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3 myths of a handyman business

3 Handyman Business Myths Exposed

I get a lot of e-mails from readers who are interested in starting a handyman business, but have a few roadblocks holding them back.  The roadblock are usually unanswered questions or assumptions based on bad information.

There is a lot of bogus information out on the Internet today.  In this post, I’m going to address 3 Myths that I believe hold a lot of people back from the the freedom and fulfillment of owning  a handyman business.  I’ll show you why these myths just aren’t true and how I’ve proved it with my own business.

If you are thinking about starting a handyman business but still aren’t sure, read this.

Myth #1:  You need to know how to do everything.

Many people believe that in order to start a handyman service, they need to know how to do everything.   Plumbing, electrical, HVAC, door repairs, appliance repairs, you name it.

 The Truth

This is simply not true!  Nobody knows how to do everything.  Every handyman runs into issues that he can’t fix.  Every handyman has customers ask for work that he or she is uncomfortable doing.  It happens to me all the time.

The truth is that you can be very profitable by offering limited services.  Take a trash removal service for example.  All they do is drive to a home, fill up their truck with trash, and haul it to the dump.  Another example is a garage door repair specialist.  All they do is fix garage doors and make quite a bit of money doing it.  Some handyman businesses out there only do simple maintenance and take care of To-Do lists.  Stuff like changing out light bulbs, replacing faucets, patching up paint, and hanging pictures.

If this is something that is holding you back, I recommend going through the short exercise in this post to determine which service you can start offering right away.

I got started with very little experience and just learned as much as I could along the way.  Each time I was faced with a new type of job, I would get online and do a few minutes of research.  I’d check out 3 or 4 videos on YouTube, read some forums, and get an overall feel for how to approach a project.  I’d then apply my own common sense to the job.  Sure, there were challenging times, but that just made it that much more fulfilling when I finished the job.

Sometimes a customer would ask me to do work that I had no idea how to do.  In those cases, I would simply state that I don’t have a lot of expereience with that type of work and I’d recommend that they go with a specialist.  This actually gained a lot of trust with my customers.

Benefits of not knowing everything

Being faced with challenges everyday forces you to learn, which is good for your brain.  Your brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised.

Not only is it good for your brain, but solving problems is a huge confidence booster.  It feels great to solve a customers problem and then get paid for it.

Being faced with unique challenges also keeps the job interesting.  You’ll never be doing the same mundane task all day as with most desk jobs.

Myth #2:  Small jobs aren’t profitable

I’ve had several people come to me with concerns of job size and If I wish I could do larger jobs.  Here are my thoughts.  You can make more money on larger jobs simply because you are working for 8 hours at a time instead of 1-3.  However, larger jobs usually require more work and are more stressful than doing several small jobs each day.

If you believe small jobs aren’t profitable, then you either aren’t charging enough or your service area is too large.

My interview with Steve, a handyman that has been in the business for 20 years is a valid example.  In fact, he actually prefers small jobs like replacing a garbage disposal or changing out a kitchen faucet.  He can go knock out 3 or 4 quick $75-$100 jobs by driving a few blocks down the road and then spend the rest of the day doing something fun.

One thing to consider is that  Steve limits his service area to a only a few miles and has a minimum charge of $75 – 2 critical decisions that make, instead of break, his business model.

Benefits of small jobs

Small jobs are less stressful than larger construction jobs.  For one, you don’t need any help so you don’t have to deal with hiring employees.  Secondly, they usually aren’t very complex.  This is a good thing when trying to estimate how long something will take.

Small jobs are great for all those people that think they have ADD.  If you get bored easy, you probably wont’ be doing a small job long enough to actually get bored.  Additionally, if you offer a wide range of services, you are always changing it up with unique jobs and a variety of customers.  This helps keep things interesting and challenging.

Myth #3:  Charging by the job is the ONLY way to charge.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before.  Any handyman that you talk to that has been doing this for more than 5 years will tell you that charging by the job is the only way to go.  They’ll also explain that they started charging hourly and lost a lot of money because of it.

I have to agree.  You can make more money charging by the job because as you get more efficient  you can do jobs faster and increase your hourly rate significantly without having to tell your customer that you charge more.

BUT, and this is important, these same handyman don’t remember what it’s like getting started.  They’ve been doing it for so long that they know how long things take, how much materials cost, and consequently, how much to charge.  They don’t seem to remember that they charged hourly for a reason, and that was because they lacked experience.

Since I started my handyman business, I have been experimenting with both charging methods and believe that charging hourly can be better for someone that is new to this business.

In fact, you’ll probably make more money charging hourly in the beginning because things always take longer than you think.  I’ve bid on several jobs that ended up taking me twice as long as expected and I lost money because of this lack of experience.

Benefits of working by the hour

Saves time quoting customers.  You can eliminate visiting a customer to provide a quote.  Also, you don’t have to sit and think about everything that goes into the job.  You can just get started and be payed for the time you are figuring things out.

It also eliminates a lot of stress and allows you to focus on promoting yourself and growing your business.

By setting a solid hourly rate right away, you can confidently tell anybody that you talk to exactly how much to charge.  This eliminates one of the barriers customers have to get over to hire you.  If they know how much you charge before they call, they are pretty much ready to hire you.  If not, that is one more thing the customer has to figure out before they make their decision.  Depending on your hourly rate, you’ll likely eliminate working with many waste-your-time customers.

Need help setting your prices?  Check out “The $100K Handyman” – a guide to pricing your services for maximum profit and customer satisfaction (even when just getting started).

