Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working - General Discussion - Contractor Talk

Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 03-12-2011, 08:12 PM   #1
Registered User
dmacken's Avatar
Trade: Carpentry
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 2
Rewards Points: 10

Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

We just aren't getting enough quality calls. We've been going for about four months and have only completed a few jobs, most of which haven't been portfolio worthy. They have been things like utilitarian PT decks or temp walls for a gallery, basic shelving for a shop, etc. The people who are calling or being referred to us seem to be looking for the lowest price options. We are based in Vancouver, Canada and the market is still very strong here. Many of the contractors we know are busy. Vancouver also happens to be one of the least affordable cities in the country and north america so our personal network of people we know aren't the kind of people who can afford contractors to pay them to do big renos or decks. Our cash flow is pretty much gone. We are working right now but we don't have anything after this job lined up. Two of the big jobs we thought we had when we quit our jobs originally have not materialized. We have a website and it contains a blog that we update consistently. We don't have any social media going yet because we aren't convinced that many people will hire contractors based on twitter or facebook. We are on a few of those contractor directories.

We realised that one of our biggest mistakes has been not picking a niche. So we've decided that the best option is to concentrate on building decks.

When you are new how do you find customers? Do things like door hangers work? Is there a more concentrated place to find people who are in the market for decks?
dmacken is offline  

Warning: The topics covered on this site include activities in which there exists the potential for serious injury or death. ContractorTalk.com DOES NOT guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information contained on this site. Always use proper safety precaution and reference reliable outside sources before attempting any construction or remodeling task!




Old 03-12-2011, 08:47 PM   #2
SuperiorHIP's Avatar
Trade: Home Improvement Contractor
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Louisiana
Posts: 1,494
Rewards Points: 1,450

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

It took almost 2 years for me to build a customer base where I never had to worry about not having enough work. As far as specializing, it would have put me out of business years ago. I tried to advertise in coupon type magazine and it gave me 2 calls over 6 months of which I landed one who became a frequent customer. I have a lettered trailer and built good relationships with some local suppliers who give me a lot of referrals. Word of mouth from satisfied customers and my suppliers referalls are my biggest supplier of new business.


Last edited by SuperiorHIP; 03-12-2011 at 08:51 PM.
SuperiorHIP is offline  
Old 03-12-2011, 09:19 PM   #3
VA Remodeler's Avatar
Trade: Remodeling and Repair
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Virginia
Posts: 242
Rewards Points: 184

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

I started out in the mid 70's during one of the worst recessions we ever had. I started working for myself, mainly because I couldn't find a good quality job, although working for myself was something that I really wanted anyway. I sure paid my dues though. I kind of agree with a "niche" and my niche was Quality Work. I usually would just run simple, creative small ads in hometown or community newspapers and I always put my name first in the ads. I have learned that people want to know who they are dealing with. I think the worst thing today is seeing "A& B Construction, call my cell phone at...." Besides quality work, I also gave good and polite service, communicated well and was very honest and open with people. Then one day I didn't have to advertise anymore. Word of mouth was working real well. Within time I was actually having to start to refuse work. But, I always had back-up work too when work was slow or anytime I needed fill-in work. I hauled Firewood as a Saturday job and anytime I needed fill-in work during the week. Also keep your overhead as low as you can. ...It worked for me.


Last edited by VA Remodeler; 03-12-2011 at 09:24 PM.
VA Remodeler is offline  
The Following 7 Users Say Thank You to VA Remodeler For This Useful Post:
Big Shoe (03-14-2011), kennewickman (03-13-2011), mrmike (03-13-2011), NTP74 (03-12-2011), pinwheel (03-13-2011), TimNJ (03-13-2011), WNYcarpenter (03-13-2011)
Sponsored Links
Old 03-12-2011, 09:40 PM   #4
chief pencil holder
Scribbles's Avatar
Trade: Custom Cabinet Maker, Handrail
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: sacramento CA
Posts: 1,605
Rewards Points: 1,000

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

You have been in business a whole 4 months and you are not having customers bang down the walls. WOW.. Never been through that.

