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My Monthly Report – March 2013

Welcome to my March 2013 monthly report!  That’s another month in the bank for my handyman business for a total of 16.

It’s crazy to think about how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in that short period of time.  I went from not knowing what the hell I was doing to making a pretty healthy hourly rate.  I went from wondering whether or not I could sustain a living to actually turning down jobs.

One thing I’ve learned is that some months are crazy busy while others, well, aren’t.  As for March, it was a slow month.  One phrase I hear a lot in this industry is “feast or famine.”  I haven’t quite experienced a famine, but I would say March was pretty close when compared to the income from the 3 months prior.

So why was it so slow?

I have two excuses.  One, I have put very little effort into marketing my business in the last 3 months.  I’ve been enjoying a steady stream of customers and have had no need.  After all, it’s just me, and I can only do so much work.  In March, I felt the effects of that.

Secondly, I hypothesize that March was just a slow month in general for the handyman industry in my area.  Although I was just starting out last year, I noticed the same thing.  March was a slow month and then it picked up in April and May.  As I write this (April 10th), things have definitely picked up.  I’ve noticed a huge boost in phone calls and am now booked out for two weeks not including the 3 customers I have yet to get back to.

I enjoyed the time off and I’m ready to make some money again!

News and Events

There’s a lot going on at HandymanStartup.com

As most of you have already know, I’ve recently started a podcast!  I’ll be providing even more information and insight in these podcasts in a format that should be even easier to consume.  Be sure to subscribe to The Handyman Startup Podcast on iTunes so you can get the content as soon as it comes out.  And if you are kind enough to leave a positive review, thanks!

Also, I just released my 2012 Yearly Report at the beginning of March.  Many have already downloaded it and I’ve received some really great feedback.  Thanks for the support!  It really motivates me to continue writing on this blog.  I’ve packed my entire year’s worth of experience and insight into this report and it’s worth it’s weight it gold.  Whether you are just getting started or have been operating for a while, there is a ton of insight to be gained from my first year’s numbers.  I’ve put everything in nicely laid out graphs so it’s easy to understand and evaluate.  But the real value is in the additional sections that explain what I did right and the mistakes I made.  If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you can do it now by clicking here. (or see end of post for a chance to get a free copy)

Featured Service:  Emergency Service Calls

I love getting emergency service calls, especially when I’m available to respond.  Not only are they fun, but they pay well.  I love the feeling I get knowing that somebody needs me.  They aren’t just calling because they don’t want to do the work, they’re calling because they can’t.  It’s important that it gets done and they are trusting me to handle it.

Just the other day a small business owner called me because he was trying to open his business and couldn’t get his door open.  It was a Sunday, and this guy was stressed.  Since he was operating a restaurant  he needed to get his door open by lunchtime or else he’d lose valuable business.

After discussing what he needed, I explained that I had a minimum service charge of $75.  I’m sure I could have got more since it was a Sunday, but I new this guy didn’t have a ton of money so I stuck with my standard rate.   I’m not out to rip people off.

I arrived at the store within 15min and had his door open within 5 minutes of being there.  It was easy money, but the best part was how thankful the guy was.  He was relieved that I had him back in business so quickly so he could make his living.  You might think this is cheesy, but I felt like a valuable part of the community.  It felt great to help this guy and I almost gave the guy a discount.  ALMOST. 😉

Then, later that same day another local business called because they couldn’t get their door to close.  Weird.  Since it was almost 5pm on a Sunday and this was a bigger establishment, I decided that $125 was necessary to get me out there right away.  The guy agreed and off I went.  45 minutes later and I was back at home $125 richer.

That’s $200 for less than an hour of work total.  Not bad for a Sunday.

These are just a couple examples of emergency calls that I’ve done.  Not all of them are this profitable, but they are always worth the  effort.  If an existing customer calls me and I can help them out, I don’t charge them an emergency fee.  Instead, I bank on the return business and the referrals I may get.  It’s a great way to do somebody a favor while still making money.

If I get an emergency call from somebody that isn’t in my target market, I will usually tack on some sort of emergency fee that I come up with on the spot.  The fee depends on what the job is and how inconvenient it is for me.

I don’t advertise emergency services, however.  I like to have the ability to turn the job down if necessary without the customer getting pissed.  Also, if I go out of town or am busy on another job, who’s going to answer the call?  I couldn’t provide a quality emergency service most of the time so I don’t advertise it.  If I did, I’d likely get a bad reputation for not following through.

So, how can you get emergency calls?

The key to getting emergency calls is being found when the customer needs you.  Some customers may look in the phone book, but 99% are going to turn to the web.  They’ll click on the first website they see and probably call that business.  Having a strong web presence is the only reason I have received emergency service calls.

If you can’t get your website to show up in google, try building a strong presence on one of the many online directories such as Yelp.  Focus on getting people to review you on that specific directory and eventually you will show up close to the top.  Once you do, you’ll start getting emergency calls and a lot of other business, too.

