Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's About Time for an Update I Suppose

Well, after two long years of silence, it’s time to bring a little life to this blog again.  Though this blog doesn’t attract a ton of readers, it is apparent that there are several people out there considering this line of work, or who are already in this line of work who drop in for a visit from time to time.  After receiving a few emails from inquiring minds wanting to know if I am still in this business and how it is going, I have decided to make it a priority to provide a long overdue update.

Yes, Jason’s Services is still very much open for business, and business is going as well as I could ever have hoped.  Things have been a little slow since the end of October, but this is more by my own intentional doing as opposed to business dropping off against my hopes.  To tell you the truth, I have been attempting to slow down for well over a year now.  In my attempt to slow down, I pulled my advertising out of our local paper at the end of October 2012.  In the early days, pulling my advertising was enough to slow things down when I desired some time off.  But after three years in business, pulling my advertising no longer guarantees me time off.  Though it is a good problem to have, I have developed a strong base of customers who use me as there go-to guy for most of their household to-do list.  Well, these customers don’t rely on the newspaper for finding me; they have my contact information elsewhere.  And while I have picked up a few new customers here and there through word of mouth, a phone book listing and some internet exposure, for the most part I have stayed busy with projects for my established customers.  It is only recently that my phone has slowed down enough to allow me to take some time off in order to accomplish a few things at home that need to be accomplished.  

Regarding income, things are pretty much the same as my last post.  If I recall correctly, 2012’s taxable income was pretty much the same as 2011 (around $36,000).  Because of my recent slowdown, and because some other out of the ordinary things in 2013, I think our taxable income will be quite a bit less this year (I am guessing $25000 -$28000).  

Some of my readers who are considering going into this business may find it discouraging that my business does not seem to be growing and that it is even decreasing, but keep in mind that I am the one who is holding this business back.  If I was willing to advertise a little more and work 50 hours a week 50 weeks out of the year, then I could realistically earn $70,000 in a year.  But as it is, most of the time I am pretty content to work at a slower pace and earn a little less.  While it is sometimes unavoidable, I just don’t enjoy my work when I am working at a crazy pace.   Sure, it’s kind of cool when your earn $7000 - $8000 in month (not uncommon during the summer months), but when I am working that hard and earning that kind of money, I find that I have some inner need to spend money on things I typically don’t desire and things I don’t really need.  I think the psychology behind this is that I am attempting to justify all my hard work by purchasing something tangible to replace the satisfaction that I normally have in my work when things operating at a more reasonable pace.  You see, when things are operating at a reasonable and steady pace, my satisfaction comes directly from my work.  I have time to enjoy my work and enjoy the results of a job well done.  During these times, I have no inner need to spend money just for the sake of spending money.  But when I am backed up with several jobs and I am racing to keep up, I don’t have time to really enjoy my work as I normally do.  So I think that in order to compensate for the lack of satisfaction I have during these busy times, I attempt to find that satisfaction by spending some of the money I worked so hard for.   Unfortunately, spending my money on things I don’t really need is nowhere near as satisfying as being able to work at more relaxed pace and find true pleasure in the work I am doing.   So yes, the potential to earn $70,000 a year is certainly there, but what is the point in that if you don’t break out in songs of joy several times throughout the day because you know that you must be the happiest man in the world?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011 in Review

After a year and one half as a handyman, I must say that I really enjoy what I do. I love the freedom, I love the customer interaction, and I love to fix things, build things and make things better. I make a decent living (according to my needs and desired standard of living), and I often have an valid reason to purchase the cool new tools that keep popping up on the market. I realize that many would not find the work I do satisfying and enjoyable, but for me, I can't think of a better way to earn a living.

According to my wife's accounting, it looks like we will be paying taxes on approximately $36,000 for 2011. Actual labor income was between $45,000 and $50,000, but once expenses are deducted (mileage, tool purchases, cell phone, advertising and other business related necessities) $36,000 is what we show for profit.

I realize that $36,000 is not a considered a great income in this world, but it more that covers my families needs and it is certainly a lot more that I could ever hope to make by working for any employer in our area. Unless you have a very useful degree and skill, you will be a very lucky person if you can find anything paying over $9.00 per hour in this part of Oklahoma. So when that is considered, I feel I am quite blessed to earn what I did this past year.

In addition to my actual taxable earnings, there are a whole lot of perks that go with this line of work that make it worth much more that the $36,000 cash income. For instance, I started out the year fairly slow, meaning that for most of January, I didn't have to get out in the cold very often, but instead was able to stay home and take it easy with the family. Just the same, because I recently needed a large amount of time to finish a personal project on the house we are living in, I simply took my ad out of the paper which caused business to slow enough to give me that needed time. To me, this ability to work in time off, is a very valuable perk (To be honest and fair I need to say that it can be really hard to work in time off during the busy months.)

