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I wasn't sure if this was the right place to put this or not so someone can feel free to move it. A friend and I are starting a very small local business. We're going to offer guitar repairs and refinishing. A couple things were not going to do right now are burst finishes and major work on hollow body guitars. We have a lot of friends that need work done on their solid body guitar and basses but they aren't willing to pay the high prices that the local guitar shop is asking for. My friend and I are pursuing this to fuel our passion for restoring and building guitars. My question is this, how much should we charge hourly for work done on solidbody guitars? How much money have you guys charged for work? I want to keep ou prices low while still making a profit. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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On a personal level I can honestly say I have no idea what I would charge for repairs etc. I have done a few things for some friends and did not charge a dime because I value the experience and find its a nice way to spend some spare time. :D

But here are a few previous posts I managed to dig up that might give you some insight.

http://projectguitar.ibforums.com/index.php?showtopic=15625

http://projectguitar.ibforums.com/index.php?showtopic=15697

I would itemize all the specific repairs, mods etc. that you are capable of doing and then ask around the pro shops what they would charge, ie. fretjob, pickup replacement etc. etc. and then work it out from there. Good luck with the new biz and perhaps you can keep busy. Not to step on any toes around here or elsewhere but a lot of estimates I've seen seem to only cater to the rich and/or gullible. :D

Edited by Southpa
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As much as I hate to rain on you parade, Perry is absolutely right. We have been over this type of question several times and the consensus is that if you don't know what to charge you arent ready to sell anything.

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I have to agree; however, it does make me wonder:

When you read magazine articles about guitar-builders, it seems like they all started -somewhere- and that usually meant taking a risk. Since your first customers are your friends, they're already aware that you're not a pro, but they seem confident enough in your fledgling abilities to at least let you give it a shot.

Of course, the other less appealing but nobler option is to charge only cost price. You say you want to make a profit, but what you really need to do is ensure that your skills are worth hiring. If you have this line-up of friends already, do at least a run of repairs for free. If your friends are happy with the work, maybe next time they'll hire you. And in the meantime, they'll recommend you to THEIR friends and you can start building a client base.

It might seem a better option to go for the line-up of 10 customers you have and try to make a profit from it, but in the grand scheme of things, that profit margin is nothing, so you might as well do the 'right' thing. Either way, though, decide in advance how you're going to 'make it right' if on the off chance you DO screw up some of the work. :D

Every guitar tech started off their career with someone putting a guitar into their hands and saying 'fix it, please.' You're not born with the skills. :D I'm just not sure how many of them started charging right away, or how much they charged.

Greg

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We have a lot of friends that need work done on their solid body guitar and basses but they aren't willing to pay the high prices that the local guitar shop is asking for.

Honestly, I think the DIY thing is cool if you're working on your own instruments, but working on others' is a completely different animal. That local shop probably charges as much as they do because of all the expenses they have to cover plus the quality of work such money demands.

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My question is this, how much should we charge hourly for work done on solidbody guitars? How much money have you guys charged for work? I want to keep ou prices low while still making a profit. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

My thoughts on your situation are much different than the general concensus. I had the exact same advice for years when I wanted to start my guitar business. I was told I needed to learn how to balance my books, how to deal with customers, how to build guitars like a pro, how finances work, etc. Well, when I finally made the leap I had very little support (from friends and family). Why? Because I had not yet run a custom guitar business! Well now that I am running one I am learning more than I was ever given by way of advice. And I make good money at it too. Now my friends and family are a bit jealous when I take the day off because it is sunny and I feel like enjoying it.

The only way you are going to learn is to start your business and start charging money for every repair you do. Don't give it away and expect that word of mouth will get you anything but people looking to pay next to nothing for your work. The last thing you want to do when you start a business is to give away your work. What you can do is charge a fair price and take 3 times as long to get it perfect if you need to but don't give it away. And quote longer than you thinkyou will take. No sense starting out being late with every order because you are learning.

