Take your general handyman business to the next level with these revenue-boosting ideas.
If you’re a handyman, handywoman or handyperson, your business should be booming. Here are a few reasons why:
- About 80% of America’s 137 million homes are said to be at least 20 years old. And 40% are at least 50 years old. Repairs and improvements are part of owning an aging home.
- Uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic means more people are working from home and channeling their travel budget into improving their homes.
- More and more millennials are buying homes, and want them fixed up to their standards.
It’s no wonder that by 2022, home improvement sales are expected to skyrocket to $465 billion. That’s a lot of assembling, installing, painting, flooring, plumbing, and replacing.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for a while, it’s helpful to think about how to keep your business competitive and earning as much as possible. That’s why we’ve brainstormed 17 ways handyman business owners can set up their business for success. Bonus: Most won’t cost you a dime!
Table of Contents
1. Put Together a Business Plan
Starting a business without a business plan is a little like setting out on a trip with no destination. It can be fun to be adventurous and spontaneous on vacation, but not when you’re running a new business.
Start by thinking about what you want to achieve with your handyman business. Then set a few goals and create milestones that will help you know you’re achieving them. Ask yourself things like:
- How much money do I want to make?
- How many clients do I want to have?
- What kind of clients do I want to have?
- What kind of work do I want to be doing?
- How many hours do I want to be working each week?
- Will I have employees?
Write down the answers for three upcoming time periods: in six months, in three years, and in five years. Then set a calendar notification to review your business plan at these intervals to find out if you’re on track. Don’t worry—you can adjust as needed. Think of your business plan as a living document that changes with the experience and wisdom you amass daily as you run your business.
2. Learn About Your Area’s Legislation
The last thing you need is to get hit with a fine or have your business’ reputation damaged because you operate outside the letter of the law. It’s important to be aware of which services require you to have certification or a license. For example, many U.S. states require a license for electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work.
Another thing to consider is that there are limits on the amount you can charge as a handyman. In some areas, any job that costs more than $500 will require a contractor’s license. In other regions, that number might be $3,000.
It’s important to learn the laws in your city or state. You can do some online research by searching for “contracting laws.” Another resource that’s helpful in sorting out business licensing requirements is LegalZoom.
3. Consider Small Business Insurance
Here’s another unexciting, but essential, part of running a successful handyman business. No matter where you operate or what kind of work you do as a handyman, you should consider getting business insurance. Some states require handyman insurance, so it’s important to look into the requirements.
There are many types of business insurance to choose from, but the main ones to consider are:
- Liability insurance: Basic protection that covers your business against accidents, injuries, and negligence claims
- Professional liability insurance: Protects businesses against negligence claims if they’ve made an error on the job
You may also explore coverage for injury, illness or long-term disability insurance in the event you’re unable to do the physical work your job demands.
4. Scope Out the Competition
Before you start a handyman business, it’s helpful to do a competitive analysis. Google “handyman” and the name of your city or town to find out who else is offering similar services in your area. Look for things like:
- Their services
- Their prices
- Their geographic location
- Their customers
- Their marketing plan (how/where they advertise or attract new business)
Armed with this information, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what handymen in your area with a similar skill level charge. You’ll also know what kind of clients they serve, so you can decide whether to find customers like them or look for a different kind of customer.
5. Choose Your Services Wisely
When starting a business, it may feel natural to take on any and all jobs you’re qualified for. After all, it would feel counterintuitive to only offer a handful of services, right? Not necessarily. Sometimes it makes sense to specialize in only the projects that are in high demand, are reasonably high in value—and that you can do well, and fast.
For example, hanging pictures is a common ask for many handyman business owners. But there’s a ceiling on the price you can command for that simple task. It may make more business sense to turn down the smallest jobs and focus instead on doing bigger jobs like replacing toilets, installing kitchen cabinets, or doing small repairs.
Similarly, you may have a lot of skills (that’s what makes you handy!), but you’re exceptionally good at installing drywall or building decks. You may choose to focus mainly on a handful of tasks that you do very well and enjoy most. With your expertise, you can command top dollar for those jobs and do only the work that you like.
6. Price Your Services Appropriately
Arguably the most important decision you’ll ever make about your handyman business is how much you charge (i.e., by the hour or by the project). While you can always adjust these numbers from time to time, prices are usually fixed for a period of at least six months.
Most handyman businesses have an hourly or a flat rate for particular jobs. When determining how much you’ll charge per hour or per project, consider the following factors to be sure each job is profitable:
- Time (be fair to yourself about how long a job is going to take, including travel)
- Skills (you can charge more for jobs with specialized skills, e.g., building a staircase versus painting a fence)
- Preparation (will you have to move furniture, buy supplies or prepare the work area? These are all considered billable time)
- Expenses (if you’re using pricey pieces of equipment, factor in the cost of wear and tear)
- Taxes (consider what government taxes you’ll have to pay as a business owner and factor them into your price)
- Licenses (do you have a particular license to do certain jobs? They probably have an annual fee; be sure to consider the cost of maintaining credentials)
While it’s helpful to assess the market rate for the kind of work you do, don’t be afraid to charge more than that if you’re highly skilled or there’s high demand. Good clients recognize that you get what you pay for and are willing to shell out a little more for a job well done.
