Learn How To Start Or Grow A Handyman Business
Handyman Startup Logo

My Monthly Report – September 2012

Welcome to my September monthly report!  This marks my 10th month in business and I can’t believe that it’s been that long already.  What an amazing ride!

If you are new to the blog, I write these every month detailing how much money I make and what marketing methods I gained my business from.  I also share insightful stories and lessons that I learned along the way.

I’m not doing this to boast about my income, but only to share what it’s actually like to start a one man service business such as a handyman business.  It’s meant to help others and hopefully inspire them to leave their jobs and do something they love.

I hope it motivate you to do something you love.

September was a rough month for my handyman business.  I got a really bad review on Service Magic that was completely uncalled for, I went on a vacation for a week, and hardly did any marketing.  That being said, I’m surprised I made any money at all!

Even with the negative things that happened, I did meet some new customers that make it all worth it.  You know those people that are totally stoked on your service and can’t wait to tell their friends?  Just when you think you’re going to get another phone call from somebody searching for the cheapest service, you get one of those customers that actually gets it.  That is my favorite part of this business.

Charging too little???

Two weeks ago I had one of my customers tell me that I was charging too little.

When she asked for the bill, I told her $75.  She then replied, “are you sure?  That seems really cheap.”

“I can charge you more if you want me too.”  I replied.

Keep in mind that this was for a job that only took me 30 minutes and about $15 dollars in parts, so I definitely wasn’t giving her a deal.  I even included a $20 trip charge.

Needless to say, this put a smile on my face.  She basically told me that I was providing her with a really great value, even more than she was paying for.  It got me thinking about how many other customers may be thinking the same thing.

Now the question is, how much should I charge?  This has been the hardest thing for me to determine thus far.  When I first started my handyman business, I was working for as low as $25/hour and I thought this was a lot to ask customers.  Now, I typically give estimates based on $40/hour plus a 25% markup on materials.

So, I decided to experiment a little bit.  I’m planning on testing a $50/hour rate for certain customers to see how they react.  I believe I’m really going to have to back this up with some efficient, quality work, but that’s what I do anyway.  I can further justify an increase in rate by the fact that I’m getting better at my job.  Almost everyday I learn something new that makes me that much better and more efficient on future jobs.  So, if I’m 20% faster at my job, then why not ask for 20% more money?

One of the key things that I’ve learned from dealing with a couple hundred customers is that some people suck at life and some people actually know how the world works.  The people that suck think a handyman should charge $20/hour.  The other side of the spectrum understands that there are costs to doing business and running a professional operation.

Understanding this fact and actually realizing in everyday operations is different, however.  In the beginning, I’d let the bad customers get to my head.  They’d make me feel like I was charging to much and didn’t deserve a decent rate for my services.  They messed with my self-esteem and made it tougher to ask for a higher rate with confidence.

If this is something that your currently experiencing, I recommend that you don’t let them get to you.  If they can’t afford your services, let them hire lower quality labor.  This way, you can spend your time finding customer that you actually want to deal with.  

How NOT to deal with bad reviews

I don’t care how awesome you are at your job, how well you execute a home repair, you will run into those customers that are complete idiots.  Such as the lady that I dealt with recently.

You can’t control what other people do, but you can control your reaction.  Remember that.

This was a particularly interesting situation to me, because I was actually very helpful to the lady that gave me the bad review.  She originally asked for me to reinforce her vinyl gutters.  So, I told her it would be $20 for the trip charge and $40/hour.  She then went on explaining that she was retired, living on a small pension, and she really needed some help.  So, being the nice guy that I am, decided to help her for a flat rate of $40.

She then went on wasting my time, asking me a million questions and I ended up being there for well over an hour.  Not even close to worth my time but I stuck it out with a smile.  Upon leaving, she even thanked me with a hug.

Three weeks down the road, and I recived an e-mail from ServiceMagic (now Home Advisor) saying that I received a review.  I read it and was blown away.  The lady said that I didn’t seal her gutters well enough and they were leaking, even though that wasn’t part of the job she hired me for!  She gave me a 1 star review to top it off!

I was so pissed off that I called her on the phone right away.  Trying to sound as nice as I could, I explained that I was sorry for the bad experience and I would have gladly come out to fix the issue for free (even though it wasn’t really my fault).

Things started to heat up and I ended up going off on the lady, which I high recommend NOT doing.  But seriously, she was being completely unreasonable and irrational.

This situation taught me a couple of very valuable lessons.