You do need to cover costs or won't last long. You don't want to have to supplement you money with a part time job, it will take up too much of your time. Charge at the very least what it costs you to do the work. I personally do not recoimmend this approach. What will happen is everyone will hear about the great repair guy who does his work for free. What will the pro guitarist do when he hears about you? Nothing. He'll go pay his tech (or repairer) good money for good work. Why will he do that instead of going to the cheap new guy? Because his good money will cover the cost of the repair and the occasional mishap. He will know that you can get the work done at all costs because he paid you.

I would say that to find the hourly rate you should take the minimum you need to work and figure that out into an hourly rate. For example:

Total monthly shop rent and utilities: $1000

$1000/24 working days in a month = $41.00 a day

$41/8 hours a day = $5.12 an hour to keep the doors open

Now add to that what you need to do stay afloat. Figure it out in a similar way:

Total rent and utilities: $800

Groceries: $250

Girlfriend: $1500

Total: $2550 per month

$2550/24 working days = $106.25 per day

$106.25/8 hours a day = $13.28 to keep you off the streets

That is a total of $18.40 for a shop rate. I would add 30% for taxes = $23.92. I would also add some room for error, like another 10% = $26.31 (that's cheap!). Add to that the materials needed for the job and always charge a minimum of at least one half hour or more. You have to keep the doors open somehow.

I charge between $50 and $65 an hour depending on how much skill is needed for the repair. I do not do much repair and I turn away most of it so I have time to build my custom guitars. If you really have a passion for restoration then you will do well.

One last thing. Get those orders from your friends and charge them a fair price (at cost is not fair to you). Then tell them 3-4 the amount of time you need to do the work. If you think it will take 2 hours tell them they can come back tomorrow afternoon. Give yourself plenty of time. The stress of having a client coming to pick up an instrument that is not completed will make you screw it up. Never fails. Just be honest, do good work, and never, ever call them and tell them all the little problems you are having. Figure them out on your own and give them a perfect guitar.

Just my opinion.

~David

Edited by Myka Guitars
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Awesome advice you have there.. It's easy to blow someone off and tell them to go "get experience" but you have to start somewhere.

The only thing I would add, is as you get into it.. get all the licenses and such you need in your state to buy wholesale.. Then you'll have AllParts and WD at your disposal at 50% of retail. You have to keep your overhead as low as possible to keep as much of your hourly income in you pockets as possible.

Almost all of the legends in the business started out as repair guys.. Seymour Duncan, Sadowsky, Charvel, Jackson, Suhr.. It's a great way to make contacts. Good Luck.

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While I agree with Myka on all of his points, the one variable is that we don't know if these guys are any good. His advice is only worthy if duo2's work is good. There's nothing worse than another hack coming in and lowballing everyone on the price of work, because it drags the whole scene down. The new guy's "low prices" can become one of the benchmarks. After doing it awhile, I learned to basically scoff at people who would come in and say they could get a refret/refin/route/etc. done down the street for cheap, because I knew what I was worth, and what the competitor's work was actually like. Half the time it made more work for me if they went to the hack first.

Now please, please understand I don't think duo is a hack! I'm not trying to reference his situation personally. But in conjunction with Myka's advice, it would be nice to see some examples of the work, so we could then say "that looks like a $100 refin" or "that's gorgeous, you should charge whatever you want" etc.

Just be sure that price isn't your only attraction. You can lose otherwise good friends and customers quickly if they become accustomed to paying cheap rates and then you try to hike them up to "pro" rates. It's easier to start at healthy rates from the beginning. If it turns out your work isn't worth "pro" prices, then your client base will let you know right away by not recommending you, or coming back. But if it's good work, you'll always have clients happy to pay.

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Frank, great point. You absolutely cannot proceed without the required skills to get the job done right. I assumed that 1) if they had people already wanting to have work done they must be doing something right and 2) if they were limiting their work to what they knew: solidbodies, then they knew their strengths and weaknesses. I hope this is the case.

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I really appreciate all of your advice. And im not saying my work is gorgeous but I can handle most of the jobs people would want done. And if they brought me a job I'm not sure about I would tell them to take it to the local shop. and most of the guitars were gonna get to work on are not great guitars, their crappy guitars that people want made playable. And just because I don't know what to charge doesn't mean I can't start doing this. I have quite a good idea about what local shops charge and what most things cost but I was interested in what you guys charge because most of the work I've seen on this forum is much nicer than that of the local guitar shop. And lastly I respect all of your comments but just because I'm cautious about what to charge doesn't mean I'm not ready to start charging.

