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Home Based Income as an Electronics Hobbyist

John R Retired

Mar 13, 2022
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I am retired considering a supplemental income, home based, with electronics being the source of income. Reason being, that I've always enjoyed electronics as far back as a teenager and feel at home around electronics gear. I do come from the older analog days, although I have taken some courses in digital, even in basic microprocessors. I am talking about being an electronics hobbyist, either constructing devices, fixing devices or designing devices of an electronic nature. TV or home electronics repair would have been possible back in the day but now that is a dead path, with the new electronics technology and throw away economy. Ham radio or RF is fascinating to me, but that also
is not really a way to make money, in factI don't think it is permitted to make money with HAM.
Electronics was not my career in my life, although I have taken college level electronics courses.
It's not only about making money, but it is the "Science" of electronics that is enjoyable.
Other than getting a job at some company as a 9 to 5 employee, does anyone know how to make at least a nominal income (supplemental) working in the realm of electronics hobbyist / tinkerer?

Appreciate your thoughts on this subject.
 

Martaine2005

May 12, 2015
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Hi, In my opinion, I think you’ll be flogging a dead horse.
Unless of course you know someone who has their own repair shop and gives you ‘overflow’ work.
I am very lucky and have a TV repair shop and music shop that do just that. The difference is that I’ve known them for years and used to go and beg for old boards to scavenge from.
They give me less complicated devices to repair that would normally be uneconomical through the shops.
BUT I don’t do it for the money as it would still be uneconomical, instead, they give me a ‘drink’ and any parts needed. I do it to learn and really enjoy it. One day I’ll retire and work in one of the shops (if they’re still going) and probably choose the music shop.

Martin
 

John R Retired

Mar 13, 2022
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Thanks for the response.

What exactly is the "Dead Horse"?

I wasn't just asking only about "repair shops" but any electronic service that would be related to electronics hobbyist type
work or tinkering.

I'm just probing and considering any possibilities. I realize the phenomena of the throwaway-black box replacement economy
with electronics nowadays, but I don't think that has 100% put electronics enthusiasts out of business. There still might be
some niches operating somewhere with discreet electronics hobbyists. On the other hand maybe electronics hobbyist is
just that, "a hobby", to pass the time away, and industrial mass produced microelectronics and black boxes are all that remain.
I don't know for sure.
 

kellys_eye

Jun 25, 2010
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You could look for areas of specialisation such as the marine market or even CB radio. But much of today's requirements revolve around liability and thus a need for appropriate insurance that may, itself, demand proof of ability (not happened to me but that was 10 years ago - the market has gone very risk averse these days).

If you have commensurate mechanical skills I'd recommend trying the small engine market (generator, chainsaw etc) for work as this, I feel, will become a busy area and those with the skills will be in demand.

Consumer devices have become too cheap to make repairs viable when considering modern equipment but there is a burgeoning 'vintage' market out there so if you are older (like me!) and understand the earlier technologies then that's another potential opening.
 

Martaine2005

May 12, 2015
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“Flogging a dead horse” to imply that one would be wasting their time.
I did omit and forgot to mention that a niche market might exist but you’ll have to find it.
I prefer the hobby and do so in my own time. I don’t (can’t) repair lots of devices because 1.no schematic available and 2.some ICs have their identifying codes ground off. As a hobby, I might keep the device until another with a different fault comes in. Then repair the easiest.
Find a local Ham club and go there to meet friends who could guide you and you may even like it!.

Martin
 

John R Retired

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"Find a local Ham club and go there to meet friends who could guide you and you may even like it!"

Ham is just a Hobby per se' and a fine one. But like I said, I am interested in making some extra supplemental $$$.
IN ADDITION to tinkering around as a hobbyist in electronics.
 

Martaine2005

May 12, 2015
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What type of tools do you have?
I assume multimeters, bench power supplies, soldering equipment?
Because some repairs require specialist equipment.
I earn more in one day doing domestic house repairs than in a month of hobby electronics.

Martin
 

John R Retired

Mar 13, 2022
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kellys_eye said:

"But much of today's requirements revolve around liability"

Yeah, too many people love to sue nowadays....

"Consumer devices have become too cheap to make repairs viable when considering modern equipment but there is a burgeoning 'vintage' market out there so if you are older (like me!) and understand the earlier technologies then that's another potential opening"


That is what I meant about the "black box" economy for electronics, although "cheap" is certainly a factor also.

Humorous story---> I checked out a 9-5 job at a mom & pop electronics shop 2 years ago, mainly for high end servo assembly
and soldering. They were using surface mount components and expected me to solder them. I had to tell them that I can't solder
something I can barely even see.with my glasses on and which scatter if you sneeze....lol...."state of the art"

Tell me about the "vintage" market please...?
 
