Handyman Training: Becoming a Handy Man

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by Dan Perry on May 7, 2012

Training to become a handyman is going to vary drastically depending on where you live, experience level, and the services that you would like to offer.  Since there is no one training program, online course, or book that will contain the information that you specifically need to maximize your results, it’s going to be somewhat up to you to acquire the skills you need.

In this post, I’ll recommend several options for handyman training and explain the benefits and shortcomings of each.  I’ll then discuss a little about my expereience becoming a handyman.  (It’s not as hard as you might think)

If you are reading this, hopefully you have some experience with home improvements or home maintenance.  If not, your best bet is to get a job working for somebody else for a while until you gain the confidence and experience required to even consider being a handyman.

In order to determine the best way for you to begin your handyman training, I’d recommend you take inventory of your current skills and determine what services you would like to offer.  One common assumption that people looking to start a handyman business have is that you need to know how to do everything.  This just isn’t the case.  You can run a business offering just a handful of services.

Here are several different methods for gaining experience as a handyman.  You don’t need to train using all of these methods.  Just choose the ones that are necessary for you to reach your specific goals.

Vocational Schools and Community Colleges

There are several online programs and schools that you can get traning on certain trades such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC (heating, ventilating, and cooling).  These courses may be a good option if you are looking to do one of these specific trades.

This can be an effective way to start out since you will learn how to do one specific trade well, get licensed, and then slowly broaden your services to other things.

In my state, A license is required to do any plumbing, electrical, or HVAC.  I don’t have any of these licenses (there is a different license for each trade) so I’m unable to perform this type of work.  I lose some business because I don’t have a license, but not enough for me to go out and get one.  There’s just too much other work out there doing simple home maintenance and repairs.  I can always get a license down the road if I need one.

Getting licensed in one of these trades will help you gain customer trust and help you demand a higher rate.  This is probably the best reason to get licensed.  There is a downside, however.  It can take several years to become a licensed plumber, electrician, or HVAC specialist.

In most states you are required to first complete formal training with a certified education facility.  Then, you may be required up to 5 years as a journeyman before you can get out on your own.

There are also several websites online that will provide you with the formal training you need.  Before you start any course, make sure it is something that your state recognizes for credit toward a license.  You don’t want to waste your time on unnecessary training.

Volunteer

Volunteering for a program like Habitat for Humanity can be a valuable hands on method to gain experience.  Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit company that builds homes for homeless and less fortunate families.  If this program exists in your city, you may consider volunteering some of your time.  You’re likely to get exposed to a wide range of trades and the best part is you don’t have to pay a dime.  It’s basically free education while helping those in need.

Another option would be to find a local contractor or small business owner and volunteer to help them out.  They will be getting free labor and you will be gaining experience.  You can be more picky about what jobs you do since they aren’t paying you.  There may be some liability issues for the business owner, but I’m sure they’d work something out for free labor.

As a handyman business owner, I’d be ecstatic if somebody eager to learn to be a handyman offered me free services in exchange for training.

Work on Your Own Home

I believe this is the single best way to gain handyman experience.  This is how I gained confidence and experience with home improvements and maintenance.  When I bought my first house, I was doing home improvements whenever I had a chance.  I successfully taught myself how to paint, install windows, install interior doors, install molding and trim, lay tile, build a pathway with pavers, build shelves, and much more.

The key here is to research before you start on the best way to go about the project.  You’ll find that most projects aren’t that complicated and with a little time and elbow grease, you’ll have a professional finished product.  I definitely made some mistakes along the way, but at least it was on my house and I could just go back and fix it.

The Internet

If you found this article, you obviously know how to use the internet.  Make sure and use the incredible wealth of knowledge for honing your handyman skills as well.

I can honestly say that if the internet didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be a handyman because I wouldn’t know where to start.  I still use the internet to learn how to do projects for people.  I’ve even quoted jobs that I have no experience with because I know I can learn how to do it on the internet with a google search and a couple minutes of time.

This method of training is an absolute must.  Even the most experienced handyman can brush up his skills by researching via the internet.

