Author Topic: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?  (Read 16476 times)

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6axlepwr

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N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« on: June 11, 2013, 12:15:49 PM »
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This is NOT a complaint thread, so NO complaining allowed!

I have been away from N-Scale for a long time. I am asking a question and maybe this forum is not the right place. I ask about the average mind set meaning what do the average n-scale modeler want out of their motive power and rolling stock.

This is what I think and naturally is MY opinion of what I see on average.

N-scale is more about operation and the train running through the scene. It is not about fine scale detail. Of course there are those that want to push the level of detail on their models, but I feel that these n-scale modelers are VERY few and barely make squeak in a shouting crowd. I figure if you had 1 square mile that represents the n-scale community, one square inch to one square foot of that one square mile would represent the fine scale n-scale modeler. Let me define fine scale detail and what that means to me.

Fine scale detail to me means you are not happy with the details that the manufacturer adds to the model and you add or replace them with finer details. You are not happy with the paint job so you strip and repaint making the model look more prototypical with appropriate end rails painted and such. Using finer track work such as code 55 rail rather than the high rail stuff. User finer switches. Cutting grab irons off freight cars and using wire. I think you get idea of what I am referring to as fine scale modeling

For the most part I think n-scale modelers put more effort into the scene than the actual model which in turn and overall compliments both the scene and the model. I find that when operating even in HO scale, all that fine detail becomes nothing compared to the whole scene. What I think makes it in n-scale is the whole scene and not the individual model. For instance. Take a really well done layout. Just drop dead gorgeous scenery work. Beautiful trees, nicely build structures and blended scenery. Add all the supporting scenery pieces like people, garbage cans and all the fine stuff that brings the scene to life. Now add your train. Right out of the box ready to run. You have your beautiful layout and then you add in bright colors and shiny plastic. To me, that kills the scene. Now, take that same layout and add the same models, except this time they are painted and weathered. Not one lick of detail added to them. Just weathered nicely. Now that scene is completely transformed. Everything looks in place. To me, I would not care what phase the locomotive was or whether it had the right horn, correct size fuel tank or what not on it. If it had the CORRECT paint and a killer weathering job, it would look right in place.

I think that is where most of the n-scale community is at. I ask this question or bring up this discussion for one main reason. I want to custom paint models for people. But how far do I take it. detailing takes a while to do and it adds greatly to the cost. But I also feel that those that care about the detail are those that will already do it themselves anyway. I am thinking on a different approach. If I give the model a good crisp paint job and a correct paint job and then detail the model with weathering, I may have a better market than building custom detailed models and raising the price due to the cost of detailing.

Brian
Brian

DMU-Fan

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2013, 01:52:25 PM »
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I'd have to say I agree...mostly. I think one more thing is needed. The killer paint scheme AND weathering both make a model pop and complete the scene, but I think better lighting is needed too. In other words, head lights, ditch lights, and marker lights that all work in a prototypical fashion. Take a P42 for example, it's nice to have those red lights on the front illuminate when the loco is running in reverse.

And if you are offering custom painting and weathering... A good website with lots of CLEAR photos of your past work is a must!


6axlepwr

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2013, 01:55:18 PM »
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And if you are offering custom painting and weathering... A good website with lots of CLEAR photos of your past work is a must!

I have that already. www.6axlepwr.com after clicking on models, at the top is a heading for n-scale models.

Brian
Brian

Loren Perry

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2013, 02:10:45 PM »
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In my opinion, people who just run their trains for their own pleasure are likely be satisfied with standard levels of details.

But people who like to photograph their layouts and trains are far more likely to be the ones who go the extra mile in terms of detailing.

When preparing an article for publication, either on the web or in print, close-up photography is a given for N-scale and models with standard levels of detail do not stand out in most cases.

Because the camera can see far more than the human eye, superdetailing will be the order of the day if one wants their models and layout to look satisfactory.