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Martaine2005

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Plenty of money can be made by buying ‘non working’ vintage audio equipment, repairing it and selling on. I don’t have the spare money or space to make it viable.
Vintage radios are a niche market especially vacuum tube types.

Martin
 

John R Retired

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Martin asked:

"What type of tools do you have?
I assume multimeters, bench power supplies, soldering equipment?"


I have several multimeters, digital and analog. Several soldering irons. I am a certified NASA solderer.
Have lots of solder and hand tools.

I've been looking at some oscilloscopes. I had training on the older Tektronix type, although I know the new digital
types are superior in amount of functions for not too much money. I know I have to get a bench power supply and other stuff.
First I am exploring the hobbyist income field. I look around on youtube and other places for information about
$$$ in electronics, but only get advice for full time engineer jobs. My full time career is finished. No more for me.
Yeah I know someone can make extra money doing handyman or other miscellaneous work, but like I said,
I enjoy working with electronics and am exploring this subject. Accidently came across this Forum and
thought I might find some advice here.
 

kellys_eye

Jun 25, 2010
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As mentioned, repairing and/or restoring 'vintage' electronics is a growing market and one not yet fully exploited so there's room to grow if you get in 'on the bottom'.

There are vintage radio/audio/TV sites on the web that would be a good place to gain knowledge but us oldies have a propensity for understanding better than most when it comes to older equipment - we've probably owned and/or come across many of the items that are marketable already.

I'm currently restoring vintage valved (tubes if you're in America) radios for both personal pleasure, practicality (don't get me started on 'end of the world' scenarios!) and profitability. You can make quite a good living with some 'antique recognition' skills and, potentially, scouring your local area for such stuff as many people fail to recognise its worth and junk them. If you have ever noticed dumpsters with 'old' hi-fi units in them, or even at your local recycling/garbage disposal sites, you'll see the sort of stuff I mean.

It may well take a few years to get fully acquainted with going this route but 'time is money' - since the equipment gets older! Don't neglect 'hidden' areas of antiquity such as old car radios, even Goblin Teasmaids and domestic appliances - they all have their supported and demand is growing.
 

John R Retired

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"As mentioned, repairing and/or restoring 'vintage' electronics is a growing market and one not yet fully exploited so there's room to grow if you get in 'on the bottom'"

Is this market Worldwide?

Evidently you are in Scotland. I am on the West Coast USA.

I took a course in tubes (valves) many years ago. I still have the textbook.
I also know transistors and solid state. I am not saying that I am a genius .I just like this stuff.
I used to visit radio stations and was impressed with the colored gas in the valves of the transmitter
modulating in sync with the DJ speaking through the microphone. Now so much of RF is digital, Arduino etc.

I do like to be able to actually SEE what I am working on, as I described in my surface-mount component story....lol
 
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Bluejets

Oct 5, 2014
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First I am exploring the hobbyist income field.

Fact, hobbyists don't want to pay, so forget that.

Female hairdressers, especially those with diverse operations in their business, usually have some quite expensive gear no one wants or knows how to repair BUT you need quite a "knowledge" range otherwise you'll get known as a deadbeat really quickly.
The girls usually know how everything operates so interrogate them until you "get the picture" and don't try to baffle them with science as they will see through that as quick as you can blink.

One other avenue is medical equipment as they don't mind paying but as well as recognising your limitations ( by way of the law) connection is usually established over many years and usually by word of mouth.

Old record players and stereo amps (at the moment at least) if the owners realise the value and are mine workers ( earn big bucks)
You need to have had experience with the former as they can be quite mechanically challenging not to mention knowing how to "get around" certain problems.
Just finished one here which is currently valued at around AUD$2,000.
Parts can be a problem but luckily I can manufacture just about anything I need, a quirk from my miniature ic engine model engineering.
Don't get halfway through and find it cannot be completed as you'll get zero pay.

Ultralight aircraft another but have to be even more vigilant of the law and what one can and cannot do.
Trouble there can be, money up front as they tend to fly away with the famous last words, fix you up next week.
Fine if labour only content but when one has parts overhead, not nice.
Also usually "seasonal" so-to-speak as if there is any downturn in the economy, anything to do with aircraft comes to a screaming halt.

All above from first hand experience.
Why all the underlining....we can read you know.
 

John R Retired

Mar 13, 2022
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"Fact, hobbyists don't want to pay, so forget that."

Not expecting any money from hobbyists. Just saying that "I as a Hobbyist" am looking for ways to make extra money.

Also not interested in anything to do with "the Law" or threats of legal liability. Ultralight aircraft, for human on board pilots
would be a definite No for me. You are literally putting someone's life in your hands.

I use underlines sometimes to try to make things more clear, including what I am saying in contrast to what the other person is saying.

