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My Monthly Report – December 2012

Welcome to my December 2012 monthly report!  This is my thirteenth monthly report and also marks the end of my thirteenth month in business as a handyman.

For those of you that are new to the blog, I write these monthly reports each month.  In them, I detail how much money I made, marketing methods that worked for me, and any other insights that I believe to be helpful.  I also recently started included a featured service each month.

Be sure to leave a comment at the bottom of the post if you have any questions or just have something useful to say!

December was an awesome month and I have record profits to show for it.  This is really exciting considering that I took and entire week off for Christmas.  Most of my income was from existing customers, which is so much nicer than dealing with new customers.  It makes the business more enjoyable to have clients call for more work instead of having to constantly search for new leads.

This increase in return business has led me to make few changes as well…

Angie, please take me off your list.

In last month’s income report, I talked about how I was going to quit advertising with Angie’s list.  I’ve been paying 83 bucks a month to be listed #1 or #2 when somebody searches for a handyman in my area.

When I called to quit, my sales rep convinced me that I should give it one more shot.  She explaining that I just don’t have enough reviews yet.  My competition has many more reviews than me and Angie’s list customers like a lot of reviews.

“OK,” I said.  “I’ll give it one more month.  I’ll see if I can get some more reviews and maybe some business.”

If your not familiar with Angie’s list, they also have the ability to “fetch” reviews.  If you send Angie’s List your current list of customers, they will run that data against their database, and if you have worked for any of their customers, they will actually call those customers and take reviews over the phone.

The first time I did this a few months back, I got 3 reviews from the fetch program.  This time, I got zero.  I also have come to the realization that I am horrible at asking for reviews.  I don’t know what it is, but I always forget.  Bottom line, getting reviews is more effort than it’s worth to me, so I decided to give up.

The critical thing to understand with Angie’s list is that if you don’t have a lot of reviews and continue to pursue new reviews, you won’t get much business.  I don’t know about you, but maintaining reviews seems exhausting to me.  Especially when a good website can bring in the customers automatically.

So, I called them up and quit advertising with them.  I feel better already!  The downside is that I have to pay 1/3 of the remaining balance of my advertising contract which is a little over $100.

I’ll be writing a more in depth analysis of Angie’s list in the near future, so keep a look out for that if you want to know more.

Featured Service:  Fence Repairs

Advertising for fence repairs has worked very well for my handyman business.  It seems like fences are always blowing over in my city.

Early on in my business, I was ranked very high in google for the keyword “fence repairs.”  This was a fluke thing that happened simply by me setting up a google places account.  I received several calls for fence repairs which helped me get through my first few months of business.  The work can be a little laborious, but when you’re just getting started out, work is work!

Fence repairs are pretty simple, too.  Aside from fixing a gate every once in a while, the vast majority of fence repairs consist of replacing rotted out posts after a section of fence blows over.  (At least in my city.)

Here are some images of a recent fence repair I completed for a customer.

A fence blown down in the wind.

As you can see, the fence is missing a post that rotted out and blew over in the last wind storm.

Partially repaired fence

Here is the fence after I dug out the old post and installed a new post.  
Completely repaired fence
And here is the completed job.  I always use any wood that is in decent condition when doing a fence repair, but there is almost always a few broken fence pickets and 2 x 4s.

To replace a fence post as seen here, I usually charge about $300-$400 depending on several factors.  This price includes materials which usually run about $50.  I can usually bust out a fence repair in about 4-5 hours including shopping time.

Fixing fences isn’t something I’d want to do everyday, but it can be a good way to fill in the gaps in your schedule.

Income and Expenses

Income:

  • Return Customers:  $4,809.76
  • Search Engines (website):  $696.00
  • Referrals:  $553
  • Craigslist:  $150

Expenses:

  • Direct Job Costs: $1,185.66
  • Phone:  $190
  • Mileage:  $361.86
  • Insurance:  $94
  • Angie’s List:  $83.83
  • Bank Fees:  $9.90
  • Tools:  $119.14
  • Mailbox (6 months):  $126

Total Income:            $6208.76
Total Expenses:         $2,169.89
Net Profit:                   $4,038.87  (last month:  $1,829.12)

Billable Hours:           86.5
Income from Labor:  $4,726.69
Hourly Rate:                $54.64/hour

This is the most money I’ve made and the highest hourly rate I’ve had since starting my business.  I’m pretty excited about these numbers.  Especially since I didn’t do very well last month.  On top of that, I took an entire week off and did absolutely no jobs.  I still answered the phone, but just told customers that my next availability was  in January.  I could have potentially had another $1,000 in profits if I would have worked the week of Christmas.

If you take a look at my income numbers, the majority of my business came from return customers.  Leads generated from my website came in second, and referrals came in a close third.

You may notice that HomeAdvisor isn’t on the list.  This is because I put absolutely no effort into lead generation.  I turned off Home Advisor, put no effort into my website, and even deleted my craigslist ads.  The $150 from craigslist was a lead that I received in late November.

Last month I set a goal of $55/hour for billable hours.  Looks like I was just shy of this goal, but pretty damn close.  I can’t complain about making $54/hour.  It’s way better than the $25/hour that I originally charged.  By the way, charging $25/hour is NOT recommended even if you are just starting out.

I don’t want to get too excited, but I’m hoping that I’ve reached the point in my business where word of mouth is going to start taking hold and I’ll no longer need to worry about craigslist, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, or any other lead generation method.

In fact, I’m planning on testing this.  I’m going to continue not advertising anywhere but my website.  Some people my think I’m an idiot and that I should get as much business as possible and hire employees as I grow.

