We are exclusively in an era where home renovations have become a popular weekend project for many homeowners. The DIY group is definitely becoming popular given the poor economic state and a much more willing group of homeowners to take the dive on their own. I work in the corporate sector and deal mostly with business optimization and "desk work". I've never been exposed to renovations and I knew nothing about home renovations, including how to fix a simple leaky pipe or even cover up a hole in the drywall. Over time I educated myself and become more aware and saved myself a lot of money down the road.
My wife and I purchased a new home that needed some minor work. We were thrilled to move into a new home and make it our own. Much to our dissatisfaction, when we moved in, we determined there were several issues with the house that were not evident during the home inspection. This included mold behind the toilet which was covered up during the inspection, creaky hardwood floors, a subfloor that was rottling away in a certain part of the basement and bubbles in the drywall that were covered up with pictures. We walked in and were terrified with the work that was ahead of us.
I got some quotes to get this repaired and they were definitely something that we did not budget at the time. This is not something that we could really afford given we put down so much on a home. This is where I determined to conquer my fear and educate myself on home renovations. I enrolled in a weekend college course that teachers you about basic home renovations. Although informative, I did not find it practical and decided to take a new perspective on renovations. That is, "I will try it myself first and if I need to call in a professional, then I will". I really did not know the first thing about drywall repair or how to fix a subfloor. I went online to educate myself not only on how to do the repairs, but rather understand the different kinds of drywall on the market, what each is used for, what products are available to repair them and tools needed to do so. For example, in a place where water is prevalent, using a mold resistant drywall is your best case. Directly below any major water source such as a toilet, I would use blue mold resistant wood to strengthen the subfloor. I continued to educate myself by reading online articles, watching HGTV (yes we all love that), YouTube videos, drop in to Lowes / Home Depot to get suggestions and tips, and attend their free seminars. I educated myself to the degree where I think I knew enough and historically educated friends and online acquaints. This is where my business was born.
When potential clients look to hire a contractor they are definitely focused to price to a certain degree, but education, knowledge and confidence I would argue is the number one factor. I had friends come over casually and ask me how I managed to fix that floor or those big patches in the wall. This is where I took the time to walk them through the how I did it. I focused less on the result, but more on the process. I was willing to give away free advise and walk them through steps that they need to follow. That show's your confidence in the subject matter. A few weeks later I had my friend's call me and ask whenever I could help him fix his issues. A solid Saturday and a few beers later, we were looking back at our work with satisfaction like kids who just build the best sand castle on the beach.
My friend actually became a referral for me referred me to his coworkers that eventually led to paying jobs. The referrals spread like wildfire from there. So what did I learn from this experience?
1) Do not be afraid to take on some home improvement projects. If the professionals can learn it, then so can you. Take some interest in your home and find ways to start small.
2) Be sure to educate yourself on renovations. Do not go in thinking you're going to recreate the Mona Lisa. You will make mistakes, reeducate and learn.
3) When looking for business go online to DIY forums, socialize your accomplishments on social media. Basically let people know you are educated on certain home renovations.
4) Do not be afraid to give away free advise. Contractors that are attributable to give away advise are typically the ones need the business and want a quick in and out. Share your knowledge, educate your customers, let them decide if they have the courage to do it on their own. If not expect a phone call.
5) Always act with integrity. One of the largest compliments I get from some clients is my honesty about time and money. I let them know exactly what needs to get done, how long it will take and where the money is going. If I make any mistakes along the way I will not hide it, rather I'll let the homeowner know and repair it on my own dime.
6) Have fun. If I did not have bills to pay I'd do the work for free. I see it less as a job and more as a passion.
All of my business engagements have been more of a conversation and less as a way for me to get their business. You win some you lose some, but when you stop counting, it's not because you are not getting the business, it's because it's hard to keep up.