Other perks of this line of work include:

1. My family can come to work with me when I need their help.
2. I can take phone calls from my family at virtually all times.
2. My jobs change on a daily (or at least weekly) basis.
3. Most jobs provide me the satisfaction of visual and tangible results at the end.
4. I can works as long or as short of day as I like (usually long during summer months and short during winter months).
5. I get to purchase and use a whole lot of neat tools, and then get to deduct the purchase from my taxes.

There are other perks I could probably list, but this is enough for now to illustrate the point that this job is much more valuable than the $36,000 in cash income.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of days that I get tire and weary of my work (this is usually when I am foolishly trying to work too many long days in a row). But fortunately, those days are few and far between. Most days on the job, I find myself filled with joy and thankfulness to the creator of the universe for allowing me to earn my living in this way.

Below are some pictures and brief descriptions from some of my various projects in 2011.

Floor Repair -Payless Shoes - Stillwater
Customer Cost - $300 ($280 Labor/$20 Materials)

Damage Before Repair

Though it was only four tiles that needed replaced, I estimated the job at eight hours labor. I had never messed with commercial tile (or any tile for that matter) so I didn't really know what I was in for. I figured that eight hours would be more time than needed, but estimated eight hours just to be safe. Turns out that it took me right at eight hours for the job. Removing the old tiles and glue was not an easy task. In addition, I had to chip away at some raised portion of concrete that was causing the damage. Then, I had to apply a skim coat (basically a new layer of floor to attach the new tiles to) and let it dry (couple of hours). Next I had to apply the glue and let it dry to touch (30 minutes to 1 hour). Finally I laid the new tiles and cleaned up. Before I knew it, a full day was used.

Tiles Chipped Away
(Note: removing commercial tile and glue is not fun or easy)

Skim Coat Applied

Glue Applied

New Tiles in Place

Water Damage Repair
Christoper and Banks - Stillwater OK
Customer Cost - $638 ($575 Labor/$63 Materials)

Damage Before Repair

A water pipe broke overhead causing water to leak down through the restroom ceiling. The water took the path of least resistance and mainly passed through the joint tape. The damage looked rough, but the repair was simply a matter of removing damaged joint tape and loose paint and then applying new joint tape and joint compound. I then finished the job by repainting the entire restroom. I estimated for two day labor, and the estimate proved right on the mark.

After Repair

Pillar Repair
Customer Cost $280-$300 (can't remember exactly)

Pillar Before Repair

The footing supporting this pillar sunk several inches in the ground.  This caused the pillar to lose it's supporting ability.  This also caused the pillar to come loose and fall down.  In addition to this, the base of the existing pillar had about an inch of wood rot.

Sunken Pillar

 To repair, I simply built a form around the sunken footing and poured more concrete in order to raise the footing a few inches higher than its original height.  Next, I cut off the rotted portion of the pillar.  Then, I jacked the over hang it was supporting up just a little and set the post in place.  I then secured the pillar to the overhand and footing.  I finished the project by installing some decorative trim around the bottom.

The job was fairly straight forward and simple, but it still cost the customer nearly $300 because the job required a return trip (concrete had to set up before installing pillar).

 Finished Pillar

Arbor Construction
Customer Cost - $675 ($420 Labor/$245 Materials)

Fortunately for me, this customer did not ask for an estimate.  She knew my rates and just ask me to build something similar to a drawing she gave me.  I would have underestimated this job.  In my head, I figured it wouldn't take more than eight hours, but by time it was complete I had over one and one half days invested.  

Materials for this project were not cheap.  Due to the look my customer desired, I recommend that she use cedar.  Unfortunately, cedar currently cost 2.5 - 3 times as much as regular treated lumber.

Arbor Under Construction

Arbor Complete

Japanese Style Fence
Customer Cost - $780 ($580 Labor/$200 Material)

One of my regular customers apparently has more confidence in me that I have in myself.  This became evident when she handed me a drawing she made of a fence she wanted built.  She didn't ask me if I thought I "could" do it, she simply said that she wanted it done.  The straight parts of the job didn't concern me, I knew I could handle that, but the angle part I was a little concerned about (actually it was a compound angle).  Though my process was probably not the same that Tom Silva (probably the greatest and most knowledgeable  carpenter in the country who is featured on This Old House) would have used, the end result was acceptable and pleasing to the customer (which is all that really matters).

 Completed Fence

Shed Residing
Customer Cost $2500 ($1650 Labor/ $850 Material)

The jobs I enjoy most are jobs that provide drastic before and after results.  The following is one such job.  The couple I am working for had a previous "handyman" that apparently was either a real moron or simply a real loser who took complete advantage of his customers inability to adequately inspect his work upon completion. This joker built a storage shed (the framing is not "too" bad), and then sided it with OSB (the sheet board that is made up of many splintery fiber glued together.  

