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Building models for a commission

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  • Member since
    February 2012
  • From: Olmsted Township, Ohio
Posted by lawdog114 on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 8:33 PM

BlackSheepTwoOneFour

While all this sounds appealing, consider one glaring thing... is the customer willing to pay for it?

There’s other variables to take into consideration...

What about the steady income and flow of demand for these commission builds.

What about delivery of these builds via postal service/UPS/FedEx without a guarantee nothing will be damaged during transit and arrival to your customer?

Not exactly a sure thing for your only reliable source of steady income. I can go on but I do want to make this very clear. By no means I’m being negative and I applaud your euthusiasm of wanting to do this. Just stating the reality. If you can pull it off, good. If not because you find it unenjoyable and stressful because the customer wanted yesterday not 2 weeks from now, then this is not for you. Enjoy the hobby for yourself, not for opportunity for steady income. Think about it.

 

Excellent points.  It's a unique hobby and even morso market for these. There's nothing steady about the income flow.  For me it's merely a profitable hobby and I'm fortunate to have a few regulars, and one who even pays ahead of time.  I wish I could do it for a living but it's just not feasible.  It would probably come out to about $1.50 an hour....

Packaging and delivery are other issues.  I came up with a cost effective packaging system which keeps the model from breaking, but sometimes things do fall off. I've shipped models to China and Italy without issue.  You have to make it clear to the client that they are fragile and things may fall off in transit.  Generally, the people who buy these know this. I always include a sheet with instructions on how they can repair whatever had fallen off.  I've never had any complaints.  I personally use the Post Office first class as I've found them to be the most reliable and cost effective.      

 "Can you fly this plane and land it?...Surely you can't be serious....I am serious, and don't call me Shirley"

 

 

 

 

  • Member since
    January 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 12:44 PM

While all this sounds appealing, consider one glaring thing... is the customer willing to pay for it?

There’s other variables to take into consideration...

What about the steady income and flow of demand for these commission builds.

What about delivery of these builds via postal service/UPS/FedEx without a guarantee nothing will be damaged during transit and arrival to your customer?

Not exactly a sure thing for your only reliable source of steady income. I can go on but I do want to make this very clear. By no means I’m being negative and I applaud your euthusiasm of wanting to do this. Just stating the reality. If you can pull it off, good. If not because you find it unenjoyable and stressful because the customer wanted yesterday not 2 weeks from now, then this is not for you. Enjoy the hobby for yourself, not for opportunity for steady income. Think about it.

  • Member since
    July 2012
  • From: Douglas AZ
Posted by littletimmy on Monday, December 24, 2018 5:50 PM

Tanker - Builder
 Stick to what you enjoy .This makes the build go smoother and earning the fees are then pleasant

EXACTLY !!!!

 Dont worry about the thumbprint, paint it Rust , and call it "Battle Damage".

  

 

    

  • Member since
    June 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Monday, December 24, 2018 1:54 PM

Aha !

 Now Hear This ! Unless you stick to a subject you know you could get in over your head ! I like Resto of sailing ships .Why , well i have sail plans from Museums and some I've done .And most oldies are wood .much easier to work with . Plus they are painted with enamels ( Oil Based )  in which the mixes required can be achieved with Model Master enamels .

 If you know ships ( sail and power ) then build those .If you build cars and so on . What is your skill set ? How many years have you been building ? What's your credentials ? This is what starts the serious part of it .

 Who have you built for ? How long did it take ? What classification could be placed on the subject ie.Museum , Engineering , Legal etc ? Remember nowadays you are competing with Computer modeling which is expensive and most times a heckuva lot faster than a 3-D touchable creation . Architectural models are fun .I learned them doing "Natural Lighting Models " for an electrical engineering firm . I won't do either for commission though .

 Stick to what you enjoy .This makes the build go smoother and earning the fees are then pleasant .

 If it's real bodgy work then you got in over your head . back off , finish and stay away for a while .Here's another thought .Will you also have to build a secure custom shipping container for it ? You have to fugure shipping and those other costs in there too .

  • Member since
    August 2012
Posted by JMorgan on Monday, December 24, 2018 6:28 AM

Thank you for your advice.

  • Member since
    February 2012
  • From: Olmsted Township, Ohio
Posted by lawdog114 on Monday, December 24, 2018 1:49 AM

All I do are commission builds lately.  It started a few years ago with me thinning my collection on ebay which then spawned a few regular/repeat customers. They have me quite busy for the forseeable future.  Perhaps try starting out this way.  Throw a few built kits on there at a reasonable price and see what happens.  

I do agree you should find a niche, but don't be afraid to explore a bit if it's profitable.  Unfortunately in my case I've had to leave my comfort zone a few times, most notably a 1/32 scale BMW 801 radial and a WWI tank.  Fortunately they turned out ok (I think) and I was paid well for these for my troubles.  The latter was how I learned to use oil washes. 

Once you find a client, keep them updated and often.  I like to send in-progress pictures so they know I'm working on their stuff. Communication is key. 

Indeed charging by the hour is unrealistic.  It's unlikely anyone will pay thousands for a plastic model, no matter how talented the modeler.  I tell my clients that I start at $250 for an out of the box build and it goes up depending on upgrades that I have to get for the build, like resin. That said, if I have the kit and or upgrades in my stash, I don't mind doing it even cheaper.

