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post #1 of (permalink) Old 04-20-2007, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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Tips for doing 4x4 work on the side?

I've had a fair amount of people ask what i'd charge to work on their trucks, if i'd do this or that, pretty much basic 4x4 stuff, lift kits, gears, some fab work, axle swaps. I know some of you guys do work on the side, what are some dos and donts.

How do you quote pricing? I just quoted a set price for a tj lift kit and i've done the same for gears. I've quoted hourly rates for tube bending. Is this the right way to do it?

I know standing behind work is a big thing and i have a feeling I'll have to stand behind a couple mess ups along the way. The goal will be to do things right and have 0 come backs. Some things are easy to tell if they are my mess up and others are hard to tell if they are from abuse or my fault. Where do you draw the line? What about gears, garuentte good setup, only install good gears, and not warenty broken teeth/ destroyed carriers?
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 04-20-2007, 02:20 PM
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Pricing is the most difficult things I do. The good news is that I'm getting better at it, but it's still very difficult. Even work I'm familiar with I usually miss my estimate. If it's new to me I can be WAAAY off on the time.

The good news is that if you or I go over the time estimate, we haven't lost any money - we just don't make as much as we planned. The even better news is that every mistake is OJT.

I'm in the fortunate position now that on any significant job it's T&M or get someone else to do it. Little welding jobs I'll still look at and give a price, but if it looks like more than an hour I just quote my hourly rate. That works for me for two reasons: I'm getting known well enough that people trust me (and I have an honest face ) and, most important, I have WAAY more work that I'm comfortable with anyway.

Since you're likely to be working on old, rusty stuff you should push for T&M. A very good reason is that you have no way of knowing whether a bolt will back right out or take an hour to get out. I don't often mention it to customers, but if I make an error, I eat the time it takes to correct it.

EVERYTHING's easy for the guy who doesn't have to do it.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 04-20-2007, 06:29 PM
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What Jim said.
The primary reason I got out of doing things on the side were the customers. I just got sick of people getting 500.00 worth of work for 300 then after it is done getting accused of wearing their clutch out moving it in the garage and back out.

I pretty much got sick of dealing with people.

Ya only go around once, best to enjoy it the first trip.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 04-20-2007, 07:53 PM
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Working on the side

Best advice: Get everything in writing. If it is old rusted stuff where breakage may occur "downstream or upstream" from your work write in down on the work order. You may wish to have a "as is statement" that when they inspect and take it for a test drive they OK the work, then when the leave with the vehicle it is "as is". The one time I did a job for a friend with no contract, that is the one that sued. Yes he lied to the judge, lied to his lawyer, and yes it cost me some money.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2007, 10:13 AM
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and dont forget about insurance.say you change the brakes something happens. brake line breaks or something 2 weeks later. they rear end/ kill someone. it could come back on your head.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2007, 10:35 AM
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A very good point! Two best things you can do is incorporate your business, which doesn't cost very much - a few hundred bucks and under a hundred a year in Illinois - and get several million in personal liability coverage, which is also pretty cheap for an individual.

Don't get the idea that you can get any kind of protection with a waiver from your customer. It might keep him from sueing you, but his survivors and victims can because they didn't sign the waiver.

EVERYTHING's easy for the guy who doesn't have to do it.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2007, 12:03 PM
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Doing something for yourself is one thing, doing it for others is another, and doing it for pay is even more removed. IMHO, if it's anything like doing computer work on the side... that you'll soon tire of it. I found that people really didn't value the work done and balked at the amount charged. Also, after the work was done if any glitch unrelated to the work happened, then the work done "magically" caused the problem. It makes for strained relationships and (hopefully not) hard feelings. I found that after a while, as much as I enjoyed working on systems, it just wasn't worth it. It became a drudge, no longer fun. That's not something I'd wish on anyone.

IMHO... think twice before you start down this road and make darned sure it's a road you're willing to travel. You'll be working with things much larger, heavier dirtier than computer systems. They'll require more time, larger tools,, more expensive tools and lots and lots of time. I'd like to hear more from those who've traveled your road speak to the "Life Cycle" of their little businesses.
  • Where are they now in the business?
  • Was it worth it?
  • Are they working for fun, or money?
  • Is the business making money?
  • What's the low points of the business?
  • What's the high points of the business?
  • What's the strain on other activities, family, social, etc.?
  • Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2007, 01:03 PM
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Since I own my business, and understand what Leve went through, mine is a IT consulting business.

First and foremost, be absolutely able to walk away from a Job, period. If it looks bad, smells, bad, sounds bad, it is bad, and will cost you more $$ headache, and good will. It is easier to stomach "He's a jerk, wouldn't do the job" than "he did a horrible job, he didn't do what I wanted" Blah, Blah, Blah...

And realize if you are starting on your own, it will take a couple of years at least to get good at estimating, customer relations, and sales.

You may want to hook up with a small outfit first, get paid less, though have less risk, and on the job training of the above. Maybe mobile welding or something.

Opening up your own business is a risk, though it has its rewards too. You just make sure you understand the government licenses,restrictions, etc. They will nail you quicker than bad customers.

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"He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm."
-Psalm 40:2
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2007, 03:08 PM
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Chris and I have been doing gear work on the side out of the garage for about a year, now. So far it's been working really well, but we're highly specialized on just this one thing. We don't take jobs that go outside of what we want to do, and most (90%) of our customers are referrals, so they are already pre-disposed to liking us.

Even so, you still get "That Customer". I ran my own shop for 2 years, and no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, "That Customer" will always be a thorn in your side.

Slightly less annoying but still just as frustrating is "That Job". That's the job where, no matter what you do, it just doesn't come out right. Or things just keep going wrong. Even when the customer is totally cool about it, That Job can really make you bummed about being in the business.

Try not to work on something that, if it fails, the customer could die. That really decreases the whole liability thing. For example, I don't generally do brakes for people uless I know them really well. I tend to stay away from anything other than standard bolt-on steering systems. If a Currie system fails, I'll just point back to the manufacturer. My personal steering is way custom, but if it fails I have no one to blame but myself.

But for the most part everything has worked out pretty well.

"And then I said, 'Just like that, but with more gas!' Oops..."
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 04-21-2007, 03:38 PM
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I have totally stopped doing any work on the side. Like was said, i got tired of the idiots who want to blame something on something you did, even though there is no way it would have happened.

I ended up buying a tailgate on a wrangler because they said i bent it. I know damn well it came in like that, and i knew how they did it. The dumb kid backed the spare tire into something. But it ended up being much cheaper to just buy the gate then end up paying the lawyer. Plus i wasnt a legal shop and i did the work out of my dads machine shop, so it could have went to him. It would have gotten way tooooo ugly if i fought it. Luckily i found a clean white gate that matched and shipped it do them. I didnt even want to see them in person.

As for rears, there is no such thing as warranty for what we do. If the jeep is stock and has stock tires, no lift, then fine yes you have to offer a warranty. But if its lifted with 37's and you stuff 488's in the rears. The warranty is good for a drive around the block and thats with you in the jeep. You cant warranty that gear setup, you know what they will be doing to it. We all know even if the job was done right that something may still break as we overstress what we have.

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