advice requested

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mikejurasw

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Hey everyone,
I hope you're all keeping well. I've posted before in dedicated forums, but would like opinions on this general question: Due to Covid, like many folks, my very stable work situation in a completely unrelated field is now in a long-term holding pattern. (50% salary reduction, probably until there's a vaccine), so I'm looking for plan B. General handyman work has been my hobby all my life and I'm comfortable with just about any project aside from more exotic electrical, plumbing or masonry work. My question for those of you who do this for a living: What are some must-do's and must-don'ts for going from hobby to part-time self-employment?
Thanks!
Mike M
 

Sparky617

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1. If you have some realtor friends work with them to find work. There are always items after a home inspection that require a handyman to fix.
2. Don't take on big jobs, stick to small repair projects until you get some experience on pricing your services. It is really easy to lose your butt on a big job if you bid it wrong. Once you comfortable estimating jobs you can look to take on larger projects that will take days (or weeks) to complete.
3. Get insurance
4. Know your limitations
5. Clean as you go, especially when you're charging by the hour. Clients don't view you cleaning up and packing up your tools as billable time. So if you finish the job and then start cleaning up and packing your tools they view that the clock has stopped.
6. For materials, it is better to over-buy and return than to under-buy and have to make repeat visits to the Home Center.
7. If you work with realtors there are some things you should probably keep on hand: Fluidmaster rebuild kits, GFCI outlets, popular size furnace filters#1

I'm sure others will have things to offer. BTW I don't do handyman work for a living, but I definitely learned #2 the hard way. Fortunately, I had a day job and didn't depend on the project to pay bills. I did better than break even but I didn't make much money. Taking on big jobs part time will definitely wear you out. Working 6 or 7 days a week is tough. Clients grow tired of the project dragging on and on. My realtor wife would love for me to offer my services to her and her other agents because good handymen that show up when they say they will are hard to find.
 

Snoonyb

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Scheduling and timeliness, be on time but preferably early, no excuses.

I learned over 40yrs ago; there are only 2 cant's, you can't cut it, you can't stay, and all those thing you deem impossible, are only opportunities to show how inventive and entrepreneurial you are.
 

mikejurasw

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Thanks guys, great stuff! Esp. like the idea of connecting with a realtor. BTW Sparky 617, what is a general guide for bidding a job? My uncle was a construction worker and told me once (this was back during the Nixon administration) that he would price out the material and the triple that for his bid.
Thanks again!
 

Sparky617

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Thanks guys, great stuff! Esp. like the idea of connecting with a realtor. BTW Sparky 617, what is a general guide for bidding a job? My uncle was a construction worker and told me once (this was back during the Nixon administration) that he would price out the material and the triple that for his bid.
Thanks again!
I would have to defer to the guys in the business. I don't know if there is a general rule of thumb. I doubt the 3x the material cost would work for all types of projects and materials. If I could have figured out how to estimate my labor I would have actually made some money on the job. I built a screened porch/deck for a friend. The main thing I didn't take into account is how much it being 10' off the ground would slow things down. Working off a ladder all the time really slows things down. If this would have been a ground level deck project it would have taken a third of the time.
 

joecaption

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Your going to need a business licence if your doing paid work.
You can not even get insurance if you do not have a licence.
Around here you have to have a local business licence as well as a state contractors licence that requires testing.
In the past I've worked for many realtor's and have not had the best of luck dealing with them.
Most would call me at the last min. to fix something that was holding up a closing, expect me to stop what I was doing and fix it ASAP and as cheap as possible, then take 3 months to pay me.
I found out the hard way that if someone ask you to do something that's against code, or you know for a fact what there asking you to do will not work, do not do it!
When I do a job I want the nosy neighbor to ask who did that for you, not who did that to you. :)
Put everything in writing when quoting, and make sure to have them sign it, give them a copy.
Pricing is always tricky on some jobs, whenever possible I charge by the hour on smaller jobs, and to make them feel better add a cost not to exceed clause.
Make sure your quote states, does not include the cost to repair any hidden damage.
A simple job like replacing a shingle or a ext. door can turn into a nightmare quick if damage is found.
On a simple job like building a deck, or shingling a shed roof make 100% sure to get the money up front for the materials!
What I've done to make them feel better about paying this money up front is let them write the check out to the company your buying the materials from, or let them go to the place of business to pay the bill.
I had a nut case try to screw me out of over $7000 in materials to build a deck one time and it took me over a year to get my money plus I had to pay a lawyer.
They tried to say I was building it with sub standard materials because I'd used grade 2 for the framing, they said all my post where at different heights, I had not had time to cut them off yet, the funnest one was they claimed I had over built it and could have used narrower joist to save money. :)
I walked off the job when they refused to pay for the materials and they got some else to finish it, they then took all the left over materials back and tried to get cash back for materials that had been put on my account at the lumber yard.
 

Jeff Handy

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I have tradesman general liability insurance through Grange, and I have no licenses.
I live west of Chicago.

Quote almost everything as time and materials.
Once you have some references from clients you can use them to assure your prices are fair.
If you screw something up or take too long because you are not finishing in a timely manner due to lack of experience, write off some hours and tell them why, you will be appreciated.

Charge for shopping time!
Sell materials at cost, incl shopping time.
Make sure they know that in advance.
It can take over an hour to drive to a store just for a few screws or a toilet part.

Only a very few clients have objected to this, and I explain that my time and gas are not free.
If they want to shop, fine.
If they buy any of the wrong parts, give them one chance to have you shop by the hour, or turn and leave.

Buy multiple parts in different sizes, etc.
It beats having to stop and go shopping during a job.

Bring stuff back all at once, every few months.

Big ticket items, have the client pay and order it directly.
Or you will be stuck in the middle, doing unpaid bs work if something arrives broken or the wrong part, etc.

Especially for anything special order, you can get stuck with it, not returnable.
Leave that between the client and the supplier/vendor/website.
 
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