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Side Hustle Series: I’m a Gun Permit Instructor

by J. Money on Thursday, February 17, 2011

guns guns guns!
(Guest post by Jason of Live Real, Now – as part of our Side Hustle series. And no, that is not him up there in that pic ;))

On a chilly February day in 2007, I went with a friend to get a permit to carry a pistol.
It was partially on a lark, and partially because a right not exercised is a right lost and I am a strong believer in the right to self-defense.

I spent the morning in an overcrowded classroom and the afternoon on an outdoor shooting range when it was -9 degrees Fahrenheit. I was cold numb, but I had the paperwork I needed. As my friend and I slowly thawed out on the drive home, we looked at each other and said “We can do better than that.”

After picking up teaching certifications from the NRA, the Minnesota Dept of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Association of Defensive Firearms Instructors and finally, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, we started teaching as Metro Defense Training, LLC.

We’ve been doing this for 3 1/2 years, holding one class per month. In the first two and a half years, we taught about 80 people what they needed to know to legally carry a gun. Last year, it exploded. By March, we had made more money than we made in all of 2009. The rest of the year rocked just as hard. We turned ourselves into one of the top 10 training organizations by volume, among a field of 200 competing agencies.

This isn’t a huge market, and it will never make us rich, but it is bringing us a decent chunk of extra cash. It’s made a huge difference on my debt repayment. I don’t include this money on my budget, so every penny I take as pay goes straight to my debt. This has pushed me two whole years ahead of my debt repayment schedule.

What did we do right?

The most important thing we did was to partner with each other. We make a good team. My partner is a natural-born salesman, while I’m an introvert. I couldn’t have built this without him. I am a super-geek, so our technical costs have been nonexistent, aside from a domain and hosting. I’m also a bit obsessive about my passions, so I keep us up to date on any legal issues and developments. He’s working on an MBA and has run small businesses before, giving us valuable knowledge and experience.

We’ve never cut any corners. We give the best possible class we can, no matter what. No extra fees, or sardine-packed students.

We answer questions for our students for years after class. If a student wants a refresher, they can come back for free as often as they’d like.

Word of mouth has been a godsend. The local sheriff–in the most populous county in the state–recommends us when people call. You can’t buy ads like that.

What did we mess up?

Marketing. If a tree falls falls in the business district, does anyone care? If you run a business, put up some ads or fliers and get the word out. No matter how good your business is, you’ll never make a cent if nobody knows about it.

Scheduling. The nice thing about a business like this is the flexibility. We can run a class whenever we’d like. Unfortunately, we forget to schedule the next class until the end of the current class. We could do better. That still leaves a full month’s notice, but some people have to request time off from work far in advance, or do things like going on vacation.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. We found an accessible niche that serves a need in the community. We’ve turned a passion into a healthy side income, without having to devout full-time labor to it. The buy-in cost was low. It only cost about $1000 and a few weekends to get the equipment and make our training presentation.

It has been an excellent learning experience. I’ve learned a lot about running a business, and I’ve become something of an expert on the related laws. It’s led to my involvement with a non-profit, which has put me in contact with a number of lobbyists and politicians. I’m learning more about how our legal system works than you’ll ever learn watching C-Span and sending letters. Even if the business failed, I’d still be ahead of the game when you count the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that, when you are looking for a side-hustle, you should find something you care about and chase that until it turns into money. Not every hobby or interest can turn into a paycheck, but many can. Ultimately, you have to do something you care about and care about what you do.

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Jason is the proprietor of Live Real, Now. Take a moment to go over there and check him out!  And if you have a side hustle you’d like to share with us, give us a shout here.

(Photo by paljoakim)


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com February 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

I would never want to do this side hustle, but as far as I can tell this is perfect for you. I wish I had found a niche that fit me as perfectly as this does for you.

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2 Jason@LiveRealNow February 17, 2011 at 9:43 am

It’s worked out well for me, so far. Spending the occasional weekend doing something you love isn’t a bad way to make some cash.

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3 Jenna February 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm

What an interesting side hustle. Reminds me of the guys who teach motorcycle safety courses on the weekends. Seems like a perfect fit. Love what you do and it doesn’t matter if you are doing it on the weekends.

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4 Maggie February 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm

That sounds awesome to me, though I don’t have my permit yet and have no earthly idea how I would carry once I do. (I won’t get anything less than a 9mm, but I’m only 5’4 and 105 lbs, where do I put it?! Ha.)

Perhaps once I get into trap shooting it could blossom for me like it has for you guys in this case. I’d be lucky if it does. :) (I prefer shotguns and rifles anyhow!)

