Mar 20 , 2020
Everyone has Coronavirus on their mind, and rightly so. This could be the most important event in our lifetime. It’s already changed the world. The only question now is “how much will the world change?”
Experts are happy to share their opinions, which are likely very good opinions based on complicated economical models, cutting edge science, and a comprehensive view of history.
But ultimately, nobody knows.
Maybe one of the thousands of brilliant scientists out there will develop a vaccine or anti-viral treatment that works and we can all go on with our merry lives. Or, maybe this will drag on until well into 2021.
This likely leaves you with a lot of questions bouncing around in your head. And as a reader of this website, one of those questions is “how will this impact my handyman business?“
Maybe you are just thinking about starting a handyman business. Is that still a good idea?
Or, maybe you already operate a small local service business. Are you totally f$@ked?
Well, just like everyone else, I don’t know. But I have been thinking about this nonstop since I read this article on March 11th and immediately decided to keep my family at home for at least a couple of weeks (it’s now been nearly 7 weeks).
So, here’s what I’m going to cover in this article.
- The negative impacts COVID-19 has, and will continue to have, on handyman businesses.
- A positive perspective on why it may not be that bad.
- And most importantly…What actions to take so that you limit the downside and and emerge on the other side on top and doing better than ever.
The Negative Impacts of COVID-19
#1 – A temporary drop in demand
The most obvious (handyman business related) downside is a drop in demand.
On April 1st I surveyed 221 small handyman businesses. Most of them live in the US, but there are some businesses from the UK or Australia as well.
When I asked how COVID-19 has impacted their business in terms of leads, 22% said that customers calls completely stopped. 37% said they had a large reduction in new project requests. The rest of the data is in the chart below.
As you can see, 83% have had at least a small decrease in demand for their services. And, 59% have had a large reduction in new project requests.
Even though some (~16%) are experiencing either business as usual or even an increase in demand, it’s clear that demand has decreased.
Not really surprising, but still interesting to see some data.
There are several things leading to this decrease in demand. The obvious one is social distancing. A large portion of the world just doesn’t want to take unnecessary risks.
Another factor is the uncertainty about the economy. This is leading most homeowners to tighten up their budget a bit – or at least not spend money on non-essentials like kitchen or bath remodels.
The third factor that is just starting to have an effect on demand is rising unemployment (I don’t think this factored in much at the time of the survey). This will likely continue to keep demand lower even after the initial fear of COVID-19 goes away and we start returning to normal again.
So, unfortunately, there has been a drop in demand. The only question is how long will it last and how severe will it be?
Many of the handymen I surveyed have said that customers are postponing a lot of projects. So, there may be pent up demand building that will more than make up for the drop in demand caused by unemployment rates.
But again, nobody knows what will happen. It’s all speculation right now.
#2 – Working = Exposure
Another obvious downside is that the more work you provide as a pro, the more people you have contact with, and the higher your risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 (the diseased caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus).
Of course the risk of getting the coronavirus can be minimized with good hygiene, not shaking hands, staying outside, and staying at least six feet away from people at all times. But even with these measures in place you are still increasing the risk of infection any time you enter a home or shop for supplies.
For some, that’s a risk worth taking. For others, it’s not.
#3 – Many businesses will disappear
For any local service business with employees, this is a tricky time. Many businesses were just barely keeping their heads above water before the pandemic. With the threat of several weeks (potentially months) with little to no work, this will put many people out of business.
A large percentage of handymen operate solo, including most of my readers, which allows them to be more flexible and resilient since their overhead is very low. Yes, they may have significantly lower income for a while, but at least they don’t have to pay employees or the numerous other expenses involved with larger operations.
So inevitably, just like with any other recession, some contractors and handymen will go out of business.
These are three pretty big downsides. However, here’s why being a self-employed handyman is a relatively good position to be in.
The Silver Lining of Being a Self-Employed Handyman
If you are reading this, it’s likely that you are a self-employed handyman. After all, that is the business model that I teach.
If that’s the case, here’s why you will fare better than most in this situation.
#1 – Demand may be lower, but so is supply
Many handymen have decided to temporarily stop offering services in order to limit their exposure to COVID-19. Many of the handymen in America are retired men who do this work because they enjoy it and so they can supplement their retirement. But their handyman business income is not essential. This has allowed them to comfortably shut down their services for a while.