Income and Expenses

Income:

  • Return Customers:  $1,432.83
  • Website:  $1,270
  • Referrals:  $81
  • Home Advisor:  $272.00

Expenses:

  • Direct Job Costs:  $241.16
  • Vehicle Mileage:  $288.01
  • Insurance:  $184.00
  • Home Advisor:  $40.81
  • Phone:  $69.82
  • Bank Fees:  $19.81

Total Income:  $3,055.83
Total Expenses:  $905.99
Net Income:  $2,149.84  (last month:  $2,989.43)

Billable hours:            34.25
Income from labor:   $2790.55
Average hourly rate:  $81.48

Like I said above, it was a slow month.  Especially considering that I profited $4,000 in Dec., $5,000 in Jan., and $3,000 in Feb.

However, take a look at that hourly rate!  That’s ridiculously high.  Previous to this March my highest hourly rate was a little over $60.  That’s a jump of over $20!

There are a couple of reasons that my rate was so high this month.  The first is because I did a lot of small jobs.  Since I have a minimum service charge of $75 I make really fast money when jobs only take me 20 minutes to complete.  This happened several times.

The second reason is because I did a couple of emergency calls on a Sunday.  Two different small businesses called me on Sunday and needed some door repairs ASAP.  Since it was a Sunday and they needed me right away, I charged extra for the emergency Sunday call.  Both were more than willing to pay since they just wanted their doors fixed.  Win-win.

It’s important to note that I spent more than just the 34 hours to make this money.  In addition to billable hours, there was time spent driving to and from jobs, quoting, billing, and following up with customers.  I don’t track that time because it would be nearly impossible, but it does add up to a significant amount.  That’s why demanding a higher hourly rate is important for this type of business.

Getting through the slow times

Regardless of how many times I go through the slow periods, they somehow always gets to me.  Negative thoughts start to creep in and  I can’t help but feel a little down and out.  It’s energy draining and it just flat out sucks at times.  It’s the worst after dealing with a bad customer or going a whole week without a call.

I’m still fairly new as an entrepreneur, but I imagine these mood cycles are common among business owners.  On days when customer are calling and business is flowing, I’m on top of the world.  I literally feel like I have everything figured out and I can dominate the world.  Then, all of the sudden things slow down and customers stop calling.

Not only is it slightly depressing, but I can see a decrease in my mental performance as well as my creativity during these times.  I have a harder time creating quality content on this blog and so on.  It’s like I define myself by my business’s successes, and it shouldn’t be that way.

However, I’m starting to discover ways to combat this negative energy during the slow times.  I’ve found that going to the gym and working out in the morning helps dramatically.  Instead of waking up the in the morning and just slowly going about my day, an intense workout right away makes me feel more relaxed throughout the day.  It also helps me to stay focused so I can get projects done.

Another thing that helps is to not check my e-mail or online stats until I’ve done at least one productive task.  Checking e-mail and google analytics too often is not only unproductive and distracting, but it can also be a mood killer.

I know this is a little off topic, but I think it’s an important aspect of owning a business so I wanted to share it.  Being self aware and making small changes to improve your experience can be the difference between you thriving and giving up before you reach your goals.

Goals for April

In last month’s income report, my goal was to come up with a new marketing strategy for my handyman business.  However, I’ve decided not to as I believe I’m about to get a lot busier in the next few months.  More marketing means more customers and more work.  Since I’m not ready to hire anybody to help me, I think too much business would be bad for business at this point.  After all, spring is my favorite season and I don’t want to be overwhelmed during the best time of the year.

So, my goal for April will be to maintain my $60/hour rate and provide excellent service to my customers.  Simple and effective.

What are your short term goals for your handyman business?  Let me know in the comments below.  

PS:  As a way of saying thanks for reading, I’m giving away a free copy of my 2012 Yearly Report to the first 5 commenters who share their goals.    (Please note:  If you haven’t left a comment before, your comment will not show up right away as it needs to be approved first.  However, once approved, your comments will show up in the order they were submitted.  Valid e-mail address required.)

Thanks for reading and I wish you the best with your business!

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  • Tim Sullivan April 12, 2013

    Thank you for such an informative website. I have been in the construction industry for 30 years and reading your site has inspired me to start my own handyman business. As a start up my goals are to get my website/blog built, to distribute business cards to the many contacts that I have built over the years and to earn an hourly wage of $50.00 or more, which is more than I can make doing the larger jobs (that are harder to find) in this economy. Thank you again for sharing your experiences. Tim

    • Big D April 13, 2013

      Great goals, Tim. You are very welcome and I appreciate the comment. I’m really glad I could help you out.

  • terry April 12, 2013

    Hey Big D, Well the phone is ringing a bit more this month, with one job taking forever for me to estimate – it’s quite large.

    But still, I’m having lots of trouble getting on Google with my keywords. Website presence is where I definitely need some help. Are you at all familiar with establishing keywords for specific trade services?

    My April goal is to get my website presence on Google, et al up to snuff.

    • Big D April 13, 2013

      Hey Terry,

      That’s a really good goal and there are a lot of ways to rank for specific services. I’ve written a post called “Small business blogging strategy” that you may find very helpful.

      Thanks for the comment and enjoy the Yearly Report!

