Know how to weld and looking for a side hustle? You might already have everything you need to make some pretty decent spending money.
If you just start posting “welder for hire” in the local classified, you might have a hard time getting started.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through how you can find things to make/fix and give you a few lists of things that people are doing right now to bring in extra cash.
Before getting too far, I want to outline what you’ll generally need for these projects. Tools are expensive, so I’m focusing on what you can do with a basic setup.
Here’s what you’ll essentially need to do the large majority of these projects:
- A welding machine (that much should be obvious)
- A chop saw
- A sturdy angle grinder with various discs
- Welding clamps
- A speed square
- Welding magnets
…and all the basic stuff you already have, like a tape measure, a level, a drill, safety glasses, a marker/chalk, etc.
Obviously, every job is different, but if you have those basics then you should be pretty well good to go.
I decided to start off with this one because I actually find this to be the easiest way to make money with a welder. If you’ve got some basic equipment and are good at making things work, then repair can be your best bet as a side hustle.
The reason why there can be good money here is simple: you can send production work to China, but you can’t send repairs.
This is one where you actually CAN just put an ad in the classifieds and you’ll get work. Or a sign in your front yard. Better yet, weld up your own sign.
You’ll probably do best by focusing more on one kind of work. Here are a few examples of things you can specialize in without excessively expensive equipment:
- Trailer repair / modifications
- Autobody welding (offer onsite welding and you can tap into the world of restoration)
- Aluminum boat repair (post signs at the dock)
- Fence/railing repair (You’d need to work onsite, but you can drop a card in the mailbox when you drive by a damaged fence. Check out some commercial/industrial areas where you might see more metal fences.)
- Shopping carts (I know this might sound strange but a lot of places send their carts out for repair and it ain’t cheap!)
The reason that this generally works well is that regular people often don’t have a welder themselves and shop prices are just too much. So if you can get them a better price by doing it in your garage, working for something like $30-40 an hour (or whatever’s reasonable in your area) then people will find you.
It’s also really important to do your research before you try fixing something. Repair work is often found by word of mouth, so if you have a reputation for shoddy work you’ll have a hard time. Just spend some time on Google and YouTube before you go to town on something.
Personally, I prefer making things that aren’t just decorative. If you can make something like a useful tool or piece of equipment, the competition is often lower.
The only thing to keep in mind with this is that you’re often competing with Chinese-made products. In other words, you’ll have a hard time having the cheapest stuff on the market. The trick is making something that’s better than what’s currently available.
For example, I know a guy that makes these really sturdy boat anchors. The materials are cheap and they’re quick to weld up. He came up with a cool design that stores the rope/chain inside the anchor, and it folds up very conveniently.
Basically, he’s a guy that loves spending time on the water, thought of a way that he could improve a product he had, then made it. He doesn’t make a ton of sales every month, but it’s pretty regular during boating season.
People hear of him through word of mouth or see him at the dock and the work flows in organically. He does it for some extra spending money for his hobbies. And beer.
He COULD get these things made in China, but because they’re easy to make, more expensive to ship (they’re heavy) and he doesn’t want to carry any inventory, making them in his garage makes sense.
If you do want to try getting things made in a lower-cost region, send me a message through my contact form and we can take a look at it together.
If you have some hobbies, look at where things are inconvenient or tend to fail. See if you can work out how to improve, then make one for yourself. You could make some decent cash by helping the people with the same problem that you had.
Here are some ideas of things that you can make profitably. Keep in mind that you’ll probably want to do some research to see if there are any legal hoops to jump through. For example, there might be some laws relating to safety that need to be respected.
Curtain Mounts / Hardware
There are dozens of places that do interior decorating and window treatments in any area. Spend a few minutes on Google and write out a hit list of local companies.
Window hardware is notoriously overpriced. Curtain rods, mounts and other types of hardware are super easy to make, and a lot of people like the heavy-duty industrial look.
Here’s an example of a guy that makes window hardware and earns decent money:
As you can see, it’s really nothing fancy, and almost anyone can do it.
Will this make you enough to live on? Unlikely. Will you earn some good side money? Yep.
This one will depend a lot on where you live. In some areas, smoking meats and cheeses isn’t popular, in other areas, it’s wildly popular.
So if you live in an area where this is more common, lots of people might be interested in something more that the stuff that’s available through retail stores like Cabela’s.
There are some pretty cool smokers made out of old tanks or totally from scratch. What’s fun about this is that you can make them custom, so they’re the size and style that your customer is interested in.
A good way to get started would be to make one for yourself first and then just show it off! Take some photos, let people come over to play around with it. Listen to what they’d like to see and then make it for them. With all the possibilities with different sizes and configurations, you’ll be able to make each piece unique.
Mobile Bases/Dollies for Workshop Equipment
This is something that not enough people are doing, in my opinion.
There are so many people that have jam-packed garages piled with junk and inaccessible machines. Things like band saws, drill presses, table saws, routers, belt sanders, etc.
All you need is some C-channel/angle iron/flat bar and casters. You can whip up a wheeled base for older equipment in no time. This can literally be a project where people can snap a picture and send you measurements, then pick up the new base the next day.
Some people make their own out of wood, but they’re just not as durable and strong as something that’s properly welded up.