Keep a spreadsheet log on who your building for, what they paid, the date they paid, and most importantly what they still owe you.  You'll get folks who pay a little at a time then try to say they paid in full, eventhough they still owe you a hundred bucks. I got burned once which prompted me to start doing this.   

Good Luck...

Joe

            

 

 

 "Can you fly this plane and land it?...Surely you can't be serious....I am serious, and don't call me Shirley"

 

 

 

 

  • Member since
    August 2012
Posted by JMorgan on Sunday, December 23, 2018 11:37 PM

Interesting points. Valuation would be difficult. How do you quantify quality and a customer’s tolerance for price? Difficult and unforeseen problems there. I think I’ll stick to my builds for me. Thanks so much for your advice.

  • Member since
    August 2012
Posted by JMorgan on Sunday, December 23, 2018 11:31 PM

Wow. A lot of helpful advice and I also agree that the hobby would become too much of a job. Also, it seems that selling what you build would be like selling a piece of yourself. Parting would be difficult. Than you so much for the advice. It gives me something to think about.

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Sunday, December 23, 2018 10:37 PM

Self employment.

Yes, since I quit working for other people in 1994, everything I've sold professionally is "on commision". I estimate the cost to me, I look at what the competiton charges, and I guess what the customer's financial tolerance will be. Then you balance it all.

Let's say you deserve $ 50 an hour. What does it take to build a good model? Not an ok model but a really good model? 50 hours? Thats a $ 2500 model. That isn't going to sell. Discount your hourly to $ 40. $ 2000. Now what? Slap the model together faster? Not good for repeat business, and this is all about that. Can't constantly be marketing to first time customers. Might as well sell coffee cups.

So here's my few pieces of advise.

Charge a whole lot more than you would ever pay. That's why you build your own and others buy complete models.

Businesses succeed when you eliminate the competition. I have never built model aircraft etc. to sell, but if I did I would get really proficient at one thing, like 60s muscle cars. Get the paint, the reference materials and the bench set up for that  particular task.

There's the dinner party rule. Would you ever try a bunch of new recipes for a dinner party? Disaster. Don't build whatever someone asks for. Build what you are really good at, and once you are established you'll get repeat customers. You rely on that.

Say you decide to build Nascar stuff. A person comes along and is willing to pay $ 500 or more for a really nice detailed race car. Do it well and they'll come back for another one. 

 

  • Member since
    July 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Sunday, December 23, 2018 8:53 PM

You might want to check with GMorrison as well. I do believe that he builds architectural models as part of his employment.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    July 2012
  • From: Douglas AZ
Posted by littletimmy on Sunday, December 23, 2018 8:12 PM

I have built model's for money in the past. ( mostly railroad stuff)

If you do try your hand at this, I have a few "Pointer's".

! : Dont give the customer a DEFINATE time frame. You can "Sugest"  that it will take "such and such day's / week's , but dont tell them "It will be done at noon on day three. Too much can happen ( lost part's , paint run's , bad decal's , ECT.)

2: Know what to charge. I usually charge 3 X whatever the kit and paint cost. ( A $30 kit , and $5 for paint would work out to $105. You wont get rich off your usual 1/25 scale kit's . ( That's why I did 1/87 scale train stuff.... I could "crank out" 6 or 7 build's in a  few day's .)

3: Dont take on more than you can handle. I had customer's comeing out  of the woodwork ! So I kept upping my price's.... and they just kept comeing !  I finally wound up charging $35 an hour !  But then I spent 100 hour's building a steam crane. There was NO WAY   I could charge this poor guy $3500..... so I went back to my first price's , and charged him $250. ( A few year's ago I saw the steam crane I built at a train show, going for  $450. Nice to know my stuff was in demand. )

4: Custom order's.  I found doing custom work, to be a bit "tedious", and it can suck the life right out of you.  I would still do it, but only a few build's during the year. When I just built stuff I liked ( usually in multiple's ) and just offered them up for sale, I got along much better with my customer's .  My best seller's were my 1/87 Mack truck's. I could crank out 10 in a 8 hour period , and charged $30 each. ( That's $200  profit in 8 hour's !)

I never charged for watching the paint dry.

5: dont let your hobby, become a "JOB" ! They say, " pick something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life".   "THEY", dont know jack squat about it ! 

I finally got burned out on the whole "for hire" thing . and gave up. 

I gotta make "ME" happy first !

 

Hope this help's . Let me know if there's anything else about "Modeling for fun and profit" that you have question's about.

Tanker-Builder can give you even more "Tip's " ( He's been doing this for a LOT longer than me. )

 

 

 

 

 Dont worry about the thumbprint, paint it Rust , and call it "Battle Damage".

  

 

    

  • Member since
    August 2012
Building models for a commission
Posted by JMorgan on Sunday, December 23, 2018 1:25 PM

Hello. I have a health condition that prevents me from having a ‘normal’ job and wondered if anyone knew how to get started building models for commission? I have been an infrequent builder for thirty plus years and think this hobby would be a good fit for some income.

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