Auto body repair is the next big thing in the gig economy

You lovingly repair the dents and scratches to your vintage Studebaker. You’ve helped your friends and neighbors do the same, and you’ve taken some classes in auto repair – and now you’re ready to open up your own shop.

The expenses involved mount quickly, and the physical location alone may require an initial outlay of tens of thousands of dollars just to walk in the door. What many would-be auto repair shop owners are doing now is opening up shop without a physical location, and cutting down startup costs by joining the gig economy. Mobile car repair shops offering basic, bread-and-butter services like tune-ups, minor dent and scratch repair, windshield replacement, or paint touch-up are gaining steam, and with the popularity and acceptance of mobile apps for finding everything from babysitters to handymen, it’s no wonder the next frontier for auto body repair isn’t in a physical shop, it’s on the smartphone.

Emergence of the gig economy

Generic gig platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, or TaskRabbit, as well as more specific platforms like Uber, have fundamentally changed how businesses and consumers source everything from household handyman jobs to high-end consulting services. On the provider side, even traditional companies with mature sales channels and extensive partner networks have realized the benefit of the gig, and are using it to expand their reach and service traditionally underserved regions.

Conventional wisdom holds that a mature business should go after the deepest pockets – that’s why a high-end restaurant franchise for example, will choose to locate in a more densely populated and wealthy neighborhood, and why some neighborhoods are virtual deserts, completely devoid of any retail. This trend not only disservices some communities, but from the business standpoint, leaves money on the table. The problem is that until the emergence of these gig platforms, there was no practical way for most businesses to tap into those underserved markets and make a profit. The gig allows smaller partners to join the team, and service those areas profitably.

Getting started with your mobile car repair business

The gig isn’t just for handyman tasks and ride sharing, and businesses which have been traditionally tied to a shop are now breaking away from the old model.

Traditional auto repair shops may require hundreds of thousands of dollars in startup money. Your mobile, gig-economy based shop will require far less, but some things never change. Standard startup protocols like a business plan, advertising and marketing, training videos and manuals, and basic shop supplies are still essential. Much of these supplies to cover specific types of repairs, can be found through reputable online suppliers like Auto Body ToolMart.

In an environment where you have no physical shop, advertising a mobile repair business will take on greater importance. Simply signing up with a gig platform like YourMechanic.com is a necessary first step, but it’s not the only one. That’s the biggest mistake gig economy providers make, and the biggest reason for failure – they make the incorrect assumption that by simply signing up for a gig platform, people will find them and they will get business. In fact, it doesn’t work that way. You still have to create a great listing but you also have to go off the platform to make sure you’re getting your voice heard. Use social media platforms, other community websites, and of course, your own website completely separate from the gig platform to form a second tier of outreach, and then the third tier should consist of more traditional advertising in newspapers and radio.

The customer service advantage

In any competitive business, how well you deliver on customer experience is just as important as the quality of your service. You’re good at what you do, but the unfortunate fact of the competitive market is that your competitors are good at what they do, too. How you set yourself apart and gain a customer base will depend on how well you can deliver a positive customer experience.

On this front, launching a mobile, gig-based auto repair shop gives you some distinct advantages that larger and better-funded shops can’t match. The very nature of your mobile operation means that you can travel to underserved areas where your competitors haven’t reached; you have the ability to respond faster; and you can forge a closer and more personal connection with your customers.

The gig economy is transformative and is rapidly changing in a very fundamental way how we think of work, how we define careers and jobs, and is creating a new approach to entrepreneurship. For many it represents an opportunity to launch a small business with a modest budget, which in many cases, would not have otherwise been possible.

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