How to go full-time as a farrier...
Since I became an officer in the Guild of Professional Farriers, I have been getting a lot of heated messages about the Guild's full-time requirement for RJF examination and membership. How DARE we suggest that part-timers are not as professional as full-time farriers?
The most peculiar "argument" I've heard from part-timers against the Guild's full-time requirement is that full-timers are a sorry lot that show up late, drunk, and don't know what they are doing. Makes me wonder how they get horseowners to pay them enough to live on. Also makes me wonder why the part-timers would want to join an association of such people, especially when the ones who've done most of the complaining haven't even bothered to join the AFA, which welcomes part-timers.
Another interesting argument is the "I could make a living shoeing horses full-time, but prefer to do something else" explanation... As though the Guild should condone and encourage people who CHOOSE to treat our profession as a hobby.
Most common is the "I'd like to make a living as a farrier, and I'm as good as anybody, but I just can't afford to go full-time" argument. Often this argument comes in the "violins in the background" form with the part-timer talking about his mortgage that needs paying, children that need feeding, and family that cannot risk being without the health benefits of his salary job. Of course, people usually enter other professions BEFORE taking on such responsibilities, but for some reason we're supposed to think that farriery should accommodate such late-starters.
Ignoring for the moment that other professions (legal, medical, veterinary...) also fail to provide beginning practitioners enough income to support mortgages, kids, etc., I'm going to suggest a way for part-timers who really want to become full-time professionals to accomplish their goal.
I'm going to start out by taking the complaining part-timers at their word...
They say they have the knowledge and skills to be recognized as qualified farriers, so I'm going to assume that they put as much skill into hoof preparation as they do into fitting each pair of shoes.
They say that they are family-oriented, so I'm going to calculate based on a reasonable work-week so that they can have time and energy to spend with their loved-ones.
They say they are responsible professionals, so I'm going to assume that, like most good businessmen, they will be putting as much back into their business as they take out. I'm also assuming that they'll pay their taxes.
Okay, with all that figured-in, here's what the part-timer should do:
Figure out what you really make per week now... Before taxes, not take-home. Include the cost of maintaining your current level health & dental coverage, and whatever other benefits you cannot bear to part with.
Double this amount.
Divide the result by 60.
We'll call this result "u", because it represents what you should charge for a unit of work.
Charge (u) for a basic trim, (2u) for a basic front shoe, and (3u) for a basic all-'round. Charge an additional (u) for each 20-30 extra minutes specialty work requires.
If you currently make a total of $1000 per week, you need to charge $34 for a trim, $67 for front shoes, and $100 for all 'round shoeing.
If you are a part-time shoer, and the formula above suggests prices above what you charge, you are making less per hour as a shoer than you are at your primary job, whether it seems that way or not.
If you charge at least what the formula suggests, your time shoeing is more profitable than time spent at your salary job, and you will not be able to afford to keep the salary job as your better paying shoeing business grows.
If you cannot build a clientele at the prices suggested by the formula, you need to either improve your service and promotion level (people DO pay these kinds of prices when they recognize the quality), move to an area where farriers are paid more (real professionals often relocate to find better business opportunities), or accept the fact that shoeing is an unprofitable avocation for you (your shoeing time would be more profitably spent doing overtime for your salary job).