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My Monthly Report – November 2013

Welcome to my 24th monthly income report.  That means I’ve officially been a handyman business owner for 2 years!

It’s crazy how fast the time has gone and also how much my mindset has changed since I started.  I mean, I went from charging $25/hour to demanding a minimum of $60/hour.  I had no idea that was possible and I’m so thankful that I was able to achieve this success.

If you are new to the blog, I write these reports each month to detail my successes and failures.  Not only that, I also share how much money I made, how much I spent, and what marketing methods brought me my new customers.

Basically, I’m giving you the roadmap to create a successful home service business for yourself.

If you’re tired of working for a boss you hate, or not being in control of your schedule, this content is for you.  Or, if you are already operating a home service business and want to gain the edge over your competition, this is for you, too.

Why November Was Awesome

November was a BIG month for me.  No, I didn’t make a ton of money, but I did make some big, life changing moves.

If you listened to my last podcast or read my last monthly report, you probably already know that I took a week long vacation in November.  If not, that’s all good.

Well, I went to the island of Maui with my girlfriend and some friends.  It was amazing!  Hawaii is definitely one of my favorite places I’ve ever been.  There is so much to do and the weather is incredible.

But, this trip was especially awesome.  Not only did I get to snorkel with turtles, go on an epic hike through a bamboo forest, and watch the sunset from a hammock suspended between two palm trees while sippin’ on some Jamison (my favorite drink), I got engaged to my beautiful girlfriend, Amy.

Like I said, I made some big life changing moves and I’m so thankful to have such an incredible fiance!

How To Take a Vacation When You ARE Your Business

One of the downsides of having a one man handyman business is that when I take a vacation, my business has to basically shut down.  This can be a real challenge when certain customers rely on my services on a regular basis.

You don’t want to lose your best customers because you aren’t available and you also don’t want to lose out on new quality leads.

It’s impossible not to lose some business, but if you put a few simple systems in place before you leave for that beautiful island getaway, you can still capture the majority of those new customers and not piss off your existing ones.

Here is what I do to prepare for a vacation:

  • I change my voicemail to let customers know that I’m unavailable and won’t be returning their calls until the date I get back.  I don’t tell them I’m on vacation, I simply say that I’m unavailable until x date.
  • I set up an auto-responder for e-mail quote requests to automatically reply when I get an e-mail to my business address.  In the e-mail I include the same info that I do in my voicemail.  (This is really easy to do with virtually all e-mail service providers.)
  • I mentally tell myself that I will not answer my phone or reply to e-mails while on vacation.  Doing so is the best way to ruin your time of relaxation.  Easier said than done, but it makes for a way better vacation.

That’s it!  The goal with this is to make sure I manage the customers’ expectations.  They’ll understand if I don’t answer my phone and they’ll also understand that I take vacations. But, if I fail to communicate when I will get back to them, I could lose their business.

Here are the results from my week long trip to Hawaii

Number of new leads:  13 (voice-mails and e-mail quote requests)

New customers gained:  2 (after following up with leads when I returned)

Existing customers lost:  zero

From these numbers you can see that I clearly lost some business as I only landed 2 out of 13 leads.  But, let’s take a look at the bright side.  While I was on vacation getting a sweet tan, my website was hard at work generating new business for me.  You can’t beat it!

Featured Service:  The Easiest Way To Repair A Broken Fence Post

Have you ever had to replace a fence post that rotted and then blew over in the wind?  If not, you probably will at some point.

This is a service that’s been requested since I started my handyman business.  99% of the time the post has blown over because the bottom of the post has rotted and then a wind storm blew it right over.  It happens all the time.

This kind of project used to take several back-breaking hours to do as I highlighted in this post.  However, I’ve recently discovered a much easier way to repair these broken fence posts.

No more digging out the old concrete footing, installing a new post, and pouring new concrete.  Instead, just use a Simpson Strong-Tie Ez Mender. (click this link to check it out)

All you have to do is hammer one of these bad-boys into the concrete, throw in some nails or screws, and the fence is as solid as it’s ever been.  Here are some images from a recent job to show you what I mean.

blown over fence with broken posts

3 fence posts were rotted and had blown over.

e-z mender in concrete

Getting ready to hammer this fence mender into the existing concrete.

fence post after repair

After about 75 hammer swings.  Almost done.

fence after repair

Repaired fence after only 3 hours of labor!

