Sunday, August 10, 2008

How do customers find me?

It takes at least 3 years to build a loyal clientele large enough to support you year round.
I started 12 yrs. ago pulling weeds and washing windows on weekends while I was still Active Duty. I worked my way up one satisfied customer at a time.

Here are some tips I will share.

Fliers and classifieds don't work. Customers want someone they can trust.
95% of all my customers are referrals from other customers

-#1 Answer your d$%n phone!
You would be surprised at how many jobs
I get because I answered my phone and the 3 people they called first didn't.

- Show up on time.

-Get magnetic signs for your truck.

-Wear company T-shirts

-Always carry cards and be ready to hand them out

-Make a web page and put it on all local search engines etc.

-Put your web site on your business cards.

-Remember: You are selling yourself, you are the product.

P.S. Do not publicly advertise unless your a Licensed Business

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Self Employed Tax deductions

Here is a list of Tax Deductions I've compiled that most Self Employed people I've spoken with have no clue they can deduct!

1) Hand Tools
2) Power tools
3) Office equipment / supplies
4) Home office (If in separate room)
5) Internet
6) Vehicle Insurance
7) Storage / garage
8) Health Insurance
9) Liability Insurance
10) Cell Phone & monthly bill
11) Bus. Licenses
12) Advertisements / Web page
13) Subscriptions to magazines / web sites
14) 50% of Social Security (on 1040)
15) Meals between jobs (Lunch)
16) Vehicle Maint.
17) Gas
18) Work clothes / shoes / Personal safety gear
19) Business losses / non-payment
20) Business credit card debt

Keep these in separate folders with all receipts. After taxes are done, keep them archived for 7 years.

How much do I charge?

That is the most difficult part of having a business.

The average customer has no idea that self employed people pay 34% federal tax, plus state tax, city license fees, insurance fees, gas, tools, wear and tear on vehicles etc. All that needs be factored in.

All most people want is a good job for a fair price. More importantly they want someone they can trust. One problem is some Handypeople are more hungry than others and will jump at any job just to get the money at 50% less than anyone else is willing to do it for, if they know how to do it correctly or not. This gives others a bad name who are good at what they do. If your not sure you can do the job expertly, don't do it. Refer it to someone else who can. Customers will remember that and Karma will too.

If someone calls and wants their roof replaced I tell them I'm sorry but that isn't in my scope of work but I can recommend a company that I trust that can do it. When that company has a customer that has a leaky toilet they can refer me. But only refer companies you trust! Their reputation is now yours!

If you can do the job but don't know what to charge ask around. Visit your local Home Depot and look at the shelves. Toilet Installed for you $100.00 etc. You also need to know the going rates in your local area. Tile is 4 bucks a foot, fencing is 22 bucks a foot etc. If the first question out of a customers mouth is "What do you charge?" They are usually looking at price only.

Never give a firm estimate over the phone. If you have to, give a range. Example: 30 -40 per hour depending on bla bla bla.

Customers you love to hate

Through the years I've worked for countless customers of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes. Normally most people are wonderful to work for but on rare occurances once in a great while I run into one of these types. I've compiled a list for your enjoyment.

The time squeezer
You arrive and they show you a full days work that needs to be done. Then they tell you after you get started that they have an appointment and need to leave in 2 hours.

The clock watcher
Every 15 min. you hear “So.. how’s it going?” (In other words, are you done yet?)

The penny pincher
You tell them the light was 20 bucks you bought for them and they say “But the receipt says $19.96.”

The good enough guy
“Don't worry about it being perfect, “It’s good enough”. Then when you hurry to finish for them you hear “Why is this piece ¼” higher than this piece?”.

The nitpicker
While your working they are over your shoulder asking “Why is this like this, or why is that like that?” (Because it isn't done yet)

The free loader
After you’re finished and the bill is paid, they ask if you can do one tiny little job “While you’re here” and it ends up taking an extra 30 min. making you late for the next customer.

The sob story
After you quote them a price you hear "My dad / father etc. is in the hospital and we have no insurance and (Sniff)"

The know it all
"Wouldn't it be easier / faster / better if you… "I would of done the job myself, but I just don't have the time". (But you shore have the time to try to speed me along with your suggestions)

The Cold feet guy
You get there to do the job and then all of a sudden all they want you to do is look at everything again and give more estimates.

The do it yourselfer freeloader
They will call to see if they can find out how to fix something with no intention of paying you anything to come out and do it for them.

The Price Shopper
They call and ask what you charge and sound really put off. Then they call back in 2 weeks sounding real sweet and asking how soon you can start because they found out your the cheapest after calling 20 different places.

Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde
Everything is wonderful, beautiful, couldn’t be better until…. you hand them the bill.
Then it’s “What the f&%$!” “50 dollars for that?” “How come it’s so d#%& expensive!?!”

What exactly is a Handyman?

A Professional Handyman / Handyperson by definition is a "Jack of all trades", a craftsman, an inventor, an inprov artist, a natural entrepreneur, a free spirit and a no-mad. Someone who can look at something broken and instinctively “know’ how to fix it. Either by replacing the broken parts or pieces or completely rebuilding it from scratch with no instructions or blueprints, they just know how. He / she can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with bailing wire and duct tape.

Most Handy Persons have very little if any formal education or training. They rely on their years of hands on experience and learning various skills from parents or older siblings. Others learn it from construction and / or odd jobs they had in the past or military skills while serving on active duty. Some grew up on farms and had to fix everything themselves out of necessity to keep things going. They have countless hand and power tools, and if they ever need a special tool they make their own!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Self Employed truths

A lot of people have said to me through the years "Wow it must be great to be your own boss". You get to set your own hours and days off.

I'm here to say that can't be farther from the truth, if you want to keep your business running.
You work around your customers hours and days off.

If you make no money for the day it's no ones fault but your own. Your working without a net
but you have a lot more job security. I have a hundred bosses. If I ever get "Fired" or a job falls through I have 99 more to fall back on. No resume' to write, no interviews, no suits and ties.

I get up at 7 am, 6 days a week and drag in at around 7pm every night. I average a 10 min. lunch with no breaks in between. Sometimes I don't get a lunch at all or not until 3 or 4 pm.

But I wouldn't change a thing. I love what I do.