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How You Can Make More Money as a Contractor or Handyman (In Uncertain Times)

7-minute read

Courtney Hayes

Courtney Hayes

9 November 2022

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Uncertainty. It’s just about the only thing you can be certain of these days.

Less than a year ago, a Harvard study predicted robust spending in the home improvement sector, driven by skyrocketing home appreciation and sales. But whipsawing material costs, interest rate hikes, and unrelenting inflation are hammering the housing market. And those same experts are now predicting a sharp slowdown in spending on remodeling and repairs.

Yikes! It's enough to make your head spin. For small contractors and handymen, these might be challenging times.

But hold on there, it’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, spending will likely cool, but Americans are still expected to dish out $450 billion on home improvement and repairs next year. That’s some serious bank, and someone’s going to make those Benjamins. Why not you?

Ready to dive in? Here are some things you can do to stand out from the crowd and potentially grow your business, and make more money.

1. Be your own boss, but don’t try to do it all.

Leaving my staff job to go freelance was one of the scariest things I've ever done — but also the most rewarding. If you want to bring in the big bucks, being your own boss can be a good first step. But don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to do it all.

To help maximize profits, identify services in high demand that match your expertise. Once you’ve established your niche, you can grow your reputation to become one of the top contacts for a specific task. Many homeowners will pay more for high-quality work. And specializing means you’re doing jobs you enjoy. Win-win!

For those of you just dipping your toe in the handyman pond, here are some great tips on how to get started.

2. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Now that you’re in charge, it’s time to build your team. No matter how much you increase your earnings, there are only so many hours in the day to complete jobs. And if you want to make more money, it can help to have the right team in place.

Trusted vendors, suppliers, and subcontractors can help you build a well-oiled business that runs smoothly, even in uncertain times. You now can spend more time marketing and growing your business.

3. Marketing is a must!

As a contractor or handyman, you share a skill set with countless others. To make more money, it helps to stand out from the crowd. It’s time to let your community know who you are and what makes you special. Old-school marketing tools like business cards, local newspapers, and in-store flyers can be effective.

But nowadays, many homeowners first turn to the internet for information and recommendations. Free platforms like Craigslist and Google Local Business listings are powerful tools to find jobs and advertise your business. Hyper-local platforms like Nextdoor will put you in direct contact with potential customers. And sites like HomeAdvisor make it easy for clients to find pros like you by doing extensive upfront screening.

Here’s a comprehensive list of review sites you may want to look into for your handyman business.

New to social media? Check out this overview of the top-three social media channels for small businesses and how they can help you grow.

4. Create a website.

Don’t have a website yet? I know, it sounds time-consuming and costly. Before you panic, have a look at this straightforward article on how to build an affordable website.

If you’re not quite ready for a website, consider a Facebook Business Page. It’s quick and easy, and most importantly, it’s free! You can create an online presence that includes your contact information, customer testimonials, and a project portfolio. To get started, watch this step-by-step video tutorial for beginners.

5. Network, network, network!

Let me guess — you hate networking. Me too! But my most rewarding jobs have come from conversations with colleagues, friends, and family. These are the people who know and trust you. Talk to them!

Networking can happen anywhere — it’s simply a matter of having a meaningful conversation with the right person at the right time. So get out there and share your story with everyone!

  1. Join your local chamber of commerce and trade associations, and make the time to attend networking events.
  2. Establish a relationship with your local hardware stores. When homeowners are looking for high-quality handyman help, this is often their first stop and the hardware store can make recommendations.
  3. Get to know local real estate agents — another go-to source when new homeowners are looking for referrals.
  4. Drop a business card in the mailboxes at new developments.
  5. Set up a LinkedIn account. It’s free and can supercharge your networking efforts.

6. Show off your contractor’s license.

A contractor’s license is proof that you’ve been vetted and approved by your state licensing board. Be sure to share this information with potential clients. Advertise it on your business vehicle, website, Facebook Business Page, and marketing materials. It’s yet another way to build trust and help grow your business.

If you’re not already licensed, check out our contractor licensing hub, which breaks down each state’s process for getting licensed. To learn more, scroll down the article and click on your state.

7. Create word-of-mouth referrals.

Perhaps the most powerful and cost-effective form of marketing is word-of-mouth referrals. This might sound easy, but it takes time and discipline. First, it’s helpful to develop a loyal client base. One potential way to gain loyalty is to ­under-promise and over-deliver.

If you’re just starting out, try to keep prices reasonable. But no matter what, always provide quality service. Not just on the job, but during the estimate and final billing process. Over time, you will likely build trust and loyalty — the key ingredients for growing your business.

Good customer service will make you stand out from the crowd. Send a thank you note to customers when a job is completed. Sadly, simple courtesies and clear communication can be rare in today’s world.

