The way I see it, there are three types of handymen out there. The ones that make a great income doing something they enjoy, the ones that barely get by, and the ones scattered in the middle.
What is it that separates these really successful handymen from the ones that only bring in $20/hour? Is it their home repair knowledge? Is it how many years of experience they have? Is it their ability to build trust with customers?
The answer is….Yes.
However, even if you are knowledgeable, experienced, trustworthy, professional, and answer your phone on time, you may still find yourself eating Ramen noodles for dinner. Now I don’t know about you, but I prefer steak.
Do you like steak? If so, you’ll want to avoid these common handyman business pitfalls…
Pitfall #1 – The one size fits all approach
Many beginning handymen (my past self included) think that anybody in need of a home repair is their customer. This is a huge mistake that can lead to unhappiness in your business and much lower profits.
The reality is that MOST HOMEOWNERS ARE NOT YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMERS. Sure, all homeowners need repairs. But, there are some customers that can’t pay you, some that won’t pay your rates, and others that just won’t like you.
As handyman, you are essentially providing the same services as the next guy – repairing, maintaining, and improving homes. However, there are differences in how you approach each job, how you charge, quality of work, values, personality, and several others. These small details define your services and make a huge difference in who will hire you.
If you attempt to make your service fit every single customer’s needs and compromise your prices, quality of work, or values to do so, you are positioning your business for failure. You’ll likely end up working for people you don’t like, make less money than you should, and not be proud of your work. You’ll also train those customers to expect the same in the future and build a business based on referrals you didn’t even want.
This can be really hard to avoid because as a new handyman business owner you need all the business you can get.
After operating my business for over a year and a half and making this mistake countless times, I’ve developed a better understanding of how to avoid it.
I’ve found that the ability to avoid this pitfall is related to how well you know and understand both your business and your customers. First, you need to know which services you are best at and which services you enjoy doing (usually the same). Then, you need to understand who you work best with. This is usually a combination of who will benefit most from your services that you enjoy working for.
Defining your services and customers takes time, but it’s something you need to be considering on a daily basis. As you gain experience, you’ll slowly define your business and customers more clearly. As you do, you’ll find your income and happiness grow.
Even if you are just starting out and don’t have any experience, simply putting some thought behind what you are best at and who you’d like to work for will help you to avoid this pitfall.
Pitfall #2 – Charging too little
I still think that setting pricing is the most difficult task in this business, especially when first getting started. It’s tough because you have to find a balance between building up your customer base and positioning yourself for solid profits in the future.
The need for new business leads to most handyman trying to compete on price and dropping their pants in the process. What they don’t know is that they are training their customers to expect to pay this rate forever. As soon as they try to raise their prices, the customers resists, and the handyman is stuck believing that they’ve reached their limit.
The scary thing is that it may only take a couple of customers telling you that you’re prices are too high before you start believing it (especially if you are brand new). If you believe them, it will form limiting beliefs that hold you back from the profits you deserve in the future. I’ve had people tell me that $40/hour was expensive and others tell me that I was charging too little so don’t let one or two people define your business.
Another thing that can hold you back from charging what you’re worth is thinking about what a job would be worth to you and then letting that determine what you charge. I did this a lot when I first started out. But, I finally realized that I’m not a part of my target market and my decision model is very different from my customers’. My target market either makes more money than I do or has no clue how to take care of their home. I can fix most things myself, so what I’d be willing to pay is much lower than what my customers are willing to pay. This is a critical concept to understand.
Here are a few other things that help me keep my income at a solid level.
First, whenever I am pricing a service, I always make sure it is worth my time. Setting a goal each month to have a minimum hourly rate of $60/hour has helped with this immensely. Even if I think that my price is too high for a specific job, I submit the bid anyway and let the customer decide if it’s worth it to them. Sometimes, I really have to fight the urge to lower my price. I lose some business from this, but at least the work I do is worth my time.
Second, I avoid promoting my services to friends and family. I do this because I know that I don’t have the self discipline to charge them enough. I actually feel bad if I don’t hook them up with a good deal and end up working for less than it’s worth to me. So, I just avoid it.
Third, I make sure to communicate my prices with customers right away so I can avoid uncomfortable conversations later. If somebody calls and asks me to do something really small, I let them know immediately that my minimum service charge is $75.
Pitfall #3 – Aversion to Sales/Marketing
Many handymen out there have the idea that if they just do good work they don’t need sales or marketing. Or, they just hate the idea of sales and marketing and think it’s sleezy. Either way of thinking is going to limit your profits significantly.
If you area willing to do great work and be massively underpaid for it then marketing is not necessary for you. But remember, we want to eat steak, not Ramen noodles.
The reality is that sales and marketing are necessary for any business, even a one-man handyman business. Customers will come and go, and if you don’t have enough coming in, you’re business will die.
Sales and marketing is especially important if you want to charge more than your competition. This is true because the more you charge, the less people will be willing or able to pay you. Not only that, but it will take more convincing to close the sale. Naturally, this creates the requirement to reach more people and be able to sell to them once you have their attention.
Avoiding the pitfall of allowing lack of marketing effort negatively impact your business is simple – put consistent effort into sales and marketing. You may suck at first, but you’ll get better. The skills you learn in the process will empower you and give you a ton of confidence in the future.
Another way to avoid this mistake is to build a solid website and online presence that sells your services for you. This way, all of the selling happens on your website and all you have to do is get to work when they call you. Once built, a good website is like a full-time salesman that requires very little pay. It takes some effort to keep it up, but the benefits are more than worth the effort.
So, there you have it, 3 handyman business pitfalls. Hopefully this will help you avoid making some of the mistakes I made when I got started.
What do you think? Are these things that you currently struggle with or have struggled with in the past?