6axlepwr

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2013, 02:33:30 PM »
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I still believe that is the exception or rather a VERY small part of the community. Of all the modelers that actually contribute to the magazines, the number that do not far outweighs the ones that do. And those who are contributing already do their own detail and paint work. My point is to target the non-modeler n-scaler. The one who wants to run trains, but cannot get his favorite road name or who wants models that depict their favorite road better than what the manufacturer puts out. Or wants to spend more time building their layout.

Case in point. Someone who models C&EI. Atlas produced a GP35 for C&EI. It is not a popular road, but there are folks that like it. Problem with the Atlas model is the entire deck is C&EI orange and a shiny orange at that. Only the handrails and stanchions should be orange. What I would do is grit blast the walkway/handrail set. Paint the orange on, mask it and then paint the deck black. Now the modeler has a correct C&EI GP35. That was just one example. Paint is a major eye sore when it is not correct. More so than missing fine details or incorrect horn placements.

I remember an article or was it a layout article in one of those layout books. Maybe called Great Layouts or something like that. Anyway, it was N-Scale. Rather large and depicted the Chessie System. Beautiful scenery. Everything I saw in the photos were great. Not one locomotive or freight car was detailed. All out of the box and weathered a bit. It was very inspiring.

Again, these are my personal perceptions on this subject.

Brian
Brian

Nato

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2013, 03:04:35 PM »
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 :|                     I like to think of my self as a "Semi-Rivet Counter",that is if a locomotive or car mostly resembles the road I may be modeling it is ok, ,but if the prototype has distinctive features,  IE. horns in a weird location, an all weather cab on a steamer,then I will add these details. I'am really not concerned if the tender on my Nanoloa RR. 6-2-10 loco has 101 rivets ,but my model should atleast have a riveted tender even if it has only 99. Yes it is clearly the overall scene the ability to run proto or almost proto leingth trains through a close to exact size recreation of a real location. The scenery to track ratio in N is part of what attracted me in 1964 when it was mostly a novelty toy. Now of course we have Zed (Z) scale which is at the point the N was awhile back,and thet novel newcomer T Guage(not Trak) is very interesting to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Lastly a layout designed either all or in part for realistic operation is a must and lots of fun. Nate Goodman (Nato). Salt Lake,Utah.

Hyperion

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2013, 03:15:04 PM »
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Quote
I still believe that is the exception or rather a VERY small part of the community. Of all the modelers that actually contribute to the magazines, the number that do not far outweighs the ones that do. And those who are contributing already do their own detail and paint work.

Even of those who do submit the magazines or just take photos for posting or whatever, super-detailing is not the norm.  Not at all.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of a single N-scale magazine spread where the modeler had made a point to replace the grossly-oversized handrails with brass wire.  The ironic thing was that his railroad overall wasn't as detailed and a little spaghetti-ish, (it was a freelance, I can't think of it off the top of my head), but obviously loco detail was a peeve of his.

However, weathering (when appropriate, as it almost always is to varying extents) most certainly is required to make a decent photo.  Even if it's as simply as knocking off the 'sheen' of brand new out-of-the-box car/loco.  You can get by without detailing a unit in a photo.  You can't get away with everything being in out-of-the-box paint, regardless of how great your layout looks.  The recent MRH had the beautifull Tennessee Pass layout featured -- but a couple photos were marred by unpained, un-dullcoted plastic sheen on some parts of some cars, and it was painfully obvious amongst the otherwise beautlfully executed layout.

So -- in terms of a business proposition -- clearly painting/weathering makes the most sense.  It can be done much faster and has many more people willing/wanting to pay for it than the super-detailed units which has a very small market, and those that care for it aren't terribly likely to value your time enough to warrant your efforts when they could just as soon do it themselves.

But, The real question is whether there's sufficient market in N scale period for such a service; regardless of whether that service is paint/weather or detailing.  And whether said market is willing to pay sufficient amount for your services.

