Hire a Handyman and Never Have to Say You're Sorry…
Let the Natural Handyman help you find the handyman of your dreams!
Hiring a handyman is not easy and many people have had bad experiences with handymen. You've heard the stories… they don't show up, they don't return calls, they say they can do the work but end up letting you down… just a litany of negativity.
But wait a minute… there are scores of people who have had wonderful experiences hiring those "small job guys"! Just whose fault is it when communication breaks down… the handyman's or the client's? I would venture to say a little of both. Lets explore the relationship between handyman and homeowner and try to figure out how to make this situation a little better.
But first, let's try to figure out just what a handyman is… or isn't!
(Note: If you are looking to hire a renovator or contractor for a BIG job, you might want to read our article on the topic, "ON HIRING HOME REPAIR HELP...", which deals more specifically with hiring contractors. Click HERE to view the full article!)
Is THAT a handyman?
The handyman profession is not easy to define. If I were to say that a handyman is a person who offers his home repairing talents for money, I would be right but not very helpful. If I tried to get myself out of trouble by listing the specific skills a handyman should have, I would be in more hot water! For every skill I would add to the list of required talents… electrical repairs, plumbing repairs, tile work, locksmithing, etc. … I would be eliminating hundreds of handymen. If I got more specific by listing job sizes she would accept… paint a wall, paint a house, paint the Sistine Chapel… again I would be lopping off more handymen with each increase in job scope.
What about letting the workers themselves define what a "handyman" is? That wouldn't work either. Many tradespeople call themselves "handymen" and "small-job pros" when they are, in fact, tradesmen looking for the big jobs but willing to take on a few small jobs when job pickin's are scarce. Is this honest? Maybe or maybe not, but they do have a right to work and survive! But are they really "handymen"?
What kind of work can a handyman do?
One thing that is certain… a "handyman" is not defined by his skills.
All handymen are not "Jacks (or Jills)-of-all trades". They come from all walks of life and all sorts of interesting backgrounds. Some handymen come from a trade background with primary skills in carpentry or the construction trades. A few are electricians and plumbers, though not as many since the money is usually better in those licensed and often unionized professions. Some are tile installers or roofers or appliance repair people who, as mentioned earlier, fill in the lean times with handy-work from their current customers or referrals.
But all handymen are not from the trades and not all handymen are skilled in crafts. Some are just honest hard-working folks willing to do a day's work for a day's pay. Some will ply their trade raking leaves, cleaning out your basement… anything for a buck! Others don't have many skills now but want to learn, becoming "freelance apprentices". They wish to become educated on-the-job and often charge relatively low rates for the opportunity to learn while working on your home.
What are a handyman's skills?
Here is the first truism about the handyman profession… a handyman's skills are defined by what that specific handyman can do! Since there is no standard handyman profile, each handyman brings to your home different abilities and capabilities. The handyman-roofer may do a great job cleaning gutters or replacing a door lock, but keep him away from the garbage disposal and the toilets. That great handyman/carpenter will professionally renovate your small basement but hide the broken bicycle and the garage door opener.
Great, NH! Now stop gabbing and get to the point!
Fine… here it is… my notion of what a handyman is and isn't by the numbers…
So now you understand how NH looks at handymen… a common-sense approach emphasizing the melding of YOUR needs to THEIR skills. Let's take this to the next step… the handyman selection process.
Hiring a handyman… the rules!
I really hope you didn't skip the first few paragraphs and jump to this section. If you did, please return to the top of the page… I'll wait for you. Everything in this section may not make sense if you don't understand my notion of a handyman.
Rule #1… Have a clear idea of what you want… and make a list!
With such a broad reaching profession, it is incumbent on the homeowner to ask the right questions of her handyman if she expects to hire intelligently. Before even considering calling, get together a list of the things you want done. In the craft we fondly call this the "laundry list" or the "honey-do list"… the latter named after the plaintiff cry of a needy spouse… "Honey, could you do this… honey, could you do that?"
Though there are many handymen with a tremendous range of skills you can't assume anything. It is important to go over the list with the handyman later in the screening process. Your goal is to decide if this person will do enough of your work to make hiring him worthwhile.
Rule #2… Develop a list of handymen prospects
The easy way to start your search is to pick up the local newspaper or "Pennysaver" and look through the home repair classifieds. However, the downside is that many successful handymen do not advertise. After a few years in business, many multi-skilled, full-time handymen find themselves overwhelmed with new business and stop actively promoting themselves. This occurs because of networking… referrals from multiple sources that keep them busy year round. So how do you find these handyman gems? Try soliciting the help of lumberyards, condo associations and hardware stores. Many of these businesses and organizations keep lists of tradesmen that they refer. Many are very careful who they list and will remove a tradesman if they receive any negative reports.
Needless to say, one of the best ways to start the search is to receive a trusted referral from a friend, relative or business associate. This type of referral makes the screening process a little easier since you have some information about the handyman before you talk to him on the phone… or have him standing at your threshold!
Rule #3… You must ask these questions!
If you have read the sister article to this piece… How To Successfully Hire A Contractor… you will find some redundancy here. My apologies for the repetition but overlap is unavoidable. However… there are a few additional essential questions specific to hiring a handyman.
A final note… from the Natural Handyman
Being in the home repair field gives me a perspective that "outsiders" writing on this subject lack. I proudly admit to NOT being dispassionate. Every week I hear and see both the light and the dark side of the home repair industry. I strongly support my brothers and sisters who try to eke an honest living in a profession that has not received glowing reviews in any media. In the news, there is very little ever mentioned about the qualified home repair professional… only the tales of woe seem to be newsworthy. I certainly do not expect the handyman business to receive more consideration than any other beleaguered profession… such as medicine, law or politics. I am a big boy and I realize that… well… that things going "right" is not newsworthy.
So I close this article with a salute to all the fine folks who work every day to make your homes work better, last longer and keep you safe. And likewise a salute to the homeowners who have accepted us into their homes and made us a part of their lives. Thank you all!