Every down-home cook and amateur photographer dreams of taking their recreation and turning it into a source of income. Although it can happen, it’s tougher in certain fields. Most of the time, you need to have extensive specialized knowledge to get enough work to really say you earn money at your hobby. So the artsy guy with the $800 camera getup and the master of Granny’s recipes face far more competition than somebody who has gradually self-taught some very specialized skills, then carried that knowledge into a formal education program.

If you’re into automotive mechanics, this could be you. What you’ve learned in tinkering with your own vehicles, gradually taking on more challenging tasks, has put you in the position to take on some training and get yourself into the business. But before you pop the hood, let’s do a quick systems check.

Can You Get The Formal Training?

No, it doesn’t take a certificate to change a friend’s oil or swap out an alternator. But if you truly want to earn money at it, you’ll need enough credentials to get properly insured. There’s a lot of liability associated with handling people’s brakes or fuel systems. If something you do causes an accident or damage to the vehicle, you need to be covered. And just as you can’t get medical malpractice insurance without having some type of medical training, you’ll need some legitimate education to qualify for protection in your mechanical work.


So it’s clear you’ll have to hit the books. The question now is whether you have an accredited program that’s geographically near you. Unlike many fields, automotive repair doesn’t lend itself to online learning. You will have to be at a shop, working on vehicles, under the watchful eye of a qualified instructor. If there’s no such institution in your area, you may have to make other plans.

Can You Manage The Business?

It’s one thing to roll open your tool drawers and plug along on your own car. But do you have the discipline to make and meet appointments and deadlines? Will you be able to track your working hours correctly? Can you manage taxing issues, inventory, and billing? Are you neat enough to organize your inventory with storage cabinets and not waste the customers time searching for tools or parts?

Obviously a good marketing program will be critical. You’ll need to advertise through traditional means, as well as via social media and through word of mouth. Are you capable of undertaking those chores?


What fails more businesses than anything else is management, not their product or service. You can build a better mousetrap, but if you don’t price it properly or use good customer service skills, the world will not beat a path to your door. And your creditors will.

So be sure you’re prepared not just to be a mechanic, but also a business manager.

Will You Want To Do This For A Long Time?

We’re talking about a field that requires a lot of expensive tools and equipment. Those items have a long planning horizon; you can afford to buy them only if you get enough years of use out of them to cover the cost. Dropping thousands of dollars on stocking your garage and then getting bored after two years is a recipe for taking a huge financial loss.

Build capital and inventory slowly, making sure that the business is all you hoped it would be. This will cut your losses if you decide you’re not interested in doing this for ten or twenty years. Hedge these bets by buying used when you can, or by sharing with other small operations.

Nothing is more important in your career than passion for the work. You need to have a heart for what you do. But there is still a lot of choosing to do with your head. Plan your foray into the mechanic’s world carefully and make sure you’ll be able to enjoy it.