Quoted from Mistermoberg:
What I'm taking from this thread; learn how to fix games on my own to the point where it is second nature. That seems essential.
If you want to route games, this is the training you will need. The same goes for restoring pins. You won't be hiring anyone to help you.
Learn - Give yourself some time to do this. Fortunately, at your age you have plenty of this! Read, read, read. Start with pinrepair.com and add some of vid1900 guides here on Pinside. Lots of help here - just ask!
Buy a couple of Pins - The best way to learn is to buy a Project Pin EM (Electro-mechanical) and a Project Pin SS (Solid State). You can still find these cheap. Learn by fixing them. I have been restoring pins for almost three years now and I am still tweaking my methods to end up with a better product so be patient and don't try to learn it all, all at once. Keep an eye on Craigslist and Facebook in your area. Ask here on Pinside. You should be able to buy an electro-mechanical needing work for $200 - $300. Solid States cost more but you should be able to find one in need of a lot of work for under $500. I recommend starting with a Bally or Williams single player EM from the 70s. These are the easiest to fix and lower the frustration level. A late 70s Bally or Williams pin is a good place to start with solid state pins. There is a lot of good information on the Internet about how to fix these pinballs.
Do it all - You will need to learn how to glue broken cabinets together, diagnose problems, read schematics, touch-up artwork, haul pins, buy the right parts and it goes on and on and on. If you want to start your own business then you will have to learn how to become a business person - the licenses you will need, how to track costs and income, taxes and what paperwork you need to keep. If you like specializing, you are not a good candidate for starting your own business.
Project Person - Do you enjoy working weeks or even months on a project? If not, restoring is not for you.
Test the Waters - There is no reason that you can't route a few games and/or restore some pinball machines. Most pinball operators need many games on route before they can actually make money. So if you only route a couple of games, you may actually be losing money.
Create a 'Learning Account' - You will need to invest in both time and money. These costs go into the 'Learning Account' column.
Keep your costs low - Do your own work. For example, I made my own coin box lids to save some money.
Follow Your Passion - If you love pinball, then you are on the right track. You will need another job to keep you afloat until you have the knowledge you need to make some money. And even then, you should consider that pinball will most likely be your second job.
Make your decision AFTER you gain some experience - After you have put some learning under your belt you will be much better able to determine where, if anywhere, you want to go in the pinball world.
I can tell you that as a 'restorer' I could only get less than $5.00 per hour for all of my hard work - and usually a LOT less than $5.00 per hour. Restoring pinball machines for sale to others is usually a 'Labor of Love.' I have decided to route the games that I have restored. That way I get to benefit from my hard work. I have started my own business routing pins. Will I make big bucks? I don't expect to make much money at all now. You can read about what it takes to become an operator here:
Some towns are more business friendly than others. Tucson is not one of them so the information you find there is more work and possibly more costs than other cities.
So do I, but I have learned just enough to do some decent playfield restorations. It may take me two weeks to do a playfield restore and I don't consider it 'fun' but I am getting by.
Pinball is making a comeback. If I'm right, and it continues, you might be able to own your own arcade one day and actually make some money doing it. If I'm right, now is a good time to start learning. If I'm right, then this is a good time to get into the Pin Biz. If you REALLY love pinball, then FIND a way to scratch that itch and earn a few bucks on the side.
Those are just a few thoughts I have right now. I might have more later.