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Making a profit repairing clocks?

CountryClockFixer

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Oct 5, 2009
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Can someone tell me,is it possible to make a profit repairing clocks these days with the economy the way it is,just curious,I am still wondering if it is worth while pursuing the hobby any further,any information would be greatly appreciated,thanks to all in advance.
Allen
 

R&A

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Oct 21, 2008
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There are so many things that have to be taken into consideration. It all depends on you and your area. Your skills and your tools are a big factor. Your knowledge will determine the outcome. If a person is a hack, and can't tie his shoes. Then this is not the trade for that person.

H/C
 

David S

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Dec 18, 2011
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Allen,

I am a hobbyist and I make money. I am retired and don't have to rely on extra $$ to survive, all I want to do is to pay for my hobby and any parts / materials that I use and some left over to buy books, cutting tools, etc. In other words have my hobby self funded. In NO way does it cover my time. Most clocks that I work on are not valuable in their own right, but seem to have long family memories, so people would like to have them repaired but can't quite afford the $200 or so that a pro may charge. My going in rate is $25 unless I have to buy parts that I can't make or repair, and then I will ask the client if they would like to proceed. Most clients are happy to pay $50. There is only one other clock repair place in our city, and some of my clients that have tried to deal with them, won't because they want to replace their movement rather than repair, and usually with a quartz. So my low rates are really not cutting into their business.

So I guess it really depends on your definition of making a profit and hobby. I really enjoy what I do, and to be able to not be out of pocket, and still have money to purchase books or whatever is all I am looking for.
 

senhalls

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Years ago I was assured by a man in the business, if I wanted to make a small fortune in clock repair I had better start with a large fortune. Best Wishes
 

hookster

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I am a hobbyist also. For relatives, and close friends, I charge similar to Dave. Problem was that these close friends and relatives told others who, of course, wanted the same deal; in other words, a bargain clock repair. For those word of mouth situations, I quote (for labour alone) $50 for a one train, $100 for a 2 train and $150-200 for a 3 train (depending on complexity); plus parts at cost. About 50% of people say go ahead, the rest balk at the price, so I respectfully tell them I won't reduce my price. I also turn down some work on movements that I do not yet feel comfortable working on and divert such items to a pro.
Allen,

I am a hobbyist and I make money. I am retired and don't have to rely on extra $$ to survive, all I want to do is to pay for my hobby and any parts / materials that I use and some left over to buy books, cutting tools, etc. In other words have my hobby self funded. In NO way does it cover my time. Most clocks that I work on are not valuable in their own right, but seem to have long family memories, so people would like to have them repaired but can't quite afford the $200 or so that a pro may charge. My going in rate is $25 unless I have to buy parts that I can't make or repair, and then I will ask the client if they would like to proceed. Most clients are happy to pay $50. There is only one other clock repair place in our city, and some of my clients that have tried to deal with them, won't because they want to replace their movement rather than repair, and usually with a quartz. So my low rates are really not cutting into their business.

So I guess it really depends on your definition of making a profit and hobby. I really enjoy what I do, and to be able to not be out of pocket, and still have money to purchase books or whatever is all I am looking for.
 

Weight Driven

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I have been for years repairing clocks for others and myself as a hobby, not as a professional and making some money on the side. I don't actively seek out business but many times people call up to see if I will fix their clock out of word of mouth I suppose. I don't get the business I used to because of the economy but that is alright as I keep myself busy with other interests. If you're looking to make a living you'd better be good with all the proper tools and experience and probably would be best to live in an urban area that at least has some folks with disposable income and don't plan on buying any vacation houses or yachts with your profits.
 

