The absolute basics of all business:
- Get clients to pay you
- Deliver good results, so clients are happy & refer you
- Grow the momentum & spin that flywheel.
Seriously. Don’t overcomplicate it.
Ok, more details: How to Start a Handyman Business, even with zero experience:
Skills first OR Audience & Clients first (then sell leads / referrals) – both are options.
You gotta build a bridge between clients & service.
Said another way, there’s product then work to find clients (what most people do), or clients & marketing first, then find solutions to their problem i.e. source the services – the less common approach. Both work.
Notice that “Deliver good results” doesn’t say YOU have to deliver the results, it just means they need to get good results, and associate your brand with potential referrals and repeat business.
Most entrepreneurs overweight the product and underweight the audience.
80% of success is being professional, showing up, and delivering the service expected and paid for.
So if you have no experience, you have a few options – more on this below
- Leverage someone else’s experience at first
- Get the experience as you go and handle the simple jobs yourself, bring in someone more qualified on more complex stuff, and bite off what you can handle
- Then over time you’ll build up the skills and tools to handle most jobs, and those you cannot you’ll refer out and still get paid on them for referring it.
Ok – let’s break out a few paths in more detail. Which is best for you? Only you can decide from here – it depends on your skills, availability of time, determination, tools you have or can get, etc.
The skills-first path, then building up an audience:
How to Start a Handyman Business – The Steps
- Ideal if you have even basic skills: get a job as a maintenance manager at a senior care or assisted living facility. Most of the work will be fairly basic.
- Next, talk to all the hotels and motels near you. A lot of the work they need will be small, or routine upgrades
- Next, start growing your referrals and client base. Simple jobs take yourself, and more complex jobs you bring in a subcontractor and mark up their time. Network with all the real estate agents, who usually have small jobs to be done on every house they sell.
- Best: Go work for a similar company – as an entry-level worker if needed – but a bit far from your home or your intended market. You don’t want a direct overlap in area, which will mean a longer commute for a few months or a year while you build up skills. Do an apprenticeship if needed.
- The night-only option: take a few night classes at a local vo-tech (Vocational / community college / trade school), then start generating clients, and pick off the easy stuff to do yourself, and the more complex stuff you can assign out / give the sales lead to other more experienced people, then work as their assistant if interested or just get a commission on the job
The audience first path, then work toward skills:
- If you dream of own your own company, a good way to go is building up the client base first – generating sales leads. Create a company name, get a logo and brand and address to use as a home base (won’t be public, but as a center for your service area). Get a website, get some marketing flowing. Note some jobs require a license, so before you start fulfilling services, you should know what requires a license and what doesn’t. Often easy like-for-like (think replacing a ceiling fan with a newer one) does not, but if you’re putting in new electric or plumbing, you’ll most certainly need licenses, so you should have staff available to handle those jobs. The #1 goal of this path is audience-flow, to build up a brand and some momentum. SwiftCloud + Swift Marketing + Swift Local can of course help with this.
Key business tip: Grow slowly & avoid debt if possible. Your profit will be low at first, because you’ll have to be buying tools, but as you need fewer and fewer tools, and get faster, and get more referrals, the machine will come to life. Don’t rent a shop, don’t buy a new fancy van, don’t incur expenses unless it’s going to directly make you money.
TIP: You can buy a lot of tools very cheap at estate sales. Some aren’t worth it to “cheap out” on (say, a good power drill – battery tech has improved a lot in recent years – but an old corded backup or 2nd drill for $5-10 may be smart), but others – like wrenches – haven’t changed much in decades.
Key tip about the work: Knowing how something might go bad, so you don’t get in over your head. Some jobs are fairly low risk – replacing a light fixture for example, but even that will have occasional stripped out screws, or things that were improperly installed the first time.
