4 Tips for Setting Competitive Rates as a Freelance Mechanic

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Congratulations on starting your work as a freelance mechanic!  This type of work goes with your timeline and helps you build a trustworthy client base over the course of time.  

With the price of larger businesses, gas, parts, and sometimes towing it can be cheaper for a customer to hire you rather than going all over the place.  Because of you, people can have more access to more services than ever before.

When you just start out, it can be hard to think of just how much your time and effort is worth.  From not knowing the area prices to maybe having worked for a shop your entire career, there are several impediments to understanding your own value.  Let’s dig through those, shall we?

Look at the Competition

When setting any competitive fee, the first place to look is going to be your competition in the area.  There are two major routes that this can take: heavy competition and light competition.

If you can only find three people in a city that do freelance mechanic work, then you have light competition.  Anything over that and you’ll get into higher competition.

The reason there’s a difference is because in lower competition areas, you want to price match or go just under your competitors by two to five dollars.  You don’t want to create enemies in an industry!

When there’s higher competition, you can really put your prices in the middle at first and then go up or down based upon the amount of customers you get weekly.  Both options are going to require you to make a few calls and do some research so be prepared to put in some footwork.

Check for Industry Averages

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to do a little bit of market research for just about any field.  You can look up any rate for pretty much any experience level.  

Unfortunately, with so much information at our fingertips, you can easily set your prices too high even if you are right on par for someone with your experience.  This creates a bit of a stopping point where you have to assess your worth and what people are willing to pay. 

If you go beyond what the majority of people are willing to pay, then you are going to miss out on a lot of jobs.  This is why you have to really pay attention to what other mechanics in the area are asking.  

Can you ask for as much as a shop would? No, that’s reaching a bit.  Shops generally have far more equipment to manage, rental fees, health insurance fees, and more.  A customer goes into a building in order to utilize those services and make sure their problem is taken care of that day.  

On the other hand, freelance mechanics offer more flexibility but don’t have the same access to equipment all the time.  Yet another reason why you need to check for industry averages as well as average expenses for tools and supplies.

Calculate Your Experience

Any freelance gig is going to need some sort of background and some sort of previous work.  This is paramount to calculating a competitive rate!

Do not over estimate on experience or overreach your experience when working with customers.  They are going to rely on you being as accurate as possible so they know what to come to you with.

When setting a competitive rate, you have to really hone in on how much experience you have.  Working on vehicles for funsies doesn’t always equate to experience and some work hours at a shop might not go towards your overall mechanic time.  

Each person’s experience is going to vary.  When you calculate how much time you’ve had in the industry, there’s a little break down that I tend to keep in mind when setting rates:

  • Low End: zero to five years
  • Mid: five to ten years 
  • High End: ten years and up

With that breakdown comes proof of experience, a degree or certifications and additional qualifications.  If you don’t have any of that then add on three to four years to each bracket.  It’s an ugly truth but experience has been constantly used as a measure of competency even if someone didn’t put in effort into that experience.

Shop for Parts

Some of the best mechanics I have met do their best to find multiple options for parts.  Remember, you are not just working on a car, you’re looking through resources that you know how to navigate.  If a customer tried to explore some of those sites, they might get some questions answered but they won’t find the same things you do.

Another benefit of shopping for parts is that this goes into your expenses.  Time spent researching can be billed to your clients or included as a service fee; that choice is totally up to you.

Conclusion

Now is the perfect time to build up a competitive freelance mechanic portfolio.  A lot of the oil industry is in the air, cars constantly need repair, and your skills are valuable no matter where you go.  It’s time to take advantage of your skill set and get to work with one of the best rates in your area.

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