LoveToKnow Home Improvement recently sat down with Scott Becker, also known in cyberspace as Your Online Handyman. He's been a self-employed, professional handyman since 1993, and has a passion for technology and seeing others accomplish tasks they once thought were impossible. He says, "What people need to understand is that regardless of the challenge, they are capable of doing more than they give themselves credit for." He thinks it's a matter of breaking past the fear, and that's one of the reasons he established YourOnlineHandyman.com, where the overall theme is help for the do-it-yourselfer, along with expert tips for do it yourself fixes, and various stories related to the home improvement industry.
How did you come to start your handyman business?
After leaving college in the mid-80s, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I tried several jobs. During this period, I went to my mother's house and saw a man cleaning her carpets. I was taken by the idea of having a small business, and I began a carpet cleaning business. One day while still struggling to get customers, one of my customers asked me if I knew anyone who could do other work around their home. I told the customer that I could do the job. I enjoyed the handyman work more than the carpet cleaning, even though carpet cleaning was more lucrative. The nice part was that I did not have to give up the carpet cleaning. I ran both businesses out of the same truck and still do today.
How would you suggest people find a handyman to perform home repairs?
The best way to find a reliable person to do any kind of work is through word-of-mouth. Getting any type of worker recommended by someone you know and trust is by far the best way. It's better for the handyman as well. I've noticed from my 15 years in business that often the friends of people who referred me are much like the referring customer. If you're deciding between two handymen, a referral should be given the advantage. Make sure you ask lots of questions such as: How long have you been in business? Do you work at this full time? Do you have insurance? How much experience do you have with this particular kind of job, and can I see the work? Try and get a feel through the answers.
In your experience, what would you say are the most common household repairs?
The repairs that I am called in to fix are diverse. Sheetrock repair from damaged walls and ceilings are big, so is small hardware repair. People have a lot of problems with hinges, handles, locks and that sort of thing. Usually when I go to a customer's home they have a long list of things that need repairing.
What kinds of repairs can be made by a handyman rather than calling a more expensive specialized service provider?
A skilled handyman is capable of many tasks, including carpentry, sheetrock, painting, roofing and siding and most anything around the home. A handyman is also good at fixing small things around your home. I have been called to fix broken drawers, doors and windows, tiles, mirrors, fences and a lot more. Certain trades such as electrical and plumbing require a special license and quite a bit of specialized knowledge, and repairs such as fixing a heating system require quite a bit of special skills and knowledge.
Can you give us expert tips for do it yourself fixes to make homes more energy efficient?
I recently posted on my blog about this subject. Here are a few points I touched on. First, insulation goes a long way, by insulating your home, you can save as much as 20 percent on your heating bill. Another way to save is by replacing your old heating system or making sure that the one you have is up-to-date and working properly. You can also do quite a few other things such as weather stripping windows and doors, using ceiling fans and by installing a programmable thermostat.
As long as we're talking about tips, do you have suggestions on what people can do to make their appliances last longer?
Don't abuse them. Use appliances in the way that they were meant to be used. Don't overstuff the washer or dryer, and don't slam the refrigerator door. However, don't avoid using appliances either. Appliances need to be used to keep some of the internal parts in good working condition. Take care of appliances and for the most part they last a long time.
What is the number one thing to be careful of when hiring a handyman?
Do your best to make sure that the person or company you hire is honest. Ask a lot of questions. If something doesn't feel right, don't let the handyman do the work.
What do you think of someone starting a handyman business? Where should they begin?
Being a handyman is a great business. For anyone who has the ability and confidence to be in their own business, there is nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get when you help someone with something that needs to be done. It is also a great business for anyone who likes to work around people. Let everyone know what you do. Depending on your location, you may need certain licenses and insurance. Once you have those in place, I recommend fliers on local bulletin boards and small ads in a church or temple bulletin. Do not spend big money on advertising. As I said, the handyman business is a word of mouth business, and once you get in with one group there will be plenty of work for a long time.