  1. Follow up with your customers to make sure they are happy with your work.  This probably would have prevented the bad review in this case.
  2. Some people are completely irrational and you can’t control what they do.  The only thing you can do is control your reaction.

Luckily Service Magic let’s you comment on the review.  I did leave what I feel like was a good response.  I didn’t get personal, I just apologized and let any other readers know that I stand behind my work and will fix any issues I cause for free.  That is really all you can do in that situation.

Has anybody else had a similar experience?  If so, please share it in the comments below.

Income and Expenses

Income:

  • Existing Customers: $1,639.48
  • Google Searches: $462.94
  • Craigslist: $180
  • YP.com: $80
  • Referrals: $75
  • Neighbors: $54

Expenses:

  • Direct job costs: $339.39
  • Phone: $69.81
  • Mileage: $250.31
  • Insurance: $94
  • Bank Fees: $2.35
  • Service Magic: $58.86
  • Angie’s List: $83.83
  • Other:  $12.38

Total Income:      $2,491.42
Total Expenses:  $910.73
Net Profit:             $1,580.69 (last month: $3,380)

I profited less than half as much as I did last month, and I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little demoralizing.  So, why was it so low?

The primary reason for my income being so low this month is that I took 2 vacations this month.  One was a week long vacation and the other was a 3 day vacation.  I don’t make any money while I’m on vacation.  That’s the bad part of being a handyman.  On the flipside, I get to take as much vacation as I want, which to me is far more important.  If money was all I was after, I wouldn’t have quit my engineering job.

Another reason that my income was significantly lower was that I wasn’t puting a whole lot of effort into getting customers.  I only ran a craigslist post for a couple of days out of the whole month.  I also didn’t follow up with any of my Service Magic leads.

The truth is, I’m getting used to dealing with existing customers which is so much easier and more enjoyable.  I guess I just have to step it up in the future.

My Handyman Hourly Rate

Billable Hours: 47

Income from labor: $2067.18

Hourly Rate: $2067.18/47= $43.98

I’m happy with this hourly rate.  I shoot for $40/hour average.  So, this means I did a good job quoting customers.  I didn’t make much money this month, but at least I made a really solid hourly rate.

Click here to see how I determined my hourly rate.

October Goals

As my may know, I’m currently writing a series of posts on how to build a handyman website.  To read it now, click here.  This has motivated me to improve my website.

Goal #1:  $1500 of income generated by leads from my website in November.

I plan on achieving this by make making several small changes to my website.  Here is my plan of action.

  1. Evaluate statistics from google analytics.
  2. Optimize my homepage for the keywords that are generating the majority of my traffic.
  3. Post 3 articles related to other keywords that I’d like to rank for.

The reason I have set this goal is because I beleive that I should be getting much more business from my website.   by implementing this strategy, I hope to increase the amount of traffic that comes to my handyman website, and also increase the conversion rates of that traffic.

I’ve set the goal for November because it will take some time to implement and I most likely won’t reap any of the benefits for at least a month.

Setting goals is extremely important to success.  Like I’ve said before, how do you know if you succeeded if you don’t have a goal?  I strongly encourage you to set measurable goals on a regular basis as a method to keep yourself on track.

For more on setting goals, read this post.

So, what are your goals?  Please share them in the comments below.

STOP Making These Mistakes...
FREE REPORT REVEALS:

"3 Common Handyman Business Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)"

Learn why some handyman businesses THRIVE while others STRUGGLE.
  • Mike October 12, 2012

    Great Post! Thanks for boosting my confidence about how much I charge, coming up with a price is one of the hardest things to do.

  • Sean October 13, 2012

    Hey Big D,

    I think $50/hr is perfectly fair. Here in Florida, I start at $55/hr. However, after some haggling I’ll settle for less, but never less than $45. In fact, most franchise handyman chains will charge much more. For example, some charge a two hour minimum at $60/hr to $80/hr. Others charge $60 to $80 for the first HALF HOUR, then $60/hr to $80/hr after that.
    Now, I’m not saying its appropriate for a one man handyman company to charge those rates. A franchise chain is typically owned by a licensed contractor, so they can offer many more services. Also, they have much hire costs associated with the franchise, employees, and licensing. But its good to keep in mind that this is the closest competition.

    I hope this helps. Good Luck!

    Sean

    • Big D October 14, 2012

      Thanks for the insight, Sean.