David S

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The other thing I have been thinking about lately, is that if I charge too low, will there be a credibility problem? Even now some clients think $25 is too low and offer $50.
 

hookster

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Based upon your postings, Dave, and knowing how you have honed some of the more complicated repair and machining/lathe skills, it would seem to me that you are selling yourself short. Also, credibility does suffer if you charge too little. I repair some practice movements and then put them on eBay. If I start the bidding too low, I end up getting less than if I start the bidding up higher. People think to them selves, how could the movement be totally reconditioned if all he is asking as a start price is $39.
The other thing I have been thinking about lately, is that if I charge too low, will there be a credibility problem? Even now some clients think $25 is too low and offer $50.
 

shutterbug

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I think clock repair is a pretty good job for a retired person. I'd hate to have to rely on it to support my family :) To do it as a business that provides your bread and butter you'd need a big city with few competitors, a store front, good tools and a good reputation. Figure a five year start-up with little profit. If you make it that far, you'll probably make it. You won't make it charging the prices that have been mentioned in this thread :)
 

CountryClockFixer

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Thanks so much everyone for your input,this makes perfect sense,I also have just been doing it as a hobby and for friends,(+ word of mouth),I make some money,but could not make a living on it,so I guess I will continue as I was,thanks again for all your input.
Allen
 

harold bain

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If you are located in an area with few clock repairmen you will do OK. A little local advertising and a website will get you more business. And a good reputation will get you repeat customers.
 

David S

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Thanks so much everyone for your input,this makes perfect sense,I also have just been doing it as a hobby and for friends,(+ word of mouth),I make some money,but could not make a living on it,so I guess I will continue as I was,thanks again for all your input.
Allen

Let us know how you make out, and if you are able to make a decent profit.
 

R&A

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Oct 21, 2008
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The other thing I have been thinking about lately, is that if I charge too low, will there be a credibility problem? Even now some clients think $25 is too low and offer $50.
The guy that taught me clock repair use to say. Never give this trade away for nothing and never sale yourself short. We are a unique group of people, trying to preserve the Antiquity of our Heritage. Be proud to charge money, because it's all about TIME.

H/C
 

David S

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Hookster and H/C I totally agree with what you are saying. Like I said this is an enjoyable hobby for me. Some people have a hobby of machining a steam locomotive from scratch with no hope of recoverying any of their costs, but get the satisfaction of creating something.

I have spent my professional career designing things and the past 30 years designing consumer products and have a number of patents, so I guess the problem solving "how can I fixture/ jig, make this" is in my blood. I have great satisfaction making or repairing clocks parts and finally seeing the 100 year old clock come to life. But more important I am learning new skills, in no small part due to the cooperation of this forum.

Having said all this I would like to have a real mill... no not a bridgeport.. no room. I have chatted with Jerry Kieffer about the Sherline's but $1500 is a bit pricey at this point. However this could be the incentive to up my charges and put $$ in the bank for a mill.

My goal is to try and preserve as much as I can of the original movement, and to do it in an acceptable manner so as to not be honored in the hall of shame.
 

R&A

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Oct 21, 2008
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Hookster and H/C I totally agree with what you are saying. Like I said this is an enjoyable hobby for me. Some people have a hobby of machining a steam locomotive from scratch with no hope of recoverying any of their costs, but get the satisfaction of creating something.

I have spent my professional career designing things and the past 30 years designing consumer products and have a number of patents, so I guess the problem solving "how can I fixture/ jig, make this" is in my blood. I have great satisfaction making or repairing clocks parts and finally seeing the 100 year old clock come to life. But more important I am learning new skills, in no small part due to the cooperation of this forum.

Having said all this I would like to have a real mill... no not a bridgeport.. no room. I have chatted with Jerry Kieffer about the Sherline's but $1500 is a bit pricey at this point. However this could be the incentive to up my charges and put $$ in the bank for a mill.

My goal is to try and preserve as much as I can of the original movement, and to do it in an acceptable manner so as to not be honored in the hall of shame.
Good attitude.

H/C
 

Bogey

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I started repairing clocks after I bought a couple at auction for myself and ended up paying more to get them running than I did to buy them. I decided that if I am going to collect clocks I had better learn how to fix them. As time went on, friends and family started bringing their clocks to me for repair.

About 15 years later, I am retired and do pretty well in the clock repair business. I will post on Craig's List once in a while, but do not advertise anywhere else. I have all the work I want to take in and once in a while I end up with more than I can handle.

I started out charging $25 to clean a time and strike American movement. I now ask $95 and up depending on what I'm looking at. Still, I'm not "making a living" in clock repair. I'm sure it could be done in the right location, but I'm really in this for the pleasure of seeing a dirty old neglected clock restored to the original purpose for which it was intended. As I mentioned, I am retired and do not want to work 40+ hours a week. If I did that, this hobby would become a JOB and may not be as much fun.

