Saturday, January 10, 2009

Starting a Mobile Locksmith Business (part 2) - Locksmith Mesa

Locksmith Mesa. Now is the 2nd part. This article was written by George Robertson. Let continue our lessons...

Lesson Number Three: Do the homework required to determine if acquiring a business license is all that is needed to establish your locksmith service. One phone call to your state's Attorney General office will likely answer that question.

Once you have lined up an affordable vehicle and put a reasonably professional sign on it, you must begin outfitting it. This should, and must, be done before you begin advertising your services because if you are like I was at this point you know next to nothing about the business and not much more about the work. We will endeavor at this point to educate ourselves. Locksmithing is in point of fact one of the few professions left in this world in which a formal education is absolutely UNnecessary. I have spoken to very few professionals during my career who got to be that way through going to a 'locksmith school' or a college. This is certainly not to say that a formal education isn't desirable. If you can afford it, if you have the means, then by all means take that route. This article is for those of you who can't.

The vehicle you purchase will in large part determine how it is to be equipped. I've always preferred a full-size van (I've owned Ford, Chevy and GMC models during my career), but there are many locksmiths who just love the Astro Van or Safari Van made by GM. These minivans are popular with many different professions and are ubiquitous. You can undoubtedly find one in your price range. Either way, the first order of business is to erect a work bench that will give you as much space as possible. Best to have the bench on one side of the van and leave the opposite side for shelves or storage bins. Make it sturdy! There is nothing worse than a wobbly bench when you're trying to rekey locks. Make it level for the same reason.

You'll need a power source. It is excusable to string extension cords until you can afford something better, but bear in mind that this detracts from your professionalism. The ultimate is probably having a RediLine Generator that runs off your van's 12V power. This is not a power inverter, it is actually a generator and it kicks out 110-115V power. They are wonderful sources of AC power and you can even run a bank of flourescent lamps off one of these for your interior shop lighting. There are several models to choose from with varying outputs, but they are expensive. If you can locate a rebuilt, so much the better. A good inverter might do the trick if you can't afford a RediLine, but be careful. Some key machines (and you're going to have to have one) will not run with an inverter.

Power now available, you need to start out with at least a key duplicator on your bench and preferably, as well, a good code cutting machine. The latter is desirable but not necessary in the beginning unless you plan to launch directly into automotive locksmithing, in which case you'll find it hard to get along without one. We'll touch on that in a moment. Key machines are almost impossible to find used. You'll likely end up buying a small HPC Speedex because they're pretty much the least expensive good key duplicator around. Expect to pay around $500. Best if you include this in your initial loan. A key duplicator is bread and butter for any locksmith, mobile or otherwise, so don't even think about starting up until you have one.

Equip yourself with a good rekeying kit. I've always preferred 'universal' kits because they do the work of dozens of other keyway-specific kits and they are easy to use. LAB makes the best of these, hands down. If you have the space, try to get a metal Classic Kit. If you don't, you can start out with one of LAB's Mini-Durex kits or, better, the miniature version of the Universal Kit (LMK-005 or LMK-003). You simply can't rekey locks without one, and if you get a Universal you won't be confined to keying up one or two brands . . . you'll be able to handle them all. Don't know how to rekey locks? Pick up an instruction manual on the Internet or at They are available and this is one of the quickest locksmith skills to pick up. While you're at it, buy at least one plug follower, a pair of pin tweezers, and ideally a pair of TruArc pliers. Over time you'll accumulate more rekeying tools but these fundamentals are nearly essential.

This is the end of part 2. Part 3 will be continue in next post on Locksmith Mesa : Starting a Mobile Locksmith Business (part 3)

Back to Locksmith Mesa : Starting a Mobile Locksmith Business (part 1)

Locksmith Mesa - Starting a Mobile Locksmith Business (part 1)

Locksmith Mesa. We have 3 parts of this article. This is the 1st part. Part 2 and 3 will be continuing in the next posts. This article was written by George Robertson. Lets get started...

One of the best decisions I ever made in my 62 years of life on this planet was to become my own boss in a field that is never dull, always challenging, and intrinsically interesting. It was not an early decision. In fact it did not occur to me to enter this field until after I'd already spent ten years as a professional photographer. It came about in an odd way, as many serendipitous things do. But regardless of how it came to be, I consider that decision the one that paved the way for me to spend the rest of my working life in comfort and with a good measure of security.

I've since discovered that many people follow a similar course, turning to locksmithing only after finding themselves unhappy in other jobs. I'm not sure how or why so many discover this particular business when looking for an interesting career. In my case it was a natural progression from a rather unique part-time career I had fashioned for myself: That of installing simple door viewers and doing this door to door. Many times my customers would ask if I could install deadbolts for them while I was at it, and after turning down money a dozen or so times I finally got wise and visited a local locksmith supplier who sold me an install kit and a book of instructions. From what I can tell, others come across this idea by doing Internet searches for home businesses, because ultimately this qualifies as such if you, like I do, run it out of your home and structure it as a Sole Proprietorship. In any case, it is obvious that locksmithing has become a popular choice for a chance at self-employment.

After tiring of door to door selling (which didn't take long to do) I hit upon the idea of cold calling. I was still thinking too small, but at the time I didn't know it. Lesson Number One: Don't do this. I was doing it back in 1981 or so when the stigma attached to such endeavors wasn't quite so strong. I'm afraid that calling people out of the phone book and asking if they'd like to have deadbolts installed just would not fly in the present era of terrorism and business rip-offs.

Still, I owe to this period of hard knocks a good deal. I became efficient at installing locks, rekeying locks, and duplicating keys. It was during this one year period that I scrounged together enough money to purchase a small key duplicator and also a lock rekeying kit. I carried these items in the trunk of my car and carried them into my customer's home when needed. I also purchased several boxes of the most common domestic key blanks and by the time I'd accumulated all this stuff my car's trunk was crammed and I was wishing for more room. Also, and most important, I came to realize that driving around in an unmarked car and working out of the trunk was not lending itself well to my credibility.

Lesson Number Two: Start out with credibility. Purchase a small work van, or a large one if you can afford it. Buy signs or have signs painted on it. Use whatever lending power you have, may it be with banks or with family, to locate a used vehicle and have signage made up, even if this is in the form of magnetic signs. Of course all this suggests you start out as a legitimate business, and this is just my point. Create a name for your business (think long and hard about this, as you'll lose any credibility you might initially gain if you keep changing it), have signs and forms and letterheads made up, and dive in.

There is, too, the question of legality. This is a hard subject to field, because the legality of doing business from one jurisdiction to another can differ widely, and even wildly. It is incumbent upon you to do the research and determine whether or not your jurisdiction requires a locksmith be certified, bonded, and/or licensed. You'll almost certainly discover that licensing is the fundamental hurdle, and that is usually taken care of with the signing of a few forms and the payment of a small annual fee. Certification is something else. Not all jurisdictions require this. In my case I found that the state in which I was then living -- Utah -- did not require it. Nor was I required to be bonded, though I chose to do so for the added protection (it is widely and incorrectly thought that bonding protects the locksmith's customer, whereas in fact it is the locksmith that is protected by the bond).

This is the end of part 1. Next lessons will be continue in next post on Locksmith Mesa : Starting a Mobile Locksmith Business (part 2)