Taking the Plunge to Become a Self Employed Locksmith
Click here for the whole Diary of a North London Locksmith series.
Previously I shared my experiences working for as an apprentice and how I became Fully Qualified as a Master Locksmith. I also talked of my subsequent redundancy. This post tells of how I coped with redundancy and how I decided to become a self employed locksmith.
My first reaction when I was made redundant was fear. I had a wife a small baby to support and a mortgage to pay. As in many situations before it was the support and encouragement of my family that kept my spirits up. I was touched by their confidence in me. They correctly pointed out that with my MLA qualification it was an opportunity to really make the most of my achievement. I knew that whatever route I would take working as a locksmith my qualification would set me apart from the cowboys I mention in my second diary post. . I decided that I must set aside my fear and move forward with confidence to my next challenge.
Applying for Jobs
I decided to apply for locksmith jobs to see what opportunities were out there. In a short space of time I secured 2 interviews. I was accepted for the first job I interviewed for but the commute was not ideal, especially after the luxury of a short commute from Barnet to Finchley as in my apprenticeship. The second interview didn’t result in a job offer at the time (funnily enough 4 months later I was offered the job).
Setting up A Locksmith Company
A few weeks had passed and I was starting to get agitated so I started thinking about setting up my as an independent locksmith. I knew that the first step to starting up your own business is to register as a company under which I could operate on a self employed basis. I was unsure if it was the right move but I felt I needed to give it a shot. So I did!
Instinct told me that my company name should be IKS Locksmiths, IKS being our daughters’ initials. The arrival of my daughter was so amazing and had such a positive impact on me that I thought it just made sense.
Setting up the company officially was pretty straight forward. I googled, starting up a business, and found an agency online who would register my company name. I had to complete a short form and make a payment and it was done on the day.
My wife Anne and I decided that it would make sense for us to work together in the locksmith business. With me focusing on securing work and actually doing the jobs and Anne focusing on marketing, and putting the processes that are required for starting a locksmith business in place. We decided that if I was going to start my own business it should be done properly. So off we went to the British Library to research and put together a business plan.
While this was all happening I was looking for ways to find work!
My First Jobs
Starting a business as a locksmith can be done with limited investment. I needed tools and transport. In the beginning my transport was the family car and my tools basic to say the least. I bought a selection of locks and tools and I managed ok with these however it really wasn’t ideal. These days I have all sorts of tools and gadgets that help get emergency locksmith jobs done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I’m a sucker for the latest gadget on the market! I also carry an extensive stock of high quality locks and other security products so that if I’m on a job I have the lock required to hand. In the beginning I would find myself going to and from the lock merchants wasting time and fuel and prolonging the length of the job.
With no website or existing way of marketing myself I needed to find a middle man. A company who could provide me with work to get some money coming in to cover the bills.
I got in touch with a few companies who provided warrant work. This involved attending flats or houses when the tenant or property owner wasn’t available and opening their door non-destructively so that a prepaid meter could be installed. The work was sometimes local, in Barnet, Finchley, Islington N1 or Whetstone but there were also jobs further away in Tottenham, Harlesden and sometimes further.
The money wasn’t great. I did this for about 3 months but when I sat down and looked at the money that was coming in it just wasn’t enough to support my family and keep our heads above water. That was not the only disadvantage either!
My Scariest Job
I found myself in some undesirable situations. There was the time some homeowners in Wood Green hadn’t paid their gas bill. I had to drill the lock so the gas company could install a prepaid meter in the property. I replaced the lock and left a sticker on the door that said call this number for the keys. I got a call and returned to the property to deliver their keys. They looked angry and I was wary so passed them the keys through the window without getting out. They were hurling all sorts of abuse at me. I got out of there as quickly as I could, watching them shouting at me in my rear view mirror. After that they must have called me 10 times but I ignored the calls. Eventually the calls stopped. It really unnerved me.
Later that evening I got a call out to Walthamstow from a man claiming to have got my number from a friend. When I arrived I was led into a butchers shop and threatened with a knife by a man who said he was the uncle of the man I had returned the keys to earlier. I legged it and I’m just pleased that I’m still here to tell the story!
It was at this point that I decided that I had to stop the warrant work and find work through and safer and profitable route.
Business Link Support for Business Start Ups
We got in touch with Business Link based in East Barnet. They were very helpful until they realised that we didn’t qualify for support because I had completed a few jobs. The help that we did receive was very beneficial and much appreciated. It is disappointing that new businesses aren’t offered more support. I would advise anyone thinking of starting a self employed business to look into the criteria for receiving support before starting anything at all.
We attempted to set up a website which was very amateur and not one bit search engine friendly! I got a call from a company that claimed they could get my phone ringing with plenty of work. I’m not sure how they found my details. They gave me a lengthy sales pitch and many follow up phone calls. The deal involved paying a monthly fee to have calls to their optimised websites directed to my phone. I was assured that the business I would get would be worth the investment.
I took a gamble and agreed to a trial. The first month was fabulous! I was really pleased. If each month followed like this it would work for me. But after a few months calls tapered off. I called them and calls picked up again and then again they tapered off. The calls I did get were for locksmith jobs all over London leaving me travelling from east to west and back again in a day. So much time was been wasted travelling. It was very stressful, every month I knew that I wouldn’t even begin to make a profit until I had covered the monthly fee I had to pay.
I was now determined to develop an IKS Locksmiths website that would generate calls for emergency locksmith work. I wanted to build the IKS brand to become a respected local locksmith. My challenge was to become a Locksmith in the North London Area and not all over London. This was a whole new journey and a whole new learning curve which is pretty continuous to be honest.
My next post shares my experiences with starting to build the IKS Locksmiths brand. In the meantime I would be delighted to hear any questions or comments you may have.
Martin (The North London Locksmith)
Updated in 2021