If all you are finding are places that cost $200,000 per year, you are looking at too big or in the wrong side of town or the wrong town all together. Plus having it in your mind you need to rent, it costs money is just a mental limitation society has put on you. You need to find the situation that you don't have to pay any rent or fork out money at all from the proceeds to begin with.
Before I even knew there were haunted houses that were actually pro, I was helping a motorcycle shop with the occasional custom paint job as an airbrush artist. I got into doing pin striping and and gold leafing and from all accounts there seemed to be lots of people across the country making money doing this. For me it was a side job. Still no matter what the motorcycle shop needed in the way of designs I did for free. I would go to all the bike gatherings just to hang out and out of 3,000 people there might have only been one conversation about what to airbrush or how much it would cost.
SO as a promotion they decided to have a halloween party. We spent 6 weeks making silly crap and decorating a 2400 SF shop and a yard that was about 3/4 of an acre. With motor cycles you don't have the parking space needed but we were still using another 3 acre field up a side road to park cars after a few year. My shop became like a miniature year round haunted house. Just to get to my office to lool at drawings or talk about what was possible, you had to go through a garage into a creepy door that had a suspended bridge that looped through a dirt floor section of the building to a submarine door you had to open. The into another room that you had to go past a coffin and all kinds of props hanging or on tables. The only lights I had on were the cheap purple home decor light strings and to get across the bridge was only a strobe light. The office was just un painted drywall and I would air brush anything I felt like on the walls. I was teaching myself 3D and so it looked pretty cool, graffiti that you had to put on glasses. The whole weirdness sold lots of $175 to $400 paint jobs.
After a few of these parties I knew I could make anything I wanted to. It was fun and there were all kinds of ways to make things out of junk or materials available anywhere. Then I got crazy and started buying used wall panels and tearing them apart and painting them again. My first haunt was a fire hall I had passed many times before and discovered they just had black plastic. I had this thing and all these skills in storage and it came together the following year. I set it up that I kept the haunt and they could store all my masks and props for a percentage of the ticket sales.
What it came down to it I went about 8 years haunting and never paid rent at all. Never was the one that had to insure the event, but because I owned and stored everything I was the man. I even figured out how to set up a triangular grid back before anyone knew the proper floor measurements by helping to set on up for free that knew how. Instead of spending $2500 for some magic drawing. It wasn't in any books or web sites.
So I began making money, not spending money. I did a cave with cement materials I use in another business for a haunted trail outdoors, got paid for my crews work and the tip of where other haunted houses were. SO I spent a few years going to every one I could find and hit the Transworld thing once. I was more intrested in how they did the scultping and the previous people sent me to Lance Pope to talk about that.
At some point it was no mystery. I saw a big haunt and knew I could do this because it has all the skills I have and actually would love to get paid for doing. I didn't see yet that there were lines of people with money in their hands, I saw the craftmanship and making things and being creative, and appreciated as something that could actually happen.
Back in the airbrush days, I quit the last job I would ever have where someone told me when I had to be somewhere and how much my pay would be. I only had that job because I was kind of burnt out on trying to run businesses that were going to fail anyhow because their founders all seemed to buy houses and cars and not pay bills and taxes or put everything they could back into their businesses. This putting all you can back into what you do for a living is actually the big thing. This is how you totally get around all the advice all the catchy news articles tell you to do. You don't actually save money, you spend any extra money and time on what it takes to have your business. The tools, the materials and even then you try to do it cheaply like how a backward country might do it to save money.
I could have spent $2,000 to have all the things a wood shop has but I built a really nice wood coffin with all the trim and hardware with a cheap skill saw and finished all the strange angles with a grinder. Like how a chainsaw artist would do it. I still ave that coffin in my living room. It has had thousands of people in it, the door has opened and closed that many more thousands, it had floated in a flood, been dropped and rolled and it still fine. No wood shop, no just call up a contractor to see how much this is going to cost. Just make it. Everyone doing anything haunted or halloween wants such a thing. They call you.
No signing leases, no becoming a corporation or becoming a republican, no anything. You have made a bunch of unique things that are the elements to have an event. You are at this point for real. I bought a nice hearse, the crap I accumulated and modified, things I made started to become a storage expense I had to over come every year. I did what ever with just enjoying it and the deals were to pay the storage for the year and what ever labor my helpers put into moving things around.
It is a lot tougher when you do have an income, maybe no expendable income and how does everyone get all this stuff? Well the moment you stop working for some low paying company, you all of a sudden just saved $5,000 to $10,000 in not driving to work everyday and putting parts on your vehicle to do this. You can have a much cheaper less reliable car. You can go years without a car and do a $100 bicycle for fun and profit. Everyone else is used to everything should pay you $30 an hour or $100 per little job and you take it. You don't have a car payment that is $600 per month needed anymore. I have mechanical skills and like what I'm driving right now I never would have had the taste to go buy but for $1200 I am going on the 4th year driving a 90 model dodge van complete with the rust it came with.
