I have a love of tools and machine tools, and to that end I have quite a few mechanics tools, mig & tig welder, cold saw, mill and working on getting a lathe. I have a full-time "normal" job that pays the rent and keeps all the machine tools in a heated space where I can use them anytime.
All of my tools are paid for, but as with a lot of people right now I'm looking for every extra dollar I can get, and hey if it buys me a couple new tools while I'm at it I wouldn't complain.
Prior to my current job I was a full service import auto mechanic for 2.5 years, I do good work and have a small pool of people that I regularly service their vehicles. I have a couple of customers for welding (one doing conservative modern tables out of square stock, another fixing heavy equipment). The money isn't bad but its sparse, one job every 2-3 months out of each of them. Since I got set up with a bridgeport I have been teaching myself the basics of machining and am trying to get ahold of a lathe. I want to move more into doing welding and machine work and to that end my business cards I hand out have a welding logo and information on the back (processes I do and equipment I have).
I certainly won't turn down jobs right now, I'm not doing bad working on cars but I like doing the machining and welding more. Besides the business cards and ads every week on craigslist what else would you recommend to generate more side work for myself?
I should add that craigslist occasionally comes thru with a customer or bid job but more often than not they're wanting to pay me significantly less than my time (+consumables+material+overhead) is worth...not about spending 4 hours and ten pounds of mig wire repairing a mower deck for a 20-spot, you know?
I live in central Iowa, and the immediate area is largely agricultural. I know there are welding jobs out there (especially during harvest season) but handing out business cards to all the farmers I know and have good relationships with hasn't gotten me much of anything. Should I be hitting every farm and passing out cards or is there a better way?
I'm looking for something more like 100kgarages.com but for metal fab work instead of routing. Oh, and actually capable of sending prospective customers my way would be a plus
My (partial) equipment list
- Esab MM251 Mig
- Lincoln Buzzbox tig
- Esab PCM750 plasma
- O/A set
- Snap on box of mechanics, hand, pneumatic & electrical tools
- Haberle cold saw
- BP M-head, soon to be M+2J2 head, kurt vise, rotab
- Large sandblast cabinet, Clemco 6 CF SB pot, 150 CFM gas compressor
- portaband, 1.5 hp buffer, belt sander, grinder
- more I don't want to bore you with...
One of the challenges that you face, is that many farmers are quite handy, and often own similar equipment to what you have, namely welding / manual machining capability. If you want business from an agricultural community, you really need to have capability that everyone else does not have.
For example - lots of people own a mill or lathe, but how many a real cnc 4 axis mill like a Haas VM-1 ? or similar ? It is a step change in capability that makes you interesting.
Consider to build some kind of examples / artwork like objects, and use them to give a talk at the local schools on machining and welding. Don't just target the HS, but also the middle and elementary schools. At least around here, the local schools have a weekly newsletter, and it has places for adv.
At the risk of sounding sexist, you need to target marketing to the local women in the community. A farmer with a broken machine will always try to fix it himself, but his wife will encourage him to "hire that guy that I saw his display at the school. That way you can sleep a little". Sounds corney, but it works.
As a practical matter, business comes from businesses, usually not retail. If you want business clients, visit the businesses that make things, even if it is a bit of a drive. A broken down semi on the side of the road or at a truck stop at 3 am is a much more profitable client than a broken lawn mower deck that should really be tossed.