A handyman business can be lucrative on its own or be a pathway to bigger enterprises. It can be the perfect fit for a skilled professional that is tired of working for other people and ready to strike out on their own.
To help you out on your journey, we’ve created this guide which is filled with curated advice from successful business owners and industry experts about the ins and outs of the market. We’ve also pulled the steps together you’ll need to take to get started into a printable check-off list.
Handyman Business Start Up Costs
I. Handyman Business Start Up Costs and Accounting Practices
The tools you’ll need on the job are not the only start up costs you should consider. Don’t forget to calculate in your overhead expenses, like the cost of a website and other software, your gas, accounting fees, etc. You’ll also want to keep in mind what kind of salary you’ll need to cover your personal expenses.
- Assess tool and equipment inventory
- Add up your business expenses
- Assess your personal expenses not covered by other income or savings
- Estimate your initial monthly revenue
- Calculate your break-even point
- Figure out your business credit score
- Compare financial options for your startup costs
- Write a business plan
Bootstrapping Versus External Funding
Jeremy Winnie started JW Handyman Services and Home Renovations with little savings and only a set of hand tools. He didn’t take out any loans or look for other external funding. Instead, Jeremy built up his company as he went, buying new equipment with the revenue he made from past jobs.
This is the bootstrapping method — using one’s existing resources instead of asking for outside funding.
When Jeremy got started, his wife Katie was working as a vet technician full-time. After eight months, Katie quit her job and began working full-time for the handyman business, handling administrative tasks such as answering the phone and and scheduling jobs, and managing the books.
Two years later, the business has a team of six, is booked three months out and has increased their annual revenue 1395%.
While they’re now finding success, according to Katie, if they had to do it all over again, they would have taken out a small business loan to hit the ground running. “What we did is really hard to accomplish,” she explained.
If you’re considering bootstrapping versus taking out funding, consider the pros and cons of each strategy.
The Pros of the Bootstrapping Method
The benefit of the bootstrapping method is pretty straightforward: you don’t have to worry about debt and interest rates. Without the debt, you can take your time learning the trade and how to do the best possible job, what equipment you’ll need, and wait to find the best prices.
The Cons of the Bootstrapping Method
The downside is that you only add new customers and services when you have the equipment to sustain them. This means turning down work and probably needing other sources of income to sustain you as you save up.
The path to take really depends on your goals and needs. Is this business a side hustle or a primary means of income? Can you afford to grow slowly? What experience do you have running a business and assessing risk?
Calculating Overhead and Profit Markups Correctly
Something else to consider from day one is how to properly set up and manage your books. For instance, making sure you correctly label and separate your overhead and job-specific expenses.
Calculating a consistent overhead expense can help you figure out what you need to charge per job in addition to the individual job costs in order to make a profit.
But it’s also important to match up how you’re calculating your overhead expenses for bids and estimates and accounting. In an episode of his podcast for contractingcoach.com, Tony Booth explains that when he works with clients, he dives into both to see what their current processes are.
He explains that two business’s profit margins might look very differently because they calculate expenses differently. While some businesses might consider mileage an overhead expense, others might say it’s part of the cost of a specific job.
But, a problem he runs into is businesses placing something like mileage as both a job cost and an overhead expense, which means over-inflating your costs.
Booth recommends sitting down with your accountant and making sure you know how they calculate your overhead costs. “You can sit down and print out your profit and loss statement and find out your bookkeeper is putting a lot of stuff in cost of goods that’s maybe overhead or at least not being the same as what your estimator is doing.”
Additional Resources from Our Blog
II. Legal Requirements
To run your own business, you’ll need to register your business on the federal, state and local levels, including registering for a tax ID. You’ll need this ID to open a business banking account and get insured. If you’re not sure how to register, you can work with a registered agent.
- Incorporate and register your business
- Apply for a tax ID
- Open business bank account
- Apply for insurance and bonding
How to Stand Out
By its nature, the handyman market is not well regulated. As a catch-all market, it attracts individuals who want to make easy money or who are not qualified to do what they’re advertising or who don’t take the time to research what it takes to run a legal business (steps like incorporation and insurance). As Lui Gillermo, owner of Mr. Handy New York, explained, “There’s a lot of sketchy and sneaky dudes out there that want your money.”
However, these issues also create an opportunity to stand out by being more professional than the next handyman. Here are some tips:
1. Be Properly Insured. Talk to an insurance broker who has experience working with handyman or construction companies about what it will take to be properly insured. While you’re not advertising your insurance status, a problem with one client that you can’t afford to fix can be majorly detrimental toward building a positive brand.
2. Be Properly Licensed. Licenses vary by state. Check out our guide to handyman licenses by state.
3. Know The Work You Can and Cannot Perform Legally. The handyman industry has a tainted reputation for performing jobs they do not have the proper license for. This is a problem that can negatively impact both your own business and the market, in general. Know what jobs it will take a specialist to complete. Don’t want to give up certain jobs? Subcontract a journeyman to help you complete the work.
4. Don’t Attempt Jobs That You’re Unsure Of. Similarly, even if you can legally complete a job, are you sure you can do it well? This is Lui’s advice to other home repair specialists. If in doubt, turn down the job and refer someone else.
5. Run Your Services Like a Business, Not a Hustle. Katie believes that JW Handyman stands out because she’s available to answer the phone and answer potential customer’s questions. Think about what your customer’s expectations will be around their entire experience with your business: from scheduling through paying for your service. What staff and software can you afford that can help you stand out as a premium service provider?
Why does all of this matter? Because if you’re thinking long-term, you’re thinking about building your brand. And we’ll get into how a handyman business can turn into bigger and better things.
Additional Resources From Our Blog
III. The Technical Stuff
One of the big dilemmas business owners face is freeing up time to work on their business instead of always working in their business. And reducing the time it takes to do administrative tasks using better tech solutions is a big part of the solution.
- Set up a website and social media profiles
- Shop for and invest in tech platforms (see chart)
- Create calls-to-action (CTAs) on your website and social media profiles
It can be helpful to chart out all of the administrative tasks you’ll need to do on a regular basis, and then see what kinds of tools and features can make these tasks easier. To get you started, take a look at the following table, which goes through what happens before, during, and after a job and matches up tools that can assist you throughout the process.
Tips On Effectively Using Online Booking
Booking new jobs is a huge time suck. When you’re working in the field, you don’t have time to answer the phone constantly or quickly respond to emails. And even if you hire an administrator, there are better uses for their time that can help grow your business.
Giving customers the option to book an appointment online is one step you can take toward freeing up time to work on your business. And the customers appreciate it, as well.
Here are tips on successfully implementing online booking using examples from our pros.
1. Start With Paid Estimates
Unsure what services you’d like to offer online booking for? Allow customers to book a time to for a paid estimate. Like Blessed Hands Handyman, explain the details and fees associated with your services.
2. Only List Certain Types Of Jobs
Business owners are cautious about customers signing up for jobs that aren’t a good fit for them. List the types of jobs you feel most comfortable booking online. For instance, Blessed Hands Handyman has a detailed breakdown of many of their most common services for customers to choose from.
Consider setting a minimum price per job as Unstoppable Handyman does. In the different service details, they explain that the minimum cost covers a certain time amount and what additional time will cost.
3. Set Times That Work Best For You
Whatever booking software you use, it needs to be flexible enough to allow you to set dates and times that work for you. Set time slots big enough that allow for travel to and from the job site, as well as perform the work itself.
Many of our pros who use our online booking feature use it to set time windows and then contact the customer with a more exact time that works best for them.