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29-1-2017 13:34:38  #1

How much to charge for cleaning?

First, a little background. I have an interest in digging up typewriters in my area to clean them for money. I've only worked on two so far ('47 Underwood SS and a '48 Royal Arrow) and don't have a ton of experience. But I'm determined, my family has just about any tool I'd need and I definitely have a streak of perfectionism. Both of my typewriters are in working condition (except a broken 'a' key on the Royal). When I bought them their issues included hard platens, broken drawbands, nonfunctional ribbon guides, and dirty everything. I couldn't get to all the places for thorough cleaning for fear of not being able to put them back together, so anything I'd do for others wouldn't be 100% complete. I'd do the best I can.
So my question is, how much could I charge for cleaning neighbors' typewriters and doing minor repairs? I'm not surrounded my millionaires--mostly retired grandparents with medical bills--and don't feel comfortable charging lots for my inexperienced tenacity. Heck, I don't even know for sure whether anyone wants their typewriters cleaned. But on the off chance I can start something and gain more experience I'd like know what would be reasonable.
I can be very slow so charging by the hour is not how I'd start. Should it depend on how bad off the machine is? Should I have a guarantee that if I accidentally create a mushroom cloud while working on their typewriter, I'll reimburse them somehow? Should I offer to do them for free until I feel more confident?
Any advice is much appreciated. 


29-1-2017 14:11:16  #2

Re: How much to charge for cleaning?

At your early stage--and this is only my opinion--I would just do it for supply reimbursement plus gratuity, while you are still learning. You say: "I will need x amount of dollars to cover the ribbon and supplies, and you can pay me whatever you think the service was worth when I am finished." If you build up experience, reputation, good results, and start having demand, then you can start asking for more, or set up fixed pricing. I would be careful about doing anything you are not certain of on someone else's machine, and be up front about the risks and what you can and cannot do. Two machines is very little experience, so proceed with caution. For repair and cleaning practice, you can buy sub-$30 junkers off of Craigslist and other online classifieds, and second hand stores.


29-1-2017 14:34:55  #3

Re: How much to charge for cleaning?

SoucekFan's suggestions are very good, and I would second them. Establish a modest fee to cover your material costs (cleaning supplies), and tell potential customers that you essentially work for tips and that they can pay you what they feel the service is worth to them. You'll hopefully make a few bucks, and gain experience in the process, which is a win-win situation for everyone involved.


29-1-2017 17:31:35  #4

Re: How much to charge for cleaning?

To me, it could depend, partly, on the ability of the typewriter owners' to pay for services rendered.  Back in the day, when typewriters were cheap, I usually charged a nominal fee of about $10.00 to clean one, if that were all it needed, and $15.00 plus whatever parts cost (with receipt provided).  I could probably charge quite a bit more now, but it's been a little while since I repaired other people's machines.  I never went into it exactly for profit, as you can plainly see.  Most of my clientele were older ladies who typed up church bulletins and newsletters.  A lot of them were on fixed incomes, and a typewriter was all they could be able to use and afford.  Some machines I didn't charge anything because I knew that this was a way for these people to still stay active in their churches and communities.  I've visited nursing homes, and have serviced typewriters for the residents there free of charge, which also helped them stay active and feel useful.

As you go further into cleaning and minor repairs, you'll get the feel of what brands and types of typewriters are in your area, as well as the people, and before you know it, you'll have a sign outside reading "SquireDante's Typewriters--Sales & Service."  Be sure to offer free estimates, and if you get into the repair side, you'll want to consider a 30-day guarantee on your repairs.  I've been at this as a hobby and as a small business for over 35 years, so I can tell you I've serviced hundreds of these critters, and I started out just like you did.

Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness

29-1-2017 22:22:22  #5

Re: How much to charge for cleaning?

Thanks for the input guys! I do realize I have very little experience, but I hope that'll change as the years go on. Too bad there isn't anyone nearby to take me as an apprentice.
Hopefully I'll get my hands on a machine soon and get to work.

     Thread Starter

29-1-2017 22:54:41  #6

Re: How much to charge for cleaning?

Just start on some junkers--even is they are something other than a typewriter--like adding machines or something with little or no consequences--and if the part or machine comes out pretty much as it did before--only cleaner--you should be all right.  Do this until you gain confidence, and work toward one of your own typewriters, maybe the one you like the least, and see how you do.  Then you can practice on all your other machines, and then work up to family-owned ones, then ones from friends.  Then you can start advertising if all these machines are clean and they still work.  My fourth grade teacher used to say:  "Inch by inch, life is a cinch.  Yard by yard, life is hard."

Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness

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