How a Self-Employed Handyman Earns $3,000 a Week
Working as a handyman doesn’t necessarily sound like a particularly lucrative business to most people. We can see why, since the average maintenance and repair worker makes just over $35,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But what if I told you how one handyman earns $3,000 per week? Would that make you reconsider this business?
My husband, John, has been working in the construction industry for more than 15 years. He specializes in painting, drywall and general handyman services, such as plumbing, carpentry, deck repair, general appliance repair and ceiling fan installation. After so many years in the business, he’s willing to take on just about any project.
Here’s how John has developed his skills and built his business to the point where he can earn up to $3,000 a week as a handyman.
Do You Need Certifications to Become a Handyman?
This is probably the first question you want to ask, since many high-paying jobs require some sort of degree or certification program.
While you can get many types of certifications in the construction field, including a degree in construction management or certificates in electrical work, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, John doesn’t have any of these certifications.
While he aspires to one day have his general contractor’s license (allowing him to take on larger, more expensive projects), he currently does not have any licenses in his field. Instead, he has learned through self-study and experience while working with other tradesmen, and he’s a jack of all construction trades.
How to Make More Money as a Handyman
Ready to earning higher pay rates as a handyman? Here are the strategies John recommends:
1. Work for Yourself
While the average handyman’s salary is around $35,000 per year, this includes the wages of people who work for the government, large construction companies or apartment management companies, according to the Houston Chronicle.
To bring in the big bucks, you’ll have to work for yourself. While this rule is common in many industries, it’s particularly true in the construction field, where employers often take a large cut of the rates they charge clients.
2. Charge a High Rate for Professional Service
In the handyman business, you’re not just selling a service, you’re selling yourself. Clients are hiring you to work in their homes for a few hours or a few days, depending on the scope of the project. They’ll want someone who is professional, trustworthy, reliable and punctual -- and they’ll likely be willing to pay more for services they know they can count on.
By returning calls promptly, being professional and always showing up on time, you can charge a higher rate than someone who doesn’t take their business as seriously, and your clients will be happy to pay it.
3. Find the Right Clients
To charge a high rate, you have to find the right clients. If someone only cares about price, he isn’t your client. There are plenty of clients who are willing to pay more for better service, and those are the people you want to work for.
John goes on plenty of “bids,” visits to the client’s home to look at the project and provide a cost estimate, where he knows he won’t get the job no matter how much he sells himself. Some people only care about price, and they will always go with the lowest bidder. Clients who want more than a cheap price will want to know a little bit about John’s history, the exact steps he’ll take to get the job done. They’ll often ask for references from previous clients, who can emphasize your professional qualities and the value of your service.
Successful bids require getting to know the client and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. If you develop a rapport with the customer and earn their trust from that initial consultation, they’ll have a hard time turning you down, even if your price isn’t the lowest one offered.
4. Hire a Crew
No matter how high your rate is, you can only physically do so much work each week. By hiring other handymen to do some of the work, you can focus your attention on completing the work more quickly, finding other projects, advertising and growing your business. Often, the more people you have working for you, the more money you’ll be able to make.
Note: If you have a crew, you will need to have workers’ compensation insurance. Specific prices and guidelines will vary by state, so make sure to look into the details before growing your business.
What a $3,000 Week Looks Like
The more jobs John has lined up, the more money he’s able to make in a week. Here’s what his schedule looks like during a typical $3,000 week:
Monday to Wednesday
Rental property turn: “Turning” a rental property is like flipping a house or apartment, with the goal to get it ready to rent out rather than to sell. This home needs fresh paint on all the walls, appliances installed, drywall repaired, ceiling fans hung, light fixtures replaced, general cleaning and more.
The total cost of the job is $4,400. John hires crew members to do some of the work and he works on the job site himself for three days, earning a profit of $2,200 over the six days it takes to complete the job.
Popcorn ceiling removal: A client needs a popcorn ceiling removed in her kitchen on a day’s notice. John heads over early one weekday morning and works for four hours, earning a profit of $150.
Thursday and Friday
General handyman work: A new client just moved into her house and needs help with general tasks. John hangs ceiling fans, installs a security door, hangs pictures, mounts a television and more, earning a profit of $350 in less than two days.
Painting: John lines up a painting job with another client. He arrives at the client’s home at 6:30 a.m., paints the family room, kitchen and dining room for 11 hours and comes home, earning a profit of $450
Total profit for the week: $3,150
Keep in mind that this weekly schedule does not include the time John spends on advertising or invoicing. He wakes up early each morning to advertise (posting ads on various sites, responding to emails, working on his website, etc.) and spends another 30 minutes each evening sending bids and invoices to current and prospective customers. Running a handyman business does not give you a 40-hour workweek!
In this profession, your income also might not be consistent. Self-employment can be a constant battle between feast and famine. While business is great some weeks, there are plenty of weeks where John’s income is significantly lower (and others when it’s higher!).
Here’s What a Low-Income Week Looks Like
For comparison, a week where John has fewer jobs lined up results in a much lower income. Here’s a typical week with a lower profit.
Two bids: The weekend was slow, but John received one phone call for a bid on Monday morning. While on the bid, he gets another call from a new client. He visits that home later in the day and sends the client a breakdown of the job via email that evening.
Tuesday and Wednesday
Drywall repair and ceiling painting: A regular client is fixing up a house to make into a rental property. He needs John to repair drywall in two of the main rooms and paint the ceilings in the garage and kitchen. It’s 15 hours of work for a total profit of $250.
Advertising and networking: John doesn’t have anything scheduled today, so he focuses on advertising and looks for ways to grow his business. He decides to hand out a few of his business cards to real estate agents in the area, follow up on all pending jobs and call previous clients to see if they need additional work.
General handyman work: Luckily, John has a few “go-to” clients who usually need something done whenever he is available. These projects can be anything from repainting a laundry room to hanging ceiling fans and replacing light bulbs. John contacts one of these customers and books six hours of work for $180.
Total profit for the week: $430
As you can see, being a self-employed handyman is not a quick way to make money. It can take years to build up a handyman business to the point where you have more good weeks than bad ones, so it’s smart to save up a substantial amount of money before starting your own business. John recommends having at least six months of living expenses saved up before striking out as a self-employed handyman.
The Challenges of Self-Employment
In addition to having lower-income weeks, John faces other obstacles as a self-employed handyman. Since we recently moved to a new area, John has to grow his business from the ground up. We have no connections to family or friends who could help John find work, so he needs to work hard to grow his business and generate referrals from satisfied clients.
In addition, John sometimes can’t complete scheduled jobs because of the weather. In February, our entire city shut down for a week due to ice on the roads. Today he had to reschedule his two outdoor deck jobs due to the rain and humidity. When the weather is bad, business slows down drastically, as home repairs usually aren’t the first thing on people’s minds.
To us, though, the benefits of running a handyman business far outweigh the challenges. Once we’re no longer new to the area and John has a steady stream of clients, we know business will be more consistent and we’ll be seeing a lot more of those $3,000 weeks!
Your Turn: Have you worked as a handyman? How did you build your business?
Sarah Brooks is a personal finance writer and blogger living in Charlotte, NC. Combining her bachelor’s degree in finance with her passion for writing, she’s been able to make a career out of doing what she loves from the comfort of her home! New to Charlotte, she enjoys spending time with her family exploring the area and trying new restaurants.