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Advice For Starting a Locksmith Business?

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coderz

Newbie

Posts: 14

Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:28 am

Post Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:42 am

Advice For Starting a Locksmith Business?

So I've been really into picking locks for awhile, and I'm able to pick simple to even more advanced locks like the Abus Marine dimple lock, and other complex locks. I really, really love lockpicking, and have found that I sort of have a passion for this. I want to tell you my goals with this hobby though before going any further as I think that's important.

That said, I can't give up my day job just yet doing this for a living, but where I live in MT it appears you DO NOT need any "official" certification for calling yourself a locksmith or creating a lockout business in the legal sense. You do of course need a businesses license and all of that, and I would definitely want to get some sort of certification through Associated Locksmiths of America.

I'd want to be more focused on a lockout business. I happen to know locksmiths around here charge a small fortune for lockouts like $200.00 to pick a Kwikset lock that can be picked in under a minute. I want to be competitive, and charge like $50.00 for the same thing, run this out of my residence, and sort of fund my hobby.

I'm not looking to get rich off of this or even replace my job, but I simply want to do this to make a few extra bucks on the side. I already have a decent amount of picking tools, but I'm curious what other tools/machines people here would recommend to me or if they have any advice in general?

I feel like I need to get a key cutting machine: the Jet 9000B seems like a good manual machine for quick cutting at a really reasonable price $500<. Do I even need a key cutter for this business? I also feel like I need re-keying equipment all the pins etc. for major brands, and a guage etc. I already have a follower C Clip remover and the basics for disassembling a lock for my hobby.

What do I need? What advice do you guys have? I really appreciate the community and the help here!
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Visitor

Familiar Face

Posts: 64

Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:48 am

Post Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:04 pm

Re: Advice For Starting a Locksmith Business?

I've replied to this post a handful of times now, each time it's turned into pages of stuff and each time on a read through I've deleted and started again. I want to reply to this but can not without coming across as unintentionally negative and at times maybe spoiling for an argument so I'm going to have to leave it with a short paragraph, so sorry.

Be very careful if you do it, the trade forums used to be full of people doing the same thing, not one of them lasted longer than a month or so and they always end up in debt trying to sell tools and equipment to lockies that dont want or need it and no hobby guy wants to buy.
It seems a great idea but in practise it doesn't seem to work, you need to go full time or keep it as a hobby for hundreds of reasons.
If you really want to do it you really need to go to a trade forum and ask there, hobby pickers are great at picking locks but terrible at running a locksmith buisness (And often the same works the other way, so many 'locksmiths' still cant pick a lock). Even doing part time you need a vast amount of stock, tools and knowledge. Picking locks on a callout is not always the best way to proceed as bypass or drilling might be quicker or better. Lost keys don't need the lock picking for example so why waste time picking what is now an insecure lock. Repinning such locks then providing new keys isn't cost effective against supplying a new cylinder. It's easy to get stuck on a job for a few hours trying to save the customer a few bucks while costing yourself a couple hundred in lost time.
I'm starting to get going again so I'll stop here, good luck if you carry on with it, i suggest you need at least 5-10 of every lock in your area and start making or buying all the bypass tools. If you start offering key cutting you'll need a lot of stock so you can cover most instances, i dont believe you will get your money back on that side of things and is it worth the investment for the handful of keys you'll be cutting as a part timer.
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coderz

Newbie

Posts: 14

Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:28 am

Post Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:09 am

Re: Advice For Starting a Locksmith Business?

Visitor wrote:I've replied to this post a handful of times now, each time it's turned into pages of stuff and each time on a read through I've deleted and started again. I want to reply to this but can not without coming across as unintentionally negative and at times maybe spoiling for an argument so I'm going to have to leave it with a short paragraph, so sorry.