I know one person that has a clock repair business and he support a family with 5 children. I really believe he may be the exception.
 

Willie X

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Feb 9, 2008
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Sure, but as others have mentioned , you have to be realistic.

To add slightly to what Harold said. You will need a population of about 200,000 people to support one single family income clock repair operation (your mileage may vary). So do the math, a small town of 5,000 might be a great place to live but will not support anything past a hobby. Even if you live within a reasonable drive of a 500,000 people and there are three good full timers in the phone book, probably would be a tough go. It's a very tough business to establish in the presence of already established repairers.

You may think that a 100 customer base is good ... think again. In this business you don't usually see a customer but every few years. You will need a customer base of around a 1000 to have 1 or 2 customer a day!

These numbers are not concrete, they will vary greatly according to a large number circumstances, but they are the main thing you need to think about before setting any your expectations.

Good luck, Willie X
 

bajaddict

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Allen - nothing ventured, nothing gained... go for it :thumb: You should know within a few months / years the actual viability of this venture.

And, worse case scenario...... you are back where you are now :?|

AND you won't have to wonder, years from now, "what if"?
 

Scottie-TX

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I wouldn't wanna do it for a living but that isn't the question you asked. I would say that if you can afford to try the venture and not incur serious debt if it doesn't work out - go for it. But if this venture could result in a financial catastrophe for you - it 's not a risk I would take. There's fifty thousand guitar pickers in Nashville and I wouldn't give up my day job on a risky venture.
 

Tom Groulx

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Hello Everyone,

My father taught me clock repair back in 1991 when I was 24 years old. I worked for him for a few years, then typical father/son BS, I left him and went to work for the busiest clock repair shop in metro Detroit. I worked 50+ hrs per week there and got burned out after a few years. At that point I left the industry and went to work for a grinding machine manufacture. I traveled the world for ten years for them. I continued to do clock repair on the side out of my home when I was not traveling for work. I always wanted to get back into clock repair again, full time, but on my terms.

I opened my own shop/store front in May 2011. When I opened I was by myself. I have a nice web site. I advertise in one mailer per month; so my advertising budget is $295 per month.

I am one hour from the metro Detroit area. In less than two years, I have been maintaining a back log of 3 to 4 months. I currently have two other repairmen that work for me close to 40 hours per week. I feel I charge a premium rate, they are as follows:

Time and Strike, American or German, $200
Modern Day 1/4 hour, $200
Pre-1950 1/4 hour, $250
Modern Day Grandfather, $250
Antique Grandfather/Tallcase, Quote, Usually around $300
400-Day, $150
Time Only, $150

The above prices are for what I call a Complete Movement Restoration, this includes all labor. I charge parts in addition to the above rates, I charge bushings at $2.00 each. If I have to turn large bushings on the lathe, I will usually add $15.

I think I might loose ten jobs per year because of too high prices. In less than two years, I have received into my shop just over 600 repair jobs. This does not include the grandfather clocks that I fix in the customers home.

Now, I struggle financially, but I have to keep reminding myself that I have been doing this for such a short time by myself. I keep looking at the big picture and feel very confidently that this is a good career. I tell many people that I wish I could find an 18 year old kid and get him interested and trained. He would be set for life financially.

I believe that this is a very good career choice and it is one that will only get better because there are less and less people coming into the field and older people are leaving it.

Tom
 

shutterbug

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I don't think your prices are out of line at all, Tom. You have employees in less than two years? I'd say you're doing very well. Most businesses have a 5 year break even term, and you seem to be on the mark for achieving that. I think you're going to make it :)
 

Walesey

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I wish I were an 18 year old kid, Tom. I would come and pay you a visit.

Actually, I don't know anything about it myself, except that I was talking to my local clock repair guy a couple of months ago. He has an apprentice who has just completed his final year of his trade course. He will now go over to Switzerland for a 2 year course there and come home with international qualifications. My clock guy is pretty confident that the young bloke will be set up for life.

My clock guy, himself, reckons that he is the only person he knows of in Australia who has the qualifications to do what he does. (He does a lot of large tower clocks) and people will pay him to fly to Fiji, etc for a house call!! He can afford to put his kid through a reasonably expensive private school, so it must be paying him something.

