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How to Start a Machine Shop (and Get Customers)

Are you good with your hands? Do you have ample experiences as a fabricator, but have spent most of your time working under someone else? Have you always wanted to be your own boss and go into business for yourself?

If you answered yes to those questions, you sound like someone that needs to learn how to start a machine shop. Having a machine shop will give you the opportunity to make money and follow your own schedule.

Having the skills of an expert fabricator isn’t difficult, but creating and managing your own shop can be difficult. Luckily for you, we’re here to help.

How to Start a Machine Shop

Founding and running your own machine shop won’t be a simple task, you’re going to need to wear a lot of hats at work. You’re going to require business and marketing skills along with practicing your fabricator skills.

Starting a machine shop can be easy if you go in with the right mindset and skills. If you remember these tips when you’re starting your own shop, you’ll be happy with what you build.

Think About Location

The internet made it easy to appeal to a wide variety of customers, but location still matters when you’re starting a small business. You’re going to need a loyal and local pool of customers to help get you on your feet.

Take some time to scope out the local fabricator scene in your town. When you do this, don’t just look for businesses that are only listed as machine shops. There are plenty of businesses that could offer you services as a side perk.

If you notice a high concentration of fabricators where you live, don’t fret. Look into how many machine shops are in surrounding towns and cities. There could be a need for your services a 10-minute drive from your home.

Learn Zoning and Licensing Laws

Starting a machine shop is going to be very different from starting any old business. You’re going to be working with some heavy duty equipment, and operating that could require special spaces and clearance.

Regardless of where you live, check to see what kind of permits and space you’ll need to operate.

Don’t assume that you know everything there is to know about licensing and permits. Legal requirements can change frequently, and what was okay last year may not be okay this year.

It’s also important to realize that needing special permits isn’t something that you can work around. If you want to have a successful machine shop you need to make sure you’re operating within the scope of the law.

Find the Right Talent

The obvious answer to the question of how to start a machine shop is to find employees, but sometimes this act is much easier said than done.

Someone with a high school diploma and machinist certifications could work in a machine shop but that doesn’t mean that they’re fit to work with you. You’ll need to find employees that can work for you and your needs.

Hiring the right employees is critical to running a successful new business. Bringing on someone that isn’t the right fit for what you need could end up costing your business money in the long run.

Think about what would truly be a stellar employee for your business. Is it someone that fits the company culture, or would it be someone that knows everything there is to know about fabrication?

Have a Solid Business Plan

It doesn’t matter if you plan on starting a bakery or a machine shop, you need to have a business plan. The number one answer to the how to start a machine shop question is to have a solid business plan.

How much money do you think you’ll be able to make your first year? Do you have an existing pipeline for clients, or do you need to build one from the ground up? What sets your shop apart from the competition.

All of these important questions can be answered in your business plan.

Writing a business plan can answer all of the big questions you have about your business. Don’t plan on finding a location or hiring employees until you have your business plan set up.

Get Great Equipment

If you want to keep costs down when you start your shop, cutting costs with equipment isn’t the way to go. Learning how to start a machine shop will teach you that a good lathe or soldering tool is worth its weight in gold.

Skimping on equipment in hopes of saving money will only cost you more in the long run. Equipment that’s constantly breaking down and not producing great products will cost much more over time than equipment that always work.

If you’re going to spend money on anything, make it your equipment. Your equipment and machinery are going to be the backbone of your company, spending more money on it will pay off in the long run.

Have a Solid Marketing Plan

Once you know how to start a machine shop, you need to do what you can to bring in new business. You may have a solid list of people eager to do business with you, but you’re still going to need new prospects if you want to stay open.

Luckily for you, the digital space has made marketing easier than ever for small business owners. You can make a successful marketing plan fast when you focus on the right things.

When you’re learning how to start a machine shop, social media marketing is going to be a valuable tool. Imagine posting pictures of you building the shop on Facebook and Instagram so you can give people in behind the scenes view of your business.

When you’re doing marketing on social, don’t forget the power of SEO. Targeting localized keywords can help you rank fast for important terms, and can help you build your audience.

Wrapping Up

Learning how to start a machine shop will take time, but when you’ve mastered it the payoff is worth it. Once you have certain things in place you’ll be unstoppable in your local market.

Do you have questions about starting a machine shop? Do you have past expertise you can share with our readers? Let us know in the comments section!

If you’re curious about how we can help get your machine shop off the ground, use our quote service to see how we can help.

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