The Side Hustle Series: How to Become a Handyman

painter with brush climbing ladder during renovation work Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

There are a lot of ways to make a little extra money on the side, but few are as rewarding as working with your hands. If you’re looking for a bit of extra cash, aren’t lazy, and have a bit of technical skill, this is the article for you. We’ll discuss how to become a handyman, what a handyman does, and just how much side cash you might be able to make.

Working with your hands and solving someone’s problem is a great way to pad your pockets. And, it’s an age-old career. I ran a handyman business for a few years, and I did it because my wife and I were expecting our first child and really needed the extra cash a side hustle provides. So, I’m writing this article from experience. Keep reading to learn more.

And for the record, if you make any cash at all in the handyman field, you need to claim it on your taxes. That’s my disclaimer. Do with that information what you will.

What is a handyman?

“Handyman” is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but it’s a somewhat old-school term that some guys might not understand. Basically, a handyman is someone who fixes or repairs things around a customer’s property. These jobs might include:

  • Painting (indoors and out)
  • Appliance repairs
  • Hanging pictures and shelves
  • Patching drywall
  • Repairing a fence
  • Small plumbing repairs
  • Pressure washing exterior surfaces
  • Making runs to the dump

In general, a handyman will do jobs that a homeowner doesn’t know how to — or that they simply can’t do. But these jobs aren’t large enough to call a full-time contractor. And the jobs can be weird and varied: on one job, you might be installing a doggie-door while on the next, you might be wiring a light fixture or changing the oil on a car. And in some cases, you might be doing all those jobs for one customer.

How much does a handyman charge?

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If you’re wondering how much a handyman charges or how much money you can make as a handyman, you need to understand why handyman businesses exist.

Homeowners typically have lots of little things around the property that need repair. If they went through specialty contractors for each of those repairs, the costs add up very quickly. 

For instance, let’s say the fence needs repair, there’s a leaky pipe under the sink, a light fixture needs to be replaced, and there’s a loose tile on their kitchen backsplash. They’d have to hire a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, and a tile guy to make those repairs. And none of those specialty trades won’t come out for a small job under a certain amount of cash.

And getting them all to show up is a hassle.

Knowing this, homeowners are okay paying one person (the handyman) handsomely for their services in order to have all those items repaired at once. According to Homeguide.com, a New York City handyman can charge between $60 and $125 an hour. In Phoenix, they charge between $35 and $90 an hour. The national average is right around $55 an hour.

Will you be able to charge that much as a side hustle? Maybe. It depends on your ability, the customer’s need to get someone to their house, and your negotiation skills.

A word to the wise: You can land a lot of jobs by charging just $20 an hour, but don’t. This might be a side hustle for you, but you don’t want those $20 jobs, and you don’t want to work for people only willing to pay $20 for your services. Your trading time you could be spending with your family or pursuing your hobbies; make sure you’re getting paid well for it.

How to Become a Handyman

man using a laptop at a wood workshop

If you like the work and the type of pay, you’re probably considering becoming a handyman. But do you know where to start? Depending on where you live and the kind of work you’ll perform, there might be some important factors to consider.

How to Start a Handyman Business: The Usual Steps

I’ve written many, many pieces meant for contractors starting businesses in particular states in the US, so I genuinely border on an expert at this point. And things vary from state to state, but I’ll give you some basic (typically) universal necessities to starting a legitimate business.

  1. Register your business with the state: This is typically done through the county clerk where you live, the State’s Secretary of State, or a Consumer Protection Board. In some cases, you might need a Federal Tax ID number, but your social security number usually suffices.
  2. Secure insurance: If you’re working by yourself, general liability might be enough, but that’s your call, not mine.
  3. Obtain a license: Some states require handyman businesses to carry licenses while others have “handyman exemptions.” These exemptions are usually for handyman or contractors that make under “X amount” of money each year. X could represent $2,000, $5,000, or $10,000. This could also apply to the dollar amount of the project, such as under “$250 per contract.” Here’s a helpful article I wrote for Levelset.com that might help point you in the right direction.

Handyman Tools and Equipment

As you probably know, different types of projects require specific tools and equipment. Which tools you have or are comfortable buying will determine the types of projects you’re able to handle.

There are some must-haves, and they include:

modern convenient screwdriver drill among tools for carpentry
  • 16 or 20-ounce hammer
  • Multi-screwdriver
  • Power drill
  • Circular saw
  • Miter saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Stud finder
  • Pump pliers
  • Linesman pliers
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter’s pencils, markers, pens, etc.
  • Speed square
  • Two foot, four foot, and torpedo level
  • Utility knife
  • Box handsaw
  • Hacksaw
  • Chisels
  • A ⅜-inch socket set (¼ and ½ too, if possible)
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Toolbox
  • Ladder
  • Square paint brush
  • Angled paint brush
  • Painter’s tool
  • Paint roller

If you have a truck or a van, it definitely helps, but it’s not always necessary; a car will just limit the type of work you can do. And you don’t necessarily need all those tools to start. You can add more tools or replace older pieces as you land more work. 