Have a reality check do some research on marketing, and pay some dues.
Originally Posted by Greg Di View Post
Nothing you do as a professional should be for free. It's just a silly way of groveling for business if you think about it..
Scribbles is offline  
The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Scribbles For This Useful Post:
Darwin (03-12-2011), kennewickman (03-13-2011), SAW.co (03-13-2011), tcleve4911 (03-13-2011)
Old 03-12-2011, 09:46 PM   #5
Lack Of All Trades
Darwin's Avatar
Trade: Construction & Home Improvement Services
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Southeast Michigan
Posts: 1,232
Rewards Points: 500

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

Get in your work truck with flyers on down time and just pass out to EVERY PERSON, PLACE, OR THING.

Ps. When starting out, I would not turn down any job (as long as you are confident in your ability to perform them). Take everything. Then develop niches afterwards.

Last edited by Darwin; 03-12-2011 at 09:50 PM.
Darwin is offline  
The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Darwin For This Useful Post:
tcleve4911 (03-13-2011), TimNJ (03-13-2011), WNYcarpenter (03-13-2011)
Old 03-12-2011, 10:02 PM   #6
Hair Splitter
TNTRenovate's Avatar
Trade: General
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Naperville, IL
Posts: 18,322
Rewards Points: 1,268

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

2 years in and I am finally beginning to see the light.

Like Scribbles said pay your dues. I am not sure who you talked to and told you that things would just fall in your lap and all you would be able to skip and laugh all the way to the bank.

Shame on you for not having contracts for those big jobs before betting your future on it. This would be lesson number 1.

Lesson 2, start a business with 6-12 months worth of living expenses. Too late for this one, but now you can tell someone else.

Lesson 3, Don't whine online without expecting a bunch of ripping.
Tried & True on Facebook
Tried & True Website
Originally Posted by CarpenterSFO View Post
You ask for your money frequently, and you collect it quickly, else you stop working immediately.
TNTRenovate is offline  
Old 03-12-2011, 10:14 PM   #7
Mike's Plumbing's Avatar
Trade: ooo
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 4,967
Rewards Points: 2,000

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

I'd be careful with the "shame on you stuff" because most business have a dozen of these so...you know.....cast the first stone.

Dmacken, your no different than anybody else who starts off.

What you need are solutions and the solutions you seek are found in "who you are" as a business. You must define yourself so you know "what' your marketing.

Let's use cars as an example. Many companies manufacture cars but that's a simplistic approach. Volvo sells safe cars right? I mean, that's the brand they have and that's what they market.

Similar to automobiles your business will have a brand and you can either develop the brand or wing it and let your customers develop it for you....not a good choice.

Spend time with a pencil and paper and define exactly what your business is. Start a 3-ring binder and define every part of your business to a T. This is what real companies do once you get outside of construction. A 5 star restaurant knows exactly what they are, they know the customer and they market to them. If you can do this you you will know who to market to.

Once you know "who" to market to then you simply develop a game plan on "how" to market to them.

You will also be doing something that 99% of construction companies don't do.

see ya!
Mike's Plumbing is offline  
Old 03-12-2011, 10:21 PM   #8
Bweikel's Avatar
Trade: Carpenter/gc
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 497
Rewards Points: 250

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

Just hit a neighbor hood that you would like to get in and do the hold door knocker routine shake hands and pass out cards and flyers.

Pick a neighbor hood that is a little above average and don't get your hopes hope put in good work and word of mouth will catch up. Good luck
Bweikel is offline  
Old 03-12-2011, 11:02 PM   #9
Roofmaster417's Avatar
Trade: Roofing Contractor
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Springfield,Missouri
Posts: 83
Rewards Points: 75

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

We have new roofing companies sprouting up all the time.They start out with flashy trucks,with high dollar vinyls of company logos,huge billboards,massive adds in the phonebooks and high lease offices.That is all good BUT if you are not known then its somewhat pointless unless you love to toss money.

Everyone who starts a business typically (IMO) have glistening dreams of being successful quickly.That is great to have a vision.And its very important to follow your dreams.

But to give yourself a time limit on your success is (IMO) a recipe for failure.I am not saying to not have a goal BUT make it a realistic goal that can be achieved.Once that goal is reached then add another achievable goal.

Be realistic about your goals.What I find helpful is to sit somewhere quite and make a list of goals for 6 mos.After they are met then add another 6 mos.And so on.

Since you are wanting to aquire more work then make a 6 month goal of hitting the bricks to advertise and market your company.

What I did when I first started was hit the bricks.I stopped at every new construction site and met builders.The housing market isn't what it once was so be creative.

