Chapter 5 – Marketing Your Handyman Business

Should I Advertise in the Newspaper and the Yellow Pages?

I don’t think so.  Though these ads will bring you business, it is not always the type of business that you want.  As I’ve said before, by putting your name in with all of the other handymen in your area you are entering a bidding war for work.  There are better alternatives for your advertising dollar.

How Can I Save on Newspaper Advertising?

If you insist on running print ads, always test the waters with the least expensive ad you can run. Order the minimum ad run and only commit to a longer run or a larger ad after the first one has proven to be successful.  Follow this advice and you will easily save the money you invested in this book many times over!

Don’t forget to look online for free sources of advertising.  Craigslist.com will run services ads for no charge.

What Other Sources of Business Are There?

Real estate agents are a great source of business for a handyman.  The referrals that I get from them tend to be either pest repairs to complete the sale of a home, spruce up work to make a home more presentable for sale, or maintenance work on rental homes under their management.  These jobs tend to have a tight time line so your prompt response will earn you their loyalty and many referrals.  Real estate agents know lots of other agents and are glad to pass on your card.

The elderly are always in need of handyman work and will gladly let their friends know that they have found a good handyman.  In order to effectively reach the elderly, you must get to know them.  If you are active in a church let the senior ministry leader know that you are interested in offering your services to the elderly.  Sponsor the church newsletter and be active in the church community.

Get to know the in-home care managers and senior care advisors in your area.  They frequently need help with the installation of grab bars, wheel chair ramps and other modifications to make a home more accessible and safe for their clients.

Doing community service, being active in the PTA, coaching soccer, baseball or any activity where you are involved with groups of people will prove to be a source of referrals.  Simply carry your cards with you and let people know what you do.

Marketing Your Handyman Business

The handyman industry needs professionals with good customer service skills.  Talk to your friends and neighbors…what experiences have they had dealing with a handyman?  Almost without exception you will get the same answers.  “They never called back…he didn’t show up.  I wasted a whole day waiting for him…all I got was an answering machine, I left a message three times…the job was never finished.”  Unfortunately the list goes on and on. Let’s get started…

How Can I Set Myself Apart From My Competition?

It is very easy in this business to put yourself ahead of the other handymen in your area:

  1. Answer your cell phone when it rings unless you’re in the middle of a conversation with a customer.  Return messages the same day (or night).
  2. Use a hands free device.  If your work is interrupted by a call, you can keep working while you talk.
  3. Show up on time.
  4. If you are running late, call the customer at or before your scheduled arrival time.
  5. Finish the job.  Keep this as a very high priority.
  6. Smile and say ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Thank-you!’
  7. Ask them if they are happy with your work.  Use the Customer Feedback card included in the Free Forms Packet.
  8. Ask if they would like any other work done.  Be helpful.  Leave some space in your calendar for the unexpected task.
  9. Clearly quote the cost of a job.  Avoid making vague estimates.
  10. Don’t try to get work by being the cheapest handyman on the block.  Be the best and demand to be paid as a professional.
  11. Don’t ask for cash as payment or offer discounts for cash payments.  Let the customer decide what form of payment to use.
  12. Be conscientious and reliable.
  13. Don’t get into lengthy conversations when you’re being paid to work.  Keep moving and demonstrate that the time clock is important to you.
  14. Don’t complain about the state of your world to a customer.  Brighten their day, don’t darken it.
  15. Don’t talk about politics or religion.
  16. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  17. Build a network of professionals in related fields like plumbers, electricians, general contractors, roofers, carpet cleaners and painters.  Refer out jobs that you can’t handle or are above your legal limit.
  18. Thank people who give you referrals.  Thank them again.   Thank them in writing!  Give them a token gift.  (Flash light? Fire extinguisher?)
  19. Prepare an invoice for every job.   Use the Handyman Invoice that you can download on this site. The simple act of giving your client an invoices for your completed work is an inexpensive way to upgrade your image and set yourself apart from the competition.
  20. Keep your truck clean and organized.  You’ll work more efficiently and your customer will notice.
  21. Be honest.  Earn their trust and ask for their referrals.

Should I Get Handyman Signs for My Truck?

Yes.  Get magnetic signs for your truck but be careful how you advertise your business.

In California it is illegal to advertise yourself as being capable of doing a contractors work if you are not licensed.  This means that you can’t advertise yourself as “Joe’s Painting” or “Betsy’s Electric” if you’re not a licensed painting or electrical contractor.

Handyman is not a licensed profession in California so I advertise myself as a Handyman, period.  I have three magnetic signs on my truck.  One for each door and one for the tailgate and I have gotten a lot of business from them.  When I’m parked at a job site people will often stop to ask me what type of jobs I do and to ask for a business card.

The signs also help to identify me to my new customers when I arrive.  This is another way that I set myself apart from the competition.  Have you ever noticed how many workers don’t have signs on their trucks?  Be different but stay within the law.

