Should I Become A Locksmith?

So I got locked out, found a locksmith in the neighborhood. 10 minutes later, a goofy kid drives by in a Lexus. Takes 2 minutes to open the door and I pay him $120 cash.

That got me thinking - Is it really that good to be a locksmith?

Why screw around with marking up product if you can charge $500 an hour as a locksmith?

Thoughts? Experiences?

I worked for a locksmith. I'm not cut out (ha!) for it.

Bottom line is, you didn't pay the goofy kid $120 for 2 minutes worth of work, you paid him $20 for 2 minutes worth of work, $50 for the years it took him to learn how to pop a lock in 2 minutes, and $50 for his inborn talent. You need both talent and years of practice to get to the point where you can do enough lockouts to afford the lease on a Lexus.

So being a locksmith is harder or easier than being a surveillance guy?

Locksmith vs Surveillance

LS is easier for consumer to judge quaility = Less faking possible

LS needs More skill required for minimum, Equally difficult for true mastery

guitar vs. piano?

Well, they aren't really comparable. Surveillance technology changes a lot faster and it's a lot more complex, and surveillance installation is a lot more physically challenging unless you're hanging doors or delivering safes (both of which I've done, briefly) but locksmithing is a skill requiring fine motor control, lots of practice, and talent. Given time and patience, almost any physically fit and willing person of average intelligence or better can learn to become a halfway decent surveillance integrator but not any willing person can become a halfway decent locksmith.

But, yes, you absolutely should learn locksmithing. There's a big knowledge overlap in the locksmithing and access control domains. Besides, locksmithing is fun. You don't see people taking up surveillance camera as a hobby, the way people pick locks for fun, after all.

But, yes, you absolutely should learn locksmithing...

Dying art though, no?

@Brian, do you have any EAC industry projected penetration numbers 10yrs or more out?

Have to imagine that the % of single family dwellings with EAC > 1, but will grow big.

What about apartments, is hotel style access common on new buildings?

Key locks are disappearing from cars already.

And though I don't know why this man took up surveillance cameras, there's no denying that he's having fun!

Everyone needs a lock somewhere but does everyone need surveillance?... :)

[Disclosure: I am a licensed locksmith]

I wish I could tell you that Locksmithing is a lucrative hotbed of opportunity for young people. That would be false.

Locksmithing is lucrative only when large volumes pump up the revenues. When it comes to fees, consider that $120 for 20 minutes sounds great until this;


1. You always have to travel to different locations - adding fuel and time, and vans aren't cheap. (Or Lexuses, if that's how you do it.)

2. You need to be on call 24/7/365 to compete with your competition. Goodbye Christmas and Thansgiving.

3. You need to call your business 'A-1' or '1st Call' or 'A+' something to get prime page position in the yellowpages to get the lucrative 'drunk lockout' business after 2am. Yellowpage listings are expensive.

4. There are literally thousands of lock types out there. You can't afford to be choosy or expect your customer to know what type of lock they have, so you might be able to unlock it in 20 minutes, or it may take 4 hours - you don't know until you get there. Any time not on calls = study time about locks you don't know about.

5. Car locks are totally different than building locks, and require different skills and tools to work with. You know who doesn't care about this? The person calling you. You must sink money into diverse tools and training, even if you don't use them often.

6. You have to carry a diverse inventory of parts/keys/locks so you have it when you get the panicked calls at 3am and everything else is closed. Carrying cost of inventory = money

7. In metros, it may be different, but in rural areas you may get 3 - 4 calls in a day. or 1. That $120 really gets stretched over the hours you're not on paying jobs.

8. Technology is viewed as a threat by locksmiths, not a benefit. There's no "Geez, this thing will make my life easier!"; rather its "THIS DAMN ROBOT IS TAKING ALL MY KEYCUTTING BUSINESS."

9. The cost of calling a locksmith to bump your locks open is typically higher than the cost of a new door lock. Every locksmith that has gone on a call described in #3 has heard an earful of this from his customer.

10. Like others have mentioned: Locksmithing requires lots of practice and experience. It's not just bumping or picking locks; it's understanding how, why, and when to use one technique or skill over the others. This becomes the basis of success as a locksmith, and is extremely guarded and protected information. As a result, there aren't many 'old timers' willing or able to pass on what they know to younger folks. Mix in #8, and locksmithing indeed is something of a dying art. ...sad but true.

Physical security is your main line of defense and that will never go away. There will always be a locking type mechanism. Cameras and alarms aren't preventing an intrusion. A good layer of physical security in conjunction with surveillance and an early warning system complete the solution.

If you had to pick one to secure your home or buisness: locks, cameras, or alarm. Which one would you choose?

Is a pepper-spraying PTZ an option? ;)

Not sure about going into business as a locksmith but, I learned how to pick a variety of locks. During the course of my day job, this skill has come in very handy on more than one occassion, though never in an illegal manner.

I can empathize: My pal Svet is amazing with credit card in hand, opening any kind doors on the fly into the workplace area to cheers of great huraahhs! Twice in fact. In over one day.

I asked for the secret, he says other peoples cards work better than ones own, on account of just some reason. Thats why he needs them. How would he know, he never even had one of his own?? :)


Are you inspired by the 'should I stay in this industry' debate :)

There is the old joke about a doctor who called a plumber. The doctor was having a dinner party in 2 hours. The toilet over flowed. He called a plumber who came out and fixed the problem in 30 minutes. He charged the man 300 dollars. The doctor was taken aback by the price. "That's 600 dollars an hour? I am a doctor and I only charge 150/hr". The plumber replied, "I only charged 150/hour when I was a doctor".

Or better yet, start a website dedicated to Locksmiths!!

Locksmiths generally hate the internet. Just fax them articles.