How to Start a Handyman Business: Expert Shares his Secrets
Maybe you want to monetize your skills, or you’re a skilled tradesmen who’s just a bit burnt out from renovation projects. Either way, you’ve decided to start your own handyman business.
You’ve come to the right place! We’re going to cover everything from understanding your market, to handyman invoice software, so you can make smart decisions for yourself.
Ryaan Tuttle is going to walk you through how to start your own handyman business. He’s owner of Best Handyman Boston, and has been a home remodeling business owner for over 15 years. He’s built an automated handyman business model and scaled it out to two locations (so far).
Let’s get started!
9 Steps to starting a Handyman business
- Take your job and business seriously so you can own the market.
- Be aware of license and permit laws in your city so you can offer the appropriate services.
- Get your Handyman business off the ground with your company name, your business registration, and your insurance.
- Find the right talent that you can either learn from or work with.
- Choose your niche market to focus your services and client base.
- Create your business plan and pricing strategy.
- Create a customer service strategy that will set you apart from the competition.
- Start marketing your business to get your first clients.
- Set your company up for success with Handyman business software, like Jobber.
1. Understand your customers and take your business seriously
There are tons of contractors and seasoned tradesmen out there who are trying to take a piece of the pie. While competition is stiff, remember that the handyman market is widely underserved, which leaves lots of opportunity.
Handymen have an excellent opportunity to work with clients who are rejected by contractors because their work requests are too small. One of Ryaan’s clients who lives in a condo said she couldn’t get anyone to call her back. Moments after she reached out to Ryaan, he had sent her the estimate.
He’s created a near perfect business model because of how seriously he takes his efficiency and customer service. His professionalism, willingness to work with clients who need him, and quick response time are some of the top reasons why he gets such a high volume of work.
2. Be aware of local license and permit regulations
Handymen don’t always need a license or a permit to run their business in their city. However, license and permit regulations vary between cities and states, and this can restrict your work opportunities.
Ryaan explains that in Massachusetts he needs a permit to run a remodeling business, but not a handyman business. However, there are project overlaps, such as large carpentry projects.
Ryaan is very familiar laws and regulations, so he knows exactly which projects he can take on, and which ones he can’t.
“We are changing light bulbs, replacing rotted out trim boards outside homes, painting rooms, swapping out ACs… but all we do is smaller projects––so, if it needs a permit, we won’t take it.”
The choices Ryaan makes means he’s able to serve the underserved market in Boston. He’s been very careful with what projects we is willing to take on based on local laws.
Run a handyman business by the book by making sure you ask your city about permit regulations.
3. Get your handyman business off the ground with insurance, business name, LLC, and business registration
You have some level of liability on your hands when you’re working inside people’s homes––even if you’re just hanging a picture frame.
While the level of risk isn’t too high, you want to make sure that the cost of a critical error won’t cost you your business.
Invest in a solid business insurance plan to protect and separate yourself from your business. You’ll have to do a bunch of paperwork (you could do this on your own, or with the help or an attorney) and submit your business to the IRS.
Business name, incorporation, and location
You need a business name. Make sure that you choose something professional and long lasting that you can use for your LLC, business registration, website, logos, vehicle decals, uniforms, and invoices.
You’ll also use your business name for your website and email domain. A name like Mandy the Dandy Handyman Ltd and email like [email protected] will come off as unprofessional and difficult to type out. Pic something short, sweet, and simple.
Register your business with your local government by establishing as an LLC. Do some research and figure out what steps you need to take to register your business. It could take six weeks (or longer) to get your business service registration complete.
Finally, it’s best to get a business address to incorporate and register. Purchasing or renting a P.O. box will help you maintain some privacy and make you look like a larger, more professional business.
Get an accountant and a commercial bank account
Folks who rush into starting a business miss this crucial step. A commercial bank account will help keep your business’ finances separate from your personal finances and assets. It’s required if you decide to incorporate, and it helps keep your bookkeeping clean and tidy.
A separate account is especially important for monitoring business cash flow so you can pay overhead costs, yourself, and your employees.
It will also help you understand how much money to allocate to business growth decisions, such as hiring staff, advertising spend, marketing, and new equipment purchases.
Finally, you might think that you can do all of your bookkeeping on your own, but having an accountant do it for you will be worthwhile. It will save you time and trouble, not to mention auditing and hair-pulling.
4. Find someone to work with
Ryan’s success didn’t happen overnight––nor did he achieve it on his own. It took time, dedication, and learning from others to figure out how to run a successful business.
“You need to work with a team out if you’re just starting out. Find people to work with. There are so many technical decisions to be made. If you’re trying to build up a business then you need to work with a team to do that.”