Will a Web Page Bring Me More Business?

I get very little handyman work from my webpage.  The work that I have received came from a national commercial property management company that was looking for a local, insured handyman.  Truthfully though, I don’t expect my webpage to be a big source of referrals.  I simply want it to confirm my credibility and show off my work.

Most of the visitors to my site have already heard about me and were given my card (which is where they found my web address).  When they visit the site they will see examples of my work before they call.  I don’t list prices, instead I focus on the jobs that I have done and am available to do.

Should I Join a Professional Referral Group?

Yes. To get started in this profession you need a lot of people to know that you are a handyman.  You need them to be confident that you do good work and that you are reliable and reasonably priced.  You need these people to refer you to their friends and for their friends to refer you to more friends.  So how do you find them without spending lots of money on advertising?

Join a referral group!  I joined BNI (Business Network International) and built my entire business.  You’ll find other referral groups out there that operate on the same principle as BNI.  LeTip International, Inc. is another popular one.  There will be at least one of these referral groups in your area.  To help you find them I’ve provided links to their home pages in the Resources and Helpful Links.

These groups are not free but they are worth it.  BNI and LeTip are networking groups of professionals, limited to one person from each profession.  They get together regularly to support each other and to trade business referrals.  A networking group is exactly what you need, and may be all that you need in the way of marketing.  With a good referral network you are on the road to success as a handyman.

Because they have the one person per profession rule, you will not be competing with other members of the group for business.  Try to join a group that has the most power partners for your profession.  Your power partners would be painters, electricians, general contractors, carpet cleaners, and other professions that offer home services and repairs or deal with seniors.

When I joined, 35 people instantly knew what I did and started to get to know me as a person.  This was the start my business needed.  I did work the very first week for members in the group and they gave testimonials at the next meeting praising my work.  Others members hired me and they referred me to their friends.

Success!  The formula became obvious.  Show up consistently at the meeting, be an active member of the group by finding as many referrals as possible for other group members, follow up on the referrals that you receive, and do a great job as a handyman.

In addition to the large number of people that quickly know who you are, there is an element from the networking group that is indispensable…people will know and trust you.  You can spend money on newspaper or yellow pages ads and will probably get some calls, but people who call from these ads will not know you from Adam.  They will want to know who you are, who you have done work for, if your work is any good, and if you are fairly priced.  They’ll ask these excellent questions because they are afraid to open up their homes to someone they don’t know.

People who respond to your ad might call three other handymen and compare the services and prices of each.  “Do you give free price quotes?” is a typical question.  I would answer yes, of course, but I’m not anxious to get into a price war with other handymen or to waste my valuable time running around town.

People would rather deal with a handyman who has been referred to them and has proven to be trustworthy.   This is where BNI and LeTip come in.  The minute you were referred to this potential customer the balance tilted in your favor.  You are already a trusted handyman who came highly recommended.  What more could you ask for?  You’re two steps up the ladder of trust and you haven’t even talked to them on the phone yet!  When you do, you can quickly get down to the business of evaluating the job.  You’ll find that you are negotiating the price from a much stronger position.

The more referrals you give to members in your group, the more you will receive.  “Givers Gain” is the BNI philosophy.  I’ve referred many remodel jobs to our group’s general contractor and carpet cleaning jobs to our carpet cleaner.  To my customers I have become a “go to” guy for all kinds of tasks because of all the business associates in my group.  In return these associates are always looking out for referrals for me.

Locally, I find that less than half of the groups have a handyman in their ranks.  This means that there is a pent up demand for handyman services.  Of course these groups aren’t free but, when you consider that you get great referrals instead of phone calls from strangers, the dues have proven to be a genuine bargain.

Which Customers Will Pay the Highest Rate for Handyman Services?

Millions of homeowners will agree that a good handyman is hard to find. They are afraid of calling someone they don’t know from the yellow pages or classified ads.   They don’t want to be over charged and treated rudely only to end up with shoddy workmanship and an unfinished job.  The handyman industry’s negative reputation has been built by people who charge too little for their work, get overwhelmed by the workload and have no time for good customer service.  Don’t underestimate the opportunity that exists for a professional handyman with integrity.

You can charge more than your competition if you build your business based on referrals from satisfied customers.  A prospective customer calling you out of the blue will usually ask first about your rates.  You’ll need to do a lot of sales work to build your value in their eyes before moving on to discussing rates.  If you don’t, you’ll simply be in a bidding war with the other handymen listed in the phone book.

So which customer will pay you the highest rate?  Ironically it is the customer who was referred to you.  Your value went up the minute they received your business card from a friend.   They will pay your rate, even if it is higher than the competition because they are confident that they are hiring a proven handyman.  Now it is your job to earn the money!   Building your referral network is the final key to earning top dollar for your services.

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