Rarely do I see a well-painted/weathered unit on eBay go for terribly much over retail.  And super-detailed ain't doing much better.  I'll see the occassional really nice fully-loaded diesel go for $125-150, but rarely much over that.  So you may make $50 for a ton of work; not counting parts expenses.  Cut it down to just painting and you make make $25-40.  Hardly going to break the bank at that rate.  I've even picked up a number of fairly nice cars for less than not only retail, but even less than their going market rate -- so someone lost money to weather the car; even when done fairly well.  Compare this to the HO market where I fairly regularly see even freight cars go for many times retail price if they're done well.

To make a a purely anecdotal claim -- I would estimate that the N-scale market is considerably younger, and often by virtue of that, considerably less wealthy than that of the HO-scale crowd and considerably more likely, if they care to, to detail their own units (both due to age and money constraints).  Particularly those basement empire builders.  Even throwing the money thing aside, your average N scale modeler has to buy considerably more locos and cars than the HO guys do, and therefore aren't likely to be willing to pay exhorbitant sums of money for them, and are willing to accept that not everyone of their 500 freight cars be exquisite models, compared to the 50 freight cars that the HO guy has.  It's a lot easier (and cheaper) to be picky when you've got 50 cars, 10 locos, and 10 buildings on your layout; than it is when you have 500 cars, 50 locos, and 50 buildings.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2013, 03:20:06 PM by Hyperion »
-Mark

sirenwerks

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2013, 03:29:15 PM »
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Brian,

It may be that the average N scale modeler's less concerned with detail but I think that's the same for HO too.  It's probably the same ratio in each scale.  I would base this statement on the magazine articles that feature actual modeling I see, which tend to be written, no matter what scale, by a small cadre of dedicated modelers in both scales.  That being said, I think there's a higher level of dedication to N in the same manner there was for HO when it was the less popular scale. 

N scale was starting to push limits when Sunrise was still in existence, and I think new technologies are going to rebound that push as dedicated modelers make the jump from modeler to manufacturer.  Granted, Shapeways has got kinks to the process and product, as do all technologies in an adaptive stage, but it's ease of market entry for modelers that are computer savvy and willing to put in a modicum of research exhibits great promise to bring N scale back to a dedication level that will catch on with more modelers, especially as the mags focus on N as a viable scale, as products come into being and are used. 

Services like Shapeways offer a degree of marketing (for the curious), production, and distribution overheads.  The problem with getting the mags interested is that modelers making/selling products through Shapeways don't offer one important thing to publishers, advertising dollars.  This is a difficult point to bridge.  Most weekend manufacturers don't understand marketing.  Look at the number of early N scale start-ups that died on the vine because they refused to advertise and thought the no-cost option of word of mouth would work.  Hell, some manufacturers didn't even attempt to announce their products, they just thought they'd catch on like wildfire.

Point in case... I'm on a vehicle kick these days.  There's a small HO manufacturer who markets via eBay whose models I would love to see in N.  I emailed him to inquire of the possibility and find out he's already tried N, it didn't work, and he's bitter about trying it again.  I consider myself pretty up on new products but I'd never even heard of this guy trying N.  Look at Sylvan Scale Models.  It has some nice N scale products but barely advertises, and so sales are slow and there's no development of new product.  What a waste.  It really frustrates me that small business owners generally don't think marketing's important, and when I say marketing, I don't mean just paid advertising; I also mean product placements (in mag articles), publicity (announcements of new products in places that matter), and developing product customers want (can anyone say CMW).

Atlas and Kato I think are the ones new manufacturers should be looking to.  Yes, maybe no one wants to be that big, but look at the level of commitment they've shown to the market.  They've been in it for the long haul, and newcomers need to see that. 

I don't think N scale's prone to be a less detailed scale.  I think it needs support from manufacturers just as much as it needs to take itself more seriously.
Now seeking Pacific NW N scalers to create a Modutrak-style modular club featuring NP's shared mainline between Seattle and Portland. PM me if interested.

Kisatchie

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2013, 03:37:17 PM »
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Count me as one of those modelers who is happy just to repaint locos/cars and then weather them. I have no need for super detailing. I did super detail engines when I was in HO, but N scale is just too small to notice much of the added detail. At least, I think so.