Here are some of the websites that usually provide good handyman how-to information.

FamilyHandyman.com
ThisOldHouse.com
YouTube.com
ehow.com

Find a Mentor

If you know somebody that already works in construction or is handyman themselves, get a little closer to that person.  Offer them some help and ask questions in return.  Most people are more than willing to share their knowledge.  You just have to ask.

Hopefully you can establish a good enough relationship so that whenever you have a question or problem, you can give them a call.

Even if you don’t know somebody, I’d still recommend trying to find a mentor in the industry.  You may be surprised how much information some people are willing to give.  It may take some time to find that person that you can build a mentor relationship with, but the time will be well worth it.  Some things you just can’t find on the internet.

My Handyman Training

The majority of the skills I use to make money as a handyman I learned while working on my own house.  If there was a leak in the sprinkler system, I would dig it up and fix it.  When the toilet wouldn’t flush, I’d do a quick google search, read at least 3 different how to’s, and get after it.

My projects weren’t always easy, but I’d eventually figure it out and I’d learn a LOT in the process.

I’ve always enjoyed doing things myself and just naturally built up my problem solving skills to the point where I can fix just about anything.  I may need to do some research, buy some tools here and there, but I can make it work.

If somebody asked me to build them a house, obviously I wouldn’t be able to help them.  But the truth is, most of the work people ask a handyman to do only requires basic knowledge and the ability to pick up a drill, hammer, or a screw driver.

The ability to problem solve and the passion to work for yourself are the two main components you need to become a handyman.  If you already have these skills, I’d recommend you start offering services immediately.

Now, take the first step to starting a handyman business and read Evaluating Your Handyman Skills and Deciding What Services to Offer.

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

ct contractor June 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I think you are talking me into offering handy man services, I know roofing, gutters and siding, but I was always scared to get too much into interior, but might as well give it a go. I can jus turn down stuff to complex

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Big D June 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

If you already a licensed contractor for roofing, gutters, and siding you could apply the same marketing techniques I talk about to grow your business without expanding the services you offer. The principles I discuss on this blog apply to handyman business, construction businesses, and pretty much an other small service business.

Unless you want to expand your offering for pure enjoyment, it may be more profitable to stick to what you’re already good at and pump up your marketing efforts a little.

As far a turning down stuff too complex, I do it all the time. It’s funny because whenever I do, the customer always thanks me for not stepping outside of my skill set. It actually gains a ton of trust and they usually call back and ask me to do other tasks down the road.

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Dave January 6, 2013 at 9:12 am

Just so I’m clear in my understanding, when you say you can’t do electrical or plumbing work, does that mean even small things like changing a light switch or putting in a kitchen faucet?

That seems like it would cut out a significant source of work. I’m struggling finding out what the licensing requirements for my state are, but I hope it isn’t that strict.

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Big D January 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Dave,

That is a bit of a grey area, but I certainly do not advertise those services.

If you are trying to find out the technicalities of your state, the best way is to contact the contractors board and ask to speak with an investigator directly. The people at the front desk don’t know what they are talking about. The investigators are the ones that are enforcing the laws so they are the only ones that really know since the laws are typically written in such a vague manner.

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plumbing January 23, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I became plumber cuz of my GF, it is like nightmare, i hate plumbing job :(

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Noah February 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I’ve been running a handyman business for about twenty five years. I would agreee with you that the biggest obstacle to most people just starting is that they believe they need to know everything. I also agree that you can start a service company with just a few skills if you market them correctly.

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joe March 2, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I am able to do tiling, roofing, plumbing, carpentry,laying blocks and building a home structure. I am in Illinois and no jobs.

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Chris June 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Hi Dan!
Just had to give you a shout out on your blog! We just had a young gentleman call about volunteering to learn some stuff about construction. We have just started tracking where volunteers hear about us and you are our most unique!
So a big thank you from Habitat for Humanity Hernando County Florida.

Reply

Dan Perry June 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

That’s awesome, Chris! Thanks for letting me know.

Reply

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