How to Build (And Make Money With) a Handyman Side Gig

If you're a handy person in need of extra cash, discover how to start and grow a successful handyman side gig.

Have you always enjoyed working with your hands? Do you know how to fix most things around the house? If so, consider making extra money with a handyman side gig.

If you’ve never thought about it before or just don’t know where to start, this guide was made for you. By the end of it, you’ll know whether a handyman side business is right for you, along with how to land your first clients and grow your business.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Being a handyman requires a specific set of skills and characteristics as well as plenty of pros and cons. Understanding this balance and being sure about your offering can make the difference between success and failure of your side gig.

Pros

  • You set your own schedule, working as much or as little as you want.
  • You choose the services you offer, so you can be as general or specialized as you want.
  • Working with your hands, you’re physically active.
  • Regular interaction with people.
  • Low overhead expenses with no need for employees, office space or expensive advertising.
  • Minimal startup costs, especially if you already have the tools and know-how.
  • Great growth and expansion potential, with the ability to work full time, invest in professional certifications to increase earning potential or even obtain a contractor’s license.
  • Handyman services are in high demand in most areas — there’s likely work waiting for you.
  • High profit potential. You can earn more than $100 an hour for certain services.
  • Tax write-offs for the tools you purchase, fuel and maintenance expenses for your work vehicle, advertising and the cost of any special licenses or insurance.

Cons

  • You must be in good physical shape.
  • Introverts might be uncomfortable regularly interacting with clients.
  • Rate negotiations with clients can be uncomfortable, especially if those clients are friends or family members.
  • Extensive home improvement knowledge base needed, depending on the services you plan to offer.
  • May necessitate a robust collection of tools, depending on services offered.
  • Some jobs are seasonal.
  • Your state may require liability insurance, certain certifications and/or a contractor’s license to offer certain services.
  • Self-employment taxes are high (15.3 percent) and you’re required to file a tax return if your business makes more than $400 a year.

Top-Rated Handyman Skills

This can be broken down into two categories: skills that are profitable and those that are in demand.

The most profitable jobs require specialized skills. The fewer people who can do the job, the more you can charge. However, according to Ariel Rothbard of TaskRabbit, an online marketplace that matches handyman and other freelance labor with local demand, the most highly requested handyman jobs of 2020 required more general skills — minor home repairs, yard work and yard waste removals, and mounting everything from TVs to ceiling fans.

The sweet spot, according to Allan Lee of The Handyman Journey, lies in jobs that require some specialized skills (like plumbing and electrical) yet are still relatively easy to perform. Think repairing and replacing toilets and faucets, unclogging sinks and drains, and replacing ceiling fans, light fixtures and electrical outlets.

Robert Weisberg, owner of Home Medic Handyman, advises offering a little of both, to ensure work and cash flow. Weisberg says he could fill his days changing ceiling fans and ceiling lights. However, he’s a certified HVAC technician so he can also work on air conditioners — a specialized and therefore much more profitable service, but not reliably in-demand in his area.

Determine Your Handyman Offerings

To create your ideal mix of offerings, first make a list of everything you know how to do. Can you hang pictures? Install ceiling fans? Mount a television? Cross-reference these foundational skills with those mentioned in other local handyman ads, assuming they wouldn’t take up precious ad space if they weren’t in demand. These represent the core service offerings most likely to bring you consistent work.

“While you do want to include your most profitable skills, be sure not to stray too far from your existing skillset in search of higher profits,” Weisberg says. “Never take on work that’s outside your skillset. That will get you into trouble really quick.”

And don’t be afraid to experiment with offerings that may set your apart from the competition and fill lucrative needs in your community. Weisberg noticed that none of the few small engine service providers in his area offer mobile service, for instance, so he is preparing to fill that void.

Handyman License and Certification Requirements

The legal requirements for a part-time handyman business are typically minimal — one of the main advantages of this side gig. However, your state laws might require a license and liability insurance before you can do certain jobs or charge a certain amount per job.

Some states allow you to perform most services as long as the project doesn’t exceed a certain dollar amount. This can vary between $500 per project (in California) and $50,000 per project (in Alabama). Others require professional certifications to complete plumbing, electrical or HVAC work. A few states will let you build an entire house without a license.

To find your state’s handyman requirements, start with a Google search. For example: “contractor laws in [your state],” “handyman laws in [your state] or “[your state] contractor board.” You may also want to contact an attorney. Although this could be expensive, getting a definitive answer from a pro could save plenty in fines and legal fees down the road.

Price Your Handyman Services Right

After determining what services you’re going to offer, the next step is figuring out how to correctly price those services.

Dan Perry from Handyman Startup recommends the “Cost Based Pricing” method, which determines your hourly rate by dividing the sum of your overhead expenses by your billable hours. Your expenses should include all your living expenses (rent or mortgage payment, utility bills, grocery bills, etc.), business expenses (insurance, tools, advertising, etc.) and taxes.

When dividing that by your billable hours, keep in mind that about a quarter of your time will be committed to non-billable hours, like estimating, invoicing, travel time and advertising. So if you plan on working 40 hours per week, about 10 of those will be non-billable.

The figure you come up with is the minimum hourly rate you should charge to meet expenses, and Allen Lee recommends adding 20 percent to this figure to ensure profitability. You should also consider increasing your rate for jobs that require specialized skills, like plumbing, electrical and HVAC work. To know whether this rate is reasonable, research what other handyman services are charging in your area. Generally speaking, you can expect to see rates between $50 and $80 an hour.

First Steps to Your First Clients

While being in demand is a huge perk of a handyman side gig, you can’t expect clients to magically appear. Here are three simple and effective ways to attract your first clients:

  • Online Listings. Listing your business on classified sites and business directories like Craigslist, TaskRabbit, Angie’s List, Google My Business, Nextdoor and Yelp is a great way to get your service in front of a large audience for free. Weisberg landed his first clients through Craigslist, which fed his business for years without additional marketing efforts.
  • Family and friends. After all, they’re probably well aware of how handy you are, and word of mouth referrals are one of the best marketing tactics around. You can even ask them to hand out your business cards.
  • Hanging flyers. Hanging flyers at local businesses (like hardware stores, stores with community bulletin boards and community centers) can be an effective and affordable way to promote your services to your local community. You can design your flyers with a program like Canva and print them out yourself, or you can design and order them from a service like VistaPrint.

Give your first clients the best customer service experience possible by performing great work, maintaining a professional demeanor and keeping a friendly attitude throughout the job. If they’re pleased with your work, they’ll likely consider you for future projects, refer you to their friends and family and leave positive reviews about your business.

“If you’re not polite, they’ll let you know in the review — and reviews mean everything for future business,” Weisberg says.

Robert Stam of SEO Mandarin agrees. “The key is going that extra mile and focusing on customer service, he says. “Get people saying good things about you, and more work will come.”

Looking Ahead

Once you’ve generated revenue from your first few clients, consider expanding your marketing efforts. Some smart and simple first steps include setting up a website, creating business cards and using a paid lead-generation service, such as Thumbtack Pro. If you want to go next-level, create a professional business logo for use on cards, clothes and your work vehicle.

James Fitzgerald
James Fitzgerald is a handyman and freelance home-improvement writer with a passion for DIY, gardening, and anything involving working with his hands. He has over a decade of professional experience in a variety of trades, including construction, tree work, landscaping, and general maintenance. When not in search of the next enticing DIY project, he may be cooking, lifting weights, riding his motorcycle, hiking out at the coast, or nose deep in a great book.