Hmm... did Kiz just say
something. I was busy
super detailing a Z scale
locomotive...






Two scientists create a teleportation ray, and they try it out on a cricket. They put the cricket on one of the two teleportation pads in the room, and they turn the ray on.
The cricket jumps across the room onto the other pad.
"It works! It works!"

mmagliaro

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2013, 03:58:29 PM »
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I think your suppositions about superdetailing and paint/weathering are correct.  But I still don't see the economics.
A good freight car these days costs, say, $15 to $30 depending on a lot of factors.   What can you charge to repaint and
weather a car, another $20?  I can't imagine many people spending more than that as a general rule.  After all,
a total cost of $35 to $50 is really getting up there, per car.

Even if you can actually repaint, letter and weather a car in one hour, you are making $20/hr, and then you have
costs for paint, tools, "things that go wrong", etc.    That's not "terrible" money, but I doubt that on average, you
can really do a car per hour, so you will make considerably less than that... MAYBE $15/hr.  (maybe more like 10)

The way to possibly make it pay off would be to buy up fleets of cars you think would be in demand, redo them, and just
sell them (rather than just doing custom work as requested by individual customers).  Stripping and repainting
50 cars all the same is a lot faster than doing one, and then another one, and then another one.   
The danger here, of course, is that you are betting that you choose a car that you can sell 50 of when you are done (or 20,
or whatever).  If you guess wrong, and sometimes you certainly will, you will "eat" them.

Anyway, good luck in your venture.  I think the interest would be there, but I don't think the economics would allow you to
make much money at it.  If you are doing it because you like doing it, and you will be happy if you make
just a little money at it, then I say go for it.  I doubt you will actually lose any money, so why not?




Dave Schneider

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2013, 04:02:45 PM »
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On average, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and I are three of the richest men in the world...

I don't know if it is possible to define the average mind set of N scale modelers. There are people in all camps. If you consider this more along the lines of "what can I sell" (no offense intended, by the way), that is a different question. It may be that the average modeler doesn't have the disposable income to pay for a custom job. Do you try to reach the small number of wealthy modelers who will pay for all the extras, or would you rather work in volume? I don't have any particular words of wisdom, just pointing out that there are different ways to answer this question.

Your work looks great by the way! You have shown that you have the skills required to produce high end models in my opinion.

Best wishes, Dave
If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

Denver Road Doug

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2013, 04:43:16 PM »
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I would say that you're probably not too far off on your assessment of n-scalers.

I think the issue has less to do with the amount of detail than it does about the quality and consistency of your work.   I firmly believe that someone that can consistently deliver a quality weathering product (that in reality needs to be "consistently inconsistent") can do well.    Micro-trains has pretty good consistency with their weathered cars, but I can't say they're always the most believable weathering jobs.  Not a knock a them but it's just hard to do....some of theirs look pretty dang good, while others are a bit garish, and still others are just off the mark for my particular tastes.   

I'm only paying about a $5-10 premium per car, but I've been pretty selective about which ones I buy.   I'd say that's a pretty hard statement to build a business off of, but as has already been mentioned...$10-15/hr for a side gig probably isn't too bad.   If you get a "system" down, you can probably bump that up to $20/hr including culls and flops.  Maybe even $25/hr.  Not bad scratch for something you enjoy.   But again, you have to be good, and you have to be efficient and consistent.

I'd say a full on "superdetail, decorate, and weather" is a tough prospect.  Unless you have a pad-printer, decaling is a time-eating profit-killer.
NOTE: I'm no longer active on this forum.   If you need to contact me, use the e-mail address (or visit the website link) attached to this username.  Thanks.

6axlepwr

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2013, 04:53:15 PM »
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The responses are great. A lot of good honest thought. I really appreciate the input.

I have to agree about the advertising. It would help a lot. I have a whole line of detail parts that I would like to produce, but I can barely just get that done let alone pay for advertising so I just keep it all to myself and my needs.

