What You Need to Startup a Handyman Business

June 11, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More

Series on How to Start a Handyman Business


If you have excellent trade skills and enjoy carpentry and home improvement tasks, consider starting a handyman business.

Here are some steps to jump start your handy man business:

1. Identify  your handyman skills.

Make a list of what skill sets you have, especially if you have any specialized skills that you can market for the business. If you excel in some specialized skills, such as custom carpentry or glass installations, you can be known as the go-to person for those types of services. In fact, you can tap and corner the demand for this special skills.


If you have no specialized skills, you can opt to be a general handy man. Remember though that while there are no specific qualifications to start a handyman business, you need to be familiar with various repair and maintenance work.

2. Define the services you will offer

Make a list of jobs that you are willing to do. Determine the core set of jobs that you are willing to offer. This will help define how you will position your business, the markets you want to target and the business strategies that you will want to pursue. This exercise will also help you identify your weaknesses, and maybe sharpen the skills that you’re not confident with yet clients may demand.

3. Price your services

Once you’ve identified the jobs that you will do, think of how you will price your services.

Most handyman charge by the hour. For example, first hour is billed at $75 and every hour thereafter is billed at $60 per hour in quarter hour increments. Most who charge by the hour also requires minimum number of hours, say 2-hour jobs.

Others charge fees for each type of job. For example, you can charge $120 to hang a light fixture, $90 to install a light dimmer, or charge 25% of the retail price to assemble IKEA furniture.

Some handyman charges a trip charge for estimates, about $35. Others charge about $5 fuel fee.

There are also handyman services that charge additional fees for specialty equipment, waste removal or dump fees depending on the job.

Also determine if you want to add markup for the materials provided. While some do not add any markup to the cost of materials, others charge about 20-40%.

4. List the jobs that you do not want to do.

Are you willing to do minor plumbing, but no new pipe installation or kitchen counter top installation? You can choose to do trash hauling, but not including appliances. You can also set it that you will not do any roof work, or any jobs that will require you to climb more than two stories.

Having a set will-not-do list will help clarify expectations with the clients at the onset, as well as define your market better.

5. Review the services offered by other handymen in your area

It is important to scope out the competitive landscape. As a handyman, you have four direct competitors:

  • Other handymen servicing the area
  • Big contractors
  • Specialists (roofers, painters, plumbers, etc)
  • Owners of home maintenance franchises (e.g. Mr. Handyman)

Scan the Yellow Pages. Go to the Web and search for “handy man services in [your area]. Even better subscribe to sites such as Angie’s List — not only will you be able to identify who your competitors are, but you can learn the services they offer, and more importantly, what customers think about them. Pay attention to the reviews as this will allow you to get insights on what mistakes other handymen are doing (that you need to avoid) and what customers want and are looking for in a handyman.

As for your other competitors, try to build alliances with them. A big contractor, for example, may give you the jobs that are too small for them. The roofer may ask for your help in fixing other damages of the broken roof. You may find new businesses by working with your competitors.

6. Get your finances ready.

Determine the initial costs you need to start the business in order to find out the startup capital that you will need. Make a list of the equipment and supplies needed based on the services you wish to provide. Remember that you don’t have to buy all new equipment and materials. Use any existing tools and supplies that you already have.

If you are just starting out, skip getting an office and work from your home instead. The biggest expense typically will be a truck, but purchase one only if you are going to accept hauling jobs. Otherwise, a truck may not be needed at this time.

It is always prudent to start lean, and avoid unnecessary expense — especially since you are just starting the business and not yet sure how the business will fare.

7. Obtain required licenses

Get the required licenses and permits required by the state to operate a handyman business. Call your state licensing department (use our State by State Guide to Starting a Business) and inquire as to whether the state requires a license, what the process is, costs of licensing and how long it takes to gets a license. For most states, anyone engaged in home improvement and repair work is required to get a general contractors license. 

In Maryland, for example, home improvement work is defined as “alteration, remodeling, repair or replacement of a building or part of a building used as a residence” and anyone who engages in this work requires a license to operate. Maryland has a Home Improvement Commission.