Using the old method, this would have taken me at least a day.  But, by using the fence mender, I was able to cut it down to only 3 hours and make a much healthier profit while saving the customer money.

Total job Cost:  $345
Materials:  ~$55
Time:  3 hours
Profit:  $290 (That’s 96 bucks an hour to fix a fence!)

Quick Tips:

  • I think the EZ-mender recommends that you use 2 per post.  However, if you install a single one perpendicular to the fence as I’ve shown in the 3rd image above, you only need one.  If you’re repairing the post that holds up the gate, then I’d use two.
  • Sometimes the EZ-mender is much wider than the hole in the concrete.  Don’t let this scare you.  It will take more swings, but it will go in.

What do you think about this method for fixing fence posts?  Do you know an easier way?

Income and Expenses

Income (by lead generation source):

  • Existing Customers:  $3,270.41
  • Online Marketing:  $1,055.00
  • Referrals:  $413.56

Expenses:

  • Direct Job Costs:  $732.74
  • Mileage:  $305.67
  • Phone:  $69.82
  • Insurance:  $94
  • Tools:  $8.97
  • Bank Fees:  $22.48
  • Business License Fees:  $325
  • Annual Website Hosting:  $183.19

Total Income:       $4,738.97
Total Expenses:   $1,741.47
Net Income:           $2,997.10  (last month:  $3,867.39)

Billable Hours:  54
Income From Labor:  $3,932.96
Average Hourly Rate:  $72.83

Not too bad considering I took a week long vacation!

One number I’m happy about is the $72.83/hour.  In the last few months I’ve been shooting for an hourly rate of at least $70/hour and I was successful this month.  Please note that this is for billable hours and does not include time spent answering phone calls, driving, accounting, and other tasks that take up a significant amount of time.

If you compare my income sources to the last couple of months, you’ll notice that my existing customers gave me a lot more work this month ($3,270).  In fact, it’s almost double the $1,758 I brought in last month.  This fluctuation is to be expected with this business and you never know when you’re going to get a flood of jobs.

Because I was so busy with my existing customers (and I only work 3 days a week), I had to turn down a lot of jobs.  That’s why my online marketing income was only $1,055.  My schedule was booked with existing customers so whenever a new customer called and I told them I was 2 weeks out or more, they went somewhere else.

Having to turn down so many jobs is starting to make me think about hiring another handyman to help me out.  Not sure how this will work out, but I’ll have to think on it.

Monthly Goals

Last month I set the goal to take a vacation without disrupting my business.  I’m going to chalk that one up as a success!

Goals for December

Goal #1:  Decide on a service to promote.

I haven’t done any marketing for a long, long time.  Basically, I haven’t had to because my website kicks so much ass.

But, it’s time for me to step it up a notch.  This month, I want to decide on a specific service and actually try to promote it.  This service must meet the following criteria:

  • Easy to perform.
  • No contractor’s license required.
  • In high demand.
  • Profitable (ideally $100/hour)
  • Something that doesn’t vary much in time so I can have flat rate pricing.

Goal #2:  Complete Free Video Training

I’m planning to create some free training videos to help home services providers with their online marketing to promote the launch of The Handyman Web Academy.  I’d really like to get this done this month if at all possible.  If you’re interested in learning how to get the phone the ring without breaking the bank, sign up here to get updates when the videos go live.

And that’s it for this month!  I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!  If you did enjoy it, why not share it with somebody else?

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  • andrew nichol December 5, 2013

    I didn’t know these were available
    I sidestepped a fence repair for the very reason the posted were sheared at the ground and the cement was in really good shape, I am such a dummy. Oh well NEXT

    • Dan Perry December 5, 2013

      Ya, those babies make fence repairs much more appealing. Now you know.

  • Bobby Fiske December 5, 2013

    Love the fence idea! I did see a other tool on amazon.com. It was a hose attachment that you hammered in to the ground, then turn the water on & in kind of pops up with a little leveringfrom the water pressure, seems to make the ground very wet though. It’s great that you can charged that much for a fence repair. I don’t think you would be able to charged that here. Red Beacon has to many people doing it cheaper.