For the most part, I would not be doing freight cars. My specialty is locomotives. The two ICG SD40's I have on Ebay right now took me a week to finish. I'll see how they do and if they do not sell. Well then it sort of gives me an idea. It is really not worth it to me to put the time in and then make a couple bucks off them. So maybe this is not a good idea  :).

I like the conversation about it though. It is very enlightening to hear what others have to say and what your experiences are.

Brian
Brian

randgust

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2013, 04:59:31 PM »
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I really don't know what the 'average mindset' is.  I've been out in the bush so long I've turned feral.   

I will admit that only a couple things drove me to superdetailing; NMRA contests (gave that up), seeing what other guys could do and finding out it wasn't that impossible (the 'Tom Hoover' factor), and a decent digital camera that can enlarge an N scale rivet up to the size of an orange on a computer monitor.    Mostly the last.   The deciding factor to me was digital photography.   That means a lot more than details, it's paint, lighting, the whole works.   The fact that you can see it in pictures better than you can firsthand still amazes me.   My little Climax kits are so absurdly small, and yet given the right light and right angles, can look like an LGB model.   I REALLY enjoy the photography part, so that leads me more toward painting and detailing over time.   A decent digital camera is an awesome modeling tool.

Given the fact that even phone cameras can dig down to N-scale person viewpoint (if you haven't tried this yet you will!) your attitude toward what you can do with finished N work will change.   

More people see my work in photos than will ever see it firsthand, so honing the overall appearance is important, and that doesn't make me either a rivet counter or a scale fanatic; I tend to focus more on color and weathering more than the right number of panels on boxcar door.  But I also have what's considered to be a 'finished' layout, so I can go back and spend a ridiculous amount of time on a project to take it up a notch; one major project this year has been replacing EVERY old Trix and Atlas ATSF caboose with Intermountains, complete with Richmond Controls lighting.   The old ones don't look bad at all, if anything its been hard to get the IM's to look as good in overall color and texture, but holy smokes, when you get it right, it really is amazing to see the red marker rolling down the rails.

I do built-up models of my Climax and other kits as well as sell the kits, and I also do weathering.  A minority, but a well-paying minority, want the full treatment - 'beat like a rented mule'.  So I've had success in selling weathering as a service on the kits I build.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2013, 05:08:04 PM by randgust »

robert3985

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Re: N-Scale - What is the average mind set?
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2013, 05:41:13 PM »
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I don't agree with your opinion whatsoever.  You've been out of N-scale for a while, right?  The manufacturing trend is obviously for more prototypically detailed and accurate models, both of motive power and rolling stock.

Although there may be more modelers who won't do the superdetailing themselves, they are definitely willing to pay for it in RTR models.

Several manufacturers are offering rolling stock that is road-specific, with individual details depicting variations on the same basic body style, such as different roofs, different doors, different ends and different trucks...as well as paint schemes.

Some manufacturers are offering new cars with stand-off details such as separate grabs, stand-off ladders, etched running boards and end platforms, more scale appearing metal wheelsets and correct ride height.

Some are also offering RTR weathering and graffiti.

Although I consider myself to be a rivet counter with my own work, some of these offerings are done so well, I have no need to add any details except Z-scale couplers and train brake hoses.

Some smaller shops are offering limited runs of cars with paint jobs that are not generally available...which appeal to those who care about era and location on their layouts.

Motive power is still lagging behind somewhat, but N-scale steam power is particularly notable in its recent improvement in both running qualities and prototype-specific details...such as the beautifully done Athearn Big Boys and Challengers, Intermountain's SP Cab-forwards, Fox Valley's Hiawatha and Kato's GS-4.  I'm happy to see the manufacturers have resisted the urge to paint these models up for roads that never ran them, as used to be common practice.

Diesel motive power is also coming around with the introduction of several road-specific engines, such as the Bachmann U.P. Centennial and the re-release of U.P. Veranda Turbines.  Diesel motive power that was only used on a few roads is also prevalent, such as the Intermountain FP-7's and Tunnel Motors or several manufacturer's release of FT's.  I'm sure there are more examples of modern motive power too...but it's out of my era.