      Big D

  • Larry April 13, 2013

    Big D,

    Being a brand new company I have found your site to packed full of information. As in any business you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run so I am going about trying to position the company to provide great customer service at a fair market price and let the word of mouth advertising which is the best do its job!

    My goal for the month is to set up a referral for real estate agents using our company for repairs to homes that are going through the sales process. I believe that this could mushroom through out the real estate market in my area and become a great steady source of work and income. I will let you know what happens

    Good luck with your business and “Keep moving forward”

    • Big D April 13, 2013

      Awesome Goal! Real estate agents are a great way to grow your business. From what I’ve seen, once you build a relationship with one they will try to use you for everything. Once they find a good handyman, they don’t want to lose them. You’ll need to give them some incentive to recommend you because they’ll want you all to themselves!

      With a focus on quality you will do well.

      Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

      Big D

  • Jake April 13, 2013

    Give me a better idea of how this works out for you. What was wrong with each of the doors and how did you fix it? What did it really take? What was the total amount of time involved from the moment you got the call and loaded your tools until you got back home?

    • Big D April 14, 2013

      Jake,

      Thanks for asking.

      The $75 dollar job took a total of about 30mins from the time I received the call to being back at home. The problem was that a security sensor that was in the frame of the door dropped out of the hole and into the door profile. It basically got wedged when attempting to open the door. I simply moved it out of the way and ended up removing it completely since they owner no longer had the security system anyway. 5 minutes of work. Any somewhat handy person could have done this.

      On the $125 job the track on the door closer separated from the door. This caused the door closer arm to prevent the door from closing. I simply had to remove the track, drill and tap some new holes and re-attach the track to the door. 30 minutes of work and ~40 minutes of drive time. I’d say an hour and a half considering the phone call and invoicing. This was a little more difficult as the order of re-assembly was a bit complicated, but still, any handy-person could have figured it out.

      Hope that helps.

  • John April 14, 2013

    Big D,
    I’m also trying at developing realtors like Larry for a steady source of business. Almost all agencies have a weekly meeting and a few have let me do a quick presentation. ( I stop in and ask for the office manager to set it up) Nothing fancy really but no one else is doing it and I’m starting to get some business from it. Hope that helps someone.

    John

    • Big D April 14, 2013

      Great tip, John. Thank you for sharing.

      What kind of business have you been getting? How price sensitive is the work? I’ve done some work for realtors and many times they have pre-set pricing for certain types of jobs.

  • Caleb April 14, 2013

    Great article. It is good to hear that other people have the same mood swings with the business. March was a very slow month for me as well, with the first week of April being just as slow. Last week I started getting a few call again, so hopefully some work will come out of it. My goals for April are to get my logo on the doors and tail gate of my truck, to market my business to the local property management and real estate companies, and to send out some mail flyers to targeted neighbourhoods. Once I start getting some more jobs coming in I am planning on hiring out the work for redoing my website and SEO. But that may have to be on the goals for May.

    Thank you for all the effort in keeping up this blog. It has been a great help for me in starting my business.
    -Caleb

    • Big D April 14, 2013

      All really good goals, Caleb! Thanks for sharing. It sounds like you’re setting up a professional establishment. It will do well if you keep setting good goals and chipping away at them.

      It makes me really happy to know that you have found my site helpful and thankYOU for reading.

      Big D

  • Bill P April 14, 2013

    Hi Big D,

    I have decided to start my Handyman business on the side and your website has been an endless source of encouragement. I used to be a plumber and had worked for few different companies and their warranties for work done were so completely different. One would give 6 months on repair 1 year on replacements, another would give three years on replacements, and the last one was kind of sketchy they would use the warranty as a negotiating tool and would drop the price and reduce or get rid of the warranty all together. What do you do as far as warranties?

    • Big D April 15, 2013

      Hi Bill,

      Honestly, I haven’t put much thought into offering a warranty. Since I’m constantly doing different types of jobs, a warranty would get complicated. I do guarantee the quality of my work and service, however. If anybody had any issues with a job that I did, I will make it right. I don’t charge a customer until they are completely happy.

      I can’t say that I ever remember a customer asking if I have a warranty. One thing to consider is that I don’t do plumbing. I could see how customers would be more concerned with a warranty on plumbing as a mistake could cause serious damage.

      Big D

  • Jon April 15, 2013

    I am in the process of starting a handyman business. Thanks for all the information and hard work you put into this site its been very helpful

  • Big Red April 15, 2013

    Hi Big D

    Another great article. I have finally got rapped up with my website. The web developer is now working on the seo.
    A little tip for all the handymen out here. If you don’t know how to build your own website and don’t have a lot of extra money to spare go to a local university campus or school and advertise that your looking for a website developed along with seo. You’ll get lots of calls. I had my site built for $800 which also includes 4 months of seo. A real bargain considering I had quotes up to $5000.
    Goal for the month. Hopefully get a few lead generated from my website and flyers.

    • Big D April 16, 2013

      Hey Big Red,

      Thanks for the awesome tip. I had never thought of doing that but now that you mention it, I’m sure there are a lot of very talented web designers in college that are just trying to make a name for themselves. A great way to get quality without spending a lot.
      Thanks!

      Big D

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