Starting your own locksmith business can be very lucrative if you’ve got a knack for it. Even if you’ve never touched a lockpicking set in your life, learning to pick and install locks is not that complicated. There are plenty of tutorials to get you started, and a training kit costs very little.
You can also work as an apprentice under someone more experienced to learn the ropes. But if you want to get the most out of your work in the long term, starting your own business is definitely the way to go. You’ll have complete freedom over your working hours, clients, and specialization. Of course, starting your own locksmith business also comes with some risks – more or less the same ones you’d encounter when starting any other business.
One downside to working as a locksmith in particular is the competitive nature of the market. You’ll face lots of competition no matter where you decide to set up shop, but with some clever marketing, you can easily pull lots of customers. Things might work out better for you if you set up in a smaller town.
Can You Make Money with Your Own Locksmith Business?
Running your own locksmith business requires not only a good sense of the practical side of things, but also some entrepreneurial experience. You can acquire both from scratch if you’re lacking in either, but be prepared to spend a couple of months brushing up your skills and learning the ins and outs.
If you want to be really successful as a locksmith, you’ll want to offer emergency 24/7 services. That’s where many locksmiths make most of their money, but unfortunately it also means giving up some control over your work/life balance.
Taking a call at odd hours will be a common occurrence if your business takes off, and you can’t really turn down those requests if you’ve announced you’re available around the clock. You may be able to get away with it once or twice, but do it too much and your reputation is going to suffer. More on that below.
How Much Can You Earn as a Standalone Locksmith?
One of the great things about working as a locksmith is that you’ll have very good profit margins. Once you’ve set up your initial workshop and have purchased all tools and materials you’ll need, your operational costs will be almost fixed. You will have to occasionally refill your stock of key blanks or upgrade/replace some of your tools, but that’s about it.
This means that you’ll be making almost pure profit on each service order. Market estimates put the average profit of a locksmith business at around $40,000 – $60,000 a year, which is pretty good for the kind of work you’ll be doing.
If you eventually decide to expand, that will be pretty manageable as well. New employees won’t come with any additional overhead costs other than their salaries and insurance, so you can scale things up in a predictable manner.
Is It Worth Starting Your Own Locksmith Business Instead of Working for Someone Else?
Working under someone else always has certain advantages in terms of stability and working hours. You’ll know that you’re getting paid at the end of the week/month, even if business has been slow. However, the amount will almost always be fixed too (unless you have a bonus arrangement or something along those lines).
On the other hand, when you’re your own boss, you’re also directly responsible for how much work you take on, and therefore how much you get paid. You can push yourself to work extra hours when you need to make some extra money, but you’ll also have to deal with the occasional slow month when your earnings are below your baseline.
Here are the overall advantages and disadvantages of the two models for a quick overview:
- Pro: you’re your own boss. You can turn down requests you’re not comfortable with, and you can take on extra work when you need to bring in more money.
- Pro: you can scale up once things have stabilized and potentially earn even more money in the long run.
- Pro: you can work out of your own home and don’t have to confine yourself to an office.
- Con: you are responsible for everything. This includes not only getting the actual work done, but also handling your accounting and dealing with any legal disputes that may come up.
- Con: you’re also liable for damages. If you’re not confident in your lockpicking skills, you should take out additional insurance to be able to compensate customers if you damage their locks beyond repair.
- Con: it’s a competitive market. Locksmiths are everywhere, and pretty much every town has at least a couple of established specialists.
What Costs Does the Average Locksmith Business Have?
One of the good things about running a locksmith business is that it doesn’t strictly require setting up your own workshop. You can do most things out of your own home, depending on the kinds of services you offer. This means that you can spare yourself at least one major expense – rent. However, if you want to be taken seriously, you will eventually need to look into getting your own workshop established.
Other than that, there are a few notable expenses you’ll need to account for.
You should arm yourself with a diverse selection of lockpicking tools. At the very least, you should cover common deadbolt locks. If you want to expand your range of options, you will need to invest in some specialized tools for advanced locks as well.
As a general estimate, you should set aside around $5,000 for your starting equipment. Raise that to $10,000 – $15,000 if you’re planning on investing in more specialized equipment. Keep in mind that those estimates are rather high and are intended to cover absolutely everything you might need, including some fancy bells and whistles. If you’re on a tighter budget, you should be able to procure everything for just $2,000 – $3,000 if you watch out for good deals.
A simple vice will cost you around $50. A key copying machine can cost between $100 and $200 for most standard models that come with all features you’re going to need. Locks can vary in price greatly, with basic deadbolts costing around $50 – $100, and more secure models priced at $300 – $500, depending on the exact features.
Accreditation is not necessary for working as a locksmith. It can, however, improve your profile and make you seem like a more trustworthy expert. Taking the time to obtain certain accreditations can significantly improve your long-term prospects.
Most accreditation programs cost between $1,000 – $3,000 if taken in-person. You can bring down the price by taking online courses. If you want to get certified for a specific service, this can range between $60 – $300. Being a member of ALOA (Associated Locksmiths of America) will give you access to discounted rates.