To reiterate...the trend is for more accuracy overall...which includes stand-off details, road-specific details, correct ride height, knuckle couplers, finer etched details, and more accurate factory paint, which includes weathering and graffiti.

Because the trend is for these things, manufacturer's must know something you don't, which is that the "average" N-scaler is definitely interested in accuracy in the model he lays down his money for...and the trend is pointing to even more specifically detailed models.

Which is good for you and your proposed custom painting business.  The more N-scale modelers who want more specific details, the more custom paint jobs you'll get...if you do a good job in a timely manner for a decent price.

I've been a professional model builder for decades, not only model trains, but many other genres and the reason I am not in that business today, is that there is only so much time in a day/week/month/year and so I can only work so many hours a day building custom models...my work is non-reproducible, so my income was limited.

Custom painting is also limited by time, especially if you do it on a one-to-one basis.  If you want to use your time more efficiently, you should consider offering limited runs of custom painted models...even adding certain custom details where appropriate.

This problem is commonly called "The Dentist's Syndrome"...which means, you can only fix a certain amount of teeth on any day.  If your dentist could line up all of his wisdom tooth patients in a circle around him, head to head...and on that day pull only wisdom teeth, he could work much more efficiently, but he's still stuck with time/labor limitations, just as you are.

Painting is where you'll make the most profits (less labor intensive), and adding details quickly becomes not very profitable...to the point of losing money.

Painting models your customer has already added details to can be problematic also, because you don't know how good the work is that's coming from your customer, or how good his attachment protocols were...which could lead to parts coming off during your painting process.

If I were to paint models that were going to be custom detailed with separate details your customer would apply, I'd specify that he'd trim the cast-on details off, drill the mounting holes, sand parting lines and glue joints...and you'd just paint...then either send him a bottle of matching paint or tell him what color you used so he could brush paint the separate parts.  I wouldn't get into actually doing the detailing unless your customer is ready to pay you a decent hourly wage for doing that (some customers are).

For instance, I superdetailed an old Golden West Models Union Pacific CA-3/4 injection molded kit several years ago, including a cupola interior, separate grabs, and custom cast trucks and underbody details.  I ran it at the NMRA show in SLC for about two hours and I had one attendee exhibit obvious signs of being interested in it.  After following it around for about 15 minutes, he asked me if I would sell it to him.  I told him I had too much work into it and he wouldn't want to pay me what my time was worth...to which he said I might be surprised.  I jokingly said to him "So, if I said I'd take $450 for it, you'd pay me that, eh?"...big smile...He took his wallet out and counted out $450, placing the bills on my unfinished Echo Yard.  I told him I'd think about it...(I'd spent a lot of time on that model!)...and finally, he and I reached an agreement that he'd pay for it, I'd run it during the show and then it'd be his.

That story is the exception to the rule, except maybe you'll find that certain modelers/collectors will become repeat customers.  I have a customer/friend who lives in St. Petersburg Russia who has purchased several of my super-detailed brass models for what they and my labor were worth.

I think that George Hollwedel's got it right with his Proto N Scale business.  George looks for a correct car, buys up a certain amount of them for a limited run, and has Micro Trains paint them for him...then offers them for sale.  He doesn't use just MTL cars, but also Intermountain and Atlas...and perhaps, other brands as well.  He does the research, spec's the paint and lettering out, has someone else do the grunt work for him, then offers a superior product to those who are willing to pay him for it.

The main point about Proto N Scale is that the models aren't decaled, but are pad printed...a much better process, with much higher definition and opacity than decals...and George is not limited by his available time since while his offerings are being painted and printed, he's doing the research for his next project.  His profit per car may be less, but his volume is way up, so I'm certain he makes more money than if he personally painted and decaled each of his models.

So, good luck with your business!  I hope it doesn't destroy your interest in the hobby, which is another reason I don't do custom N-scale models any more...I want to enjoy my hobby, not "work" for someone else.