But, that isn’t why I started this business.  I don’t want to manage employees and money is certainly not my only motivation.  I enjoy doing the work, not the office stuff.  Instead, I’d prefer to refine my skills and continue to grow my income by getting better at what I do.  Sometimes I like to go back and read my post about lifestyle design to remember why I do this.

Goals for January

Goal #1:  $60/hour minimum average hourly rate.

In November I went for $50, in December I went for $55, $60/hour just makes sense.  It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I think I can make it happen.  I’m getting a lot better at estimating jobs.  Also, I’m more handy than when I started.  I can now approach most jobs with confidence instead of figuring things out as I go.  This experience allows me to communicate more effectively with customers and helps me demand a higher rate for my services.

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

2012 was an amazing year and what a great way to close out the year.  It was incredible to set out on an adventure starting my own handyman business and bring you along on the ride.

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed it, and even more importantly, I hope I was able to offer you at least one small piece of information that moved you closer to your goals.  Whether you are thinking about starting a handyman business, just getting started, or a seasoned vet, I hope I have offered you something of value.

Looking forward to 2013, I will continue to tell my story and provide you with insightful information about my handyman business.  In fact, I have some big plans for 2013 that I’m excited to share with you.  So be sure to stick around!

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  • Mike January 14, 2013

    This is really inspiring Big D! Keep up the good work, good things are in store for you.

    • Big D January 14, 2013

      Thanks Mike!

  • Paul January 16, 2013

    Now that you have a year under your belt, what do you think your maximum weekly billable hours can be? After you account for time for non-revenue generating business activities (planning, advertising, bookkeeping, drive time, etc.) and personal time, how many hours are left to be billable?

    • Big D January 16, 2013

      Paul,

      That’s a good question. Do you own a handyman business?

      As my business grows, I put much less effort into advertising and I believe that by continuing to offer quality service, word of mouth will eventually sustain my business. Even now, I put very little time into advertising. I do all of my accounting in 3 hours, once a month. Drive time and loading my truck take about 1-2 hours a day and interacting with customers takes about 30 minutes/day average.

      If I only allowed myself to work 40 hours/week, (which I currently work less), I would be able to squeeze about 28-32 billable hours in there.

      In my case, I spend quite a bit of time maintaining this blog. If I was to only work on my handyman business, I could work 35-40 billable hours and maintain a balanced life.

      Big D

  • J O January 19, 2013

    Big D
    Quick question.
    How you classify your cost associated with a specific job? For example, paint and or a toilet handle replacement etc…Is it a “direct job cost” on your chart of accounts?

    Thanks for all your updates.
    I believe I told you that you motivated me to start my own handyman business, and have enjoyed and struggled through the same issues you have. I appreciate you feedback.

    JO

    • Big D January 19, 2013

      Hi JO,

      Thanks for reading! It’s awesome to hear that I motivated you to start a business. I hope you are enjoying it like I am!

      Yes, materials I use for jobs all go into the same account which is direct job costs.

      Big D

  • dean January 27, 2013

    Nice going Big D !
    Looks like your time , hustling and hard work is paying off, congrats !
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    My start up is happening, GL insurance is on, business cards arriving this week, website is up , opened a business mailbox at the local P.O. , need to
    get the magnetic door signs ordered and start handing out some cards, talking to people etc..
    Have not advertised publicly other than coming out in the yellow pages soon.
    Expecting to get off to a slow start but have another PT job for the time being.

    Question, how do you bill for travel time and mileage ? .55 mile + time both ways ?
    Thanks

    • Big D January 28, 2013

      Hi Dean,

      Thats great to hear! Sound like your doing it right.

      I don’t typically charge for travel time to and from my customers house. I limit my service area so I’m not travelling too far and I don’t need to worry about that. However, if I need to run to the hardware store for supplies, I will bill them for that time.

      I approximate a monthly cost for driving each month (based on .55/mile) and add that cost into my hourly rate as I do with most of my costs. See this post for a more detailed explanation. http://www.handymanstartup.com/figure-hourly-rate/

      Big D

  • Fred February 5, 2013

    I’m Excited to start a Handyman Business, but I have teamed up with a very experienced handyman to help me get more accounts.

    I”ll let you know how it goes.

    • Big D February 5, 2013

      That’s great Fred! I’m excited for you. Hopefully he will send you some good clients.

  • Sean February 7, 2013

    Hi Big D,

    After a strong December, my sales have really dropped off. I think many folks wanted to get their projects done before the holidays, but I haven’t had much business come in since then. The few new customers that I have gotten work from have all come through my website and google places, so that’s good. But do you have any advice to help me get things moving again?

    It sounds like you’re doing great. Keep setting those records!

    Thanks,

    Sean

    • Big D February 7, 2013

      Hi Sean,

      I best advice is to enjoy your time off, because you’ll probably be swamped in the near future!

      However, If you would really like to get some work, try contacting your old customers. Give them a call just to see how the repairs are going for them. When I do this, I don’t ask them if they need more service. I just call to see if they are completely happy with my work. Usually, this will remind them that they have some stuff they need done and they’ll schedule me. Give it a try.

      Writing more blog posts on your website targeting new keywords is another good thing to do when you’re slow. You won’t get immediate results, but it will help prevent future slow periods.

      Good luck Sean and thanks for reading!

      Big D

  • Fred February 19, 2013

    Been really slow in January for me also, but February Was so busy with the 3 feet of snow, more phone calls than I could handle for about 5 days just putting ads on craigslist for snow Blowing. I actually turned down must customers and only took on Roof Snow removal Jobs, as they pay 300$ plus for same amount of work as a driveway. Off to a great start for February

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