7. Don’t Work for Just Anyone
While we’re on the subject of clients, let’s define what that means. A “good” client:
- Doesn’t waste your time with long phone calls or in-person meetings to discuss each project
- Isn’t motivated only by the cost of your work, i.e., quality is more important to them than the price
- Agrees to your payment terms and makes payments on time
- Trusts your expertise
- Hires you again and again
- Refers you to others
When you get the sense that a homeowner is interviewing multiple handymen to find the lowest price, badmouthing a former contractor, or is vague about what they want to be done, do yourself a favor and move on. Find a more straightforward customer who doesn’t raise red flags.
Remember: Not everybody is your customer. Start a handyman business that is discerning. Pick the “good” kind of client and cater exclusively to them.
8. Put Together a Marketing Strategy
Now that you know who you want to work with, create a marketing strategy that helps you reach them.
Look at the world from their perspective and understand their “pain points” (marketing-speak for a specific problem that your prospective customer is experiencing). Then, get your business name out there in the places where these customers hang out, both virtually and in real life. This is one of the most important steps in learning how to start a successful handyman business.
For example, you might put up or drop off flyers in a specific geographical region that has the kind of houses that typically need the repairs you specialize in. Online, you could invest in Facebook or Instagram ads that target the kind of customers you want to serve.
9. Network With Complementary Businesses
The holy grail for most entrepreneurs is a referral. A customer who’s been pre-qualified by someone you trust and has been given a heads up that you’re good at what you do is worth their weight in gold. How do you get them? You work for them!
One way is to network with people who are in handyman-adjacent sectors. Real estate agents are often tapped to give referrals when a homeowner who’s selling a house needs to fix up a few things before listing their home. Rental property companies can also be a great place to mine for clients since they always need small repairs done.
You might also build relationships with other busy contractors who would be willing to refer you for smaller jobs they don’t have time to do. Again, think about who else your ideal customers interact with and strike up a partnership with them.
10. Do the Chores People Hate
Busy people are often thrilled to outsource not just the chores they can’t do, but also the ones they hate to do. One way to make yourself indispensable is to take on those dreaded jobs in your handyman business.
Think cleaning out ovens, defrosting freezers, moving furniture around, organizing garages, and doing paint touch-ups. Be sure to add these odd jobs to your website or other marketing materials so clients start thinking about all the household problems you can solve.
11. Widen Your Skills and Service Inventory
If you’re generally handy and have some training in skilled trades or other specialties, you’re in a great position to accommodate the typical jobs where a handyman is needed. But if you want to grow, consider broadening your skill set.
If there’s a type of job that particularly interests you, consider additional training so you can offer even more specialized services in your handyman business. Think about upgrading a skill that complements one you’ve already mastered. For example, use your carpentry skills to build an entertainment unit and your technical skills to hook up all its devices.
12. Go the Extra Mile for Clients
Want to start a handyman business that grows exponentially? Don’t forget to pay attention to the small things you can do to exceed client expectations right from the start.
That might mean presenting your own solutions when preparing a quote, being willing to work late nights or early mornings to accommodate a client with a crazy schedule, or doing a bit more work than you quoted in order to go the extra mile. The small things really do mean the most when it comes to building a trusting relationship between you and your customers.
13. Hire an Apprentice/Employee
Do you wish you had more hands to help you complete all of the jobs available? Consider hiring an employee or training an apprentice as a long-term solution to business growth.
Often, the more people you have working for you, the more income you’re able to make. You might start out with a student or apprentice to shadow you before giving them their own clients. In time, you may have enough capital to hire staff with different skill sets to broaden your offerings.
14. Join a Third-party Service Provider
One of the hardest parts of having your own handyman business is pounding the pavement to find jobs. If you find this aspect challenging, think about aligning yourself with a third-party service provider that allows you to list your services or brokers jobs:
It’s important to take the time to properly fill out a profile when aligning with one of these services. Include high-quality photos of your work, up-to-date contact information, your logo, a link to your website, and add any testimonials you already have. Prospective customers will judge your services by your profile, so do it right!
15. Promote Your Specialty
If you have a special interest or skill in one to three areas of your business, like carpentry, technology, and gardening/lawn services, simplifying your business to specialize in those areas alone can be a smart (and profitable) move.
You’ll be considered an expert service provider in that field and homeowners are often willing to pay a premium for a specialist. Once you have a trusting relationship with a homeowner, you have a better opportunity to sell some of your other services that fall outside your specialty—at your specialist rate.
16. Ask for Reviews
There’s nothing like a peer review to get people motivated to hire you. It can feel like a pain at first, but it’s critical to ask every one of your customers to review your services. Ask them to:
- Email a testimonial that you can put on your website
- Write a review on sites like Google Business or Yelp (you’ll need to set up a profile first)
- Write a review on any of the third-party associations where you have a profile (e.g., Angie’s List, Houzz, HomeAdvisor)
- Post a review on Facebook or Instagram
Businesses that are well-reviewed typically have more consistent work from customers who are willing to pay for high-quality work. Your customers’ words go a long way.
17. Build a Great Business Website
We get it, you didn’t get into the handyman business to spend time hunched over a computer. But a simple, clear website is often your best salesperson, so it pays to invest a little time in one. A free WordPress or Wix site is easy to build, maintain and update. All you need is:
- A listing of your services
- At least one compelling reason a homeowner would hire you (i.e., list your training, credentials, skills, professionalism, etc.)
- Your contact information
Use These Handy Tips to Grow a Successful Business
Starting a handyman business is only the beginning. It’s not easy to grow a small business—especially if your strengths are more hands-on—but strategic decisions taken in baby steps often lead to long-term, sustainable growth.
This post was updated in September 2020.