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5 Jon the Saver February 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

What an insane side hustle! This is giving me inspiration for my own side hustle. The problem I’m finding is that I like enjoying my free time on weekends! Anyone else find it hard to work on the weekends?

I’ve been brainstorming ideas and a driver’s ed instructor is sounding good to be. Decent pay and a relatively stressful job haha.

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6 TX CHL Instructor February 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I like the way you present your story. I think I will revise my site a bit to emulate some of the ways you use to tell about your passion, to better express my own passion for this business. I also do classes monthly, but I am experimenting with an expanded schedule that includes weekdays. I see from your website that you promise to teach proficiency regardless of the current level of the student. I tried for a while to do that, but I have found that many of the people who take my CHL class really need a lot more training than provided by the state-mandated syllabus. To overcome that deficit, I have added the NRA Basic Pistol class, to give the student a lot more time on safe handling and shooting. The combination of the NRA and the TX CHL class has been very well-received.

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7 MoneyCone February 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm

You capitalized on your strength and worked on overcoming your weakness by partnering with someone who had what you lacked. You were bound to win!

Great lesson here that can be applied to any vocation, not just guns!

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8 Jason@LiveRealNow February 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm

@Maggie, how you carry depends on what you wear and what you are willing to wear. A SmartCarry holster will work with almost any outfit. A belly band works under a less-than-skingtight blouse. Even an inside-the-waistband belt holster can get the job done if you wear jeans and a t-shirt.

@Jon, I’ve got a wife, three kids, and a full-time job. My weekends are precious, but sometimes the extra money is worth it.

@TX CHL, With new shooters, I aim to get them up to safe handling and reasonable(defensive) accuracy. I always recommend more training if they’ve never shot before.

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9 Crystal February 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I learn something new everyday. Wish you lived near Houston, TX, lol, I’ve been thinking about getting a license…I think I’m the only person left in Texas without a gun…

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10 Suba February 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Very interesting side hustle. It seems like a perfect for you. We have not found something we enjoy that we could convert to making some cash. We do have to sit down and see if we can convert any of our activities.

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11 Jason@LiveRealNow February 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm

@Crystal, You could always move to the frozen north. :)

@Suba, Most people–at least most people who do more than watch TV in their spare time–have a hobby that can turn into money.

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12 Tx CHL Instructor February 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

@Jon the Saver, if I ever get out of bed on a class day and discover that there is something else I’d rather do that day, that will be the day I start shutting my handgun training business down.

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13 Elise Adams February 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm

GREAT inspiring story…love your determination and small business common-sense you share! My husband and I are right in the middle of trying to turn our passions into our careers–and hobbies into businesses (see my website ;-) I really appreciate that you shared what you didn’t do well in addition to where you hit the ball out of the park…so important to learn from our weaknesses.

I find it frustrating to be in business for myself where feedback seems slow–how do I know what will work if I just keep keeping at it and what I need to adjust because it’s NOT working? Any thoughts?

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14 HedgeHoncho February 18, 2011 at 12:00 am

J$

Are we ever going to get a full side hustle report for Budgets Are Sexy man? I honestly think it would be a hit!

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15 Amanda L Grossman February 18, 2011 at 10:10 am

Neat niche you found!

Crystal–I live in Houston and do not have a gun….d’oh, my husband does:). Actually, I was quite freaked out when I learned that he owned one (while we were dating), so he took me shooting and such.

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16 Barb Friedberg February 18, 2011 at 11:17 am

Fascinating. What a niche. Very smart and opportunistic to take action. I liked the story.

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17 LaTisha @FSYAonline February 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Nice job on finding a need and filling it! I most liked the fact that it will get you out of debt 2 years faster. Good read.

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18 Jason@LiveRealNow February 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

@Elise, do you ask for feedback? We have a survey sheet we give out at the end of our class, but I’m changing to to just the important parts.

1. Where did you hear about us?
2. Would you recommend us to a friend? Why or Why not?

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19 J. Money February 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Thanks again for doing this Jason — Although all those haters are hiding on us! haha…. appreciate you responding back to comment and keeping the discussion going, you rock dude.

@HedgeHoncho – A side hustle report from me? You get to see it every day on this blog ;) haha… or my net worth updates! What else would you like to see?

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20 Evan February 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

That is an awesome story! There are so many people who just talk about how they can build the better mouse trap but to actually do it…great stuff.

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21 Jason@LiveRealNow February 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

J$, Thanks. And thanks for running this post. YOU rock.

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22 Catherine February 23, 2011 at 3:32 am

Great side hustle! (even if it is to do with guns :S)

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