Additionally, handymen who are good at managing their money have been able to shut down operations to minimize risk to themselves and family members. Many of the handymen I surveyed mentioned they were doing this.
This is good news for other pros because it reduced competition. It’s hard to know how much supply has dropped and how many handymen will continue to call it quits for a while, but it will help (and already has) adjust for the lower demand.
Because of those who shut down temporarily the handymen businesses that need to stay open will still be able to generate an income. That income may be lower than normal, but many industries are completely shut down with no income. So compared to other businesses like restaurants and barber shops, this puts handymen in a pretty good spot.
Additionally, the customers of those handymen who stay home are still going to need home repairs. This will give opportunities to handymen who are just starting their businesses to gain traction with new customers.
#2 – This is temporary
Nobody knows how long we’ll be practicing social distancing. It could be a few more weeks. It could be a few more months. I’ve even heard sources say it will last at least a year unless we have a breakthrough in treatment.
Personally, I am optimistic that things will improve sooner. I’m amazed at how well we have reacted as a country so far and I believe there are a lot of smart people working to solve this problem and very few politicians hindering progress. Normally politics and special interests will slow down medical developments. I don’t think that will be the case for this one.
Regardless of how long this lasts, it’s important to remember that it is temporary. The economy will bounce back just like it did after 2008 and the many other recessions our economy has faced. And when it does, there will be a surge in demand for handymen and contractors. Any handyman business who is able to weather the storm will be fishing on less crowded waters when it’s all said and done.
#3 – Homes will always need repairs
No matter how much the economy tanks, how long the NBA is shut down, or how much COVID-19 spreads, homes will always need repairs.
Toilets will continue to need repairs. Fences will continue to blow over in the wind. Refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, furnaces, and the hundreds of other things that can break down in a home will continue to break down.
The fact that people are in their homes even more now will probably increase the amount of repairs needed. Plus, homeowners may be less willing to live with broken things in the home since they now spend nearly 100% of their time there.
Even people who are most afraid of COVID-19 will still go to the grocery store to get food and supplies, just like they will call someone to fix their furnace if it breaks.
Here in Reno, NV, all non-essential businesses have been ordered to shut down. However, one business that will remain open is Home Depot and other hardware stores. That’s because what they sell is essential. So is the service that home repair experts provide.
Additionally, even painting businesses have been deemed essential and, as of now, are continuing to offer services.
Because handyman services are essential, there will likely always be at least some level of demand for them.
#4 – You can focus on outdoor repairs.
As a handyman you offer a wide range of services and repairs. This allows you to offer indoor services or outdoor services. It allows you to help businesses, homeowners, and even real estate investors.
This wide range of services is difficult to streamline and in a normal economy can actually limit profits. Specializing in one service when things are going good is typically more profitable as I outline in this article.
However, when things start to go south, offering a wider range of services starts to pay off. It leaves you less exposed to shifts in demand. While demand for certain services may evaporate, other services will pick up to take the slack.
This makes a handyman business more resilient than a specialized service business such as a painting contractor or lawn care business.
And in the case of coronavirus, it can allow you to focus on exterior repairs which will limit your exposure and still allow you to generate a profit.
Of course, your ability to pick and choose jobs depends on how good your marketing is, which is why I’m always preaching about the importance of marketing.
As you can see, there are several advantages of being a handyman in this time of uncertainty. Everyone will be effected negatively in some way, but compared to most industries, pro handymen will do quite well.
How To Weather The Storm And Come Out On Top
Now that I’ve covered the impact of this highly contagious virus, let’s talk about what you can do now to position yourself for survival – and potentially even growth.
How you approach this situation will depend on your situation. So I’ll address a couple of different scenarios.
Scenario #1 – If you need to keep providing services to keep your business alive.
The first thing to do in this case is to address your hygiene and social distancing practices. You’ll want to create a comprehensive strategy for limiting your exposure and your customers’ exposure. Figure out how you can shop less in physical stores. Don’t shake customers hands. Stay six feet away from customers and people in stores. Sanitize your hands, your tools, and the surfaces on your truck that you touch after every single job. Only install items that you purchase and provide. Practice “contactless services” by billing digitally. Make the customer open all of the windows for a few hours before entering their home. Don’t give the customers physical receipts or brochures. Limit contact as much as possible, and try not to share air.
