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Fear of getting started

Are These Fears Holding You Back From Starting Your Business?

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” – Unknown

I had a lot of fears before starting my handyman business that nearly held me back from getting started.

And some of my biggest fears had to do with my level of confidence when fixing somebody else’s property.

I had the confidence to fix just about anything on my own home, yet the idea of actually fixing another person’s home (and charging them money to do it) was a completely different animal. It was a scary thought.

What if I made a mistake or broke something I couldn’t fix?

What if they asked me to do something and I didn’t know how? What would I say?

What if I wasn’t fast enough or the level of quality wasn’t high enough?

What if I got over my head on a project?

If you have these same questions, you aren’t alone. I’ve received dozens of e-mails from other aspiring handymen who are concerned with the same scenarios.

I hope this isn’t something that’s holding you back from getting started, but if it is, here’s why you can stop worrying and take the leap into business ownership today.

You don’t need to know everything.

I know I didn’t when I first started and I still don’t 4 + years later. In fact, most of my home repair experience I gained while growing my handyman business.

I can still remember my first quote. The customer’s six foot wood fence had blown over in the wind and broken a fence post.

I had never fixed a fence before. I had never built a fence before. And to be honest, I didn’t know much about fences. I didn’t even know fence posts were set in concrete. You can say I was NOT a fence repair expert.

So here’s what I did. First, I told her I’d be happy to come out and look at the job and give here a quote.

When I got there, I looked over the situation thoroughly, took some pictures and measurements, let her know that I’d get back to her with a quote, got back in my truck, and went home.

Then, I spent the next few hours researching how to fix a fence. I watched YouTube videos, found the materials to repair the fence, and learned what tools I’d need to get the job done.

Pretty soon, I realized that I’ve done harder projects on my own home and it wasn’t rocket science. I’d have to buy a few tools and work with materials I’d never worked with before, but I thought I could figure it out.

So, I estimated how long it would take me, how much materials would cost, and called the customer back with a quote.

She said yes and I landed my first real job!

Of course, the job ended up taking about twice as long as I expected and I ran into a few unexpected challenges, but I learned a skill that would make me a lot of money in the following years. I also gained more confidence.

And this wasn’t the only time I learned on the job. I did this same process dozens of times with other customers.

I’d get called for a quote, go out and inspect the job thoroughly, and head back to my home office to research the process – teaching myself home repair through YouTube videos.

But, here’s how I reduced my fear of taking on these jobs. I never committed to the job or gave a price until I completely understood what it entailed and felt confident I could execute the repair with a high level of quality.

You always have final say over which jobs you take on. That simple fact should eliminate some fear for you.

Even though I might be doing a job for the first time, after taking a look at the job in person and watching enough videos, I could gauge whether or not I could handle it.

If I didn’t feel confident in my ability to complete the project, I would tell the customer and recommend somebody else.

By doing this, I slowly gained more and more confidence, learned more skills, and did it in a way where I felt comfortable and in control.

Now, you might be thinking: “Ok, that’s great, but what happens when you make a mistake on the job?”


…There’s a solution to every problem.

First, I would say that as long as you aren’t taking on jobs that are over your head or outside of your legal abilities, these situations will be few and far between.

But, let’s say you do make a mistake on the job (like when I dropped a customers brand new 60″ TV on the ground and broke it).

It’s not the end of the world. The police don’t show up and make you shut down your business and throw you in jail. In fact, there’s only two people who will even notice: you and the customer.

Everybody makes mistakes.

Plus, most mistakes are minor – and will just take more of your time to make them right. And as long as you are willing to fix your mistakes and take responsibility for them, you’ll find customers can be quite forgiving.

If you make a big mistake. Well, that’s what insurance is for.

Worst case scenario? – You make less money than you hoped on that job and that one customer never hires you again. Sure, that’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of your business either.

And if you want to further reduce your fear, simply…

Embrace the phrase “I don’t know.”

I don’t about you, but the last thing I would want is for somebody working on my house to pretend like they know what they’re doing when they don’t.

So don’t do that.

Instead, just say you don’t know if you don’t know. Complete honesty can be extremely freeing.

In fact, saying “I don’t know” will actually gain a lot of trust with customers. Think about the psychology of this for a second.

By saying “I don’t know,” you are acting in the customers best interests even though it could mean less money for you.

So the customer is thinking, “Wow, he is going to turn down this job because he’s not confident in how to do it? He must really care about me and my home.” Or they’ll see that you are able to get past your own ego to admit that you don’t know.