Here’s another suggestion I’ll make: Have a few custom T-shirts printed with your business name on them and keep a clean spare or two in the truck. If someone’s paying $65 an hour for your services, a clean, custom work shirt creates a much more professional look than a grease-stained tank top. A few business cards, a Facebook page, and an Instagram account detailing some projects you’ve tackled will help.

How To Find Handyman Jobs

anonymous man installing window in room

When you’re first starting, you’re going to focus on landing jobs. The first and most obvious step is leveraging social. Build a Facebook page for your handyman business and use it for advertising your services. Make sure your friends are sharing it as well. Also, start that Instagram page and tag all of your shots with your city or area. Those tactics alone will help you land some work.

There are also plenty of websites and apps that will connect your business with customers. My personal favorite is a site called PulledInc, which handles a lot of the administrative junk you might prefer not to. Also, you can try sites like Handyman.com, HomeAdvisor.com, BuildZoom.com, Thumbtack.com, and Nextdoor.com. Most will charge either a membership fee or a percentage of your project, but it’s worth it to start filling the project funnel.

You can also try Craigslist, but do recognize that it’s full of those $20-an-hour jobs I warned you about.

The thing about the handyman business is that if you’re good at what you do, answer your phone, and show up on time, people will use you year after year. They’ll also tell their friends. If you aren’t careful, your side hustle might turn into a full-time gig.

How To Become a Handyman: Billing

person in white button up shirt holding white paper

I know way more than the average person about construction contracts and billing processes, and I can tell you that most handyman services can get away with simple invoice billing. For electronic billing, setting up a Paypal or Venmo account will usually do just fine.

When you create this bill, be sure it’s detailed enough that you can look back at it in 10 years and understand what you did. Include your manhours, any products you had to purchase, and notes that detail the work involved. This transparency helps with your record-keeping, and your customers will appreciate it.

The Hourly Minimum: The Handyman’s Bread and Butter

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I can’t write an article about starting a side hustle as a handyman without mentioning the hourly minimum. The hourly minimum refers to the bare minimum amount of hours you’re willing to bill for.

When I was a handyman, I wouldn’t leave the house for less than two hours’ worth of pay. Even if it was simply replacing an outlet cover or swapping batteries in a smoke detector, it had to be worth my time. Two hours was my minimum, so  I would get paid twice my hourly wage, even if the job only took 20 minutes.

Days when you can line up 4 or 5 quick projects are the best. For two or three hours’ worth of work, you’ll be getting paid 8 to 10 times your regular hourly rate. That’s not to say you should rush the job or run out the door if the homeowner needs something else, though. You should have pride in your work and do a great job, no matter how long it takes. But, if it happens to take 20 minutes, you’re the big winner.

Final Thoughts

crop woodworker making patterns on wooden board

Starting a handyman business can be an awesome side hustle that can make you quite a bit of money. Whether you’re paying off student loans or credit cards, or are just saving up for a downpayment on a house, fixing a few things a couple of times a week can add up to several hundred dollars a month.

Not bad for an honest day’s work.

What are your thoughts? Have you been working a handyman side hustle for a while and have something to offer? Got a question about how to become a handyman? Let me know in the comments below. I always respond and I look forward to hearing from you.

FAQs

You might have some more questions about how to become a handyman, so I’ll try to answer the most frequently asked queries here. 

What qualifications do you need to be a handyman?

Most states don’t have any specific requirements for starting a handyman business other than registering or licensing. Once you meet those requirements, being handy, friendly, and professional are the only real qualifications.

Where can I learn to become a handyman?

YouTube is an incredible resource, and there are lots of channels where handy people share trade secrets and DIYs. If you don’t know how to do something, YouTube is often the best first stop.

What are basic handyman skills?

The skills most handyman business owners possess are:

  • Appliance installation
  • Carpentry
  • Minor plumbing
  • Minor electrical
  • Insulation
  • Weatherproofing and insulating
  • Painting
  • Maintenance
  • Basic renovation
  • General repair skills (a badass skill to have, of course)

Is there demand for handyman businesses?

There is actually more demand for handyman services right now than ever. Most contractors have backlogs at least a year in advance, thanks to COVID and projects being shut down. Homeowners are searching for handyman services to make small repairs now, as well as make their homes more livable until the world returns to normal.

Can you make a living as a handyman?

You can certainly make a living, but probably not right away. It usually takes a couple of years of hard work before a handyman business can sustain a full-time living. You need a mix of returning customers and new projects, comprehensive knowledge of the work, a professional demeanor, and intelligent scheduling — things that can take years to develop.