Be very careful if you do it, the trade forums used to be full of people doing the same thing, not one of them lasted longer than a month or so and they always end up in debt trying to sell tools and equipment to lockies that dont want or need it and no hobby guy wants to buy.
It seems a great idea but in practise it doesn't seem to work, you need to go full time or keep it as a hobby for hundreds of reasons.
If you really want to do it you really need to go to a trade forum and ask there, hobby pickers are great at picking locks but terrible at running a locksmith buisness (And often the same works the other way, so many 'locksmiths' still cant pick a lock). Even doing part time you need a vast amount of stock, tools and knowledge. Picking locks on a callout is not always the best way to proceed as bypass or drilling might be quicker or better. Lost keys don't need the lock picking for example so why waste time picking what is now an insecure lock. Repinning such locks then providing new keys isn't cost effective against supplying a new cylinder. It's easy to get stuck on a job for a few hours trying to save the customer a few bucks while costing yourself a couple hundred in lost time.
I'm starting to get going again so I'll stop here, good luck if you carry on with it, i suggest you need at least 5-10 of every lock in your area and start making or buying all the bypass tools. If you start offering key cutting you'll need a lot of stock so you can cover most instances, i dont believe you will get your money back on that side of things and is it worth the investment for the handful of keys you'll be cutting as a part timer.


Very good reply and a dose of reality. That said, I still really enjoy this a semi-expensive hobby. I like to pick locks, I like to re-key them etc. I can see myself spending 2-3k over the past few years on this hobby but to be a business you'd probably need to spend 30k to get started. While this is somewhat expensive, it's no more expensive than a gamer, so I should leave it at that.

My only other question would be STRICTLY a lockout service where you pick locks of people locked out. I know that I can pick well over half of them out there. You could charge a flat fee like 50.00 dollars or free if you can't pick it. In the cases that you can't pick the lock perhaps you could get a small referral fee to an already established locksmith in your area? What do you think of that idea?

Lastly, I'm thinking of buying a key cutting machine. I want to buy one of the more expensive electronic or key code ones, but I feel that's getting out of the hobby range and into the holy crap this is insanely expensive 2,000 minimum just for the machine range. You can get for under $500.00 a Jet 9000b manual key cutter and buy some depth and spacing keys to use as your code keys.

Does anyone here have experience with this? Do you really need a key cutting code based machine, or will a manual one do?
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Visitor

Familiar Face

Posts: 64

Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:48 am

Post Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:06 am

Re: Advice For Starting a Locksmith Business?

If you're doing lockout only you might not need a key machine, how good is your impressioning Lol.
I've seen your other thread about machines and see you've ordered one so won't dwell on that here. Get yourself a handful of blanks for each common lock but don't go mad, buy quantities when you know what's popular.

Lockout only service will harm you I think, the thing with service businesses is that you've got to be there all the time. If you get called and go do a good job that person might tell their best mate they needed a locksmith and then the jokes will start. If that person called you while you're at your day job and you turn them away that person will tell every person they meet that day that you couldnt do it, if they get asked in the future they will reply with 'I'll tell you who not to call' so be very careful.

If you keep advertising to family and friends only to begin with they will pass your name on with a proviso that you can only work a couple hours each evening which might not be the most common time for people to be locked out but it gets your name out there, advertising potentially will bankrupt you especially if you've no constant work coming in.

My calls are hardly ever lockout these days, i think the people that have grown up needing to lock everything pay more attention to keeping the keys, probably 75% of my lockouts are old people who don't really value security much (when I was a kid it was common practise to just leave stuff unlocked).

A lockout means you've got to drop everything and go out now. I fear no local locksmith is going to help you if your only charging a quarter of their charge, in fact they will do everything they can to put you out of buisness including dirty tricks and reporting you for no locksmith license (if you need one).

In my opinion you need to offer a service that isn't urgent and can be done on your timescale. Maybe freelance for local lockies by saying you will rekey locks for them or do night lockouts for them etc I know some us firms only work 9-5 and turn out of hours work away that you could pick up.

There's also postal services like rekeying or keying alike etc.

Unfortunatley there is a big chance that you're going to come out of this in a couple months with a load of gear you can't use, no customers and a sizeable debt. Unfortunatley used key machines are not worth anything near the initial outlay and blank keys are only useful to a key cutter who won't buy them off you. Be careful what you outlay.

