Viewing 29 posts - 1 through 29 (of 29 total)
  • Changing a desk job for a handy man career.
  • bigsurfer
    Free Member

    I am currently a mechanical design engineer, I design all sort of automation machinery. I have wondered for a while about becoming a handy man. I can turn my hand to pretty much anything and am good at basic household carpentry, plumbing, decorating, gardening. As a result of doing everything myself for years I am a bit out of touch with how much you can charge. Any other advice please. I am located in east Devon so there is a good market of elderly people. I am 45 and physically fit. Just fancy a change really and something that would get me out from behind a desk really.

    Free Member

    Choose an angle, whether that’s gardening, decorating, or whatever and stick with that
    The problem is that you’ll buy gardening kit, carpentry kit, plumbing kit, etc and not get the use from loads of expensive stuff that you’ll need to invest in to get jobs done in a reasonable timeframe. You can’t charge most people for a hand-cut mortise and tenon joint that took your costs into complete table from Ikea territory
    You’ll find that you have to make a decision to go full-time; you can’t maintain more than a couple of gardening clients, for example, if you test the waters at weekends only. And gardening waste disposal is a pain!
    EDIT Gardening drops off a cliff during the winter, so fencing, guttering, etc will be needed as fall back

    Free Member

    I know a chap who did similar. He lives and works near Huddersfield. He charges £140 a day currently. For the first few years most of that was sunk back into tools and equipment. He’s mostly been happy with his choice. He’s never been without work.

    Help that his wife has a secure job that pays a respectable amount.

    Free Member

    Having had similar thoughts many times I would say a full day can be less per hour than short day or a 1hr job obviously.

    You need to work out your expenses so you don’t end up less than minimum wage. Off top of my head £200 a day has got to be close to absolute minimum. Probably needs to be more but I haven’t done the sums.

    I know a chap who did similar. He lives and works near Huddersfield. He charges £140 a day currently.

    At £140 a day I am not supprised he is busy, can’t get minimum wage out of that after expenses.

    Full Member

    I dunno – from time to time I’ve thought about changing careers, but ultimately your current career is (hopefully) worst case 37.5 hours out of your week for something that you’re skilled or experienced at, but maybe a bit bored of. Ultimately in those situations your current job is probably your best paid option if you can find a way to keep interested.

    In those times of boredom/doubt I’ve aimed to make life outside work more interesting. consider also changing jobs in the same sector to keep things a bit more fresh? I’ve done that.

    Also investigate going to a four day work week, perhaps contracting and taking breaks as they come (easier said than done that one though).

    Free Member

    Ive thought of it. East Devon too.

    Got a shed full of tools and everyone seems to be very complimentary of the DIY i do.

    My neighbour reckons if youre down in one of the East devon retirement towns, youll never ben short of shelves to put up and tap washers to change for the retirees down there.

    Just a Man (or lady) and a van, a life on the road.

    Dont know if i could be doing with the paperwork and admin though. Taxes, chasing invoices, record keeping, insurance.
    A slow/lazy day is a low/no pay day
    and if you get ill or work dries up, youre out on youre arse.

    You wont get rich working for someone else, but it has its security.

    Full Member

    My dad did it for 10 years after retiring and broadly I think enjoyed it.

    Quite quickly he had a core of decent customers and only worked for them or select people via word of mouth. But he prioritised working for people he liked over chasing money – he was quite open about it being a decent retirement job but no way he could have raised a family doing it.

    I think he could have earned a lot more doing it – there is a bit of a trap where if you charge £140 a day you’ll be in high demand and really busy but if you charge £280/day you’ll get more rejections but even if you get half the work you’re still better off.

    Full Member

    The reason a market exists for handypersons is that most of the work you get is uneconomical to do in terms of set up and tools needed versus perceived monetary value/what people are willing to pay.

    You’re basically setting up a career based on that.
    If you don’t need to earn very much money and enjoy shooting the breeze with old timers then it might be perfect.

    I thought it might be something I might pursue when I’m a bit too old to be lugging 8x4s about but currently, it’s hard enough to earn enough doing bigger jobs in a practical role.

    The market is small that pays well and there is a culture of quote-harvesting that eats up an awful lot of time for no return.

    But yeah, I imagine there’s endless work out there if you get yourself known. Just be aware that it might be a struggle for fairly low reward.
    Sorry to be a half empty glass.

    Full Member

    Sister in laws b/f is a gardener down that neck of the woods, seems quite a crappy job tbh. Lots of heavy work the old folk can’t do but they can do light gardening and they all know best, unlike say building or electrics work. Money does not seem great either.

