If you’re moving into a space that requires renovations in order to fit your business needs, you’ll also want the landlord to take on responsibility for that work. We’re not talking aesthetics here, we mean necessary renovations such as improved data connectivity. If you have to do the work yourself, it’s advisable to ask the landlord for a rent-free or reduced-rent period. You should also make sure that any additional alterations you have in mind are acceptable and would not be in breach of the lease. Last but not least, always make sure the do’s and don’t of what can and cannot be done is put in writing, it will save you a lot of headaches later.
A dust mask or respirator will protect you while you're working, but won't do anything to protect you or your family from suspended particles still in the air. For this reason, an air filter is an absolute must if you work with woods indoors (I know of guys who sneezed out sawdust after working too long without an air cleaner). It's possible to make your own air cleaner out of box fans and furnace filters, but retail air cleaners will usually be much more compact. If you go that route, we recommend Wen 3410 3-Speed Remote-Controlled Air Filtration System for smaller shops.
The primary investment of any garage workshop are the tools. Protect your investment with a high quality tool chest that is neatly organized and (if needed) lockable. Look for smooth rolling ball-bearing drawers, and if you’re buying used, beware of rust and dirt that could corrode your tools. We recommend installing drawer mats to keep your tools from sliding around. They also give your tools a softer cushion to rest in.
You can see in this step how I notched each rafter to fit more securely to the walls. I also used a metal hurricane strap to secure each rafter to the wall. Even though this was not required by code, I felt my tools were far to valuable to be left to chance over such an inexpensive solution. The walls are a simple board and batten system. The 1x3 trim covers the joints of the 4x8 OSB. They make much more high quality sheets goods to use as siding. However, the cheapest I found was $35 a sheet and the OSB was about $5 a sheet. I sealed the OSB and painted it with exterior paint. If I run into problems in the future, I can just add a second layer of more durable material or simply have siding installed. It has held up very well over the past couple years and I see no need to spend more money on it now.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an open-celled foam board (think styrofoam) that is the cheapest of all the foam boards. It does work, but we generally don’t recommend using EPS in your van. It insulates less than XPS (R-4 per inch), and the gaps between the foam cells allow moisture to penetrate, which degrades the insulation over time. Polyiso and XPS are much better choices for a slightly higher cost.
We use this fan for extra circulation when it’s hot, and to get the air moving when it’s cold at night and we have all the windows closed. We also keep it on for our dogs while we’re driving. There are cheaper 12V fans out there, but generally the cheaper the fan the more power it draws. The Endless Breeze is a great little fan, and it’s definitely worth getting for the added ventilation.
To make sure you account for any existing obstructions, it’s a good idea to make a measured drawing of your workshop area on graph paper, noting existing furniture, built-ins and large items on the plan as you go. For example, a common one-car garage workshop layout has built-in tool cabinets and shelves around the perimeter where they won’t impede parking, but you may also have to get clever about folding work tables and saw horses that you can set up as needed in the middle of the garage when you’re working on a project (and cars are parked outside).
For small business owners, these tools present an incredible opportunity to set smarter business goals and easily identify some of the key factors of success and growth in their business. However, when you couple the breadth of technology options with decisions about basic store and restaurant equipment, such as espresso machines or air conditioning units, it can become a little overwhelming to figure out what is actually worth the investment.
I don’t have recs because I’ve always just gone the traditional cold weather camping route with warm clothes, winter sleeping bag, boiled water in a nalgene, shot of olive oil before bed, etc, etc. Perhaps someone else might chime in… I’ve heard of folks (with the appropriate dual battery setup) using electric blankets, or yeah, the Mr. Propane heater (but not while they are asleep).
While strolling through the recent entries to our online shop gallery, I spotted some pretty novel designs as well as a couple of fun videos worth taking a look at. From brilliant solutions for tight spaces, to novel repurposing of department store display racks, there were plenty of interesting elements to the eight shops listed in my February round-up. By the way, if you’ve already seen our art director’s video tour of his redesigned garage shop (Mike’s Garage Shop), you can go ahead and skip it. If not however, it’s really worth a look!
You might be thinking your business aspirations are too ‘early-stage’ to merit investigating the permits required to run your small business. You’d be wrong. The costs and requirements of staying on the right side of the law should be factored into your initial business plan and ongoing projections. In the long run, this will save you time, money and heartache.
Finding reliable cellular service (and the internet that comes with it) is a constant challenge in vanlife, especially if you do computer-based work on the road. A cell signal booster like the WeBoost Drive 4G-X helps a lot in areas where service is spotty. It can take a weak cellular signal and amplify it into usable internet for web browsing and getting work done.
Whether you build or buy your workbench, it must be designed and constructed to withstand the rigors and pounding you’ll put it through. The base and legs should be sturdy and the table should not easily be knocked over. The top should be durable and not easily dinged or dented. Make sure your workbench is made of a material appropriate for your types of projects, too.
Hey there Ryan. Cool blog! I love the idea of trucking-it! I’m not able to do something like that, though I wish that I had taken the time when I was younger to do so. Here’s a suggestion that you might consider, if you haven’t already considered it before: Obtaining and using a hammock. I’d suggest bolting in an eye hook on the truck, or using the bumper as a tie point if you don’t have a second tree around. Also, in the high desert, you could use rocks as anchor points for it. Just an idea, from one camper to another.
This legal name is your first step in separating you and your business as two distinct entities. You will use your DBA name on all legal paperwork and government forms, such as applications for employer tax IDs, licenses, and permits. It is significantly harder to go back and have this applied retroactively, so it’s worth getting it right from the start.
For the large square windows near the tailgate I just used those big “magic auto shades” like these, which fit perfectly to cover up those side windows and the back window by the tailgate (I had four in the canopy) and another set up in the cab for my actual window. As for the longer side windows I just used a USPS box, haphazardly stuck up against the window. Nothing fancy.
Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.