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  • Amy January 9, 2013

    This is so insightful and the structure of this post is clear and helpful, thank you and keep it coming!

  • Greg January 17, 2013

    Thank you so much for the insight. It has been a blessing to me.

  • Fred February 5, 2013

    My first job this year in ct took about 50% longer then I thought it would. Just asked the customer for an ext 20% and they were fine with that, but I don’t think that is the best business model for the future. Hourly is tough to fugure out.

  • Wade Myers February 6, 2013

    Very insightful. I loved the part about ADD. I swear that I thrive on the smaller jobs and having different things constantly thrown at me.

    I have been doing this for 5 years and rarely do jobs take the estimated time. It seems there are always little things that make them take longer. I’d imagine that this would be less of an issue with new construction. Either way I only charge hourly if the customer requests it…which is rarely the case. I would probably make a little more charging by the hour but I think it is ALWAYS bad when you have to come back to the customer with bad news and extra costs. I would rather tell them what complications I ran into and how I fixed it without raising costs(if possible) because my customers appreciate that and are more likely to trust me and will continue to be repeat customers.

    I also feel more rushed when charging by the hour. If something takes me a few extra minutes to do it right, I don’t want the customer looking over my shoulder wondering if I am milking the clock.

    • Big D February 6, 2013

      Wade,

      You have some good points about charging hourly. But, I believe with a little communication with a customer hourly is actually quite nice.

      The thing about charging hourly is that there is no agreed upon price, so you never have to break bad news of extra costs. When you enter into the deal, you just say it will be $X/hour plus materials. If I run into a problem, I explain it to them and what I’m going to do about it.

      I don’t worry about rushing or not doing a good job, either. If I had to answer the phone several times or took a few breaks, I take some time off the clock and explain it to the customer. Haven’t had a problem yet.

      I still provide quotes that I stick to on bigger jobs. But on those jobs where they want you to do a hundred different tasks, Hourly is my favorite.

      I don’t charge hourly to all of my customers, but the ones that I do seem to hire me back more often. They see how long something took me and understand that I need a certain rate for my time. They also get to see that I’m not ripping them off.

      Not for everybody, but it works for me.

      Big D

  • Fred February 19, 2013

    Unfortunately I had an all day job that only ended up being a 20$ an hour job yesterday, I thought would have taken 2-3 hours. Never Know….

    I have a garage door opener to install tommorow, I need to shoot for 50$ an hour or handyman business is not going to work out for me

    • Big D February 21, 2013

      Hi Fred,

      Don’t let a couple of jobs discourage you. Just take them as a lesson of how to bid better the next time. It happens to all of us!

      If you are bidding on a job that you have never done before, add some padding in. If you think it will take 2 hours, quote it like it would take 4. Things ALWAYS take longer than you expect.

      Big D

  • Big red March 4, 2013

    Hi Big D
    Thanks for the great posts. I just sat down today with my web designer and hesays he will have my site up and eunning in about 2-3 so im looking forword to that. I used your hourly rate calculations and figured a $60 hourly rate. My local competition ranges from 55 -85 hourly. Im still kind of worried about telling someone i charge $60 although after crunching the number i found it to be very resonable. Do you ever drop your price from your top hourly rate if your customer trys to haggle you or do you stay firm.
    Thanks

    • Big D March 5, 2013

      Hey Big Red,

      Awesome, once you get the site up and running be sure to share it in the comments. Not only will you get some traffic but I’d love to check it out!

      Good question. Honestly, none of my customers have ever tried to haggle me when I charge them an hourly rate. However, I have had customers try to haggle me on the price of certain jobs. When this happens I see it as the first indicator that this is not my ideal customer. In a perfect world I wouldn’t even budge. But, if I really need the business, then I’ll provide them with ways they can reduce the price without lowering my hourly rate. Let’s say I was doing a door repair and there was some touchup painting involved. If they wanted to save money, I’d offer to drop the painting cost from the price if they paint it. However, I’d prefer not to do this because I like to leave a project finished.

      Good luck with the site!

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  • Eric K April 9, 2013

    I can surely relate to jobs always taking much longer than anticipated. Old houses provide a huge majority of the work in the industry but it’s quite a challenge to match new work with the old. And there’s always surprises that change your game plan. I’ve been charging by the job and have lost money significantly. I’ve been hesitant to charge by the hour because I wasn’t sure what the market range was (north Florida). As you can tell, I’m still quite new at this. I’m in the middle of changing my business model from property preservation to handyman. Has anyone else here done property preservation doing foreclosures?

  • Arny B. August 17, 2013

    Hi Big D and thanks for your practical councils, your blog is very interesting and helpful.
    I’m going to start a handyman agency with two employees performing the work. As is paid to these employees? I have yet to clear this concept.

    Thank you again.

  • Thomas Newton October 7, 2013

    Hey great post with great information. I have been doing door to door marketing for my business recently, targeting the older homes that would need the small jobs. I am also trying to come up with a list of small jobs that I could bulk together in some sort of package to offer to a customer for a fair and reasonable price.

    TotalHomeRepair.org
    Tom

    • Dan Perry October 7, 2013

      That’s a great idea Tom. Are you trying to package it as a recurring service?

  • Lewis and Luci July 24, 2015

    Thank you! This is our first year and this is all so accurate!

  • Chris gilbert June 21, 2016

    So I have a job with a customer who has the potential to lead to alot of income but it’s seems they are always testing me. I can clearly tell this man is very knowledgeable but is playing dumb.. if you will. It is a bit stressful but I feel once I get this first job done he might be easier to work with. I hope. Any had this kind customer before?

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