Jeff Sanchez of Solana Beach was an investment banker for 12 years until the economy tanked and he lost his job. To ease the stress he began fixing items in his house such as repairing his deck, painting the kitchen and remodeling his bathroom. While never a fix-it type of guy, his father had taught him the fundamentals and passed down his tool chest. Soon Sanchez was taking classes at Home Depot and watching DIY videos online. It took two years of unemployment to realize he could turn his skills into a job as a handy man.
“I traded my suits for Levis and my laptop for a Skil saw,” Sanchez said. “I traded in two cars for a truck, took an online contractor’s license course and was on my way to a new life.”
Angie’s List —a web-based paid site which advertises local services such as plumbers and electricians — states that the hourly rate for a handy man is $60 to $85, plus a fee for mileage.
“I choose my hours, and I make a pretty great salary minus the crazy stress,” Sanchez said. “ It doesn’t sound as fancy as a banker, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.”
Not everyone has the skill set to fix light sockets, replace gutters or repair electric garage doors, but that’s exactly why the job of handy man is appealing to many people. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies predicts spending on remodeling projects will jump 9.2 percent to $125.1 billion.
Jessica Lancaster of Orange County is an apprentice electrician and is taking classes in carpentry at El Camino College and plans to become a professional handy woman sometime in 2015.
“I think other women would like to have women come into their home to fix their toilet or sink instead of a guy,” she said. “I think it’s safer and way cooler to say a girl just fixed the garbage disposal.”
Owning your own handy man business is pretty much the same as owning any other business. You need to keep up on what your city or county requires for a business license and you better find out if you need to be bonded or if you need a contractor’s license. Not every city is the same.
You will not only be responsible for the nails and screws, but you will need to be able to estimate the costs of the project costs, write the contract, and collect money when the job is completed.
“I’m a one-man operation,” Sanchez said. “I can’t fix everything, and if that’s the case I recommend some of my friends who are expert plumbers and electricians to come in.”
Getting the word out about your handy man business can be as easy as taking out an ad in a newspaper or getting the word out on social media. If someone likes what you do, make sure they give you great referrals on Yelp and Angie’s List, or you can work with realtors.
As a Jack-of-all-trades you’ll have to be in decent shape and able to lift, not fall off a ladder and be on your knees for hours on end.
If you don’t know a hammer from pliers, but something calls to you to help others screw in a light bulb, you might want to check out the Mr. Handyman franchise where you hire others to fix the broken stuff while you sit in your office making appointments and counting the money.
According to their site, Mr. Handyman is owned by Service Brands International (SBI), which has been franchising since 1984. Service Brands is a multi-concept franchise system that has about 25 years of experience in the franchise world. Start-up cost: $40,000 to $54,400 and the total investment in this franchise is $91,200 to $132,300.
But if you are like Sanchez and Lancaster, you feel good about helping other people and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well-done.
“It sounds crazy, but I like reaching into a garbage disposal to pull out some kids Legos,” Sanchez said. “Mom is happy, the kid is happy and I fixed something with my hands and got paid for it. Hell of a lot better than making other people richer.”