As a homeowner who barely survived a major renovation project, I can tell you that poor communication was my number-one complaint. Going forward, I will gladly pay more for someone who simply returns my texts promptly.

When the job is complete, don’t hesitate to ask clients to recommend you to friends and family. Since you’ve proven your value, one successful job may yield more and people will line up to hire you.

Before you know it, you’ll be spending less time marketing and more time fielding job requests. When you’ve reached this stage, consider increasing your rate.

For more tips on how to grow your business with word-of-mouth marketing, check this out!

8. When to say no.

Successful contractors are generally selective when it comes to assessing the who, what, and where of every project. And sometimes it’s best to say no. Not every client, project, or location is a good fit for your experience or capacity. And with today’s gas prices, out-of-town travel can really add up.

Plus, bidding on everything can waste time, energy, and money. Some jobs may require a bid bond and even a performance bond. These costs are the normal part of doing business, but they can be costly. So you may want to bid on projects you know you can complete successfully and make a profit on.

9. Bigger isn't always better.

While it pays to be selective, don’t ignore small jobs. Under the right circumstances, small jobs can be very profitable, especially if you limit those jobs to a small area. It isn’t unusual for a contractor or handyman to earn $50+ an hour for specialized work. And if you have a loyal client base, you might be able to establish a higher minimum fee per job.

A series of 30-minute jobs can really add up over the course of a day. This is also an opportunity to expand your client base and develop more word-of-mouth referrals. No matter the size, quality work can lead to a big payout over time.

10. Choosing Mr. and Mrs. Right.

Business is about relationships. Finding and retaining clients who are willing to pay a premium for quality work will be key to your success. Part of assessing a job is getting to know what potential clients value. If someone cares only about price, it might be a signal to walk away from the job.

These customers will typically go with the lowest bidder, wasting your valuable time and energy. Clients who seek quality might ask questions about you, your experience, and your process. These are the people who are more likely to help you grow your business! Treat them like gold. They are!

11. Price for profit — you’re worth it!

Clients who value quality may gladly pay more for good customer service and quality work. By returning calls promptly, showing up on time, and doing quality work you might be able to charge a higher rate.

Trust me, you’re worth it! And don’t forget to include your cost of doing business. Travel time, overhead costs, and any extra expenses should be factored in.

Not sure you’re ready to raise your prices — here’s an article that might help you make the decision.

12. Streamline and cut out waste.

Pricing a project requires an accurate estimate of completion time. This can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out. Here are a few strategies for improving accuracy:

  • Track the average time it takes to complete projects so you can avoid underbidding.
  • Take a close look at how much material is being wasted on each job.
  • Once you have the data in place, develop a plan to streamline your services and eliminate waste.

13. Don’t cut corners.

Making more money doesn’t mean cutting corners. Saving a few dollars by purchasing cheap equipment and materials or relying on less expensive vendors can backfire. Any small saving gains may be outweighed by damage to your reputation. It can take only one misstep to harm your reputation and erase years of hard work. Instead, invest in quality equipment, training, and employees.

14. The R word — how to recession-proof your business.

Nobody likes to talk about recession, but here’s a little tough love. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Preparing in advance is your best strategy to avoid losses. Here are some great tips to get ahead of the game and keep your business growing.

15. Be sure to get the right insurance.

Yep, turbulent times like this demand extra care. And one of the best ways to financially protect your growing business is with business insurance. Business insurance doesn’t just provide financial protection for you, it also can help reassure your clients that if anything goes wrong, your insurance policy could potentially help cover their losses.

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Here at Simply Business, we’re an online insurance platform that specializes in helping contractors and handymen like you find affordable insurance coverage — and all in just minutes.

So whether you need general liability, tools & equipment, or workers' comp insurance, let us help. Use our free quote comparison tool to get policy options from the nation’s top insurers.

We’re not just fast — we can be surprisingly affordable as well, with general liability policies as low as $19.58/mo.*

Got questions? We can help there, too. Our licensed insurance pros can get you the answers you’re looking for and get you covered — often on the same call. You can reach them at 844-654-7272, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (ET).

If you see a policy you like, you can click to buy it. It really is that simple!

*Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - March 2023 data of 10% of our total policies sold.

Courtney Hayes

Written by

Courtney Hayes

Born and raised in the fishing port of Gloucester, MA, I grew up listening to the sea stories of local fishermen. My first job was “chum girl” on my dad’s tuna boat, where I spent my formative years covered in fish guts. Since then, I’ve worked as a researcher, blogger, and writer for documentary films. When not at work, you can find me surfing the cold waters of the North Atlantic or searching for warmer waves around the world.

Courtney writes on a number of topics such as risk assessment, starting a small business, and financial resources.

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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