Ryaan started his first business when he was fresh out of trade school. “I hired some guys who were older and wiser than me, and paid them really well so I could basically learn the trade while running the business, work with my hands, and get the skills. I was so young, but I was already heavy into the business of finding clients, search engine optimization, and building websites. I was trying to learn the trades and business skills at the same time.”
Ryaan learned enough to make the decision to start a new business with a new business model: a near fully automated handyman business.
5. Choose your niche
You need to decide on who your clients will be. You shouldn’t serve everybody. You need to work with the right clients who need the expertise you can offer.
“Three years ago there were hundreds of new buildings and condos being built in the city of Boston. There was a huge need for people to service those homes and condos. But, at that time, we were heavy into remodelling, so we couldn’t service these smaller jobs or projects, and yet, every site visit we saw the same thing: people were asking for smaller jobs. We would be there to look at a kitchen or bathroom and they’d say ‘while you’re here can you please look at this tiny thing? Nobody will call us back or even give us a price for this because it’s too small of a job.’”
Ryaan launched his handyman business to serve those who needed help with a wide scope of basic projects within their condos completed. From there he built his work request, quoting, site visit, and pricing model based on this exact client profile and their needs.
He requires his clients to include photos and a comprehensive breakdown of what work they need completed in their work requests. This allows him to skip a site visit and go straight to sending his clients a detailed quote that he can easily price out.
He refuses to do bigger projects that require permits, such as plumbing and electrical work––even if they are small jobs, i.e. what other clients need.
This focus helps him avoid costly business practices he doesn’t need to do because his clients don’t need them either. Ryaan has become the local expert and his clients are really happy with his expertise. Plus, business is booming!
“In our first year we got 300 clients in Jobber. This is our second year in business and in the first quarter we’ve already done last year’s numbers.”
6. Firm up your pricing and efficiency strategies
Never forget the business side of running a handyman business! If you forget this, you could lose money and clients.
How do you do it? Focus on your business plan by:
- Firming up your business strategy and goals
- Deciding on how to make a profit
Your business strategy and goals
Your business strategy is comprised of your clients, your services (both addressed in the previous section), and how you price everything out.
Pricing your services is no easy task. “I tried for many, many years unsuccessfully. I eventually hired a business coach to teach me the right way,” Ryaan explains.
Figuring out your overhead costs is a great start. Sometimes this involves some trial and error. You can check out this comprehensive guide on how to determine pricing out your services.
Another option is taking advice from Marc Brewer, a home services business owner in Denver Colorado, suggests looking at your year end income statement and at your overhead to get a better picture of your overhead costs.
You need to take the sum of the two and divide it by 260 (daily workdays in the month) or divide it by 12 (for a monthly breakdown). From there you can figure out how to use that money to run your business. Some people will use overhead to buy products, others will use it for marketing.
Making a profit
The second part of your business plan is figuring out how to build an efficient and profitable business.
Some business owners only mark up their services and products and leave it at that. “A business can’t survive without marking up materials. It helps keep the lights on and the wi-fi running,” Ryaan explains.
However, Ryaan’s strategy doesn’t solely rely on mark-up. It also relies on business efficiency.
Ryaan uses handyman business software to automate the majority of his business operations. With it, he doesn’t even have to go do site visits, unless the client requests it. If he does, he charges the client for it, and they can put the fee towards the project if they hire him.
Otherwise, Ryaan sends his clients an estimate within 48 hours of their work request, and they can accept the estimate by clicking “confirm” right in the digital estimate he has using Jobber.
When his tech shows up to the jobsite, they have the full project outline with a to-do list in their hand using the Jobber app. They do the job, hit “complete” in the app, and it will automatically processes the quote into an invoice.
Ryaan spends as little time as possible on redundant tasks that don’t make money. Automation has sped up his workflow so he can send out more techs, spend less time on daily tasks, and make more bank.
Jobber’s app is a game changer in the field. Now we finish a repair call, hit a button on the app, the client signs and pays with their finger. Now I’m on the way home to spend time with my family, not the computer.
7. Strategize your customer service approach
Customer service is paramount in the handyman industry. People want to feel safe and secure in their home and inviting a stranger in can be daunting.
“When we go to these jobs, we explain the process, explain the tech and software we use, and show that everything in their work request is going to happen no matter what. It’s all in the system. It enhances the client’s experience.”
If you’re starting out, take Ryaan’s advice through these two customer service approaches: differentiate yourself from the competition, and make working with your client easy.
