The idea of not having your own bathroom nearby can be incredibly intimidating, but we’ve found that this is actually one of the easiest parts of vanlife. Public restrooms are plentiful throughout North America, and we’ve never not had a bathroom when we needed one. Gas stations, truck stops, Walmarts, McDonald’s - you name it, we’ve done some business there.
As a carpenter, I need to bring certain items with me every day. I bought a cheap plastic tote in the tool storage area at a home center and modified it for my needs. I made a small plywood deck, drilled a couple of 3-in. holes for coffee cups or glue bottles and then fastened it to the tote. Another piece of plywood has holes to keep pencils upright and organized. My tote sits nicely on my bench seat, but it could also be attached to the floor with hook-and-loop fasteners. You could easily customize these totes for plumbing, garden or painting tools, electrical supplies—what have you. — Don Simms. Check out this jumbo tote for fasteners.
A software engineer needs to know how to code. An administrative assistant must answer phones and organize paperwork. But a marketer typically needs to wear many hats, from writer to advertiser to strategist. And unlike other job roles, marketing employees can affect the core of a business by changing the way it’s positioned — and they can be held accountable to the company’s bottom line.
You’ll also want to evaluate your obligation to your employees’ health care provisions following the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates the responsibility for the cost of insuring full-time employees to businesses with 50 or more full-time, or full-time equivalent employees. It also provides generous tax credits to smaller businesses with 25 or less full-time equivalent employees. Need a little more help understanding how U.S. health insurance reform affects your business? Register for one of the SBA’s upcoming Affordable Care Act webinars. They also offer recordings of previous webinars in both English and Spanish for those who can’t make it to one of their live sessions.
Most workshop tasks require good ventilation, and that’s something garages are generally poor at. Plus, passive ventilation (like opening a window) usually isn’t enough. A ceiling exhaust fan is a good start but if you are serious about keeping things clean then your ultimate workshop should also include a dust collection system, central vacuum and air ventilation system. All three of these systems will keep the dust, dirt, and other heavy particles off your clothes and out of your lungs which makes for a safer work environment.
A good portable air conditioner will also remove excess water from the air, which is critical for keeping your stockpile of wood in good shape. Lumber should be stored in dry conditions so it doesn’t warp, so look for efficiency features that allow you to run the unit overnight in the summer as needed —without worrying about blowing up your electricity bills. Other good features to consider include a thermostat and variable settings that allow you to set your workshop temperature to the perfect level for your comfort.
Woodwork in all its forms is an enormously popular hobby amongst enthusiasts of all ages. Most people, regardless of their abilities, just like to tinker with a bit of wood and make something. Starting out should be easy but the misconception can be that you need a fair amount of space to begin. The fact is that many people create versatile workshops in the smallest of spaces. One in particular we like is Stephen’s 8×6 Workshop as he manages to cram an army of tools into a tiny area in a systematic and neat way.
All this is why I recommend you buy the very best stuff available, even if it means going without certain tools initially. Although it wouldn’t be a disaster to spend $1000 on a whole bunch of inexpensive tools, what are you going to do when you’ve outgrown the capability of these tools and want to upgrade? You’ve now got to somehow get rid of the cheap stuff and replace it with something better. This isn’t easy and it’s always the most expensive way to go.
One of the most heavily used tools in your shop will be your table saw. It is absolutely essential for ripping stock to size, working with composite material (like plywood and MDF), and venturing into the world of wood working jigs. Budget is a limiting factor in a $500 build, but at $150 it is hard to pass up adding this Craftsman saw to your shop - even with limited funds.
Let’s face it, one of the most significant costs of your shop will be its foundation. While you’re at it, what about adding space above your shop? There may be regulations preventing you from building living space above your shop if it is in an urban setting or in an outbuilding, but there may be some flexibility depending on where you live. It is in the municipality’s interests to encourage infill housing that uses existing infrastructure. At a minimum, think about including attic trusses to create some space above your shop for drying lumber or storing equipment. Access could be from simple pull-down attic stairs or from the exterior if you don’t want to lose floor space to a stair or ladder. If you’re creating an addition to your house, you may be able to add a couple of rooms you’ve always wanted, such as a family room, office or in-law suite.
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 10 different locations across North America and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.
It almost goes without saying that everything about your shop's design should project the right answers to each of these questions. But in today’s market, you have to go one step further. In our digitally connected world consumers have seen it all. The true art of compelling store design is in telling a story about your business, while simultaneously anticipating the needs of your customers. It’s all about the surprise and the delight.
Simply get a one-inch drywall screw and drive it into the hole right beside the hook. You want to use a one inch screw because you don’t want to hit the wall behind it and you just drive the screw in until the head of it is tight against the hook, it’ll just act as a shim, and you’ll see once I get this all the way in, it lock the hook in place, and now when you take the tool on and off it won’t come off. The hook won’t pop out.