Thanks for your advice. I like old record players and even cassette decks. Have a few myself. I seen that "Sting" (of the rock group Police) is coming out with a cassette format of his new songs.

Not much interested in the mechanical side of those devices though.
Parts are too mechanically delicate and finicky. Have many busted up knuckles
working on motor vehicle mechanisms anyway. Soured my taste for mechanical.
Would rather work with resistors, capacitors, coils, transistors and yes "Tubes".
 
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Bluejets

Oct 5, 2014
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"Fact, hobbyists don't want to pay, so forget that."

Not expecting any money from hobbyists. Just saying that "I as a Hobbyist" am looking for ways to make extra money.

Also not interested in anything to do with "the Law" or threats of legal liability. Ultralight aircraft, for human on board pilots
would be a definite No for me. You are literally putting someone's life in your hands.

I use underlines sometimes to try to make things more clear, including what I am saying in contrast to what the other person is saying.

Thanks for your advice. I like old record players and even cassette decks. Have a few myself. I seen that "Sting" (of the rock group Police) is coming out with a cassette format of his new songs.

Not much interested in the mechanical side of those devices though.
Parts are too mechanically delicate and finicky. Have many busted up knuckles
working on motor vehicle mechanisms anyway. Soured my taste for mechanical.
Would rather work with resistors, capacitors, coils, transistors and yes "Tubes".

Your options then are rather limited so I revert back to my initial thoughts.
No jockey licence required. :)
 

kellys_eye

Jun 25, 2010
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If you have the knack of recognising the value of equipment and/or the potential faults/repairs necessary to maintain them then you could try scouring the local ads for dud (or semi-dud) equipment under the names of 'spares or repairs'. In this way you can obtain equipment cheaply and with the potential of full repair to make a decent income reselling as working.

I frequently browse eBay for such items - more usually for those items I actually need myself but don't want to purchase at full price (yes, call me a skinflint!) - and find stuff that is repairable. Most recently I bought a CCTV multiplexer (had a duff regulator in it - easy fix despite it being surface-mount), a variable/programmable high voltage PSU (a smoothing capacitor hadn't been soldered in securely during manufacture and simply 'dropped off the board' - easy fix but then found all the 'a' segment of the multiplexed digital display to be off - fairly easily fixed too).

The CCTV device cost me £10 (new they are £150+) and the PSU was also £10 (new £300-ish) and my 'best' spares or repair in terms of profit was a 'free' marine chart plotter (LCD maps, route planning, GPS etc) that had locked up and was discarded as unrecoverable - it was fixed by borrowing a reset key (USB device) and resold for £400+.

In this way I have amassed test equipment, entertainment gear, ham radio, vintage receivers etc - loads of useful stuff (to me anyway) and many such items deliberately for reselling. I've even bought tems I've known to be dud that I have then stripped for parts and those parts resold for 10x (or a lot more!) than the actual device itself was worth - but you have to know what it is you're looking at and have experience of what the potential problems and marketability and/or repairs may involve. It's often a case of a life times of experience and some good luck....

Don't limit yourself as this will narrow your options to the point of not-worth-doing. Best to keep an open mind, try 'everything' and find your way to those items that both appeal to your sense of worth and effort. Even if it involves some mechanical work that you 'think' you can't tackle. If you are good with your hands and can figure out how something works by simply looking at it (up close and personal) then you'll probably find a way to fix it.
 

John R Retired

Mar 13, 2022
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kellys_eye

What is your level of electronics knowledge and your collection of test equipment to tackle these types of projects?

Thanks for the advice.
 

kellys_eye

Jun 25, 2010
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Knowledge? 10 years as radio operator (merchant marine), 10 years as lecturer in marine electronics, 10 years as (global) field engineer/fault fixer, 10 years self employed in marine (yachting) electronics repair, 10 years as a cook......

Yup, the last 10 years I've been making/selling curries! Got a good reputation and client base too!

I had to give up the tools due to a serious back injury (carrying too many heavy tool bags) so had a career change but still do repairs for locals and my own self entertainment.

Usual toolset - all the hand tools you can imagine, bench power supply, 'scope, signal generators (audio and rf) and other typically ham-radio related stuff (power meters, DFM etc). Nothing professional - it's not worth it for what I do - and, most importantly I drink lots of tea and read A LOT.
 

kellys_eye

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Ham radio or RF is fascinating to me, but that also is not really a way to make money, in fact I don't think it is permitted to make money with HAM.

??? of course you can make money at ham radio! I note many people are making/selling long wire antenna kits for example. Loop antennas are also gaining in popularity and, if you have any mechanical skills and tools, then making morse keys and/or paddles can turn a decent profit. Thing with ham radio is that the most ardent users are themselves tech'd up enough to do their own repairs so that side of it is 'dead'.
 
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