Working as a handyperson might not sound like a lucrative business, but hard-working tradespeople who have the skills and networking know-how can bring in a steady salary.
The average maintenance and repair worker makes about $45,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but contractors at the top of their craft can pull in more than $60,000 for their handyperson services. Those who are self-employed and in high demand could make even more.
Being a handyperson means you must be a jack-of-all-trades. Handypeople often specialize in painting, drywall, plumbing, carpentry, deck repair, electrical, general appliance repair and ceiling fan installation.
The more versatile your skill set — and the more you advertise, network and generate word-of-mouth — the more money you can make as a handyperson.
Note: The industry still often uses the term handyman services, but people in the trade can be and are any gender. Though you may encounter the term “handyman” while trying to find handyperson services near you, we have chosen to use the gender-neutral “handyperson” term throughout this article.
Do You Need Certifications to Start a Handyperson Business?
This is probably the first question you’ll have if you’re thinking about starting a handyperson business. It makes sense, because many high-paying jobs require some sort of degree or certification program.
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.
But to be a handyperson, you don’t actually need any of these certifications.
Lacking specific certifications, especially in plumbing and electrical, may discount you from certain jobs, especially when homeowners insurance, housing contracts or permits are involved. But for the average odd job around the house, you don’t need a certification — and often the benefit to homeowners is that you’ll charge a little less than a plumber or electrician at the top of their trade.
But just because you don’t need an official license or certification doesn’t mean that just anyone can start a handyperson business. Typically, you’ll need to learn through self-study and experience while working with other tradespeople.
The more skills you can demonstrate to potential clients — backed by reviews online from happy customers — the more work you’ll be able to get and at the higher rates you’ll want to set.
How Much Does a Handyperson Charge Per Hour?
Most handypeople set their hourly rates between $40 and $100 an hour. That doesn’t mean, as a self-employed handyperson, that’s how much you’ll actually pocket. That rate covers things like tools, materials, gas, advertising, admin work and taxes. (You’ll pay a lot more when filing taxes as a small business owner).
You’ll also need to budget for health insurance, business insurance, sick days and vacation days (everyone deserves time off!).
Handyperson hourly rates can vary significantly depending on the type of job, the experience level of the handyperson and the geographic location (cost of living in your area makes a huge difference). If you want to win bids, you’ll need to make sure you’re competitively priced with other handypeople in your area.
How to Make More Money From Your Handyperson Services
Ready to earn higher pay as a handyman? Here are the strategies John recommends:
1. Work for Yourself
The average handyperson’s salary reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes the wages of people who might work for the government, large construction companies, college campuses or apartment management companies.
To bring in the big bucks, however, you’ll have to work for yourself. While this rule may apply to many industries, it’s particularly true in construction, where employers often take a large cut of the rates they charge clients.
Just keep in mind, starting a small business comes with its own expenses. You’ll need seed money upfront, and you’ll have ongoing costs as a business owner. If you don’t already have the money set aside, you’ll need to explore small business funding options, such as crowdfunding, small business grants, investors and small business loans.
2. Start Off With a Side Hustle
You don’t have to dive into a new career head first. Instead, consider making it a side hustle. It’s common practice nowadays: According to data compiled by Side Hustle Nation, 45% of working Americans juggle a side gig.
What does that look like for you? You can start by offering handyperson services to friends, family, neighbors and social media acquaintances. Keep your prices low, and offer your handyperson services outside your regular job hours.
It’ll be a grind, but doing this helps build seed money to start your business full-time and starts generating word-of-mouth about your quality of work. Make sure you create a website advertising your services, and treat your side hustle like a legitimate business — do good work, be prompt and professional with clients, track your expenses and pay your taxes.
Once you’ve generated enough business and money, you can take the leap to full-time.
3. Charge the Right Rate for Professional Service
You’re not just selling handyperson services — you’re selling yourself.
Clients are hiring you to work inside their homes for a few hours or a few days. They’ll want someone who’s 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. Your clients will be happy to pay it.
Just don’t price yourself out of work. Certified plumbers and electricians can charge more because they’re certified. Instead, pay attention to what other handypeople in your area are charging. Stay competitive with your prices, but don’t be afraid to charge more if you’re worth more.
4. Find the Right Clients
To charge a high rate, you have to find the right clients. If someone only cares about price, they aren’t for you.
There are plenty of folks willing to pay more for better service — those are the people you want to work for.
Some people only care about price, and they will always go with the lowest bidder. If you want to be a top earner, avoid these clients — but also ensure you have the professionalism and skills to justify your higher rates.
Clients willing to pay more may ask for references from previous clients, who can emphasize your professional qualities and the value of your service. Make sure you have such testimonials available.
Successful bids require getting to know the client. They 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 bid.
5. Invest in Yourself and Network with Other Contractors
Handypeople may not be required to hold specific certifications and licenses, but if you want to command higher rates and get more work, it never hurts to seek out training.
Always be on the lookout for courses you can take, or connect with other contractors to learn about their crafts. If you can teach each other skills and broaden your range of services, you’ll be able to take on more jobs.
Maintaining a good rapport with other contractors serves another purpose: referrals. If other contractors know what you can do — and that you’re at the top of your trade — they’re more likely to send work your way if they need to subcontract out part of a job or simply can’t take on a specific project.
6. Hire a Crew
No matter how high your rate is, you can only physically do so much work each week. As your business grows, consider hiring employees to tackle some jobs. (This also makes it easier for you to take some much-deserved time off.)
Be ready for your role to change as your business grows. By hiring other handypeople to do some of the work, your focus will shift to 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’ll need to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Prices and guidelines will vary by state, so look into the details before growing your business.
The Challenges of Self-Employment
Being a self-employed handyperson can be rewarding, but becoming a top earner in the field is not quick or easy. There’s a long ramp-up period as you earn clients, and there are plenty of upfront investments you’ll need to make for long-term success.
Even then, you’ll have slow weeks. There’s no way around it in this industry.
It can take years to build a handyman business to the point where you have more good weeks than bad, so it’s smart to save a substantial amount of money before starting your own business.
An emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of living expenses is a good safety net, especially as you’re just starting out.
Startup costs and slow weeks aren’t the only obstacles you might face as a small business owner. For example, if you have to move to a new area, you’ll have to grow your business from the ground up. With no connections to family or friends in an unfamiliar place, you’ll need to work hard to grow your business and generate referrals from satisfied clients.
You’ve also got to think about the weather. Power outages, snow storms, hurricanes and more can lead to days or even weeks where it’s impossible to get to job sites. If you’re not working, you’re not making money.
In economic downturns, potential clients may be willing to put off less urgent repairs or even tackle some jobs on their own. That could mean you have more difficulty securing work.
But if you plan ahead, save up money in advance, are dedicated to your craft and take advantage of all the free resources for starting a business, you’ll likely find it rewarding to offer your handyperson services to customers in need.
And the good pay doesn’t hurt, either.
Timothy Moore covers banking and investing for The Penny Hoarder from his home base in Cincinnati. He also covers a variety of other topics, including insurance, taxes, retirement and lifestyle topics and has worked in the field since 2012. Freelancer Sarah Brooks contributed to this report.