How to grow your handyman business?

One of the most popular and rewarding businesses that has not changed much over the past decades is working as a handyman, helping the general public, especially private homeowners, to keep their houses working smoothly.

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In this blog, we hope to outline some of the “must-dos” that an aspiring handyman should follow to establish a rich and rewarding business.

Important introductory note. All through this blog, we are using the term “handyman” without any indication of gender.

How to grow your handyman business?

In some other websites, there has been some attempt to substitute “handyperson”, or to double up by using “handyman/woman” but please take it that throughout the blog, when we are talking about a handyman, this has no implications at all of the sex of the person – it’s just a shortcut that clearly identifies our subject without unnecessary wordings.

As homes in the US have steadily become more elaborate, filled with appliances, features, fixtures and fittings that require specialist knowledge to install and maintain, so there has been a rise in the need for homeowners to call in the services of handymen to help with this endless list of things to fix, improve and fit together.

The average homeowner has neither the time, the tools, or the knowledge to get it all done.

This has created a great business opportunity for skilled and hard-working handymen that have the knowledge, tools and availability to help homeowners keep their homes in good order.

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Is home ownership on the increase?

Following the major economic contraction in 2003, at which point homeownership was at a historic peak of 69.2%, there was a steady fall over 13 years, until in 2016, it dipped down to 63.7%. Ever since, the climb back up has been fairly slow but steady, and in 2020, the most recent statistics show it’s almost half-way back up to the peak, at 65.8%.

There’s no reason to suppose that there will be an interruption in growth in the medium-term, so it’s clear to us that more people are going to be building homes, and filling them with fixtures and fittings, appliances, gadgets, contraptions, machines, and implements for which they are going to need expert help to install and maintain.

What are the pros and cons of working as a handyman?

If you already have the basic knowledge needed, perhaps that you’ve learned from doing all of this kind of work regularly in your own home, or as a consequence of your work in the same area, such as being a plumber, carpenter, general contractor, electrician, and other worker involved with your hands, then running a tradesman’s business should come easily to you. 

  • There are no formal qualifications required, and unless you are going to be working in major building projects, or on official sites like government offices, you almost surely don’t need any official certification
  • You can get started with the outlay of just a few hundred dollars – or maybe you already have all of the tools
  • You could start on a part-time basis and steadily build up into full-time as the demand grows
  • Generally, expenses and overheads are low, creating the opportunity for good profits right from the start
  • You have the chance to specialize in sectors where competition is lacking, and to work with other companies that can feed you with work, like real estate agents
  • As we said above, home ownership is on the rise, so demand is likely to keep growing
  • Unfortunately, global warming is bringing more frequent severe weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, flash flooding and fires. These can wreak havoc on existing homes, and in every case, there is a peak in demand for handyman’s services to repair and improve what nature has ruined.

A few of the cons are:

  • You need to be fit, in good physical condition, and at least in the beginning, to be ready to work outside of “normal” working hours
  • You need to start off with good experience  and knowledge of maintenance, repairs and remodeling
  • You may need at some point to upgrade your set of work tools to become more professional (and that’s expensive)
  • In some states you may need to take out a business license or a contractors’ license, or maybe both.
  • Like any businessman, you need to take out proper levels of insurance – especially liability insurance covering general liability from damages and injuries and Errors & Omissions insurance in case of mistakes.
  • In some states you need to be bonded.

What does being a “bonded and insured” handyman mean?

Developing a solid reputation as a handyman will bring you more work.

One of the things people look for is a history of past performance, and some sort of guarantee that they won’t suffer a loss in the event of an accident or improper performance on the job.

Although bonding and insurance is not mandatory in most states, it’s a great thing to be able to print on your advertising and to add to your social media postings in the websites that can glean your business, like Google My Business, Foursquare, Craigslist, and so many others.

Having the right insurance gives you double benefits.

It gives you personal protection with the knowledge that if some unexpected event happens, like a workplace accident, a theft or fire, you are covered from the loss.

E&O insurance protects you in case some aspect of your work has been rejected by a customer who sues you for recovery of costs or damages. 

Being able to advertise the fact that you carry handyman insurance both boosts your credentials with potential customers, who can see up-front that you are a serious professional, and also gives them a degree of assurance that they won’t be left holding the bill in the event of such an unforeseen event.

How do I start a small handyman business?

Not just for a handyman business, the best advice for starting any business is to not go in blind, or starry-eyed. 

  • Perform a fair amount of market research
  • Use internet search to locate the competition for handymen in your area
  • If your area already has an abundance of generalized handymen, rather focus your business on the aspects that you are highly skilled in, or that you can see are undersupplied
  • Set your prices competitively. At the beginning you may need to start at lower prices to draw in business
  • Consider locating the focus of your activity to geographic areas where you’d be one of the only handymen around. This gives you leeway to charge higher rates for your services
  • Keep simple but effective accounting policies. There are hundreds of software packages that can be installed on basic computers or even on a mobile device. This will let you issue quotes, invoices and receipts and to keep track of expenses.

Register your business, and make sure you comply with all the local ordinances.

This lets you apply for a business license.

The procedures vary in each state, but you should be able to get help in this from the Better Business Bureau in your area.

How profitable is a handyman business?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a handyman earns an average of around $40,000 per year.

Since you can only get paid for the work you do, the level of profit in the end depends almost entirely on how hard you work, and on how well you manage the business.

Streamlining your workflow, by eliminating pauses and breaks, making visits to customers’ homes in a logical fashion without jumping around between towns or suburbs, and keeping control on your expenses will all affect the bottom line.

But in the end, you can only make money if you are busy, so creating a good business marketing plan, and keeping your name up in front of the buying public, are the most important things you can do to boost earnings.

How do I promote my handyman business?

To promote your maintenance business, start off by getting your name up where potential buyers will see it.

Talk to real-estate brokers who are selling homes, because new home owners are a great pool of people who typically require your services.

Referrals by satisfied customers is one of the best sources of new business.

Each time you complete a job, ask the customer if he or she will take a few of your business flyers or magnetic stickers and hand them out to friends. Then next time they need some help, you will be first-in-line to get the call. 

Advertising in local media should come at a reasonable expense, and if your budget permits, getting a few brief snippets onto local TV and radio stations will certainly improve your exposure.

If you’re serious about the business, start to attend local meetings at town halls, where you can “meet and greet” more people who will know what’s happening in your area.

Social media marketing is a whole new field, and will definitely pay off in the longer term.

Try to join up with local groups on Facebook, Twitter and the others, and keep your own accounts active with frequent posts and responses to others.

In this time of internet marketing, you can create a stronger presence in the public by establishing a good website where people will be able to find out what you do, and how to contact you.

Many service companies will register a web presence for you, design a simple website and support it for just a few dollars per month.

With this in place, you can connect your business to Google MyBusiness and embed yourself into the local google map so people searching will see you up-front.

Final thoughts

Working as a handyman gives you the opportunity to turn things you already know into a money-making business without having to lay out large amounts of capital or undertake training, qualification and licensing.

We wish you all good luck and hope we’ve been able to help you along the way.
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