How many posts have you seen asking “How do you guys support your car habit?” This is about potential hobby fuel that anyone in any profession can start on the side without the fear of quitting their day job unless it takes off. There is no way that I’m the only gearhead that has lost many nights of sleep thinking about how to make money related to the hobby. Creating products will not be my focus here, but it relates to how I want to open this post. This seems obvious, but I have to say it, $5 of profit per item sold to 10,000 people is $50,000. One smart move can get you a house. The automotive performance & motorcycle industries have millions of followers on FB alone. Hell, $10 of profit per item sold to 30,000 people is $300,000! This sounds great, but the problem with this approach is the uphill battle of fighting Chinese knock-offs and the near inevitability of being forced back to square one.
I’m not a damn guru, I’m just some asshole that decided to put my findings over the years on the internet to hopefully save a few other people the aggravation of finding all of these things to research in separate places. This is a list of more sustainable revenue ideas, for gearheads, that took me years to figure out. There will be more of successes and failures to come, but here is part one. Add this page to your process of elimination, but your experiences may be entirely different. This list is not ordered by potential and obviously it’s all in my personal opinion.
Powdercoating & Hydrographics (Better as a hobby in hindsight.)
Easy to learn. Cheap start-up. Abundant/cheap learning resources. Offering services is a good way to turn a profit, but it’s much less stressful to have a vision of what people want then create it and put a price tag on it. If you source your own parts and you know how they could look awesome, then learn photography and how to write effective ads. (If you want a deep marketing rabbit hole the research NLP.) Wording in classifieds is everything, so find every selling point. It’s way less stressful that way than it is freaking out about potentially having to strip and redo a part, that you don’t own, in order to put out the highest quality work possible. Reputation is everything both locally and on the internet. A lot of the challenges of serviced based hydro-graphics mirror those of powder coating. For both trades, there is an amount of chemical exposure that you will have to endure pertaining to 80% of the work being prep, however there is additional exposure when dipping due to spraying the “activator”. Hydro-dipping is more interesting and rewarding when you “nail” a part perfectly, but it is also more expensive and more challenging for a similar income. These two trades can also be combined with proper technique. Glow-in-the-dark powder coated, zombie dipped, powder cleared parts anyone? Even though the learning curve for hydrodipping is fairly time intensive compared to powder coating I enjoyed mastering the process. If you do decide to go either of these routes and offer clients a custom service, then advertise media-blasting as well because you’ll be doing a lot of it anyway.
Event Vending, Stickers, & Vinyl (Carne life has some potential.)
Maybe I shouldn’t group these together, but I did. A lot of people don’t realize that you can make 5 figures or more at one outdoor event just selling food and drinks. I wanted to put that on your radar, but not elaborate on it, so I’m moving on. Event specific t-shirts are okay, if licensing isn’t a problem, but otherwise T-shirts are a waste of time unless you are a visionary. Threadless.com is a fun experiment if that is your thing. Vinyl cutters however are cheap and even a Cricut is sufficient. Vinyl material is cheap so basic creativity and quick trend recognition is the only limit. Stickers & vinyl generally inspire a lot more enthusiasm that t-shirts and in turn they typically sell in greater quantities. They are easier to create on the fly than t-shirts if you want to get involved in vending at events. You aren’t just limited to car/bike events, there’s also fairs, festivals, concerts, putting business hours and such on shop windows, and obviously big online potential.
3Dmodeling, CNC, Welding, & Fabrication (School helps, but isn’t necessary.)
Maybe I shouldn’t group these subcultures together either, but I did. Manifolds, motor mounts, bell housings, suspension, sub-frames, roll cages, tube frame chassis monsters, etc… The hands-on aspect of this trade takes a lot of dedication, skill, and thick skin, but there is an extremely large return for skilled work. Personally I wouldn’t dream of focusing on this market segment without combining the craftsmanship aspect of it with 3dmodeling and CNC. Autodesk Fusion 360 is cheap or free and the tutorials are so good that it can leave you wondering why anyone would need to go to school for it. Drafting tables and slide rules have been extinct for a long time now and the learning curve for 3d modeling is mostly an outdated myth now as well. If you have fun learning 3d modeling then you’ll also have the advantage of 3d printing. Outsourcing 3d printing & CNC is cheap and easy with a large option list of materials now-a-days. You can also utilize the Tech Shops in many cities. Tech Shops are like 24 hour membership gyms, but with CNC machines, 3d printers, laser engravers, water jet tables, and full blown machine shops that are accessible to members around the clock. Being a part of Tech Shop is a good enough reason to take advantage of easily learned 3D modeling, what a great resource! Once you hone your skills you could also offer freelance work on sites like eLance.com. It’s crazy that you can easily master these skills and create an impressive portfolio these days without the burden of student loans. Take advantage of it!
Amsoil (Warning: The potential of a sales career is addictive!)
If you’ve ever Googled the best motor oil then you know what Amsoil is. There’s no lack of backstory to read about! We all know that synthetics are better in this day and age, we get it! What you may not know is that to be a dealer, it’s only $25 a year, then you get all of their products at cost. It is multi-level marketing, but you can play it any way that you want. You can just use the “membership” to get products at cost, you can sign up every motorcycle shop in town as a retail account, or you can approach fleets and large manufacturers wearing a suit and pull up to 15% commission on all of their lubricant sales from one ballsy move. You don’t have to spend any money on inventory and to an extent it can become automatically generated income once it’s set up. You are also authorized to sell products to farms from the largest liquid organic fertilizer company in the country, Aggrand. They do protect their dealers for 6 months after a contract has been set up, but there is NO set territory! You can make business trips to target certain areas if you want. Perfect your own script, go to fun, and make it a business trip by hammering on that area while you’re there anyway. So, professional sales experience, a product related to your passions that you can be proud of, potentially passive/automated income, no set sales territory, no set schedule, no quotas…do you have any previous sales experience? It doesn’t matter! You’re hired! Feel free to make a buck for me by using my dealer code if you wish! I am Amsoil Dealer ZO# 5258984.
