How To Start A Handyman Business

Take control of your career with a maintenance business of your own. Find out how to start a handyman business from scratch and how to get the leads you need to thrive.

Handyman Businessman

Starting a handyman business can be a big step forward for contractors. Professionals who excel at jack-of-all-trades work often find handyman work rewarding and profitable. Before you hit the road with your new company, however, it can be helpful to pick up a few pointers on how to start a handyman business with what you have available.

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Training As A Handyman

The first thing a handyman needs to succeed is training. Learning the trade can take time and effort, but the skills you learn with professional handyman training help set your handyman business up for success from the first day you're on the job. Because the job of a handyman, also sometimes called a fixer or maintenance worker, includes basic familiarity with so many different systems, you can usually get started with relatively basic entry-level training on just a few skills. As you grow in experience and your business is more in demand, the modularity of a handyman's skills encourages you to keep adding new training and certifications as you go. 

The first step in training for most handymen is shop classes in high school. Public high schools often offer familiarization with various handyman skills, such as wood and metal working, use of tools, and some electrical work. After high school, many handymen-in-training seek formal instruction through various trade schools. Common subjects include HVAC, carpentry, home electrical systems, plumbing, and various other common handyman skills. Classroom training is frequently paired with hands-on work study, often as an apprentice to more experienced handymen or other contractors.

Handyman With Drill

Certification In Handyman Skills

The goal of handyman training is often state-level certification. Each state has its own rules for certification, with some states such as Florida offering limited certification on the county level. As a rule, most states require some combination of formal classroom training, work experience, and satisfactory marks on a standardized state test. 

It may not be necessary to get all your planned certifications at once. Many handymen start out with just one or a limited number of state certifications before going to work for an employer, often a residential property management company. The limited scope of a handyman in an apartment complex is generally supportive of maintenance workers at lower skill levels, though the steady work they offer can support workers as they gain more training and experience. 

Some states offer distinct handyman certification, as opposed to other contractor licenses such as HVAC or plumbing certificates. In these areas, you can more narrowly tailor your training to the needs of the state exam, though it's often a good idea to keep adding skills that might come in handy after you start your own handyman business.

Starting A Handyman Business

Once you have the education and experience you need to thrive as a fixer, you can start your own handyman business and start managing your own workload. As is common for contractor work, the first step in how to start a handyman business is usually setting up a legal entity you can work under. In most states, this is going to be either a limited liability company (LLC) or a sole proprietorship. These are different forms that small businesses take, and which one is right for your handyman business depends on your own personal situation. Speak with an experienced business attorney or manager before you decide which form your handyman business should have.

After you get the paperwork squared away, you're going to need the equipment a handyman typically uses in a day's work. Because the jobs handymen do are so varied, your standard toolkit is probably going to be more diverse than if you were a professional contractor who focused on a single line of work, such as an electrician or plumber. Unless you have substantial resources available to you when you start your handyman business, you may want to consider some of your financing options.

Once you're fully equipped and on the road, you need customers to visit and work orders to perform. There are several ways handymen generate leads, from direct advertising to word of mouth, though no single approach works best for everyone. Fortunately, you don't have to go it alone when you're looking for leads. With support from experienced professionals, you can get a leg up in generating leads and hitting the ground running with your new handyman business.

Forming A Business

Forming a business entity starts with various filings with the state government. This is often done through the Secretary of State's office, though some states have a Department of Corporations or other entity to handle small business filings. While procedures for starting a handyman business vary, the process generally requires you to file financial disclosure forms, list company officers and their contact information, and pay a processing fee, business tax, or both. Many states also require new business owners to publish their company information in a local newspaper of general circulation for around 30 days.

During this period, members of the public can show cause why the company charter should not be granted, but this is rare. After the state approves your initial filings, you can apply to the IRS for an employer ID number (EIN). This EIN is like a Social Security number for your business, and it can be used for banking, tax filings, and other business purposes.

Handyman Business Names

Starting a handyman business also usually requires you to choose a name for the company. This is actually a two-step process. First, you must choose a unique business name for your business filings. This is the company's official name, and it's typically used in tax documents, payroll forms, and communication with the state government. Ideally, this name should be unique enough that your company doesn't get easily confused with any other incorporated entity in your state. Some states do allow duplicate names, though the companies involved must be in sufficiently different industries that they won't be mistaken for one another.

