Image via WikipediaGuiding Business
If you’ve got an itch for business, how about your own guiding company? This method of “making money playing with your hobby”, requires a lot more money to get started, but it can be very profitable.
Some individuals are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year guiding people while doing the activities they love (i.e. sightseeing, skiing, climbing, kayaking, fly-fishing, Mt. biking, etc…).
Lets take a whitewater rafting company for example:
- To keep it simple, say you just want to guide day trips down your favorite river. You find out that the going rate on an average is $80 dollars per day, per person and you have 4 rafts to guide.
- Now a guide will cost you about $80 a day and you will need to pay for your overhead (i.e. insurance, gas, repair, etc…). So, if you figure 6 people in a 14ft raft not counting the guide, at $80 a head, you will bring in $480 a day. For each raft subtract $80 for your guide and another $80 for overhead and you now have $320 per raft. Multiply that by 4 rafts and you now have $1,280 a day.
- Now, lets say you only run 5 days a week, that would be $6400 a week or $28,800 a month. If you run the whole summer season, your 3-month total would be $86,400!
- Of course you need to pay for your 4 rafts, along with paddles, frames, PFDs, etc at a cost of $3500 a piece for a total of $14,000. You’ll also need a trailer and van or bus for hauling and shuttling, which can run you another $26,000 for a total of $40,000 altogether.
- Finally, research shows that in order to be successful, you’ll need to spend at least 50% of your profit on business development and marketing, but that still leaves $43,200 Profit! And, if you decide to jump into the swiftwater rescue or wilderness medical training fields (Highly Recommended), you can double your profits by certifying people in the 3 months before your season starts. Many companies equal or make more money with their rescue training programs than they actually do guiding.
- In the end, you could be making $80,000 a year or more working only six months out of the year! Not bad for a reasonable investment in equipment and we didn’t even talk about multi-day trips, which can be even more profitable. Besides, there are ways around the start-up expense, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
So, how do you get going? Basically, all you need is the knowledge (i.e. outdoor locations, skills and training) of your particular activity, the resources (i.e. capital and equipment), and then the permits and licensing to do it.
Regarding knowledge, the trick is to use an activity you already know and have an interest in, along with knowing specific areas to take people. Of special importance would be the rescue and medical training certifications. You should definitely get the emergency certifications for your particular activity to cover yourself liability wise, besides in order to obtain certain permits you’re often required to have these types certifications.
Regarding resources, you’re going to need capital for everything from advertising to equipment. This guiding company method is one of the most expensive methods of freelancing, but it can be a very profitable one. Two ways to lessen the expense are to run your office out of your own home and rent equipment.
An example would be to rent rafts from a local college rental program for anywhere from $50 to $80 dollars a day, I’ve even heard of people renting gear from other guiding companies at slow times. If you were doing Mt. biking, you could hook up with a local bike shop and rent bikes and gear from them. They may even cut you a deal because you’re bringing customers into their store and giving them free exposure. They also might be willing to give you discounts on your own personal gear, which is always a plus (something I‘ve used many times). Finally, depending on the activity and location, you can always require your clients to supply their own equipment. This method is not always feasible, but when possible it can save quit a bit on start-up expenses.
Regarding permits and licensing, you will need a business license and a permit to guide people in your area of choice. The business license will allow you to obtain the permit and the permit will allow you to access commercial use or guiding. Permits are issued by the land use agencies for the area you plan to guide in. Depending on the area and activity, the requirements can vary and change so it would be unrealistic for me to list them all here. What I do recommend is that you contact the land use agency for the area you plan to guide in and request their specific guidelines.
NOTE: Because of environmental impact and competition, a lot of areas restrict the number of permits they issue to guiding companies. For this reason you may have to buy a permit from an existing company who no longer wants theirs. The land use agency can sometimes put you in contact with the right people; otherwise use search engines to find business for sale sites, here’s a good resource that often has guiding companies for sell: Bizsale.com
To your success,
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