    • Dan Perry December 5, 2013

      Bobby,

      Trust me, there are plenty of people doing fence repairs for much cheaper than me. But, I refuse to compete on price. Instead, I offer better service and focus on the customers that are looking for quality. It’s all about positioning.

  • Owen December 5, 2013

    These are interesting and I will try them next time. But another method that works easily in my area where sometimes the concrete is in poor shape is too simply jack hammer the concrete until it is easily removed from the hole, then a little digging and its ready for fresh concrete and new post..

    • Dan Perry December 5, 2013

      Thanks for the tip!

  • LaToya December 5, 2013

    Congrats to you and Amy on your engagement!!! Very good marketing tips 🙂

    • Dan Perry December 5, 2013

      Thanks LaToya!

  • Chris West December 5, 2013

    Congratulations that’s great news!

    • Dan Perry December 5, 2013

      Thanks Chris!

  • Howard /Sondra December 5, 2013

    Dan congrats on the engagement and the vaca. Hope thing are going to get better in the new year . Things are going good here lots of big jobs haven’t done many handyman jobs lately lots of deck builds and remodels .Take care enjoy the fiance and good profits to you
    Howard
    HD Home Repairs

    • Dan Perry December 5, 2013

      Thanks Howard! Glad to see you are keeping busy.

  • John Pitsenbarger December 6, 2013

    Congrats on the engagement and hope business continue to build

    • Dan Perry December 8, 2013

      Thanks John!

  • Alex Ceballos December 6, 2013

    Dan
    Congratulations and best of luck to both of you.
    Great tip on the fence post repair. I would shy away from that job.

    • Dan Perry December 8, 2013

      Thanks, Alex!

  • Michael December 6, 2013

    Congrats my man! Marriage is great if you support your partner and help each other reach for the stars!

    • Dan Perry December 8, 2013

      Thanks!

  • Michael December 6, 2013

    Thanks for the fence idea. Just quoted a fence and might need to replace the posts so this could be a gem!

    • LaToya Glenn December 19, 2013

      Thanks for the thumbtack pointers Michael 😉 I was reluctant to use it because of so many bad reviews, but after connecting with you decided to try it out for fun.

      We booked our first job yesterday.

  • Todd December 7, 2013

    I started using these fence supports this year. They say you cant teach an old dog new tricks. Well that’s wrong it is so easy and fast and people are willing to pay anything just to get the fence up and there privacy back.

  • Andrzej Sadanowicz December 8, 2013

    Congratulations on your 2 years in successful handyman business, Dan!
    It is awesome what you have done and so much of useful information shared with others.

    I spent some time reading your handyman startup website, but I could not find any links to your actual handyman business site. Am I missing something? What is your business name? My Google search by Dan Perry only turned out links to back here, to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

    Regards,

    Andrzej

    • Dan Perry December 8, 2013

      Andrzej,

      Thanks for the comment! No, you didn’t miss anything. I have just chosen not to share my company details on this blog as I feel it would mess with my results and make the info I share on here invalid.

      Dan

  • Owen December 9, 2013

    Dan – I meant to ask you when you use these menders, do you use 2 menders for one post? Thanks and Congrats on the engagement. I have been happily married 13 years. I recommend it highly!!!

    • Dan Perry December 10, 2013

      Thanks Owen! I hope my marriage is that successful.

      No, I only use one mender for each post if placed perpendicular to the fence line as shown in the images.

  • Matt December 17, 2013

    I just wanted to thank you. I have been doing handyman work since October. know im booking customers 3 weeks out. I have been so busy and your the one to thank because you gave me the guts to start my own business.

    • Dan Perry December 17, 2013

      Awesome, Matt! That’s exciting and great to hear.

      It’s these kind of comments that make all of the effort worth it!

    • LaToya Glenn December 19, 2013

      congrats Matt!

  • Tim M January 17, 2014

    Dan,
    . I have been thinking of adjusting my rates for some time. I keep a small spreadsheet of what I have been charging over the years. I knew it was time, and just looked and saw my rates haven’t gone up since 2009, when I bought a new van and stocked it with every conceivable tool on the planet. I looked at what a dollar in 2009 was worth compared to what it is in 2012 (2013 data isn’t available yet).

    . To calculate the value of a dollar then to a dollar now I used this Web site:
    http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/uscompare/index.php
    and typed in my old rate comparative time-frame in the upper right-hand corner. I found it agreed with me, that I am past due for a $5 raise. I instantly gave myself one.