Differentiate your service
“I’m up against Taskrabbit, Thumbtack, Amazon Services… but guess what, I’m already taking their clients,” Ryaan explains. The industry is a competitive one, but it’s not hard to win the hearts of prospects with amazing customer service.
“Our competition right now is just a bunch of guys who are saying they’re handyman, but they’re not licensed, because you don’t need a license. But when you visit our website, you see we’re fully licensed and insured.”
Ryaan explains that part of his customer service strategy is showing his clients how Best Handyman Boston is professional, efficient, friendly, and easy to work with. It’s all laid out on their website, and you experience it the moment you get in touch with his team.
Here are some things Ryaan does to differentiate himself from his competitors:
- He doesn’t need a license, but having one shows his clients he’s serious about his business.
- Displaying his insurance number on his website shows responsibility and ownership over craft.
- His policy is that he will send the client a quote within 48 hours, and he does. Every single time.
- His team values honesty and relationship building. They won’t take a project if they’re not qualified to do it, and they make it a point to show up to every project prepared with a drop cloth and a smile.
Make the client experience easy
Ryaan deals with skeptical prospects who have been burned before. He uses technology to ensure that their experience with his team is easy. He shows them that the moment they get in touch.
“One building manager asked me ‘how are you going to get in touch with me?’ and I just say: simple we’ll just set you up in our system and everyone can have direct access to us with one message.”
He uses automated work requests, his own app, automated client communications, and ePayments to do it all. “I get frantic calls like, ‘I don’t know how to pay…’ and I just say, “we don’t take cash or your credit card over the phone. You can mail us a cheque, or you can click on the green button in the estimate or invoice we send over to pay.’ They’re like, ‘really?’ it’s awesome!”
You don’t have to be technically savvy to use the type of software Ryaan uses to run his business. He chose Jobber because it’s designed to be easy-to-use for the on-the-go handymen. You can get started with software and learn how to use it within a day, and get help from customer support any time.
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8. Market your business
If you want to get your business off the ground, you’re going to have to market it. Ryaan’s taken a different approach to marketing his business than most: social media and a solid website.
“Word of mouth is cool, but if you want to grow and scale a business, word of mouth is not doing it,” he explains. Ryaan prefers other marketing avenues like SEO, websites, social media, and ad listings because they allow you to reach clients you normally wouldn’t be able to speak to.
Here are his three marketing tips that extend beyond word of mouth:
Have an SEO optimized website
Ryaan firmly believes that having a solid website, that can be found on search engines, helps build trust with clients, sets you apart from competitors, and makes it easier for you to get more work.
Ryaan’s website is complete with his company’s mission statement, work request form, client testimonials, and license information. While he does have experience with building websites and search engine optimization (SEO), it’s something he has learned over time (and you can too!).
Have online listings on Google MyBusiness and Yelp
Having an online reputation these days is an absolute necessity. Your clients are looking for your customer reviews. It’s also a good opportunity to include your business information and a link to your website where people can request work from you.
“Most of the people who find us are online, and by then, our reputation has already spoken for itself. When I go to a home or speak to someone I tell them to go online and check us out first. We’re always getting new reviews. I let that speak for itself.”
There are several review websites you can get your company listed on. Ryaan uses Google My Business and Yelp. He hires a virtual assistant to manage the websites and run monthly raffles to reward his clients for writing reviews.
Get on social media
Social media might not be your thing, but you should start using it to promote your business.
“I didn’t even know what a hashtag was three years ago. I never got into social media because I’m a very private person,” Ryaan explains. However, it was social media which helped him truly grow his handyman business. His business exploded after he collaborated with a viral Instagram account (Rhea the naked birdy).
The best piece of advice Ryaan can give about starting a social media account is this:
“People see social media and interpret it on a personal level. Business owners should get away from thinking about social media on a personal level that and think about it on a business level: not about their children, their home, their spouse, or what they wear. More about growing your business, reaching out, and making connections with others.”
The reality is that if you can’t get the hang of it, you can use technology to post for you, Upwork, or a freelancer to run your account.
9. Get started with handyman business software
If you’re going to start a handyman business, then you need to get organized with handyman software. Software is your best bet. It helps you keep all your business and client information organized and easy to access in the field.
The last thing you want is to visit a client without knowing exactly what tasks they signed off on the original quote, or forget the access code to their property while they’re out of town.
If you can’t access this information because it’s at the office, then your site visit just turned into a half-day of back-and forth with the office administrator. That costs you a lot of time and money, which is extremely important when you’re just starting out.
Ryaan proves that success won’t happen overnight. However, if you attack your business plan strategically and follow these tips as a guide, you’ll get you started on the right foot and build a strong business that lasts.
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