Customers don’t expect an all knowing all skilled handyman. They just want to deal with somebody they can trust.

That leads me to the next key concept…

The Competition Isn’t As Good As You Might Think

Realizing this was a huge breakthrough for me. When I first got started, I always thought that the competition was so much better than me – like they knew everything, were more efficient, never made a mistake, had super-sophisticated tools, and gave better service.

After working for a few people I quickly realized this wasn’t the case.

Customers were constantly telling me how nice it was that I simply showed up on time, explaining that other handymen they tried to hire didn’t even show up!

I wasn’t the fastest, most skilled, or most knowledgable handyman, yet I was able to charge a premium and have my customers hire me again and again.

If I can do that, so can you.

If you’re still unsure, find out for yourself. Hire a couple of handyman in your area and see what the experience is like. It might be the single best thing you can do to boost your confidence.

Bottom line: you can do this. Don’t let that nagging fear hold you back. 99% of those feared situations will never happen and the 1% that does? Well, there’s always a solution right?

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  • Ahmed July 26, 2016

    Thank you man !

  • Elliott July 26, 2016

    Fantastic article. I have a fairly technical background but even still when it comes to receiving hard earned money from a customer there are always these types of concerns in my head. Take it one step at a time, be honest and do some research if need be. Everything will be ok.

  • Chris July 26, 2016

    Good article, and very true. I agree with it- Just do jobs that are within your comfort zone, while not being afraid to try out new tasks, as long as you research what you will be doing and are completely comfortable with it. Obviously a generalist won’t want to be doing major plumbing or electrical work which is beyond their legal and insurance limits. And if you do screw it up. be prepared to fix it on your dime.

    I have been doing this as a business for several years now, and have been in the trades as a carpenter previously for years. I continue to learn and improve (this website is a great resource btw). My experience has been that in the first year or so there were some hiccups- either me getting in over my head with a failure to estimate the scope of the work and how much was involved, or with my failure to identify people that I would have been better off not working for. As I gained experience with the work and with people, the easier the business became- To estimate the work, do the work in an efficient manner with a quality result, and deal with the customer from beginning to end. I can’t remember the last time I had an issue with a customer, and at this point am busy just from referrals and repeat customers. At the end of the day when a mistake happens or an issue, none of it is that big a deal months or years later. Just take it as a learning experience.

    I will add that a little bit of fear can be a good thing- It will make you double check your work, and become more detail oriented as you don’t want a customer nit-picking your work. It will drive you to perform better customer service such as showing up on time and doing a thorough cleanup with finished. I see some other contractors at work and am surprised at how they don’t clean up after themselves very well, or do their work as quick as possible to get paid and move on, doing a good enough but not great job, and customers notice that kind of thing.

    • Dan Perry July 26, 2016

      Thanks for sharing Chris. I especially like how you mentioned that a bit of fear is a good thing. You are right with that. It keeps you from taking things for granted like most experienced handyman. I think I’m guilty of that a bit these days as I get more comfortable.

      • Tait Leaney July 27, 2016

        One thing I always ask myself when I think I’m becoming complacent (and it happens, you begin to learn that not everything can be perfect) is whether or not I would pay for the job I did. I find it keeps me honest.

  • Eduard July 26, 2016

    This is a very true and heplful article. Thank you!

  • Kyle July 27, 2016

    Always love reading what you have to write. Nice knowing there is other folks in the same shoes taking their own lives into their own hands! Thanks for all your hard work!

  • David July 27, 2016

    Great article, I have been a “do it your selfer” my entire life. I started a handyman business about a month ago. The timing of this article couldn’t have been better as I was/am experiencing these emotions and trying to get past these hurdles.

  • John S July 27, 2016

    Thank you Dan,

    I always feel those fears until the job actually starts but every time that I work through a project that I am unfamiliar with my level of experience and confidence grows tremendously.

  • Ben August 12, 2016

    I’ve been contemplating this for YEARS! I think the scariest thing is leaving the benefits!

  • Adam Sharpley July 24, 2017

    This is one of the most inspiring articles I have read in the recent times! So many times I just let go of so many wonderful opportunities, just because of this fear and did not research hard enough to find out, if I could actually do it, If I tried to apply my mind. It is a fact that a skill is acquired the best by actually working on a real project. Now I will definitely think twice before I said no to a project.

  • Steven School February 10, 2018

    Dan you are awesome

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