Just as a note, your 30k suggestion is just a drop in the ocean, i know I'm in the UK and running a buisness but I'm certain I'm up over £300k easily in tools, stock and equipment. Be strict on keeping your lock stuff separate to the rest of your life because as soon as you start putting money in from elsewhere because the lock stuff isn't earning enough to buy your keys this week or pay your insurance etc then you've already lost the battle.

You could maybe look into cosmetically changing locks then offering for sale, some people go mad for these patterned keys, you could engrave or paint locks to match that you can supply and fit for that personal touch.
I think you'll struggle on lockout only unless you're doing auto.
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coderz

Newbie

Posts: 14

Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:28 am

Post Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:27 am

Re: Advice For Starting a Locksmith Business?

Visitor wrote:If you're doing lockout only you might not need a key machine, how good is your impressioning Lol.
I've seen your other thread about machines and see you've ordered one so won't dwell on that here. Get yourself a handful of blanks for each common lock but don't go mad, buy quantities when you know what's popular.

Lockout only service will harm you I think, the thing with service businesses is that you've got to be there all the time. If you get called and go do a good job that person might tell their best mate they needed a locksmith and then the jokes will start. If that person called you while you're at your day job and you turn them away that person will tell every person they meet that day that you couldnt do it, if they get asked in the future they will reply with 'I'll tell you who not to call' so be very careful.

If you keep advertising to family and friends only to begin with they will pass your name on with a proviso that you can only work a couple hours each evening which might not be the most common time for people to be locked out but it gets your name out there, advertising potentially will bankrupt you especially if you've no constant work coming in.

My calls are hardly ever lockout these days, i think the people that have grown up needing to lock everything pay more attention to keeping the keys, probably 75% of my lockouts are old people who don't really value security much (when I was a kid it was common practise to just leave stuff unlocked).

A lockout means you've got to drop everything and go out now. I fear no local locksmith is going to help you if your only charging a quarter of their charge, in fact they will do everything they can to put you out of buisness including dirty tricks and reporting you for no locksmith license (if you need one).

In my opinion you need to offer a service that isn't urgent and can be done on your timescale. Maybe freelance for local lockies by saying you will rekey locks for them or do night lockouts for them etc I know some us firms only work 9-5 and turn out of hours work away that you could pick up.

There's also postal services like rekeying or keying alike etc.

Unfortunatley there is a big chance that you're going to come out of this in a couple months with a load of gear you can't use, no customers and a sizeable debt. Unfortunatley used key machines are not worth anything near the initial outlay and blank keys are only useful to a key cutter who won't buy them off you. Be careful what you outlay.

Just as a note, your 30k suggestion is just a drop in the ocean, i know I'm in the UK and running a buisness but I'm certain I'm up over £300k easily in tools, stock and equipment. Be strict on keeping your lock stuff separate to the rest of your life because as soon as you start putting money in from elsewhere because the lock stuff isn't earning enough to buy your keys this week or pay your insurance etc then you've already lost the battle.

You could maybe look into cosmetically changing locks then offering for sale, some people go mad for these patterned keys, you could engrave or paint locks to match that you can supply and fit for that personal touch.
I think you'll struggle on lockout only unless you're doing auto.


Well that was my point, I'm wondering what kind of response I would get doing lockout calls for both auto and residential if I was available 24/7? I'd be willing to bet I could pick or non destructively enter way over half of the residential areas around here when they're locked out!
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Gabesthomas

Newbie

Posts: 12

Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:38 am

Post Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:29 pm

Re: Advice For Starting a Locksmith Business?

You should probably work AS a locksmith for SOMEONE ELSE before starting a business. Be forthright about wanting to start your own business, dont be sneaky. They might even have you sign a non compete which would prevent your ventures in their area. The few lock shops in my tri city area use non competes, including the one I work for.

Get some experience under your belt by apprenticing and then see what you think.

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