A young man I know is getting started in business. He provides handyman services for homeowners. In a display of wisdom beyond his years, he asked his Facebook connections for things to read and people to talk to re: business advice.
Getting started means wearing several hats
Running a business on your own means you get to do all the jobs, including:
- Getting organized.
- Deciding who you are best suited to work with.
- Deciding who you shouldn’t work for even if they’re throwing $1000 bills at you. Almost everyone does this at least once because we start out under the illusion that everyone can be our customer.
- Letting people know that you’re available to help them. This includes discussing what you’re really good at and staying away from everything else (ie: learning to say no).
- Pricing your work.
- Selling / reaching an agreement to perform work.
- Doing the work.
- Following up.
The hard work
When getting started in your own business, there’s some “hard work” that has nothing to do with your service. I say “hard work” because they’re often things you don’t want to do, don’t have the time or money for, or don’t see the purpose of.
This includes “Getting organized”, which include making sure your bookkeeping is under control, getting all the permits and licenses that you need, doing whatever is necessary to make sure you are operating legally wherever you live, and getting the proper bonding (if needed) and (definitely needed) insurance to protect you and your customers so that if and when you make a mistake, it doesn’t cost you everything you own now and ever will own.
These things will seem like a pain, but the reality is that the pain they cause is much smaller than the pain created by not taking care of them.
Marketing and sales
Items two through five may generate an “OMG, seriously?”
A few thoughts about them…
If your typical happy customer is married, lives in 59912, works outside the home, and has a spouse who travels, then you’ll want to focus on identifying and attracting those specific people to your services. Don’t waste time advertising to 100,000 people who don’t “fit the profile”.
Come up with a one page (both sides) piece of paper that tells EXACTLY what you are great at (and what you actually want to do). Include your contact info.
Get a box of your business cards made into fridge magnets. Old school, but people will leave them on the fridge forever once they trust you. Even if you’re in their phone contacts, that fridge magnet is in their face every day. Make sure the visible side has your name, phone number, name and what you do. It’s OK to make a special card for magnets.
Figure out what you need to make from each job, including the expenses you might not be thinking of, like insurance, fuel, uniforms, marketing, downtime, taxes, etc. If you do everything else right and mess up your pricing, you won’t be happy.
Be humble, but don’t be shy. If you’re great at something, simply tell people you love to do that work.
As you prepare to leave the customer’s home, ask for more work. Say “Is there anything else that you’ve been meaning to get fixed?“, then let them think long enough so they’re the next one to speak. If they say no, say “OK, I’ll be happy to come back if you something comes up.”
Ask your mom, your grandma, and the moms of a few of your friends these questions:
- “What frustrates you about repair guys that you’ve had in the house?”
- “Who is your favorite repair company?”
- “Why are they your favorite? What makes them so special?”
I can predict the answers, but I want you to ask anyway. YOU need to hear these words coming from folks who resemble your customers. These conversations will help you prepare to sell to the customers you want. It isn’t about convincing them to do the work. It’s about showing them you’re the right guy for them.
Do the work, follow up
I’m not going to tell you how to do the work, but I will suggest how things work while you’re at the customer’s home.
Show up in a clean truck.
In Montana, this isn’t always easy, but do the best you can. Your rig sets a first impression when you arrive. It doesn’t have to be a $60,000 diesel rig. It just needs to be clean.
Park on the street.
You don’t want to park in the customer’s driveway and drop a bunch of mud, gravel and whatever else you’ve been driving through that day. You also don’t want to be in the way when someone gets home, someone needs to leave, etc.
Show up in a clean shirt that tucks in.
This means buying at least 3-4 uniform shirts. Get your company name, your name, and your logo sewn onto them (if you have a logo). If you want to go a little crazy, put a big logo, phone number and website address on the back. No matter what, make sure your company’s name is visible through the window of someone’s front door. You want the shirt to tuck in because repeat customers don’t call you because they like seeing your rear hanging out under an untucked shirt. Enough said.
If a job trashes a shirt for the day, change into a clean shirt before arriving at your next job. Yep, you might have to carry several clean shirts with you. Pro athletes don’t take the field in dirty uniforms and neither should you. Show up looking like a pro every time. Meanwhile, you’re a walking billboard.
Buy a box of those silly little shoe booties.
If you walk into someone’s home leaving a trail of muddy, snowy footprints, I guarantee you won’t be asked to come back. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to pull them on and pull them off repeatedly, but it beats losing a customer you worked hard to get. You want to be the service they choose first. When some other handyman asks for their business, you want them thinking “Nope, never using anyone but (that guy).”
Make it like you were never there.
After you’ve left a customer’s home, you don’t want them to find any evidence you were there except for the repaired item, a receipt, and a business card. If you made a mess, clean it up. If you tracked something in or the job generate a mess, be sure you have the stuff needed to clean it up. If someone has to clean up after you, they’ll never ask you to come back.
Sign up for Square
… or a similar service that lets you get paid via card using your phone. Many competitors will take credit / debit cards. Yes, it will cost you a few percent of your sales, but it will get you sales as well. Be sure to put the card logos on your business card and one page brochure.
Find customers that can help you during lean times
One of the frustrating aspects of managing rentals is dealing with maintenance. Become the dependable guy for people who own rentals, or rental management firms and you’ll have business that keeps feeding you when you aren’t sure where your next gig will come from. Think about other opportunities similar to this.
Call or text the customer the next day and ask them if everything is ok. Leave a voice mail if they don’t answer. Almost NO ONE does this. You will stand out by doing so. 1000 handyman services might read this and STILL, few of them that don’t already do it will start doing it habitually. If things went well, it’s a natural time to thank them and remind them that your business depends on referrals from satisfied customers. If they didn’t go well, it’s a chance to save that customer. Sure, you have to hustle a little, but people refer vendors who took great care of them.
Get some help with Facebook marketing
Your business is ideal for marketing to people on Facebook. Despite all the noise about Facebook data in the news, it’s important to know two things:
- Most data was given with implicit permission that was granted when someone took a poll on Facebook.
- This data has been collected for 100 years. Facebook’s is a bit easier to use.
For example, you can ask Facebook to put your ad in front of homeowners who live in the 59912 zip code who have a household income of $xx,xxx. You can optionally have them echo the ads to Instagram. You can have them eliminate homeowners who aren’t married and otherwise filter out people who don’t fit your ideal customer profile.
Few other advertising mechanisms can put your smiling face in front of *exactly* the right people, much less charge you only for the ones who click on your ad.
Photo by Wonderlane