How to start a handyman business: Your checklist for success as a full-time doer
Every handyman knows the importance of proper preparation. Here’s how that mentality applies to scaling your business, from carving out your market niche to getting the word out about your handyman services.
Becoming a full-time handyman can be a fulfilling path for folks who are skilled in a huge range of repairs, from gutter cleaning to painting jobs to minor plumbing and electrical tasks. Plus, as a handyman you can see the tangible impact of your work every day—and that’s really satisfying.
Establishing a sustainable and successful handyman business requires setting the groundwork early on. This preparation comes in three main stages:
- Find your niche
- Make your business official
- Market your business
In this guide, we’ll break down how to become a handyman in more detail, and provide you with some handy (get it?) tips for success along the way.
Step 1: Find your niche
When it comes down to it, you need to be sure of two things when you become a handyman: That you have a unique skillset to bring to the table, and that there’s a demand for your handyman services.
Perform market research
First, do a quick Google search for handymen in your area to scope out the competition. Are there a thousand other handymen advertising their fix-all approach, or is the market more specialized?
Hone your approach to what the market demands, and to your own, unique skill set. If you’re skilled in many areas, you can use this knowledge to your advantage. There may be an opportunity to tackle all of a client’s home improvement projects, from a leaky sink to repairing a front door.
Or, if the local market is flooded with generalized handymen, consider focusing your business around a few services that you are highly skilled in and that will draw a sizable profit. Knowing what defines your “brand” will help you develop a concise elevator pitch when you begin to advertise your business to potential customers.
Set your rates
Once you’ve established the kinds of services you’re offering, you can set hourly rates for each one.
When determining your rates, you should certainly consider your training and experience level. But perhaps more importantly, research how other handymen in your area charge and set your prices at a competitive rate.
Consider the density of your area, too. If you’re in a highly competitive market, you may need to lower your prices a bit to draw in customers. If you’re the only handyman in a 50-mile radius, on the other hand, you’ll have a lot more leeway to charge a premium for the convenience of your services.
As you’re starting out, you may also want to offer discounts and charge a slightly lower hourly rate than your competitors to win clients.
Step 2: Make your business official
Once you’ve zeroed in on your unique value proposition, it’s time to make your handyman business official.
This requires a few, essential steps:
- Register your business
- Obtain necessary licenses
- Purchase handyman insurance
- Gather your tools
Register your business
Before you can officially register your business, you’ll need to decide on a business name. It’s an important decision, since your name is your potential clients’ first impression of your business. But this is also an opportunity to flex your creative muscles, so have fun with it! If your own creative muscles are a little out of practice, you can always draft your family and friends to help you brainstorm some ideas.
Once you’ve landed on a name, run a business search on your Secretary of State website to ensure that your name is available for use, or if another business is operating under that name. If it’s the latter, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
With a business name ready to go, you’ll need to decide on a business entity type. This will determine not only the process of registering itself, but also how your business will be taxed, your degree of legal protection, and ongoing requirements, among other considerations. (Hot tip: The most common entity type across industries are LLCs. They’re pretty easy to register for and uphold, and they provide personal liability protection.)
Finally, you can move onto registering your business with your Secretary of State. Head to your own state’s website to find out exactly how to do that.
Obtain necessary licenses
Next, you’ll need to secure a business license. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. In some states, you may also need to have a contractor’s license in place to perform certain trades, such as electrical work, plumbing, and HVAC. In other states, you will only need a license for bigger jobs, and in some cases you won’t need a license at all. Visit your state’s contractors board website to get a better idea of the specific handyman licensing requirements in your state.
As a handyman, you know that any number of things could go wrong on the job, no matter how skilled and safe you are. That’s why it’s vitally important that business owners in risky industries like yours have general liability insurance, which protects their business against third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.
While the cost of an annual general liability policy can be prohibitive for handymen who are just starting out, on-demand insurance offers a much more affordable (not to mention faster) alternative. At Thimble, we created policies that cover you by the hour, day, week, or month—your choice. That way, you’re only paying when you’re actually working. As your business grows, you can level up from a by-the-job approach to a monthly policy that offers coverage 24/7.
When you purchase a Handyman Insurance policy from Thimble, you’ll get your policy and as many Certificates of Insurance as you need in your email inbox instantaneously. Plus, you can add or modify Additional Insureds as often as you’d like. So your insurance coverage can grow as your business does!
Gather your tools
Once you’ve covered your bases from a licensing and business insurance perspective, it’s time to get properly equipped. Focus on the basics and get kitted out for the jobs you most frequently encounter, rather than purchasing expensive, highly specialized equipment that you may only end up using once or twice. If a job requires a specific tool, you may be able to rent or borrow it. Alternatively, consider partnering up with another handyman and share those specialized tools. Then, keep your most crucial (and expensive) equipment protected by purchasing Business Equipment Protection insurance via Thimble. This policy covers the cost of damages to any equipment you use on the job, whether you own it outright, or you’ve borrowed it or rented it from a lender or individual.
Step 3: Market your business
The final step in getting your handyman business off the ground: Get the word out! As the old adage goes, if a handyman does a bang-up job on every gig that comes their way and no one hears about it, did the gigs really happen? Maybe that’s not exactly how it goes…but you get the idea.
Word-of-mouth referrals will be an important source of new business in your early days, so focus on providing exceptional customer service to each and every customer you work with.
Beyond that, you can (and should!) also take your marketing efforts online. Building a business website is a great idea. Nothing fancy required, either. You can simply include the jobs you offer, your rates, the areas you serve, and your contact information so clients can easily get in touch with you. Include links to your social media pages too, if you have them.
In addition to your own website, take advantage of the many online tools and directories available that list and promote your services. Registering and setting up your profile on Yelp and Google My Business are critical to finding local work. There are lots more apps and platforms that can help you find work too, such as NextDoor, Home Advisor, and TaskRabbit. Wherever you choose to promote your services, make sure to feature testimonials from happy customers who can vet for the quality of your service.
You can also check out some of the best handyman apps for running your businesses, which have all been vetted by fellow handymen.
Most importantly, wherever you choose to promote your services, make sure you actively (and politely) respond to inquiries and reviews—both the good and the bad. Engaging with your customers shows potential clients how deeply you care about your work.
How to start a handyman business: Tricks of the trade
Starting a handyman business is an exciting opportunity, especially if you’re intent on becoming your own boss. But, as the (real) saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. To ensure that your business operates successfully, and safely, you’ll need to hew carefully to a few, essential steps:
- Perform market research and hone in on your unique value proposition
- Make the business official by registering with your state, purchasing insurance, and gathering your tools
- Get the word out about your business—and keep on getting it out—to win new clients
With all those formalities and requirements under your (tool)belt, you can focus your energy and attention on the work you really want to do—and feel confident that you’re protected along the way.
Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.