When OSB is used correctly, it serves it purpose well, but it is NEVER to be used for any application in which it will be directly exposed to the ellements.  If you are building just a temporay (as in something that will last less then a yeart) shelter and need to get by cheap, then that's different.  But if you are building something you want to last for several years, do not use OSB where it will be directly in contact with the elements.  I will deteriorate quickly.

Well, because of this guys con job (I am assuming he pocketed the extra money he should of used for a real siding product) I got called too reside the building. 

Building's Prior Condition

Build After Residing and Painting

I really went above and beyond what I was originally planning with this job.  I could have gotten by without installing the soffit and fascia, but I really wanted to trim the building up nice.  Once it's all said and done, I am glad I put in the extra work.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One Year!

Well, one full year is out of the way, and it looks like my business is going to survive. It's amazing to think that a year ago at this time I was wondering if I would make it long term or not. Today the only thing I wonder is whether or not I can keep up with everything. While the winter was a little slow, since the middle of February until now, I have been pretty much busy nonstop. At first it was exciting to be booked for a full week at a time, but now I am starting to find it overwhelming. As I sit here tonight, I have a good two weeks of work lined with out any sign of things slowing down.

Currently, most of my work is outdoor work. This would not be bad except that it has been at least 105 degrees (107 has been the norm) for the past 3 weeks (I think we may have had one day that it failed to reach 100.). And quite frankly, it's not much fun. I used to think that my $35 was high, but when I am out working in this weather, I am convinced that my customers are getting a bargain.

It's really funny how this business runs in cycles. I can go for weeks with out doing a certain kind of job, and the next thing you know, I will find myself doing that same kind of job over and over. Right now, major property cleanups (not junk, but rather weeds, vines and other natural growth that has gone out of control) and fence installs are keeping me busy. In the past two weeks I have had two large scale cleanup jobs and two fence installs. And next week I start another major job that involves both cleaning natural debris and installing a fence in the newly cleared area.

To show another example of business running in cycles: a few weeks ago, I did five or six junk hauls in one week. This would not be interesting except for the fact that I had gone several weeks without a single request for junk hauling. This is only a couple of examples, if I were to go back through all my records, I could share several instances in which this happens.

Before starting this business, I had a strong belief that if a man would be dependable, honest, friendly and do good work, then that man would be in high demand. This belief is finally starting to show itself correct. While I surprisingly don't get a lot of word of mouth business, I do have a very strong repeat customer base. I believe it is safe to say that currently, over half of my business comes from repeat customers. The remaining business come from advertising of some sort.

I very thankful that I chose to advertise in the local paper. With out that advertisement, it would have been a very slow road. The adverting price has recently increased to $95 a month (it used to be $80); however, it is still money well spent. My business currently generates about $5500 to $6500 in labor charges per month. The newspaper ad is really the source of this income. Even though I have a great base of repeat business, it was through the newspaper ad that my steady customers originally found me. For this reason, I have no real need to spend any additional money on advertising. I do plan to eventually invest in some nice polo style shirts with my business named embroidered in front as well as some magnetic signage for my truck; however, this is more for the purpose of presenting a professional appearance rather than the purpose of attracting new business.

If I were willing to take on the responsibility of having an employee, I could advertise more and take on more business; but at the moment, I really don't want that headache. The greatest benefit of being in business for myself is the freedom and flexibility it offers. I am afraid that having an employee would cause me to loose some of that flexibility. Not only would I have the responsibility of staying in contact with my customers, but I would also have the responsibility of staying in contact with the employee and keeping him informed to everything that was scheduled. In addition to loosing flexibility, there would also be the additional burden of paperwork. Anyway, by time you pay the employee, pay his employment taxes, and pay for workers compensation, I really can't see an employee adding much to profits. Now if I could hire a guy for $8.50 per hour and bill him out at $35 per hour, it might be profitable; however, I could not in good conscience pay a guy so little for the work I do. I bust my hump everyday, and I would expect my employee to do the same. Anyone who is willing to give that amount of effort is worth being paid a decent, livable wage. Unfortunately, paying a liveable wage and all other employee expenses would likely cost more than it would add. So for now, it's just my poor wife who gets drafted when I need a second hand. She's a good worker and she's quite affordable. I can get a good days work out of her with the simple promise of taking her out for dinner (can't beat that!).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I just read through my blog postings from beginning to end and realized that it is neat to have a written record of some of the jobs I have done and how they went. Though I realize that few visitors make it to my blog, it's at least a good way for me to keep a record of what life as a handyman is like. For this reason, I hope to be a little more consistent with updates to this blog.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gate Pictures

A while back, I got a call from a customer who ask me to rebuild some damaged gates. After looking at the gates he wanted rebuilt, I was at first a little bit intimidated. However, I decided to give it a shot anyway. Once all was said and done, they turned out pretty well.

