I've had my own handyman business as a side job for the past few years and encounter a wide variety of home repair issues.
Are You Qualified to Do Handyman Work?
The first step in starting a handyman business is to determine if you have the skill set necessary to do quality, professional type work in other people's homes, often under intense scrutiny. It's one thing to be able to do home repairs in your own space, but when presented with unfamiliar situations and picky customers, will you be able to provide the kind of customer satisfaction that discriminating customers demand?
In my own handyman business, I still struggle with some of these issues. Customers who may appear satisfied after the job is done, then go on to leave a mediocre or negative review online, are particularly frustrating to deal with. These types of customers are rare, but they do exist.
As you start your own handyman business, you will encounter all kinds of personality types, especially the "expert" types who have some level of real or imagined home repair knowledge and who may hover over you as you perform every detail of your work, offering helpful suggestions all the while. Shrugging these types off gently and patiently is a skill that does take some time to develop, and it may be one of the most valuable items in your skill set.
First, though, let's take a look at what kind of skills you really need to have in order to call yourself a "handyman" or "handyperson" and to start advertising for work in your community.
You should, by now, have a wide range of experience with a variety of home improvement projects, from drywall to painting, plumbing, and electrical. You may not necessarily be doing these jobs in your practice, yet knowing how all elements of home construction relate to each other is essential.
For example, if you don't know that plumbing or electrical is often routed through walls in certain areas, and you begin drilling holes into drywall for something as simple as hanging a picture, then what started out as a five-minute job may end up being the end of your career. Along those lines, we'll discuss the subject of liability insurance later in this article.
Next, you should decide what areas you will specialize in as a handyman. You don't have to accept every job, and you can advertise that you specialize in certain tasks, such as assembling IKEA furniture, hanging televisions, or repairing fences and decks. Being a jack of all trades may seem like a good idea at first, but by focusing on a few in-demand categories such as these, you can avoid having to purchase as many tools and types of equipment.
I personally avoid painting, as I find that it's not something I excel at, nor do I wish to have to keep up with so much of the equipment needed to be an efficient painter. In my practice, I stick to the basics, such as minor electrical repairs and small plumbing repairs, such as fixing leaking toilets and installing ceiling fans and light fixtures. This brings us to the next topic, which is the kind of tools you need to start a handyman business.
What Kind of Tools Do You Need to Start a Handyman Business?
For your own handyman business, you should have a wide variety of tools if you plan on doing general home repair work. You will undoubtedly run into odd sizes and shapes of screws, nuts, bolts, etc., so having a good inventory of drill and driver bits and wrenches is a good idea. From Robertson screws on some cabinets to number one Phillips bits, you will eventually use them all.
A good hammer, along with a couple of sizes of pry bars, is helpful for removing embedded nails. A good quality skill saw, cordless drill and driver, reciprocating saw, and miter saw are all items that I keep in my toolbox. I keep a small wet/dry shop vac, a broom, and a bag of microfiber cloths on hand to clean up after jobs. A supply of trash bags and plastic sheeting to protect carpet and furniture are also good to keep on hand.
For plumbing repairs, I keep on hand a couple of small pipe wrenches, a roll of Teflon tape, adjustable pliers, and plumber's putty, among other items. Since you don't want to have to leave a job and travel to the hardware store, you should also accumulate an extensive collection of screws, nuts, nails, pipe fittings, toilet repair kits, and other commonly used items.
It can take a while to determine what you need, especially if your handyman service offers a broad range of services. Again, you may decide to keep your business focused on one or two aspects of home repair, and this is a direction that I'm currently going in myself.
Specialized Handyman Work
You may decide that having a truck full of tools and dealing with highly unpredictable jobs is not for you. You may be better off specializing in one type of work that requires fewer tools, such as assembling IKEA and similar types of furniture. This type of work requires incredible patience and an ability to follow often difficult instructions, yet it can pay quite well.
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In larger cities, at any given time, there will be multiple requests for these kinds of jobs on app-based services such as TaskRabbit, where handymen often find jobs. You may only need a small bag of tools to assemble even the largest furniture items, compared to a whole truck full of tools for a standard handyman service. There are many areas in which you may specialize, from furniture assembly to installing smart home tech devices.
A few months ago, I received a request from one of my customers to install a smart doorbell. The job turned out to be a bit more complicated than I had expected, since the doorbell wires did not supply the correct voltage that the Eufy device required. After I learned how to correct the problem by installing a new transformer at the doorbell's power supply, I gained more confidence.
Slowly I began to install more smart devices, such as Nest thermostats, and now installing smart technology accounts for more than 90% of my business. I still carry a large suite of tools in my vehicle, yet I hardly ever use more than a screwdriver multi-meter and a cordless drill for most projects.
Do You Need Insurance for a Handyman Business?
One of the most important things you can do as a handyman is to insure yourself and your business. Although, knock on wood, it has never happened to me; other handymen have gone to jobs to do something as simple as hanging a picture and have inadvertently drilled holes into plumbing or electrical lines that were running just behind the drywall.
Can you imagine the scenario of a handyman going into someone's pristine home to hang a picture, an easy job that should take a few minutes, and ending up flooding the place as they accidentally puncture a copper water line in the wall? Things like this do happen all the time, unfortunately.
Small plastic plumbing lines, such as toilet supply lines, if not properly installed, can pop off and flood a home in minutes. If you were the last one to work on any of these things, you could be blamed or worse, sued for everything that you own. It's not worth risking your personal net worth to make a few dollars from a side job if you are not insured. Liability insurance for handymen is not cheap, yet it is a tax-deductible expense that you can write off, along with tool purchases and vehicle costs.
Before starting a handyman business, I strongly suggest that you contact your insurance agent and ask them if they offer this kind of coverage. Talking to your CPA or tax preparer is also a good idea.
Other Considerations in Starting a Handyman Business
There are other things to consider when starting a handyman business in addition to those mentioned above. You will need to advertise to that your customers can find you. Google's My Business is a powerful resource that's fairly easy to set up. It's still free to create your own business listing on Google and takes only a few minutes.
As you begin to get more positive customer reviews, your business can really begin to stand out in web searches for handymen. Creating your own website for your handyman business is also a good idea. Offer promotions and specials for seniors, first responders, teachers, and military as another means of attracting customers.
Another consideration in starting your business is that of local licensing requirements. Your city or town may require those performing home repairs of any sort to be licensed and bonded. Bonding and licensing requirements vary greatly from state to state, so check with your local authorities first. Along those lines, be sure and check with your local taxing authority to find out how much local and state sales tax you need to collect when you do a job and how to report this.
Don't be discouraged if much of this seems like daunting information. Many people who have a knack for home repair have started their own successful home repair businesses. Before buying a set of tools and creating a website, take the time to determine how much all of these items cost, including insurance and bonding, and then determine how much business you need to get and at what price to make a profit after paying for these items.
You may indeed lose money for the first few months as you pay off tools, insurance, and other expenses, yet with the demand for home improvement professionals increasing, you may well get past this point and be on your way to a successful business of your own.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 Nolen Hart
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 14, 2020:
I wish we had a good general handyman living in our area. The one we used to have many years ago died of cancer at a young age. I would never have thought about the insurance aspect, but that would be a good idea for a handyman to have.