Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How much is this handyman job going to cost me?

Most of the work I do is billed by the hour. Sometimes a customer wants a bid on a job. I'm glad to work either way.

I understand why people want a bid - it lets them know how much the job is going to cost.

Whenever one of my customers requests a bid, I explain that, while I am glad to do so, it will cost them more in the end.

Let me explain how a bid works. I am going to go through the job and everything is going to be figured from the high end. I'm going to consider what could take more time than normal and what could cost more. A cushion will be built in. When the job is all done, I don't want to come up short. That's how the process works.

Some people are willing to pay more for the assurance of knowing what the job is going to cost up front. I understand that.

Usually once I have worked for someone, they realize that I am very fast and efficient. They see that doing the job by the hour works in their favor. If I worked only by bid, I would make more money but that's not what I'm interested in. I would rather have a long-term relationship with a customer than to make a lot of money one time.

Another way I do business that benefits my customers is in how I charge for supplies. When I buy materials for their job I give them the receipt and that is how much they pay. I don't mark it up at all.

Recently I have heard a lot of advertising by service companies that encourage "up-front-pricing". In some cases, it is an honest and fair bid but many times the price is ridiculous.

I had a customer some years ago who didn't know that I installed garbage disposals. She called a well-known plumbing company (big orange trucks and the words apple and wood in their name). They used the "up-front-pricing" model. She was given a price of $500.00 for the job. She thought it seemed high but the plumber gave her a spiel of how expensive the disposal was, etc. She ended up approving the work and later realized she was overcharged.

The disposal she had installed retailed for about $70.00 and there could have been a few dollars in other parts. It would have taken between 15 minutes to an hour (if complications) to do the job. Add some traveling time on top of that and the job still wasn't worth half of what she was charged. I felt sorry for her.

Businesses like this are all over town. Many handyman companies, especially the big franchises operate this way. Sometimes it's hard for the consumer to know what a fair price is. That's why it's good to have a company you can trust.

I have been in business since 1984. On my website, I have a list of my satisfied customers. The pleasure I receive from those testimonials is far greater than the short-term gain of overcharging.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Home Repair Nightmares

Here is a humorous look at home repair nightmares uncovered by home inspectors.

It’s a reminder of why you need a trustworthy, competent person to do your maintenance.

While I don’t do all of the type of repairs shown in this video, you can be sure that the work I do will be done right.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Handyman and Knowledge of Limitations – Part 2

This post should be called the dog in the backyard or better yet, the dead dog in the backyard.

In my last post, I pointed out how important it is for a handyman to know his limitations. Sometimes you know right away that you are not suited for a particular job. Other times you have to run it through your mind.

Several years ago, I received a call from a regular customer of mine. She had a job that needed to be done and wondered if I could help her. A year or so before, their dog had died. The fairly large dog was buried in the backyard in a plastic tote box, the kind with the snap on lid. Now they were moving and she wanted to take the dog to the new place.

I was glad this request was left on my phone machine so I had some time to think about it before I had to answer. My first thought was, “no way.” Then I started to think about it. I was glad my customer had thought of me. She knew that a handyman does a wide variety of jobs and she had one that needed to be done.

I started to take the job apart. A hole would need to be dug that was much larger than the tote box. Then I started thinking what would be in the hole. Did the box have drainage holes? Would there be a smell? Whose vehicle would it go in for the trip across town?

I had my answer; I was not suited for this job. I gave her a call, grateful to get her answering machine. I thanked her for offering me the job but explained that I would have to pass on it. I tried to be very sensitive, knowing the emotions involved.

Many times, I have customers who are hesitant to ask me to do certain jobs. It may seem too small, strange, or complicated to them. Recently I was able to fix a furnace cover that kept falling off, light a gas fireplace, repair the legs on an old dresser and screen a kitchen vent to keep squirrels out. All of these were jobs where the customer needed something done but didn’t know who to ask. The only bad question is the one left unasked. It’s always a pleasure to see the customers sense of relief when I am able to take care of a job that nagged at them for so long.

How can I be of service to you? I’m never too busy to help you out.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Handyman and Knowledge of Limitations

One of the things that make a handyman good or bad is whether they have a knowledge of limitations. Not everyone can do everything yet some try. I think there are a few reasons why this happens. Sometimes it is pride, “I can do anything.” Sometimes a person isn’t smart enough to know they aren’t smart enough and sometimes a person needs the work so, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

I have been a professional handyman since 1984. During that time, I have had many opportunities to turn down jobs. Sometimes I know that I can’t do a certain repair and another tradesman needs to be called. Appliance repair is an example of something I usually don’t do.

Another reason I turn down a job is if the outcome isn’t certain. An example would be a plumbing repair where disturbing the pipes may lead to a leak that would require a plumber to fix. Some handymen would push forward and if disaster occurs they leave the homeowner without water while trying to find a plumber who can make an emergency visit. On a job like that, I would tell the homeowner of my concerns and recommend that they hire a plumber so that the job can be completed with minimal disruption to their home.

Recently I began working for a customer who had a previous “handyman” replace some switches and outlets in her home. He did okay on some of them but then one light switch was in a box with a junction of wires. For reasons imponderable to mere mortals he ended up pulling all the wires apart and then couldn’t get them back together properly. The result was that the homeowner had a series of lights and outlets that no longer worked. The man left saying he was going to come back but that was the last she heard of him. She hired me for a list of jobs and asked about the “light switch problem.” Over the phone I told her that it may or may not be something I could repair. When I arrived at her home, it became clear that the best solution was to call an electrician as some serious diagnostic work needed to be done by someone who could recognize how all of the wires should be connected. This is a sad example of someone being in over his head even though the job started out simple.

I have customers who have commended me because I’m not afraid to say I don’t or can’t do particular job. They know that my first concern is for their interests and not my own. They rest in the comfort of knowing that the work I do will be done right and at a fair price.

There is an old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I would add, “incompetent at some.” The lesson is to know what you can and can’t do.

I once had a regular customer who told me of her husband’s experience replacing a light bulb. As a lawyer, he was highly skilled and successful in what he did. On this occasion, he met a light fixture with a problem socket. After much trouble he finally said, “Why don’t you just call Philip.” I commend him for realizing his limitation. That’s the mark of a smart man.

Maybe next time I will tell you about the dog in the backyard. I promise it will be a story unlike any you have heard.

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