Mobility will be of great benefit as a locksmith, especially if you want to offer emergency services. A basic van or truck will be enough to get the job done. If you only offer basic services, you can even get away with using a small car for that purpose. But once you get into more complicated territory, especially if you start offering the installation of advanced locks, you’re going to need some bulky tools that will take up a lot of space.
Liability is going to be an issue at every stage of your operations, no matter how experienced you are. There’s always the risk of botching a job and leaving a customer in a worse state than before you arrived. If that happens, you’ll have to cover the complete replacement of the lock you’ve broken.
This makes it important to get liability insurance. Ideally, you should look for a plan that covers only the specific set of services that you’re offering. This can be difficult due to the way commercial insurance packages are structured. If you’re forced to go for a more extensive package, it might make sense to start offering additional services yourself to make the extra coverage worthwhile.
Accounting and Legal
While you can technically do your taxes yourself, hiring an accountant will relieve you of a huge burden. You just have to submit your invoices and other accounting data to them, and let them handle the complexities of this part of your business.
Not only that, but an accountant will also help you identify opportunities for optimizing your taxes and reducing your taxable income. There are various tricks out there, but only the pros know how to take advantage of them in a safe manner that doesn’t result in an audit.
A lawyer is also someone who can help you in many regards. Hopefully you’ll never run into a situation where you’re dragged to court to sort out a legal dispute, but things don’t have to go that far to make a lawyer worth the additional cost. They can help you identify areas that require additional licensing and accreditation, among other things, which in turn will help you keep your business safe and compliant.
Competing in a Crowded Market
Competition is going to be tough, especially when you’re still starting out. You have to come to terms with the fact that this is one of the more crowded and competitive markets, and the competition can be fierce. You must do your best to spread the word about your services as quickly as possible, and ensure that people only have good things to say about you.
It’s a good idea to leverage social media to its full potential when you’re still fresh on the market. Post in relevant groups, especially local service ones, and help people to know you better.
The Importance of Setting Up a Website Early On
Having your own website will be invaluable. Not just when you’re still starting out, but also when your business has taken off and you have expanded a bit. A solid web presence will bring in many additional customers.
Just put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s locked themselves out of their house. What are you going to do? You’ll probably open your favorite search engine and look for local locksmiths. You won’t spend too much time sifting through the results, as the most important thing to you is getting back home as quickly as possible.
Because of this, you’ll want to spend some money on optimizing your web presence. Work with experienced SEO specialists who know how to help you rank better. Set up a Google Business account and all other relevant profiles from early on. And always make sure that your contact details are up to date.
Using WordPress can help you streamline that part of the process. It will sort out all the annoying details like structuring and formatting, leaving you with the sole task of coming up with some content to populate your site with.
You may not have time for this in the beginning, but once things have stabilized a little, you should set some time aside for writing helpful articles and posting them on your site. Here are some ideas for topics you can explore:
- How to choose a new lock
- How to maintain your locks
- What to do if your car’s lock is frozen in the winter
- Can you pick a lock yourself?
And so on. You don’t have to go into detail on any complicated topics. Just write enough to help the average person answer some common questions, and this will drive additional traffic to your site. Over time, this will help you establish a position as an authority on certain topics, which will automatically make people trust you more when they’re considering hiring you.
Different Services You Can Offer
Locksmiths generally offer several types of services, which we’ve listed below. You don’t have to offer the full range, and it’s actually recommended to focus on a smaller set of things you do best while you’re still starting out. Once things have picked up though, it’s recommended to expand your work to cover all types of locksmith services.
People locked out of their own homes will be among your main customers. They can also earn you a lot of money if you play your cards right. The most important thing in these cases is timely response. When someone is calling you for this type of work, they almost always need it done immediately. This means that you’ll often find yourself on the go in the beginning.
The same goes for unlocking cars. In fact, many people will likely treat these situations with even more urgency because they were on their way to something important. Keep in mind that unlocking a car requires a different set of tools and knowledge than unlocking residential locks, and you should be more familiar with electronics.
Installing a new lock is very easy for an experienced locksmith, even though it looks like a complicated mess to the layperson. Take advantage of that and offer your services to people who need to redo the locks in their homes. Offer some additional tips and guide them through their purchase to ensure that they’re getting the kind of protection they need.
A simple job that often takes less than a minute, but can be quite lucrative if you focus on it, copying keys is something every locksmith needs to do. A starter cutting machine will cost you around $500 and should be able to handle most common types of keys. This is a service for which you’ll need to set up a dedicated workshop. Most people won’t be willing to wait several days to have their keys mailed to them.
Offering emergency unlocking services is where the real money is for many locksmiths. If someone gets locked out in the middle of the night after coming home from a party, they usually don’t have any other reasonable option than to call a locksmith.
This means that you can charge a premium fee for this service. Take a look at some of your competitors and you’ll usually see a significant markup for emergency services.
The main downside is that you will be expected to be available around the clock. You can never take some time off and relax, because you never know when the next call might come in. Sure, you might be able to turn down the occasional customer, but you must never allow those instances to pile up. Otherwise, word will eventually spread and people will know that you’re unreliable, so they will glance right over you when they’re searching for a locksmith to call.