If you're a reality TV buff, you're likely a fan of at least one show that chronicles the daily life of a business owner. "Pawn Stars" and its spin off "Cajun Pawn Stars" are consistently the highest rated programs on cable TV. Other shows like "Gold Rush Alaska," and "Deadliest Catch" rank high as well. Great ratings is just one of the reaons for why networks love reality TV.
These shows may paint a rosy picture of the careers they depict, but does that mean that the average viewer should quit his or her day job and become an owner of a top reality TV show business? Let's take a look.
According to the Discovery Channel, there are more than 12,000 pawnshops operating in the United States. Opening a pawnshop often requires state licensing, a criminal background check and, of course, enough capital to lease retail space, purchase the proper insurances and make loans against items customers wish to pawn.
You'll also need a keen eye and knowledge in a variety of areas in order to determine value. Although owners purchase price guides and other resources to help them appraise items, every purchase is a risk. As with any small business, it will likely take a few years to build a profitable business. Although you may not have the success of Rick Harrison from "Pawn Stars," pawning still remains a lucrative business.
SEE: Should You Pawn Your Valuables?
"Deadliest Catch" chronicles the life of Bering Sea crab fisherman. These fishermen bring in million-dollar hauls, and even the lowest ranked deck hands get paid tens-of-thousands of dollars. Will that be your fate? If you want your own boat, you'll have to plan to invest several million dollars to for the purchase plus tens-of-thousands to operate it annually. Also, plan for some competition. The few boats you see on "Deadliest Catch" are a fraction of the approximately 200 boats that fish the grounds during crab season.
A job as a deckhand is hard to get without experience. Before showing up for work, you'll have to buy all of your gear and get your commercial fishing license. Once on the boat, you might be charged a percentage of the boat's operating expenses. You might make tens-of-thousands of dollars or next to nothing. There's no guarantee of a paycheck.
It seems like every cable network has a show that follows house flippers, but is it as profitable as they would have viewers believe? Popular real estate website Zillow warns that house flipping isn't what it seems. Many try, but very few succeed, largely because of inexperience. There are many mistakes that house flippers need to avoid. Zillow reports that in order to make a profit, a home has to be purchased far below market price or sold far above. That's getting increasingly harder to accomplish.
New flippers tend to underestimate their budgets, lack the experience to get the renovations done at a bargain price and mistakenly believe that the money put in for renovations will come back as profit. Finally, flippers have to sell the home quickly to avoid finance costs.
SEE: Top 5 Must-Haves For Flipping Houses
Even the reality series "Gold Rush" doesn't make gold mining look easy. Just as so many miners found out during the 19th century gold rush, mining for gold is probably not worth considering. Brad Jones of the Gold Prospectors Association of America said, "Yes, serious prospectors do make a living, but they are few and far between, and they know what they are doing." Most of the large deposits of gold have been found, forcing even the commercial miners to dig increasingly deeper to find deposits that are out of reach for individuals. Reuters advises those interested in prospecting for gold to make an entertaining vacation out of it, but don't quit your day job.
The Bottom Line
These reality shows may be entertaining to watch, but in most cases, trying to follow in the stars' footsteps is likely an ill-advised idea. Producing a show for entertainment purposes often results in creating an alternate universe that is anything but the "reality" alias that's used to describe this TV genre.