More ways to develop skills – a 1/2 of How to Start a Handyman Business
- Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity
- Free classes: Some first-time homebuyer non-profits will have basic home maintenance classes for free that will teach things like how to install ceiling fans or replace a dootknob
- Friends & Family jobs – tell ‘em you’re starting a business, and if you mess anything up, you’ll make it right or hire a pro at your own expense (i.e. reassure them!), and if you do a good job, they can pay you whatever they think is fair. Your real goal is practice here + get referrals, but any funds you make are a a bonus. TIP: Tell em if you do a good job, you’d love them to buy a tool X. Often, people will give you
- Flip houses! If you have a day job now, this can be a great way to increase your skills – flip your own house, buy another fixer and rent it out (BRRR = Buy Rehab Rent Refi).
- Practice some stuff at home: Hammer a hole in sheetrock and mud it back together
- Flip furniture. This is a great way to learn staining, finishing, general woodworking and carpentry.
Your eventual goal: Sell the business, or get it to “Cash Cow Mode”:
There’s a hidden, often overlooked value to building a good business: the referrals and momentum (future income with less effort), and “enterprise value” – what the business can one day be sold for. People love to buy cash-flowing businesses that are cash machines and have enough staff to just buy the cash flow – but this means it has to be big enough so they’re not buying a job. You need some real momentum and staff, and a #2 who wants to become #1 when you sell it, then you give ‘em a “golden handcuffs” package to stay 3 years for example.
A great business is one that produces cash flow, with little to none of your own involvement. That’s hard and requires work, most people never get there, but it’s not rocket science. You need great people, solid marketing, brand equity (referrals and relationships that produce deal-flow without any more real work). If you’re looking for “how to start a handyman business” you may want to consider if you want a job that transitions into a real business that runs without you, which requires systems and people – OR you want a great lifestyle income business. Both are valid.
Once you’re confident you can make this business work, and have a general plan to (1.) get clients to pay you, then (2.) deliver what clients paid for, via your own skills or someone else’s, then it’s time to actually set up the business. Do NOT go sign a lease or incur any big expenses.
TIP: Get a free phone number at Google Voice. Use that for your business for now, then once you need more advanced controls, change over to SwiftPhone.com – press 1 for sales, 2 to schedule, 3 to make a payment…
- Learn About Your Area’s Legislation: It’s important to be aware of which services require you to have certification or a license. For example, many U.S. states require a license for electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work. Another thing to consider is that there are limits on the amount you can charge as a handyman. In some areas, any job that costs more than $500 will require a contractor’s license. In other regions, that number might be $3,000. It’s important to learn the laws in your city or state.
- Develop Your Skills: If you don’t have any experience in the handyman industry, it’s important to develop your skills before starting your own business. You can take courses at your local community college or vocational school, or even work as an apprentice for an experienced handyman.
- Get Your Business Registered: Register your business with the appropriate authorities. This will vary depending on where you live, but you’ll likely need to register with your state government and obtain any necessary licenses and permits.
- Get Insurance: As a handyman, you’ll need insurance to protect yourself and your clients from any accidents or damages that may occur during a job. This is risk management: Hopefully you never need it, but if you do, the last thing you want is a lawsuit affecting you personally and potentially getting a judgment against you, your home, your vehicle.
- Set Up Your Business: You’ll need to set up your business by creating a website, getting business cards printed, and creating social media accounts.
Start Marketing Your Business: Once everything is set up, it’s time to start marketing your business. You can use social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to promote your services, as well as local classified ads and flyers.
Jump Start Special Offer
- A Website – Simple but effective, pre-written + customizable
- Invoicing – get paid, invoice clients online or in cash, generate receipts, payment history etc
- Forms / eDocs – eSign Waiver, Work Order – all the Forms & e-Docs you need
- Email Newsletter with up to 1000 clients base package
- $100 Credit on SwiftLocal for sales leads – introductions to real clients near you
Get a website + forms + invoicing + Email Newsletter – all the core basics you need to setup your handyman business for $197 for the first year.