at 3am on Christmas morning to unlock the car in someone's driveway.
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Postby HeadHunterCEO » Wed Aug 25, 2004 5:48 am

lock outs are boring
but lucrative

i charge $60 on weekends

$150 to fit keys to non chipped
$250 for chipped

the lockouts do keep you in gas money though
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Postby Varjeal » Fri Aug 27, 2004 3:24 am

randmguy makes a lot of excellent points.

Do start off part-time. In other words, you don't have to quit your day job to do lock-outs. First and most importantly though, have a sit-down discussion with your wife about what you would like to do and make SURE she is behind you 100%. Once that has been established, do what you need to do licensing, etc. wise, and start your after-hours business.

The start up costs can be overwhelming, but with plenty of research and smart planning and shopping, you'll be well on your way relatively inexpensively. Focusing at the start purely on lock-outs will actually help you in the long run since your start off investment will be relatively low.

Best of luck.
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Postby Eyes_Only » Sun Aug 29, 2004 10:27 pm

How can you work as a lockout specialist part time? Ive thought about it before and Im afraid that if I only do it part time I will hardly get any business at all. I am going to college full time as of this moment and in about 2 years ill be working a regualr 9 to 5 job so Im not sure how to work this out. I mean, it would be weird if I advertise that I only work after 5 or 6 pm when I get off my regular job and all. The only other time I could think of is the weekends. Any suggestions?
If a lock is a puzzle, then its key is the complete picture
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Postby randmguy » Sun Aug 29, 2004 11:27 pm

The easiest way I know is to set up a voice mail message that says, "Thank you for calling XYZ Emercency Lockout Service. Our hours of operation are from 6pm to 6am 7 days a week. Please leave a message during these hours and someone will call you back within 10 minutes. If you need service at any other time please call (Insert name and number for locksmith shop that does lockout calls that you have approached about taking work during the day) and they will be happy to help you. If your situation is life threatening, call 911 immediately." It saves you from worrying that you're going to p*ss someone off because they called and no one answered. It also soothes the customer a bit because you've told them who to call if it's 2 in the afternoon. About 90% of the time they will call the people you recommend and have them do the work. This will all satisfy those folks who either get your number from directory assistance or who don't read your hours in a Yellow Pages ad. Your other option for times when you can't cover calls is to talk to someone else and ask if you can forward calls to them. Always be polite and let another person know that you'll be doing this as soon as possible.
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Postby Buggs41 » Sat Jul 30, 2005 11:09 am

My fleet of NR2003 online race cars.
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Postby wraith » Fri Sep 30, 2005 2:51 pm

I know your situation. I was working for a new locksmith company in my area. I basically got a percentage of my calls. I was on call 24/7. I got tired of getting up at 2am to unlock a car for $10. Then I started noticing that my calls were scaling back. I quit and am now doing auto unlocks and residential/business unlocks.

I agree with talking to local locksmiths, but be careful, most of the ones i've come across are cranky old bastards (no offense to any cranky old bastards on this site). But my market is a little strange.

I got some business cards printed, and handed them out around my part of town. I have a second cell phone that is just for my little business (which costs me just $10 a month, and I share my minutes...). My message says, "If you recieve this message, I am with another customer. Thank you." It's not $80k a year, but it's not too shabby!

All I want is for my wife and my girlfriend to get along...
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Postby wraith » Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:00 am

Update from my situation...

I went in friday to the SBA and SCORE, and managed to get a amjority of my licenses and paperwork completed. I'm officially a business in my area.

Same situations thought, i'm averaging 4 unlocks a day from word of mouth (at $45 a pop, that's $900 a week). I'm going to try hooking up with the cazr clubs this week to see what they can do for me.

I've given my son the extra phone, and am installing a business phone in my house.

As for the start up costs for doing just unlocks. I've got less than $200 in everything - tools, cards, time, etc. I'll add things as I get the money.

This website is great! Lots of good info. Seems like lots of nice people.

Hope everything goes as planned!

Make a plan, and go-go-go.

All I want is for my wife and my girlfriend to get along...
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Postby vector40 » Tue Oct 11, 2005 12:15 pm

Could you clarify, wraith -- what connections are your word-of-mouth referrals coming from?
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Postby wraith » Mon Oct 24, 2005 1:32 pm

vector40 wrote:Could you clarify, wraith -- what connections are your word-of-mouth referrals coming from?

Very good question.

I spent a few days driving around to motel/hotels, resturants, bars, hair salons, laundramats, malls, hospitals, apartment complexes, etc. and talking to the owner, manager, bartenders, etc. I stay within about a 5 mile radius of my house. They remember my face and name when they need me. I was an LEO for 5.5 years, so I also know a lot of police officers in the area - they aren't allowed to open vehicles anymore, so I get a call.

As for the word of mouth part, I don't advirtise, don't have an ad in the yellow pages, just my business cards i've handed out...

All I want is for my wife and my girlfriend to get along...
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Postby HKW » Sat Oct 29, 2005 10:05 pm

Being in with the 'fuzz' can be a considerable asset. I think the police support is a huge factor IMHO. Many a business has prospered due to thier proximity to the police: the towing company in my town, the firearms business, and the certain 'quickie marts' the police hang out in for coffee. All of these businesses are considerably 'busier' than thier competitors, in large part, due to the association of the police. So Wraith, it would appear you are on the fast track to success. Congrats!

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