Edited by duo2
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when i first decided to start repairing guitars i already owned my retail shop and had built 6 or 7 guitars for sale. i had so many request for repairs that i realized i could add some nice income. before i took in my first job i bought several books on the subject and started learning. i bought all of the tools that i thought i'd need and set up my work bench. then i googled something like "guitar repairs" and found quite a few sites that listed their prices for various repairs. i averaged the prices out and that gave me a sort of industry standard for each type of repair that i wanted to provide. my overhead is low and my personal needs don't require that i charge top dollar nor would my little village be able to afford it for the most part. so i decided on a basic hourly charge that fit my needs and that i knew would be acceptable to my clients.

i started taking in general set-ups, nut replacement and such. i bought a couple of used necks on e-bay and started practicing doing fret work from dressing to leveling to complete replacement. i did a neck re-set on an old silvertone arch top of mine and decided that it wasn't something i was comfortable with so i don't offer that service. couldn't control the steam and condensation and it fogged some of the lacquer.

anyway, i didn't bring all of this up to brag but to say that if you think it out, do your homework, decide what services you can and are willing to do, practice a bit on those areas that you're shy on experience in then you can certainly "learn" to be an excellent tech. after three years i've got a nice clientel including some professionals that bring me all of their work. i'm not a household name nor will i ever be but i do quality work and stand behind it. good service is still the best way to establish a reputation.

so i'd say go for it and good luck to you. if i can ever help just drop me a note. and i know that most here would be willing to help also.

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Wow, good points from all. Again, David your expertice is greatly appreciated. There definately is more to the situation than "if you dont know youre not ready". I stand corrected.

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Yup, David's response was the needed swing in mood, I think.

I have to admit, my original (discarded) response started with "just start doing it" and I used Paul Reed Smith as an example. But then I kept imagining that duo was inexperienced and not confident.

Instead of just giving advice, I could have asked him how confident he was about his work. :D

Greg

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Yeah my post is kind of there as a reference in the event that others come to this thread in the future. In duo's case, if you're already looking around at the other local shops and saying you can beat their quality, then it's worth it for you to be in business there.

You'll never get it just right either. Refrets might be more or less profitable than pickup installs. Nut jobs were always hard to price, because you never knew how well the old one would come off. So you have to set prices, but maybe have some "wiggle room" too. Like you could say "all prices are subject to a +/- 10% deviation for special circumstances" I wish I'd have done that back in the day. It doesn't matter now because I just charge whatever I have to.

I've done my share of big jobs, and you'll usually lose money on them, but it's good to do them as a workout of sorts. One person brought me a "basement surprise" Gretsch that had been stripped, and submersed in flood water both before it was stripped and after. Most of the 3-layer binding was gone, the fretboard was gone, and the 5-piece neck was delaminating. I repaired every aspect of that guitar. The logo(inlayed) the neck, added an adjustable rod, graphite in the neck (I had to) binding, fixed cracks, made a pickguard, refinished it, and I think I had to LOWER my price at the end because it "took too long". Pfft. I should've told him it got stolen. It sounded better than any factory jazzbox I had ever played. I wanted that guitar so bad when I was done. There was no way I'd ever get paid what I was worth, but in the end, I'm richer for having done it.

Another money pit was a beat up old Les Paul. The original board was scalloped, then someone at Gibson re-boarded it with Rosewood. The guy wanted an Ebony board, the inlays pirated from the Rosewood board, and all sorts of other finish issues. Like I had to fill all these toggle switch holes and such from bad mods. But I'm still glad I did it.

My only regret is not telling them all right from the start "Look, you'll get it whenever I'm done, and if that's 10 years from now, so be it!"