    . I’d also given myself somewhat of a raise a few years back, by adding into the bill the time it takes to pick up the parts. Obviously there are some things everyone should have on hand, like nails and screws. I also have for example: 4 different toilet flappers, 2 styles of ballcocks, 2 of every size of supply line, every switch, outlet, and box someone could need, not to mention speciality parts I’ve researched and no store in a 100 miles carries. If I have that on hand, it means I have to pick up the part afterwards to have on hand for the next emergency. I don’t mark up the parts, and me having all kinds of materials on hand (not to mention the tools no one else has) saves the customer all kinds of time and money. Yes, I didn’t make a trip out to pick it up, but I will as soon as I am off the job. Once I’m off the job, they aren’t paying for the time it takes me to drive there, just the time to pick it up, so they are still getting a smokin’ good deal. Also, if, for example, I’m finding a special spring-loaded noiseless check valve to quiet a sump pump that no supplier in town even knows exists, at least some of the research time should go onto the bill. I don’t charge nearly as much for digging up obscure parts as I should, but at least I’m not donating my time to other people’s projects anymore. (Actually I do donate my time, but it goes to the little old ladies who need something done that is a necessity.)

  • Tim M January 29, 2014

    . Your fence repair shows the difference between a $60/hr handyperson and a $25 dollar one. You got the work done better, in less time, and messed up their yard less. Why? Because you have the brains to research a better way, and the tools to get the job faster and better. It probably worked out less expensive for the client to boot.

    . One question, Dan: do you have a two-hour minimum or anything like it? My guess is that you have the gall to charge it. I only use the word “gall” because that is what it must look like to the customer. “He was here less than a half hour, and he charged me $120 bucks!” What they don’t realize of course it that if you came out and changed a faucet washer, you also came prepared to repair or replace the shutoff if that is wonky, and deal with other problems that come up. You drove out there. You left time out of your day for a period to contend with a handle that is frozen on, etc., time when you could have been working steadily all day long. So even for a small thing, you are losing at least two hours of work time, not to mention all the costs in being prepared.

    . For regular clients, if it is easy, that’s one thing. But there is a reason the big guys don’t go out for these jobs: it costs them too much money to mess around with the small stuff.

    . So, do you charge that minimum? Do you explain it to your customers, or do they know they are getting a deal already. How do you handle the customer relations part of it. Granted you work in a larger city, so folks would be happy to get anything done and may expect to pay more.

    . I’ll be interested in what you have to say.

    Tim

    • Dan Perry February 1, 2014

      Hey Tim,

      Thanks for the question and comment. You bring up a great point.

      Right now, my minimum service charge is $75 and that is for existing and new customers. So, even if I’m only there for 10 minutes, it’s 75 bucks. However, I will occasionally knock it down to $50 if it’s really easy, it’s for a great customer, and it isn’t too far out of my way. I make sure to explain this to them on the phone and after I work for a customer the first time. I explain it twice so that when they call me again I don’t have to break bad news to them and they already know what to expect.

      I’ve thought about the 2 hour minimum idea, but haven’t tried it yet. I think it makes a lot of sense and while some customers won’t like it, others will understand. If I was running an operation with employees, I would immediately implement something like this 2 hour minimum. But, since it’s just me and I can get other things done in between jobs, I don’t feel it’s required for me.

      I”m actually planning on re-working my rates now that I have a lot more experience. I’ll be researching and evaluating all the different pricing strategies and may end up with something similar to this two hour minimum.

      Dan

  • Mike March 28, 2014

    I run in to the ‘minimum’ charge issue all the time.
    I do some work for a landlord who has several properties in town and, unfortunately, I negotiated an hourly rate without determining a minimum call out charge. She’s pretty reasonable, so I think I may have to approach her on this, since I seem to get a lot of “adjust the door” kind of calls from the tenants.

  • Seth March 18, 2016

    So 2 things. How do you hammer into concrete?
    And also Does the home owner care that there is a black bracket on the fence? It seems especially the higher end customers would not like the appearence.
    Thanks for the advice

    • Dan Perry March 18, 2016

      Hi Seth,

      I use a 4 lb. mini sledge hammer. And you are right, higher end customers wouldn’t want this repair. It is a lower cost option.

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