In California, however, you are exempted from getting a contractor license if the project’s “aggregate contract price which for labor, materials, and all other items, is less than five hundred dollars ($500).” (Source: California Business And Professions Code BPC Section 7048). But over $500, you need to get a contractors’ license, which

Check with your state government if they have a specific agency for licensing of handyman work and be sure to understand the legal requirements including licensing for a handyman business. For growth purposes, consider taking the contractor’s exam typically given by the state License Board.

8. Secure the necessary surety bond and insurance.

States often require handyman and contractors to secure a bond to protect buyers of contract assignments. Kevin Kaiser of SuretyBonds.com explains in the article “Startups and Surety Bonds: Does Your Small Business Have to be Bonded?” http://www.powerhomebiz.com/financing-a-business/insurance/benefits-of-surety-bonds.htm what a surety bond is:

In essence, surety bonds guarantee that work will be performed according to a contract or to all applicable laws and regulations. If a business fails to fulfill its duty or legal obligation, then the injured party can file a claim against the bond and receive some type of compensation.

Contact your state insurance department for questions on surety bonds and insurance-requirements needed. It is important that you secure your bond from a surety company licensed by your state’s Department of Insurance.

Note that you need to maintain continuous bond coverage, or your state can suspend your license and disciplinary action can be taken against you.

9. Get insurance.

When your business requires you to work in your customers’ homes, getting insurance is a must. Consider getting workers’ compensation insurance in case you get injured on the job. If you will do extensive work, especially structural, check if you can get outside guarantees especially if the work is defective.

Another insurance to consider to get is General Liability policy , also called commercial general liability insurance, which protects your business from third party claims for bodily injury, associated medical costs and damage to your client’s property.

If you are using your vehicle while on job sites, consider getting commercial vehicle insurance.

Contact a licensed insurance broker to help you go over your insurance needs and discuss your options

10. Learn the Zoning Regulations in your area

If you are running your handyman business from home, check the zoning regulations of your local county. The county may prohibit the operation of businesses from home, especially if the business is likely to add traffic congestion, noise or anything that will result in neighbors’ complaints.

It is also important to check the rules of homeowner’s association, especially if you are going to have a truck for the business with your business name on it. Some HOAs do not allow commercial vehicles parked in residences, unless it’s is inside a closed garage.

11. Plan how you will operate the business.

It is important to start thinking how you will actually be doing the business before you start it. Imagine your day as a handyman, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many jobs will you work on in a day?
  • How many miles are you willing to travel for the job? In between projects?
  • Will you do the business yourself, or will you hire employee/s or temporary workers? Will you hire day laborers?
  • Will you do the actual jobs yourself, or hire other people and simply oversea the tasks?
  • Is this a business that you will do full time or part-time?
  • How many days a week, or hours in a day will you dedicate for the business?
  • What time are you willing to work? If you work after 5 p.m., will you charge time-and-a-half for work after 5 p.m. as well as weekends?
  • How much time will you spend marketing the business vis-a-vis do the actual jobs?
  • What are the terms of payment that you will accept? Will you require upfront payment, or a certain percentage as a downpayment with the rest after project completion?
  • What modes of payment will you accept? Will you accept credit card payment? One option you can consider is Square http://www.powerhomebiz.com/blog/2011/07/square-making-it-easy-to-accept-credit-card-payments/, which allows you to accept credit card payments through your smart phone or iPad devices.
  • How will you collect customers’ payments? What systems will you do to ensure timely payments?
  • How do you intend to track and manage your business finances?

Read Other Articles on How to Start a Handyman Business

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Isabel Isidro is the co-founder of PowerHomeBiz.com. A mom of three boys, avid vintage postcard collector, frustrated scrapbooker, she also manages Women Home Business, Starting Up Tips and Learning from Big Boys. Connect with her in Google +.

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Category: Business Ideas

About the Author ()

Isabel Isidro is the co-founder of PowerHomeBiz.com. A mom of three boys, avid vintage postcard collector, frustrated scrapbooker, she also manages Women Home Business, Starting Up Tips and Learning from Big Boys. Connect with her in Google +.

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  1. Chuck S. says:

    Great tips in this article! Find many more resources on how to start and operate a successful home improvement or handyman business at BuildHandymanBusiness.com

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