Do you want me to make something for you or am I trying to talk you into paying me just so I can make a car payment? I want to work and eat.
For two reasons you get rid of a lot of other things. Do you want your own business or do you want a TV watching addiction plus a $40 a month cable bill. DO you want an alcohol addiction and $40 to $75 per week gone or do you want your own business. Do you want to eat 11,000 calories a day and spend hours at buffets critiquing the food expiration dates and spend $300 a week just eating and buying sodas or do you want your own business.
Do you really need an iphone that costs $100 a month or would $9 a month on a disposable cell phone do the same thing? Well everyone that has some professional job making $50,000 or more a year calculates that they are making or costing their employer $200 a day and up. You can live like a king on half of that. If you pay rent, it is on your work shop that also happens to be the kind of place you can live at. I watch even in the Halloween trades people decide they are going to start making masks and costumes and they rent a shop that costs $10,000 per year in addition to their living place and after just a few months they figure out quick they can only sell and make enough to pay just that rent. They get rid of the extra shop expense and work out of their back yard sheds and car ports. Some acclaimed prop buisnesses are in the out buildings on someone's property. You have to have low overhead and not live like a rock star in the real world. Other vendors after one season out are living with their parents because they flew everywhere and stayed in the nicest hotels and somehow spent all the money.
Similar spending things effect haunted houses. For many years you don't spend $200,000 per year. You set up in a month, be open for a month and tear down and take it away to a storage location in 2 weeks. No year long lease. If there is a landlord, you are maybe helping him making money in cash for just two months, not show boating like you are someone with a tremendous credit score and a trust fund. You need to make money and know how to do it. You aren't talking to him to ask for a cigarette or a job or anything weasely. Do you want to make some money starts a shit load more conversations. You have all the walls, the decor, the costumes the make up and masks, all the stuff, the props and the know how. All you need is someone that wants to make money.
I watched a lot of people's reaction and in their heads they could get out of their having to pay rent thing, or they could make some money just with their deciding to, they could actually buy one of these whole things and have me run it! How great would that be for them? It isn't happening, I did build it and the making money thing is a limited opportunity by who it is that is going to make money and by what percentage. Because I starved to death for years to build it.
If you don't need it, it isn't going to happen. And nothing lasts forever. The motorcycle shop went through a divorce and the guy retired, the charity haunt had two of their main guys die in a fire and then the board of directors took over the event and thought it was like running a 4 night community service instead of a fund raiser. Another trail after 13 years the people want to move to another city where their other businesses make so much more money dong so much less. Plus they are a trail in the woods and didn't open for risk of fire last year. Another haunt has blown through about $600,000 over the past maybe 4 years and they have no money right now. They still haven't even taken a personal salary but they have paid their rent on time.
As things deteriorated, including the haunts, I sold things over time, sold all the semi trailers and all. I had originally gotten into haunts and buying them to possibly buy and sell used haunts instead I got into 4 major events and being a consultant to another 3 haunts that actually paid more money from giving investors good advice than actually having a haunt. Now, I'm starting all over making things.
And making things isn't really happening because the other businesses I have are making me really work in 102 degree temperatures and they are paying the $30 to $100 per hour with no problem. It seems other markets saw me having these side deals and something in competion with making them money and made sure I have things to do. And this is in supposedly hard times. Because I can do things, am trusted to do things unsupervised and charge actually a little less than all the people that have fancy trucks. These companies will used talking to the customers rather than going to micro manage what I have done and pay me. This is all over 20 years but, it could have grown to be anything.
There are limitations on a certain area as far as how many customers there really are. There are points where spending more than you actually are going to get for customers is a waste of money. There is some kind of formula relative to your area about how much the real estate is worth and how much money you can make. Most buildings are within the $18,000 to $50,000 per year range and there aren't many people that can pay that. If there really is nothing less than $200,000 per year then you need your first year to be 4 times that, or make $800,000 per year, year one. You better have lots of stuff already to fill that space and make it happen. Paying rent AND making things isn't going to happen unless you are Bruce Wayne.
So you spend years and years making things, doing parties or small charity haunts, untill you have enough stuff and all the skills to fill that place that is going to see 40,000 people at $20 a pop right out of the box.
Another fabulous post from the U.S.Department of Wild Imaginings, now in spectaclar stereo, sponsored by the Adhesives and Sealants Council, suggesting ways to stick things together since the 1800s. Not fabulous in a gay way. Your results may vary. Illinois residents add 8% sales tax. These posts have been made by professional post makers, do not try this type of posting on your own without extensive training, lovely assistants and a trusty clown horn.