The cheapest and easiest way to supply fresh water to your sink is with refillable plastic water containers. There are many styles available, including jerry-can style containers, the extremely common Aqua-Tainer, or standard 5-gallon water cooler jugs. Which one you go with really depends on personal preference and the dimensions of your kitchen cabinets.
That headline struck me as discouraging. As an entry fee, $5,000 seems high enough to exclude a number of potential woodworkers, myself included. Christiana softened the blow by saying that used tools could cut the cost roughly in half. That figure seemed much closer to my experience, which involved buying a mix of new and used tools. Having said that, buying the right used tools is much more difficult than buying from a catalog or dealer who stocks everything needed to build a great shop. It requires a bit of guile and a good plan, but the payoff is worth it. Through careful choices and good fortune, I was able to outfit my shop with a blend of new and used tools for around $2,000.
Inventory management — especially when first starting a small business — at its most basic level consists of counting how many of a given product (let’s say apples) you have for sale in the morning, keeping track of that number, then reducing it by one each time an apple is sold. At the end of the sales day, you count the leftover apples and make sure the number of apples in your inventory system matches whatever you actually have in store. When you have an accurate apple count, you call your supplier and order as many as you need to make sure you have enough on hand for the next day.
Everything from the way the customer is greeted as they walk through the door to the way your products are presented following a sale matters. The smallest details can make the biggest difference. Early on when just starting your small business, you as an owner, will be able to exert a lot of direct control over these details. But as you grow, you will come to recognize the value of a well-trained and motivated staff.
There’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and cash that goes into starting and running your own small business. One of the primary benefits of incorporating is that it limits the liability and risk of any losses your business may accumulate along the way. In other words, when you incorporate a business, you are typically not personally responsible for business debts. So if life happens and something goes wrong, as long as you and your business are not legally considered the same, your house, your car, and your goldfish are all safe.
Alternately, a detached shop can often be located closer to your property line and offers you a bit more freedom in terms of the type of foundation you can use. It may give you a sense of welcome separation from your home and open up yard space or allow a deck on the back of your house that would otherwise be lost behind your shop. In an urban setting, if you would like to have a wood stove in your shop you may find it more challenging to find an insurance carrier that allows one in an outbuilding. Also, outbuildings can be subject to more stringent height regulations than additions.
One of the challenges we all face is how to move machines into a home without damaging the home, the machinery, or yourself. I actually had to bring things through the front door, and across hardwood floors, and turn 90° to descend the stairs into the shop. To protect the floors, I laid down sheets of 1/2" MDF that I could use later. On the wooden stairs, I used three strips of softwood strapping, held with wood screws to the stairs. I mounted a 2x4 baton to the wall studs at the top of the stairs, with a 5/16-inch eye-bolt through it.
One of the best deals on portable power tools, including routers and sometimes planers, comes in the form of factory-reconditioned tools. These are primarily tools that have been repaired at the factory after failing quality inspections or being returned by customers. While they cannot be sold as new, they are identical to new tools in quality and appearance and usually feature the same warranty (be sure to check). Typical savings are anywhere from 15% to 30%, though you sometimes can find even bigger bargains. These tools can be found at Amazon.com and other online tool sellers. It is also possible to buy them through retail stores and, in some cases, directly from the manufacturer’s Web site.
“I purchased this book because I'm newly retired and attempting to set up my shop in a home we recently moved to. I'm new to setting up shop and can use some professional advice. Money is always an issue, but more important to me is the subject of time. This book solves both aspects for me. It contains sound advice if you do not wish to overspend on your shop.”
Due diligence is the process of going through the current owner’s books with a fine-tooth comb to verify inventory information, sales data, average ticket price, and every other aspect of the business. Doing all this yourself is difficult and time-consuming, so you’ll probably want to involve accountants and lawyers to ensure that you cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. A big red flag to watch out for here is how intertwined the current owner’s personal expenses are with the business accounts — this can obscure the genuine flow of cash in and cash out of the business. The purchase price of an existing business is often calculated as three to five times the net annual revenue, so you’ll want to take that figure into account before you make an offer.
Reactions are typically over-the-top excitement. Everywhere I go, there are people snapping pictures, taking videos, and giving me a “thumbs up.” Sometimes while on the highway, cars will go ahead of me about a mile or so and then pull over to get out and video me driving by them. Truck drivers are always getting on the CB radio asking about the truck.
According to store design experts, this is the part of the process where store owners tend to put the cart before the horse. Once the floor plan is sketched out, store owners are quick to purchase and install fixtures, then fill them with product. Far too often, the fixtures chosen aren’t ideal for displaying a range of products in a particular space. Or worse, they don’t offer flexibility needed in valuable display areas that are constantly changing to house featured and seasonal products.
Depending on your situation, you may need to upgrade to 200 amp electrical service in order to meet the needs of your house and your shop. It may also be in your interests to add in a separate electrical service meter on your shop so that you can clearly write off electrical use for your business, or in future rent the space out and clearly separate out the utilities for billing your tenant. Generally, you don’t want to skimp on the power to your shop or on the lighting you include.
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