How to Start a Handyman Business
Congratulations! You’ve decided to start your own handyman business. If you don’t want to be one of those “here today gone tomorrow” companies, you’ll need to spend some time and effort now to keep yourself up and running for the long haul.
The primary mistake most handymen make when first starting out is failing to think of themselves as businessmen. Yes, you need to be skilled with a hammer and a drill, but you also need to remember that you are a business first and a handyman second. Approach the creation and running of this endeavor like a guy in a suit would and you will set yourself up for long-term success before you’ve even picked up a tool.
What exactly are you going to do?
You probably have a long list of things you could do – write them all down. Now go through the list and for each one ask yourself two questions: 1) do I want to spend my days doing this? And 2) do I need a license to do this? Just because you know how to, say, do roofing, doesn’t mean that’s something you want to spend your life doing. And you may really like doing HVAC work – maybe your big brother taught you – but you never bothered to get licensed because you didn’t need to. If you need a license to perform work and you don’t have one, don’t do it. At the end of this exercise, you should have a list of jobs you want to do and can do legally.
Who do you want to work for?
Single women over 50 use a lot of handymen, but that doesn’t mean you want to work for them. Maybe you’re hoping to work for retired veterans, or property managers of apartment buildings, or a local college. Presumably part of the reason you’re starting a business is to avoid working for someone you don’t want to work for. Take a minute to think about who you do want to work for.
Come up with a business name
The sky is the limit here. You could do something simple, like “Your last name’s” Handyman Services. If your name has rhyming or alliteration possibilities (“Handy Andy” or “Cabinetry by Conrad,” for example), think about that. Don’t be afraid to be clever or funny because that will make it easy for current and future customers to remember.
As you’re brainstorming business names, type them into your computer’s search bar and see what results you get. Because your business name isn’t just what you emblazon on the side of your truck – it’s also going to be your website. If you want customers to find you and recognize you, it’s imperative that you have an easy-to-remember-and-spell business name and matching website.
You will also want to run possible names through a small business or LLC website – there should be a database of existing names for each state – to make sure it’s available so that your officially registered name matches the name you go by and matches your website.
This might be a time-consuming and frustrating step but will be well worth it in the long run.
Register, register, register
Now that you have the perfect name in mind, register it with your state. There are a few different ways to do this, and will vary by state, so spend some time researching what works best for you. Start with an internet search for, “How do I register my business in _____” and include your state.
You will also need to register your business with the IRS and state revenue office. (You were planning to pay taxes, weren’t you?)
You may also need a business license – separate from any of your trade licenses – just to set up shop.
As you work your way through all this bureaucracy, remember that, if you do it properly now, you will seldom have to think about these issues again. But don’t assume you can just start calling yourself a handyman and go staple flyers to telephone poles. Your state government and possibly local government will want you licensed and registered and it’s your responsibility to figure out how.
Establish basic business operations
You already know your chosen business name is also available as a website, so go ahead now and buy the domain name. (More about your website later.) You will also need a business bank account (possibly with a credit card attached) and phone number. It might be reasonable to use your personal phone as your business phone, but it is definitely not reasonable to share a bank account, so set up a new one. Now is also the time to get yourself some insurance. Every reputable handyman has insurance.
Remember, you are a businessman first. Businessmen do not keep receipts crumpled in the tool box and they don’t guess how many miles they drove last week. Get yourself some accounting software now – before you have any money or expenses – and familiarize yourself with its basic operations. If you understand now what kind of paper trail your software will need, you will save yourself hours of time recreating it later. Your accounting software will also be invaluable when tax season rolls around.
You can’t take the bus to job sites, so if you don’t already have a truck in mind for your business, you’ll need to get one. A moderately used small truck or even a minivan will give you space to haul tools around without breaking the bank.
Remember the list you made of jobs you wanted to do? Take a look at that and make another list, this time of tools you’ll need to do those tasks. You probably have a few but still need to acquire others. Keep those receipts – you’ll to input those figures into your new accounting software as a business expense.
You need someone to hire you – how do you get them to find you? Word of mouth is a terrific source but it’s probably not going to be enough. You’ll want some business cards to give to potential customers, of course. Remember how you thought about who you wanted to work for? If you wanted to focus on senior citizens, you would need a different marketing approach then if you wanted to target first-time homeowners. The seniors might be more responsive to more traditional advertising, like a phone book (if your area still has them) but a first-time homeowner is probably much younger and is using a computer to find a handyman. You may have to try a variety of approaches to get a sense of what’s working and what’s not.
As a handyman, you may face some legal restrictions about how you can advertise. This is one more thing to research on the internet and that varies by state.
You have to have a website. You will miss out on customers if you don’t. It doesn’t have to be flashy and fancy, but it does have to exist. With only moderate computer skills and a tutorial or two, you can build a basic site in a weekend. If that is beyond you, find someone to do it for you. You can hire a professional or you can hire your tech-oriented nephew but find someone. Make sure your site includes your name, what you can do, and phone number and email to contact you (and a decent photo of yourself would be nice, too).
Find a simple form you can use as a contract for your customers. This will make you look more professional and will prevent the misunderstandings that inevitably arise from verbal communications. It will help you with bookkeeping, too.
Have you done all of that? The business-type stuff is not always fun but it’s crucial for your success. You can’t be a successful handyman if you don’t take care of the business side with at least as much energy as you devote to the tool guy side. Years from now, as you bask in the fruits of your labors, you’ll be glad you did.