A note on this one: don’t put the casters directly under the base, it’s better to have them on either side and keep the equipment as close to the ground as possible, something like this:
I like this for two main reasons. First, it keeps the equipment at the same height, so the ergonomics aren’t messed up. Second, if you break a caster, the machine won’t tip over since it doesn’t have far to fall.
It’s also great if you can make the wheels retractable and adjustable. If they aren’t, your customer will have a hard time with uneven floors. Just make sure that you get casters that can handle the weight of the equipment.
Anyway, this is probably getting too far in the weeds. Try making a couple to refine your design.
Lots of people have been able to successfully earn some income on a platform like Etsy, making all kinds of decorative doohickeys. If you’re an artsy type of person, then this might be a viable opportunity.
Here’s a tip if you’re going to go this route: Spend some time studying what other people are doing on Etsy (or whichever platform you choose), and how much it’s going for. One major advantage to doing your research here is that you can get a good ballpark idea of how many of any particular product have been sold. Just look at the number of reviews.
You can also use this idea to find products that can be sold in local classifieds.
One thing to keep in mind with this is that you’ll have to do more than just welding. Successfully starting a side business online means that you’ll have to sell your own stuff. This includes making things like appealing writeups, good photography, and building profiles on various platforms.
Honestly, unless you’re really passionate about this kind of stuff and you’d be happy to do it just for the sake of doing it, this is probably not going to pay as much as other gigs.
Not saying that you can’t make money, you definitely can. But whenever anyone can do something as a passion project, it’s usually a race to the bottom for earnings unless you’re really good at it.
Either way, here are some ideas for artistic welding projects:
- Picture frames
- Coat racks
- Door handles
- Jewelry holders
- Shelf brackets
- Scrap metal flowers
- Custom signs (can work well if you have a plasma cutter)
- Coffee tables/end tables
- Wine racks
A lot of people really like the ranch style of welded projects, so if you can get access to things like horseshoes and railroad spikes, you’ll have a ton of things to make that are very likely to be popular. You can also find these online easily enough (railroad spikes and horseshoes are available on Amazon).
If you’re looking for inspiration, go to Pinterest or Etsy and type in “welded”.
How to Know What to Charge
For some people, this is the hardest part of the side business. There is lots of information online about different rates that people are charging, but this is massively dependent on where you live and how competitive the market is.
So rather than just saying you should charge $20/30/40/50 per hour, here are a few simple tips.
Keep a note of everything it takes to do the job.
This isn’t just about pricing out the steel. There’s a fair bit that costs money for a welding business. Here are some examples:
- Welding wire, electrodes, or filler rods
- Grinding disks, flap wheels, etc
- Equipment wear and tear
- Additional utility expenses
If you keep a notepad where you write down what you pay for these things (and anything else that you use up), then you’ll at least know how much you’re NOT making on the job.
It’s also important to realize that your tools won’t last forever. Something that many businesses do is make sure that the tools pay for themselves within three years. This will handle the expenses of buying the tools and repairs down the road.
So, for example, if you have a $2,000 welding machine that you plan on using 10 hours per week, here’s the simple formula:
10 hours per week x 52 weeks per year x 3 years = 1,560 hours
Now take the $2,000 that you spent on the machine and divide it by the amount of hours it has to work. You get $1.28.
It might not seem like a lot, but that’s $1.28 per hour that you’re paying out of pocket if you’re not charging accordingly. It also adds up if you’re not accounting for the other things that are costing you money.
If you’re not properly accounting for your expenses, you might only be making $15/hour when you think you’re making $20.
Pro tip: Always round up when you’re counting your consumables and materials. For example, if you had to buy a full length of tube for the job, but you still have a 1/4 length of it left over, just charge for the entire length. That way, you’ll be properly compensated with money instead of a pile of scrap offcuts.
Figure out what’s worth your time.
You might be an experienced welder that can lay down amazing beads and stack perfect dimes. That’s not the same as being efficient.
Whenever you’re trying out a new “niche”, you won’t be efficient. You will make mistakes. That’s what makes it hard to earn top dollar right off the bat.
It’s a good idea to NOT get too greedy in the beginning. Charge less while you gain experience, know-how and ability, and be honest about what you’re familiar with (and not familiar with).
This is why it’s important to know at what point something isn’t worth your time. If you need to make at least $20/hour, start there and work your way up. If you start charging what the other professionals charge, you’ll probably earn a bad reputation with your inexperience.
Some guys only charge what they spend while they’re trying to build up a business. Then, after a few months, start charging more of what you think is fair. By then, you should already have a bit of a reputation and your side business should have its own legs to stand on.
Keep track of the perks.
There are a few bonuses to having a side business that are worth keeping in mind. You’re probably already thinking of how you might get a workshop that pays for itself with beer to spare, it’ll be fun, you’ll learn lots, etc.
You might have some other major perks that could make a noticeable difference though.
Depending on where you live (and if you’ve properly set up and registered your small business) you might be able to take advantage of some major TAX BENEFITS from working at home.
You might be able to deduct a portion of your rent/mortgage, your utility bills, your cell phone bill, your vehicle, etc from your income as business expenses. Depending on what you have going on, you could literally save thousands every year when the tax man comes around.
Disclaimer: I’m not an accountant, do your own taxes, I ain’t liable for what you screw up, et cetera and so forth.
Anyway, welding can be a really great side business. Whether you’re looking for beer money, trying to pay for your tools, or boost your income, starting something up isn’t hard with a bit of effort.