    Up here in London I occasionally use a handyman service, some jobs I cba’ed with or I know I’ll balls them up. He seems quite busy an is choosy on jobs and not cheap but I suspect he’s got a much more populous catchment area than the same amount of area in east Devon would provide.

    Free Member

    I did just this for a few years, I didn’t need to advertise because I was pretty good at it, did a lot of gardening/landscaping in the summer and bathrooms etc in the winter. You need the manual skils and be good at organising jobs, don’t underestimate preparation it is key. If people know you will do a good job they will pay more to get that.
    Doing a bathroom stripout and refurbish and doing All the work on your own is not for the faint of heart.

    Full Member

    Chap I know was made redundant from a Rolls Royce senior management position and decided he’d had enough of the rat race. Bought himself a van and does this sort of odd-job thing.

    His transition may have been made easier though by the fat redundancy payment and his wife working in a high-up education role! 🙂

    Full Member

    There’s a chap around here that we’ve used for this kind of stuff, who purposefully goes for the ‘jobs that are too small for proper trades to be bothered’. Doesn’t touch any plumbing or electrics though. I’m pretty sure charges something like £150 a day, plus materials.

    Free Member

    My Father-in-Law did it when he retired from being a Bank Manager after 35 years (big ass pay-off and a massive pension), he liked gardening and set about doing some gardening for the old dears in the village. Got a two or three of contracts for minor grounds maintenance at posh flats, one day a week at each, nothing more than grass cutting and hedge trimming etc. and bingo bango he was doing £35k a year in no time!

    Full Member

    Is there any local industry that would use something similar as a career? Just thinking about industries I know, but all small industrial companies seem to have a guy that just fixes stuff around the place, or TV productions need wiremen (basically the ability to run in cables without destroying the location/cable and fit BNC/CAT5/ceeform ends) which is surprisingly hard to find people who will do what should be a basic job, but do it quickly and neatly. Or carpentry on location, it’s not neat and tidy (or even set building) it’s just boarding windows when the glass has been taken out to run cables, making fake doors, gallery desks, 1001 brackets/widgets/camera mounts, etc.

    Full Member

    Being a handy man that can turn your hand to most jobs that don’t need certification (i.e. not electrics / Gas engineer) could be good, but if it were me I think decorating is probably the one with the lowest entry cost, and its probably got year-round demand.

    Full Member

    Mate did this – his own house and garden were finished (some his very competent DIY), fixed term IT job had ended, was sat at home planning his next move. His wife volunteered him for helping a neighbour with some jobs and it ballooned from there by word of mouth. He likes doing hard landscaping, the village is on a hill so people always need things like retaining walls doing. Will turn his hand to most things though, and has a local electrician and plumber to do any bits he’s not qualified/able to do. No end of older folks nearby who need things done and don’t try to squeeze him on price – if you’re polite, turn up when you say you will and tidy up after yourself they’ll always want you back. He’s learned a lot about estimating, time management, etc but really enjoying it.

    If you’ve got enough saved to cover you for a few months then why not? You could try it for a full year and go back to a job if you wanted to.

    Full Member

    A bloke near me is working his way up and down the whole street seemingly, mending rotten sections of sash windows and painting them.
    Always see him.
    It’s like the Forth Bridge on a good street 😊

    Full Member

    At the end of the Summer
    I found my choice
    Working at the Shipyard
    Or a penniless college boy
    Homework in my satchel
    Or money in my hand
    Simple mathematics even
    I could understand

    Bring bargains to your door
    Waiting for that lucky draw
    These days I am a Handy Man
    Cutting grass and lifting sacks
    Swinging down the spade and axe
    These days I am a Handy Man
    Now I’m selling onions
    In the richer parts of town
    It makes those women glad
    To have a Handy Man around…

    Handy Man, The Men They Couldn’t Hang (1990)

    Full Member

    I like the idea of this and idly worked out costs about 18 months ago. Figured I couldn’t afford the pay cut even though I have most of the tools already. But as a retirement job would be quite happy doing this and brining in 20k/year to spend on holidays, beers and bikes.

    Bonus is a lot of it is cash in hand, if you’re that way inclined…

    Full Member

    Mate of mine gave up a good job maintaining planes at Manc Airport to be a handyman. I * think* he charges just less than £300 a day, but that is in the Cheshire Golden Triangle, and I doubt Devon has quite the same concentration of wealth to work for.

    PS, being a gardener sucks. I did it the summer after school and it was just a load of pissy little 2-3 hour jobs, lots of cancellations due to rain and lots of driving.