This may seem extreme, but there are two reasons for this. The first is to “flatten the curve” by not spreading the disease. The second is for marketing purposes. Having a solid social distancing and hygiene protocol is the most important marketing tool at your disposal right now. Customers are unlikely to hire a handyman that doesn’t address this.
Once you’ve created your COVID-19 mitigation protocol, the second thing to do is to share it with your customers. I would approach this in two ways. First, create a page on your website that discusses and explains your protocol for keeping you and your customers safer from infection. Make sure to make this content obvious on your home page as well. Second, write an email to your customers and let them know that you are in business and explain your protocol in the email.
Here’s what to include in the email:
- A thorough description of your COVID-19 risk management protocol.
- A clear description of the services you are still offering.
- Ideas for services (ideally exterior) that customers might want right now.
- Any benefits of hiring you right now (temporary discounts, availability, etc.).
The more thorough your protocol, the safer you will make customers feel. The safer you make customers feel, the more likely they are to hire you.
And don’t be afraid to send more than one email. A short helpful email once a week is a good idea, depending on how much business you have.
If you are a member of Handyman Marketing Machine, I teach E-mail marketing in Module 5. Go through that for additional tips and insights.
Additionally, I’m working on a new marketing program which will come out shortly. So, make sure to sign up for my email list anywhere on this website to get notified when it’s released.
Again, addressing COVID-19 concerns could be the most important marketing tool you could possibly use right now (other than the tools you use to be found by new customers in the first place).
Scenario #2 – You are at risk of being laid off (or already have been).
If this is the case you will first want to decide if starting a business is your best option.
While many of my students who are just getting started experience very fast growth with their businesses, this should not be expected as the norm – especially during a recession.
Anticipate to spend at least 3 months with little to no income while investing at least a couple thousands dollars to get started. Your business may grow faster than this, but given the current circumstances it will likely take longer.
If you have some runway financially and can go a few months with no income, then proceed just like any other time when starting your business (with the additional stuff I added above). I have over a hundred free articles and resources to help you as well as more in depth and step-by-step trainings to help you accelerate your success.
Scenario #3 – If you don’t need short-term cash flow, but still want to grow your business.
This is for you if you are just starting a business or want to start a business to escape your day job. Or, if you are a seasoned pro who can afford to take a few weeks off.
This is a good position to be in because you’ll likely have extra time at home. If you currently work a 9-5, this offers a huge opportunity to focus on your business for a while.
If you are usually swamped with jobs as a pro handyman and never get a chance to build systems or improve your business, this is also a great opportunity.
Now is the time to invest in your business knowledge and skills. Well, it’s really always a good time to do those things, but now is a REALLY good time.
For a handyman business, there are several areas to focus on that tend to yield the best results:
- Your marketing. By optimizing your marketing you can focus on attracting customers who are closer to you or just for jobs that tend to be more profitable. This is also helpful if you’re just starting your business.
- Your Pricing. Most handymen are leaving so much money on the table every year it’s ridiculous. Limiting beliefs, a lack of a pricing strategy, and just lack of knowledge about the industry in general lead to very expensive mistakes.
- Your Scheduling. This ties in with your pricing strategy and can lead to dramatic boosts in profit long term.
- Your Systems. Create checklists. Improve how you bill customers. Upgrade your business software. Re-organize your tools. Switch to an S corp. Optimizing these things doesn’t always pay off directly, but will save time and energy which frees you up to make more money or just enjoy more life.
You don’t have to do them all. Just one thing at a time.
Just ask yourself the following questions:
What can I do now that will save me time in the future?
What can I do now that will increase my income per hour worked in the future?
What can I do now to position my business for success in the future?
Then, just pick one thing and actually do it. Staying productive is a great way to gain a sense of control, even in the midst of uncertainty.
It’s easy to fall victim to the idea that a situation is helpless, but there is always something you can do. There are always opportunities. There is always a silver lining.
Sure, certain things will suck for a little bit. But don’t just let circumstances mow you over. Get up and focus on what you can improve. Shut off the news. Take a few deep breaths. And get to work. Just choose one small thing and do it. Then do the same thing tomorrow. Then do that every day.
Any time there is disruption in the world, wealth changes hands. Everyone will suffer losses in the short term, but in the long run, some will gain from this and some will continue to suffer massive losses. You have the choice of which category you fall into.