Reading my article about how much money handymen make, you might have noticed that those that are successfully self-employed make the most. With that in mind, you might have started asking yourself “should I start my own handyman business?”
If you arrived at “yes” as the answer, then you’re at the right place. In this article, I’ll tell you more about the steps you need to take to start your handyman business as well as about what are some of the main things you need to be aware of.
Step 1: Choosing an initial niche
“Handyman” is a very general word. It can mean anything from tightening a loose screw through hanging frames on the wall all the way to repainting a whole building. As such, when starting your own business, start by listing out the skills that you have.
Maybe you are good at building cabinets. Maybe you are good at painting rooms. Maybe you are good at doing minor fixes around the house.
Whatever it is that you are really good at, I recommend focusing on that first. That will help you deliver the best possible service to your clients and it will help you gain confidence in the beginning. Plus, it will open the door for further – more diverse work.
It’s not uncommon for a handyman to visit a house to fix the sink and then – after doing a great job – to be asked to do a dozen other things.
Whatever you do, though, the key is to know the boundaries of your skills and of the local law… To know when to recommend someone else.
Step 2: Sorting out the paperwork if necessary
Once you know what you want to do, you will need to do a bit of research about your local laws. That’s because depending on the state as well as the city, there are different licensing requirements. Those generally depend on two things:
- The type of work offered – electrical work, plumbing, HVAC, and similar types of specialized services oftentimes require a contractor license
- The size of the job – projects above a certain dollar amount oftentimes require a contractor license regardless of the type of services offered
To research the above, you will want to check the website of your state’s contractors board – and give them a call if you find anything that is not clear enough from the wording of the regulation.
Separately from the above, you will also want to decide whether you will simply work as a sole proprietor or whether you will be starting an actual company.
At this point, you might want to have a quick consultation with an attorney and an accountant to figure out the various legal and tax implications of the choices you make.
Step 3: Researching the competition
Once you are set on what you want to do, another important step will be to research your competition. You will want to know who the other handymen – and contractor services – in your area of service are, how they find their clients, and how much they charge for their services.
To do so, you can simply spend a couple of hours “Googling around” and noting down your findings. Or – if sitting behind a computer is not your idea of fun – you can invest a couple of hundred dollars and hire someone on a platform like Upwork to do the job for you.
The research you do here will be important as it will guide your decisions in the next three steps.
Step 4: Try to land your first client
At this point, many people would tell you to set your prices or to figure out your marketing plan. Instead, I suggest doing a small experiment with the goal of landing your first client. At this point, you might also want to make sure that you have the very essential tools.
The experiment is simple. Reach out to the network of people you know – as well as any Facebook groups or similar congregations of people – and tell them about your new handyman business. See if any of them need any work done.
If you find a lead or two, great. Work with them to figure out what the problem they have is, whether you can solve it – and if so, for how much.
Landing this first client will help – once again – to boost your confidence. It will also potentially be the start of a long-term relationship with the client who might also introduce you to people in his network that might need similar services.
Step 5: Set your prices
If you succeeded with the experiment in step 4, you might already have a rough idea of how much money to charge – at least for the service you performed for your first client. Now, however, it’s time to get a bit more serious and figure out how much you would like to charge in general.
There are two models you can use to determine how much to charge your clients:
- Time + materials: simply decide the rate you will charge an hour and charge the costs required to acquire materials with a small margin on top of them
- Productized service: have a “menu” of services you do with (somewhat) fixed prices
Personally, I recommend the latter – which is in part based on the former – for some common services like hanging a frame or fixing a doorknob. For larger, more complex projects, you will have to prepare custom estimates essentially using the time + materials method.
Whichever method you choose, make sure (minding the research from step 3) to be competitive with other handymen businesses in your area. Unless you have a good reason to do so, do not set your prices considerably lower or considerably higher.
Also, do not forget that the “materials” part of “time + materials” should also account for things like the tools you will need to own to run your business, any insurance you might need to be paying for, gas, etc.
Step 6: Market your services
Now that you know what services your handyman business will offer and what prices you will charge – and that you hopefully served your first client – it’s time to find more clients. Actually, before doing that, you might want to come up with a catchy name for your business…
Once your business grows, it will get easier and a lot of your clients will be referred to you – i.e. they will come as a result of “word of mouth.” Before that, however, you will need to actively seek the clients through advertising and other efforts.
Before continuing, a quick tip – unless you have a license, DO NOT use the word “contractor.” Even if technically doing the job does not require a contractor license. Also, depending on where you are, you might want to make sure you use the word “handyman” to indicate that you are not an officially licensed contractor.
In either case, you will want to discuss the above with your attorney in step 2.
As for the marketing efforts themselves, nowadays, there are dozens of ways to find clients. You can:
- Post an ad in your local newspaper or on your local grocery store’s message board
- Do a direct mail campaign in your neighborhood
- Use Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, or other digital ad platforms
Separately, you can also try blogging or other “slower” methods.
I recommend starting with a direct mail campaign or an ad on a local message board.
Step 7: Organize and grow your business
The first six steps should get you started. However, once your handyman business is up and running, the key is to not get 100% caught up in delivering client work.
Instead, I recommend leaving some time for growing the business. Things you will want to spend some time on:
- Setting up systems to help you run more efficiently whether that means introducing accounting or project management software into your workflow or simply organizing your tool in a better way
- Learning new skills to expand your service portfolio through working on personal projects, watching YouTube videos, taking courses, and so on
- Getting licenses so that you can bid for larger projects and thus spend more time delivering client work and less time selling
- Hiring people to help you run the admin side of your business, to help you find more clients, or even to help you with the work itself
Doing so will help you grow your business from a small one-handyman show to – perhaps one day – a large construction or repair company. If that’s your goal, of course.
Actually, the goal is something you will need to think about from the very beginning.
Why is it that you are going independent? Are you looking for more money or time freedom? Do you want to simply replace your existing income or take it to the next level? Are you sure you aren’t better off working as a hired handyman?
Those are just some of the questions you will want to think about.
Starting any business is pretty exciting. However, starting a handyman business where you get to “get your hands dirty” and then see tangible results of your work is even more exciting. While you will need some luck along the way if you want to grow your business large, with some hard and consistent work, you can make a living for yourself.
To recap, you will need to go through seven steps in your new handyman business journey:
- You will need to find what specific thing it is that you will want to focus on. “Handyman” is too vague. Will you be fixing cabinets or building custom handrails?
- You will need to make sure you follow the regulations and have all the necessary paperwork. Especially if you want to work on projects requiring a license – i.e. highly specialized projects or projects above a certain value.
- You will need to research and know your competition. Who are they? What services do they offer? How do they market? How much do they charge?
- You will need to land your first client. That will ideally be someone from the group of people that you already know.
- You will need to set your prices. You have some fixed prices for solving simpler, common problems. You will need to make custom estimates for more complex, larger projects.
- You will need to consistently find more clients through advertising or other marketing efforts. I recommend starting with local message boards and direct mail campaigns among other things.
- You will need to organize and grow your business to ensure that it lasts.
If you have any other tips or questions, let me know in the comments section down below.