    Full Member

    £150 a day seems like a pretty damn low rate of return. 5 days a week for 46 weeks of the year is only £35k before tax. You’d have to decide if that’s enough. Everyone I know that’s done it has a supportive partner that could easily cover all the bills on their single salary.

    Full Member

    My dad did this after leaving the council, mainly gardening but also other work, reality is if you’re going for customers like pensioners they’re always the worst for paying and wanting things done yesterday, equipment isn’t cheap either, you’ll be looking at decent petrol mowers/strimmers/etc and require a trailer or decent sized vehicle.

    Think the best work he got was for estate management companies, so being on contract to do 20 hours a month or 30 hours a month doing rental properties gardens, cleaning and minor maintenance, a set amount coming in from a couple of these makes life easier when chasing payment from others.

    If you’re looking at internal handywork, then the kit can be even more expensive, and being good at estimating and quoting will be pivotal in this, there’s a keen market already out there in most local areas.

    Free Member

    £150 a day seems like a pretty damn low rate of return. 5 days a week for 46 weeks of the year is only £35k before taxbefore any business expenses

    It’s no where near 35k a year before tax.

    Full Member

    That was kinda my point – 150*5*46 = £34,500.00 which is the max your “business” is going to bring in.

    Free Member

    I thought the general feeling on here was earning the national average meant you were loaded?!

    Anyways I’m paying roughly £200 a day non skilled and £250 a day skilled labour on the south coast. If you live some where close to ageing housing and get yourself a good reputation you’ll be set and probably able to charge a decent amount for what is mostly pretty straight forward stuff. I’ve had some eye watering fixed price quotes, so you could always go that way rather than dayrate with a view to not landing many jobs by when you do they pay well, like my plaster neighbour!

    I like a bit of diy, and have a decent selection of tools. If I am made redundant and find myself out of work for a bit I plan to try to attach myself to a popular local builder. They always have work. Some maybe grotty stuff though. I’m trying to find someone to take a chimney down, and I’m not having much luck!

    I wouldn’t risk leaving a safe job to do it though

    You probably need a specialism to get decent money. My current builders specialises in oak framing for instance.

    Full Member

    Friend has done it, but he has a large military pension to fall back on. He’s mainly a gardener, but turns his hand to odd DIY jobs.
    He loves it, 52 years old and lives pretty much stress free. Picks and chooses his jobs, but and this is key in his position, he has no dependents, his missus works and he is mortgage free. He see’s his money as his beer and holiday fund.

    Re the cash in hand comment earlier. I know my friend is fully above board, I think a lot of people nowadays only do bank transfer. Not just saying that out of protectionism, but generally think a lot of people don’t do cash anymore.

    Full Member

    I’ve moved from software sales to carpentry. It took a while to find my niche, I started fitting/assembling B&Q and IKEA flatpacks until I discovered tracksaws and pocket holes and a supplier who does made to measure doors.
    My 2 penn’orth: if someone asks for less than £180 a day, there’s probably a good reason. And there’s a world of difference between handyman and odd job man.

    The thing I’ve stopped doing is quoting a big price on jobs I don’t want to do in order to make sure I don’t get it. If they go for it you’re left doing a horrible job nobody else wanted because you can’t afford to turn it down. These days I only quote for jobs that are interesting.

    Full Member

    I know quite a few people that have gone solo and the majority say it was the best thing they’ve done.

    However, on the back of that is most of them don’t actually need to be earning a wage as such as they have no mortgage and minimal bills, together with life savings etc.

    Others, whilst they love the work and take great pride in saying they are their own boss etc, also work every hour god sends for less money than they need to live as comfortable as the job they left.

    I guess it depends if you are looking to get out of the rat race and don’t really need the money, or are maybe younger and want to get on making a fortune and building an empire.

    Personally, I’ve been looking at very simple bespoke furniture using planks and off cuts. Thought it would have died off by now but it seems not. Some of the money asked and received for desks, racks and bookcases is just crazy and provided you stick to the simple angles, all that is needed is a track saw and a few other handy tools.

    Think I’d have to do something like that or chargeable by the hour at least. Having a business that charges a day rate requires too much planning and leaves all sorts of doors open for arguments and trouble.

    Full Member

    When doing you sums remember not every hour you work is paid. Doing estimates, travelling between jobs and admin are all unpaid. Work 40 hours you will be.lucky to be able to charge 30 .

Viewing 29 posts - 1 through 29 (of 29 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Thanks for popping by - why not stay a while?IT'S FREE

Sign up as a Singletrack Member and you can leave comments on stories, use the classified ads, and post in our forums, do quizzes and more.

Join us, join in, it’s free, and fun.