The Subculture of Flipping (Another deal will always come along.)
Parts, cars, & part-outs. This takes patience, money to get started, and you have to know your particular market. With that said, it’s really not that hard. Even when I was younger and didn’t know much, I still did fairly well with this. My favorite example is how I got my Evo. I was sitting in class, bored out of my mind, at Penn State, when I decided to write down every part/vehicle that I owned and the high and low end prices that I could sell them for. What struck me was that even if I sold everything for cheap then it would go quickly and it would come out to more than enough money to get an Evo. Sure it would suck if I had to sell things (that I didn’t even want to sell) for cheap, but I didn’t have to start out cheap. I made an enormous for sale post during tax return time, I started my prices high and dropped them every week. For a month I ended up going to the post office at least once a day. I threw some parts together as package deals to make them easier to sell. I gave people freebies with orders sometimes because it was extremely important that I had a 5 star reputation. Even though I had been collecting parts for a long time, I was broke when I was doing all of this. I forced myself to not touch any of the money I collected or else I would be giving up everything for no reason. I parted out a full 95 TSi AWD build that I was in love with, I sold a CRX HF, and somehow in the middle of this I traded a broken E30 325i for a broken MR2 Turbo that ended up being the only thing I held on to. I sold our DD, a 3 wheeler, video games, electronics, and anything else I could. I spent a month living on every classified site that I could when I wasn’t packing, shipping, or maintaining more than a dozen for sale threads. In one month, I pulled in $11,000 as an unemployed student. I didn’t sleep much that month. I created an email template to proposition people selling Evo’s. I emailed several dozen people seeing if they would drop their price at all. I got a deal set up to drive one state away to get a one owner, 100k, Evo VIII for $11k. I didn’t have the full amount yet, but I set up the deal. Anything I had left to sell went for dirt cheap, my wife and I had to borrow my Uncle’s car to drive to Ohio because I sold everything else, and to make it worse, we needed a car to drive from Pennsylvania to Florida for our 1 year delayed honeymoon that was coming up quick! This whole idea was crazy, but in the end I didn’t borrow a single dime from anyone, and we were able to write just married on the back window and drive to Florida with streamers ripping through the wind hanging on the back of our fully paid for Evo wing! I’ve raided junkyards for piles of heads, valve covers, etc.. and I’ve bought and flipped a lot of things, but getting the Evo was the most gratifying thing of that type that I’ve done. Don’t get so attached to cars and parts that you can’t bring yourself to sell them. It’s not worth your time to sell junk, use your keen eye to flip the stuff that you would want to keep. Be known for selling cool stuff, not for unloading crap that no one wants. Sell the stuff that you don’t want to sell because another deal will always come along. I’m sure Richard Rawlings wouldn’t mind keeping everything, but he’s smarter than that. Don’t let the game play you and don’t be afraid of doing part outs.
Blogging (Some people are bound to be thinking the same crazy shit! Build a tribe!)
Information is the hardest thing to knock-off therefore it is potentially the best use of your time. I’m not saying that you should disregard product creation, as I have always been a big fan, but focusing on content will never send you back to the drawing board because all of your hard work went obsolete overnight. Just be up front about what you’re doing, and only share affiliate links that you actually use and that are relevant to what you’re talking about. I’m not saying to bank everything on just being a blogger, but it compliments every other business venture and it can create automated income just by putting useful affiliate links in place. you don’t have to babysit your website constantly if you set it up right and it can make you money while you sleep. Blog everyday or a few times a year if you want, it doesn’t matter, it’s still working 24/7 to build an audience and make money. As long as you’re putting out the best content you can, instead of acting like some sleazy sales person, then there are bound to be people out there that have been pondering the same shit as you that will appreciate what you have to say. Once you’re interested in blogging and occasionally talking about why you think other people should do it, then an affiliate like Bluehost pays pretty well and is easy to sign up for, they are the first one I signed up with. I plan to add more affiliates, as I discover relevant programs, and combine them all on one page of useful links. (I wish Eastwood still had a decent program! I hope that Autodesk’s affiliate program works out well, because I’ve used AutoCAD since I was a kid and I’m going to endorse Fusion 360 regardless.) I’m not sure what companies will make the cut just yet, but they’re not going on that page unless they are gearhead related, damn useful to website building, or directly a part of my content. If I ever write about something because I think it’s a good money maker, then I’ll be open about that motive, show you how I use it, and show you how it can be useful to you. So that’s the plan man. This is my place to post race track/car show pics, talk about engineering, tech, where our culture is headed, what we can do to support it heading in the right direction, do some interviews, and discuss how we can all help each other make money to support our hobby! Cars & bikes don’t have to be for people who love work and hate money. Take advantage of knowing this market so well and turn it into cash! Take it easy on me as I hone my writing skills and I promise I’ll share whatever tools I find to be the most useful!
Above all make sure that, whatever you decide to do, it isn’t taken so seriously that you don’t enjoy your hobbies anymore because you combined them with serious shit! Keep it feckin’ fun!
P.S. In true #UnrefinedProject form, the thoughts that I have presented here are rearranged, not refined, just put out there raw at some point. I have much research to do, this is one of many evolving projects, and it is subject to changes. Good projects are never done. They are only abandoned.