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Total rent and utilities: $800

Groceries: $250

Girlfriend: $1500

Total: $2550 per month

$2550/24 working days = $106.25 per day

$106.25/8 hours a day = $13.28 to keep you off the streets

Long story short....if you can find a cheaper girlfriend, you can drop your prices.

haha, and you're not joking either :D

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My question is this, how much should we charge hourly for work done on solidbody guitars? How much money have you guys charged for work? I want to keep ou prices low while still making a profit. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

My thoughts on your situation are much different than the general concensus. I had the exact same advice for years when I wanted to start my guitar business. I was told I needed to learn how to balance my books, how to deal with customers, how to build guitars like a pro, how finances work, etc. Well, when I finally made the leap I had very little support (from friends and family). Why? Because I had not yet run a custom guitar business! Well now that I am running one I am learning more than I was ever given by way of advice. And I make good money at it too. Now my friends and family are a bit jealous when I take the day off because it is sunny and I feel like enjoying it.

The only way you are going to learn is to start your business and start charging money for every repair you do. Don't give it away and expect that word of mouth will get you anything but people looking to pay next to nothing for your work. The last thing you want to do when you start a business is to give away your work. What you can do is charge a fair price and take 3 times as long to get it perfect if you need to but don't give it away. And quote longer than you thinkyou will take. No sense starting out being late with every order because you are learning.

You do need to cover costs or won't last long. You don't want to have to supplement you money with a part time job, it will take up too much of your time. Charge at the very least what it costs you to do the work. I personally do not recoimmend this approach. What will happen is everyone will hear about the great repair guy who does his work for free. What will the pro guitarist do when he hears about you? Nothing. He'll go pay his tech (or repairer) good money for good work. Why will he do that instead of going to the cheap new guy? Because his good money will cover the cost of the repair and the occasional mishap. He will know that you can get the work done at all costs because he paid you.

I would say that to find the hourly rate you should take the minimum you need to work and figure that out into an hourly rate. For example:

Total monthly shop rent and utilities: $1000

$1000/24 working days in a month = $41.00 a day

$41/8 hours a day = $5.12 an hour to keep the doors open

Now add to that what you need to do stay afloat. Figure it out in a similar way:

Total rent and utilities: $800

Groceries: $250

Girlfriend: $1500

Total: $2550 per month

$2550/24 working days = $106.25 per day

$106.25/8 hours a day = $13.28 to keep you off the streets

That is a total of $18.40 for a shop rate. I would add 30% for taxes = $23.92. I would also add some room for error, like another 10% = $26.31 (that's cheap!). Add to that the materials needed for the job and always charge a minimum of at least one half hour or more. You have to keep the doors open somehow.

I charge between $50 and $65 an hour depending on how much skill is needed for the repair. I do not do much repair and I turn away most of it so I have time to build my custom guitars. If you really have a passion for restoration then you will do well.

One last thing. Get those orders from your friends and charge them a fair price (at cost is not fair to you). Then tell them 3-4 the amount of time you need to do the work. If you think it will take 2 hours tell them they can come back tomorrow afternoon. Give yourself plenty of time. The stress of having a client coming to pick up an instrument that is not completed will make you screw it up. Never fails. Just be honest, do good work, and never, ever call them and tell them all the little problems you are having. Figure them out on your own and give them a perfect guitar.

Just my opinion.

~David

david, one of the best answers i have seen here, it seems that it is so easy for someone to ask a legit question and just get smashed with negitive comments and called stupid, i agree, we all started somewhere and i am sure if we all listened to the people that did not support what we wanted to do none of us would A. have any skills. B. ever made a dime at it. C. never found the love of the art. my hats off to anyone that can make a living at something they love doing, one thing i seen from duol is the fact that he said if he thought the job was too big they would be professional enough to tell the customer. and i gotta gree with dave do not give your work and skill away, because just like feeding a stray dog, they will return and usually bring others.

just my two cents, jim

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I am truly blessed because I don't need to make a profit on my guitar work. I just need to justify my tool and equip. expenses by showing a little income from them. I do a lot of $52.00 an hour work for the bastard "music-store" hacks and I do a lot of setups for free. The stray dogs are the ones I really care about because 20% of them have the music at heart. Also, my shop is in a high-crime area and I know for a fact that the strays that hang around are protecting my interests. As I said, I am blessed and not by any means the norm. If this area is at all typical, a shop that does decent work would be swamped because of total lack of competition.

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