It would seem that there are so few qualified clock repairers around, that it would not be hard to be a monopoly in a lot of areas. Then, you can charge whatever is fair to ensure that you do make a living. The rich people will hand over their money and the poor people will learn how to fix their own clocks. (guess what I am attempting to learn!)

cheers
Walesey
 

shutterbug

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Yeah, there are guys contracted to maintain (including winding) tower clocks, and that can be a decent steady income job. Unfortunately, lots of neat old tower clocks are/have been converted to electric.
 

Fred Reiss

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I was the only repairman within 50 miles until 2 months ago. Younger fellow moved here from the city where he worked for his father in a jewelry store. Dad passed away and he inherited enough to buy a home here. He advertises watch and clock repair "by appointment." I stopped by his home to visit. No tools for clock repair and only older ones for watches. He admitted he specializes in watch battery replacement. Problem is, he's doing house calls and charging $75 (I had a friend mystery shop him). His ads in the local paper, shopper magazines, and the business cards he distributes all have a NAWCC member #. I called NAWCC today and they said the last time the membership was paid was 2008---when the father was alive (Business).
I do repair work to support my clock collection hobby. I don't need to advertrise and I'm not competing with anyone who does it for a living. The problem I can see is the potential for a lot of his customers getting taken advantage of and the possibility it might reflect upon me. So, it sounds like you're doing the right thing for your level of experience and area. Good luck!
In the meantime, anyone have any ideas what I might do about the new fellow?
 

David S

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I was the only repairman within 50 miles until 2 months ago. Younger fellow moved here from the city where he worked for his father in a jewelry store. Dad passed away and he inherited enough to buy a home here. He advertises watch and clock repair "by appointment." I stopped by his home to visit. No tools for clock repair and only older ones for watches. He admitted he specializes in watch battery replacement. Problem is, he's doing house calls and charging $75 (I had a friend mystery shop him). His ads in the local paper, shopper magazines, and the business cards he distributes all have a NAWCC member #. I called NAWCC today and they said the last time the membership was paid was 2008---when the father was alive (Business).
I do repair work to support my clock collection hobby. I don't need to advertrise and I'm not competing with anyone who does it for a living. The problem I can see is the potential for a lot of his customers getting taken advantage of and the possibility it might reflect upon me. So, it sounds like you're doing the right thing for your level of experience and area. Good luck!
In the meantime, anyone have any ideas what I might do about the new fellow?

Ideas? Well if he doesn't really have much to really repair clocks, and likes doing the battery change stuff, pehaps you could chat with him.. You will refer battery change business to him and he can refer clock repairs to you. Perhaps he can even do "Quartz transplants?". You can refer those as well... oh and if you dont like cuckoos, those as well.

I do think however that his business cards having a NAWCC # is a tad deceptive. Of course it doesn't say "current".
 

Tony10Clocks

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I was going to say that it's not only clock repair that you might have to do. Watch battery changes, Watch straps, have a for sale shelf of clocks that you may have acquired and serviced, Perhaps a cabinet with watches etc
 

Bruce Alexander

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His ads in the local paper, shopper magazines, and the business cards he distributes all have a NAWCC member #. I called NAWCC today and they said the last time the membership was paid was 2008---when the father was alive (Business).
If he is trading fraudulently on the NAWCC name, they should be aware of it. If he is unethical, and his advertising suggests to me that he is, his practices may reflect on you and the Association. Just my opinion from afar.
 

Fred Reiss

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If he is trading fraudulently on the NAWCC name, they should be aware of it. If he is unethical, and his advertising suggests to me that he is, his practices may reflect on you and the Association. Just my opinion from afar.
Exactly as I feel. I've made contact with NAWCC membership and they asked for a copy of the ad/business card. I've scanned and will email to them Monday so they can take the appropriate action.
 

shutterbug

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I don't disagree with what's been observed here. However, this guy can only help you, not hurt you. When word gets around that he's not reliable, and word gets around that you are, well .... you get the picture :)
 

shimmystep

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I agree with Shuts, playing the long game will bring reward and he'll make all the moves! There is merit in what David suggested, you could get some good referrals from him.
 

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