Having filed for recognition under a trade name, you may choose a second name for your company. This name, which is sometimes called a fictitious name or doing business as (DBA) name, is the one you'll probably print on your handyman business cards. The fictitious name your company uses can be almost anything you come up with that meets your state's standards for clarity and uniqueness.

Your DBA name can overlap somewhat with other similar companies in your state, such as if there's already a "Joe's Handyman Business", for instance. As a rule, customers can write checks to your company using the fictitious name and the bank will accept them, since you're usually required to disclose this name when setting up your business bank account.

Must-Have Company Equipment

Before you get started with your handyman business, there are some must-have tools and pieces of equipment you need to do the work for your customers. These tools can be divided between general company equipment and tools specific to the jobs you're likely to do.

In the first category are various contractors' needs, such as transportation and office equipment. While there are a lot of different ways to work as a handyman, most workers in the field need a truck with secure toolboxes, good communication gear for communicating with dispatch, and clothing that's appropriate for the work environments you're likely to be in. Give a lot of thought to the backup, spare, and emergency equipment you should carry on the truck. This includes:

  • A first aid kit
  • Flares
  • A spare tire, jack, sealant kit, and other tire change equipment
  • Orange caution cones
  • At least one handheld radio and fresh batteries
  • Protective equipment, including gloves, knee pads, steel-toed shoes, protective headgear, goggles, and a respirator

Your handyman business is likely to be active in the field, but it helps to have some kind of home base from which you can manage paperwork, billing, and other office tasks. Ideally, this office should have a reliable computer, all-in-one office machine, and general office supplies. Try to set up a desk area where you can focus on your paperwork, even if you plan to work from a room in your home. Consider setting up a dedicated office phone and some kind of postage management system. If you operate a website for marketing your handyman business, it might be worth your time to set up your own server to host the site or at least invest in a spare hard drive to securely store company data.

Tools Of The Trade

In addition to the general office and field equipment you need to have, there are a lot of items specific to the handyman's trade that you should have on day one of your company's operation. The tools handymen use are usually similar to the tools any contractor would keep on the truck. Where they differ is in the range of different tools you need to carry. A carpenter, for example, is unlikely to need a pipe wrench, while a plumber rarely needs a lumber saw. Because your work as a handyman probably includes all sorts of different jobs, from woodworking to pipe fitting and electrical repairs, you probably need a decent cross-section of tools from all of these fields. Common handyman tools include:

  • Hammers, saws, screwdrivers, and other typical toolkit items
  • Specialized items, such as calipers, electrical resistometers, stud finders, and various plumbing, electrical, and repair tools
  • Tape measures, laser levels, and other measuring equipment

Ongoing Handyman Expenses

Your handyman business expenses don't stop when the truck is full of tools. Most handyman businesses have some unavoidable ongoing expenses you should budget for.

Operating Expenses

Handymen who are out working in the field have unavoidable costs related to their mobility. The truck always needs gas, for example, and the insurance is usually due every month. Wear and tear on the vehicle can generally be written off on the company's taxes, but it still costs extra for maintenance and repair. Internet and phone service are also potentially costly but necessary office expenses you have to budget for.

Continuing Education

Most states only license contractors for a limited time, usually just a few years. To recertify, you probably have to log a minimum number of hours in refresher training in each of the areas your work requires. Because your work as a handyman is so varied, this can be a serious continuing expense but one that definitely pays for itself in time.

Whether you're just starting out or you've been working as a handyman for years, starting your own fixer business can be an exciting and demanding step up in your trade. Plan ahead, get the training and equipment you need, and don't hesitate to form partnerships that can bring you more leads in the future and starting a handyman business can be one of the most rewarding things you've ever done.

handyman business can be a big step forward for contractors. Professionals who excel at jack-of-all-trades work often find handyman work rewarding and profitable. Before you hit the road with your new company, however, it can be helpful to pick up a few pointers on how to start a handyman business with what you have available.