I meant to take pictures, but forgot. Fortunately, he recently called me back for an additional project, so I was able to get the pictures after all.

Front View

Back View

I estimated the gates at $300 labor plus materials (materials were a little over $100). The customer thought that was fair. The gates took about nine hours to build (someone with a nice work shop could build them a lot faster, but working with limited space really slows you down). I thought I estimated pretty well, however, when I went to hang them, they decided to be difficult. Because of this, I spent an addition couple hours hanging the gates that I didn't anticipate.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Flower Bed Before/After Pictures

Some jobs are done are simply for the money. For example, when I am removing leaves for customers, it's not because I love the work. Leaf removal is hard, dirty work that doesn't provide me with much satisfaction (but it does provide me with lungs full of dust, dirty clothes, and a sore body). The only real positive thing about leaf removal is the fact that I get paid for it. Other jobs that fall into this category are gutter clean outs and sometimes (depending on the situation) lawn mowing. Apart from the pay, there is not much I like about these jobs either. Fortunately though, those kind of jobs currently only make up less than 50% of what I do. Thankfully, the larger percentage of what I do are jobs that I really enjoy.

The jobs I enjoy most are jobs in which I get to see visible results at the end. I an very happy anytime I get to repair something or make something nicer. It's for this reason that I get satisfaction and enjoyment even from jobs such as cleaning out a flower bed. Though the work can be a bit tedious, it can also offer visible satisfaction at the end. Here are some pictures from a customers flower bed I cleaned out last summer.









I was called to give an estimate for this job just a few months after I went full time. I honestly had no idea how to estimate the cost. I really couldn't tell if it would take 5 hours or even maybe 10. To me it looked like a lengthy job, but I really wasn't sure. Finally, I made the customer an offer. I told them that I would work for my rate ($35/hour) up to $225. I told the customer that if the job took less than $225 of labor, then they would only be billed for the amount I worked. But if it took longer, then they wouldn't have to pay anything above $225. The customer thought this was fair.

When I went to do the job the next day, I was surprised at how fast the job went. The entire job was completed in 3.5 hours. The final bill for the customer was for $135 (this included a debris disposal charge). I guess she was happy with the price because when I received the check, it was made out for $165. I assumed that the extra was a bonus, but looking back on it, I guess it possibly could have been a mistake on her part.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One of Those Days

Good grief!

It was supposed to be a simple door install. I was simply replacing an interior door that a dog destroyed. The customer had the replacement door on hand. All I had to do was line up to two doors and transfer the hinge and handle locations. Next, I would simply chisel out the hinge settings, attached the hinges then rehang the door before drilling out the handle hole. However, after chiseling out the hinge settings, things didn't go so well.

After I reattached the hinges, I went to hang the door. When I did, I discovered that the new door was just a little wider than previous door. Because of this, the door wouldn't close. To make the door fit I needed to shave off 1/8 of an inch. While I have a lot of tools at my disposal, I really don't have a good way of shaving a door down. My only real option was to use my skil saw. To do this, I would simply place a straight edge at the right location and run my skil saw next to it so that it would shave off the right amount. This works well if you have a good solid straight edge, the only problem was that mine wasn't a good solid straight edge. Because of this, as I ran my saw against it, it flexed. This flex allowed my saw to go way off course causing me to effectively ruin the door.

Fortunately, it was only a $28 door. Also, it was fortunate that
Lowes was just a couple blocks away. The whole project should have only taken two hours, however, after two hours, I was basically starting all over.

I was much more careful shaving the door the second time. However, I was to conservative in my cutting and didn't cut off enough. Because of this, the door was still too tight. However, it wasn't tight enough to justify using the table saw again. I thought I could fix the problem by setting the hinges a little deeper and by using my grinder/sander to shave off the little extra necessary. Finally, after MANY trips of taking the door in and out to try it out, it eventually fit, but not until another 3 and 1/2 hours had passed.

So, today I was paid $70 (I estimated it as a 2 hour job). Take away $31 for the door (including tax) and I am left with $39. Let's now subtract $5 for fuel and I still have $34. The government will want 15% of this ($5.10) leaving me with $28.90. I will now divide my $28.90 by 5.5 which is the number of hours I was at the job site and find that I made a total of $5.25 per hour.

It's good to be self employed :)

Actually it is really good to be self employed. When things like today happen, I just count is as learning. When I consider the fact that many people spend thousand of dollars for a degree that they may or may not use, I realize that eating the cost of a $30 door isn't so bad so long as I learned something along the way.