      I think that something can be learned from a franchise being able to demand a higher rate. To the company, it is required because of their overhead. The customer doesn’t care about overhead, though. They must feel “safer” going with a more established company. The customer will also trust the more established company which makes them place a higher value on the service.

      That being said. Why can’t we look like we are just as established with our websites, vehicle logos, uniforms, and professional interactions? Technically, if we offer the customers the same piece of mind and trust, a single-man business should be able to charge just as much.

      I have actually had people ask me if I was part of a franchise. I’m saying this because I want to stress the importance of establishing a business as a trusted brand, and not just a word of mouth handyman.

      Any thoughts?

  • Craig October 14, 2012

    Hey Big D,
    Your doing a great job. The blog and articles are very helpful. I had a Handyman/Remodeling business for 10 years. When the economy tanked my sales went down by half. So I closed my business and went to work for someone else. I hated it. So I started another business this time I had your experiences and advice to help me. Before I had only advertised in a local paper and the YP. Word of mouth was always my best source of business. After reading your blog I set up a website and started advertising on Craig’s list. I only started in september and most of my time has been spent on the website and planning. Through Craig’s list i’ve gotten some interest mostly people looking for cheap work. But I also got hooked up with a house flipper and have steady work with him and three other customers for the rest of the year. I really appreciate your perspective on things. We have had a lot of the same experiences. I had been in business for a long time but you have taught me a lot. Just wanted to say thanks. If you ever have any questions or would like an opinion or advice feel free to contact me.

    Thanks, Craig

    • Big D October 14, 2012

      Craig,

      Thanks for the kind words. That means a lot and I’m glad that I could help you. I will definitely be contacting you in the future for your advice and/or opinion.

      I’m glad to see that you decided to set up a website. Right now, the leads from my website are really picking up and it is totally worth it. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

      Big D

  • Sean October 15, 2012

    Hey Big D,

    You are absolutely right. A one man handyman company can be just as professional and successful as any franchise chain, and can charge the same rates, if not close to it. A good website, uniforms, marketing strategies, and most importantly a serious professional attitude will go a long way in establishing your brand.

    I was simply pointing out that a franchise will typically have deeper pockets, and can afford a much larger marketing budget, among other things. Therefore, they can walk away from a $50/hr job; whereas, you or I would jump on it.

    However, my goal is to grow my company to the point where $80/hr is not out of the realm of possibility. Although by that time I suspect I’ll be a “greater than one man handyman company.” Always think big!

    Sean

  • Almora October 25, 2012

    Thanks for you for your sharing this info its gold man!

    I been doing the handyman gig for about 6 years in a small city (CasaGrande,Arizona),
    your website is a great gem Rock on!

  • Caleb November 2, 2012

    How do you like using the home advisor services? I see alot of really bad reviews online and was wondering what your experience has been. Thanks

    • Big D November 4, 2012

      Caleb,

      Home Advisor has been worth the investment. Considering that I only pay about $8-$20 for a lead and that I have received some of my best clients from this service, I would recommend trying it.

      The key is that you need to call the customer immediately upon receiving the lead. I have found that the customer almost always goes with the first person that contacts them. Well, at least when it comes to handyman services. For big jobs, customers are more likely to want 3 bids.

  • Cory November 3, 2012

    Big D,

    I have been reading all your comments and suggestions on your website and have used them to plan my very own Handyman buisness. I just started Nov 1, so waiting on all the papers for the LLC and buisness cards, before setting up a website. I have been checking different things out that you commented on and was wondering a couple things. You mentioned ServiceMagic something about 80/20…Do you think it is a good company to associate with for the money you spent to join. Also how is Angie’s list working for you..Is it worth the investment…Thanks for the input and keep these blogs coming to help all us little people. Cory

    • Big D November 4, 2012

      Hey Cory,

      That’s great to hear that you are starting your own business and that my material has helped you along the way.

      As far as ServiceMagic goes (now HomeAdvisor), it has definitely been worth the investment. Even though I didn’t get business from a lot of the leads that I was sent, this service has connected me with many of my best clients. Customers that have hired me several times after the first job. I can’t promise that the results in your area will be as good as mine, but I do think it’s worth testing.

      Angie’s list has brought me very little business. If I was just starting out, I would still make a profile on Angie’s List, but I wouldn’t pay for a premium listing. Unless you have several really good reviews, Angie’s list customers probably won’t consider you. If you want to, get at least 5 A reviews from customers and then consider a paid listing.

      I’ll be sure to keep the blog posts coming as long as you keep reading!

      Big D

Speak Your Mind