Every realtor sign I passed I called the agent and explained my services and how I could benifit they're cause.I stopped at every home that I seen either being renovated or if it had any construction going on.

This may sound silly to some but when I am at lowes or home depot and I see anyone in the shingle or lumber I will make small talk and give them a card.

I do Habitat For Humanity work.I do it to help someone less fortunate.
Several of these homes I roofed I recieved numerous leads by people donating time and services.

Knock on doors,pass door hangers.Leave cards on bulletin boards at grocery stores and convienece stores.I also randomly drop a yard sign at intersections.

Like I said hit the bricks because the more you can put a face behind your business the more you will succeed.Be patient and Good Luck.

Last edited by Roofmaster417; 03-12-2011 at 11:06 PM.
Roofmaster417 is offline  
Old 03-13-2011, 02:50 AM   #10
huntington beach, ca.
hbelectric's Avatar
Trade: electrical
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 362
Rewards Points: 250

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

I started off Craigslist, but that was early on before it got to be 10 pages a day in skilled trades. From CL not only did I meet clients , but I met GC's. I still get calls from clents from 5-6 years ago, but those days are long gone. It's just a process, take the **** work, then move on.

Your best bet is to stop by retail/commercial properties stores, who also do installs. They have to sub out alot of work. Not talking about Home Depot, but just drive around and start noticing what people are building/selling in there shops.

Maybe in your case for deck's, maybe a pool store or a pool contractor. neither one of these companies build deck's, but i'm damn sure if they can sell a deck and sub it out they will. What i'm getting at , let your contacts find the work for you. You need to call GC's and make contacts and start getting that steady flow of work.

lastly you better be damn good at what you do.
hbelectric is offline  
Old 03-13-2011, 07:12 AM   #11
rosethornva's Avatar
Trade: Architectural historian
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Norfolk, VA
Posts: 582
Rewards Points: 518

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

When my husband and I started our small handyman business, we handed out 10,000 flyers to every neighborhood we could think of. The kids (then 10 and 11) would help, too.

The flyer had a 10% off coupon, and included instructions to "cut this out and tape it to your refrigerator."

Took *weeks* to hand out all those flyers, but they generated a really, really strong response. And YEARS later, we were still getting those coupons turned in!

If I were starting a new business today, I'd start with a website and also a facebook page, and then put up a few YOUTUBE videos on "how to" do SOMETHING. Youtube videos get good priority on google.

Everyone loves success stories, but often success entails doing a lot of things right for a long time, and not giving up, even when every *#*$ thing is going wrong.

rosethornva is offline  
Old 03-13-2011, 08:01 AM   #12
Rob PA's Avatar
Trade: General Contractor
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Indiana PA
Posts: 801
Rewards Points: 500

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

Took my years as well to get a good customer base. Even then you will have slow times. Sometimes I will get my bids accepted 4-6 months afterwards, of course price is never guarnteed to be the same. One reality i do work for does this very well. Had three bids accepted the other day from November, so just keep at it. I would suggest getting regular 9-5 jobs or part time jobs to get some cash flow. Then do your business work during those off hours. If not you might find yourself in a hole you can not get out of.
Rob PA is offline  
Old 03-13-2011, 08:58 AM   #13
Hmrepairs's Avatar
Trade: Remodeling contractor
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: mitchell south dakota
Posts: 485
Rewards Points: 250

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

All great ideas. I agree with above. Tell EVERYBODY what you are doing. Then have your wife tell EVERYBODY what your doing. Then have her friends tell EVERYBODY what your doing. Get the idea? Did you give the manager at the restaurant you just ate at one of your cards? Do the guys at the car parts store know how to get ahold of you? Does your dog groomer have your number? On and on.
Hmrepairs is offline  
The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Hmrepairs For This Useful Post:
CENTERLINE MV (03-13-2011), tcleve4911 (03-13-2011)
Old 03-13-2011, 09:05 AM   #14
I own stock in FotoMat!
480sparky's Avatar
Trade: 132 on Bush, I've got him at gunpoint!
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Iowa
Posts: 12,155
Rewards Points: 12,316

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

If food ain't walking into the dining room and plopping down on the table, go out, kill it and drag it in.
This post has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and edited for content.
480sparky is offline  
The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to 480sparky For This Useful Post:
CENTERLINE MV (03-13-2011), olligator (03-15-2011), RacerX780 (03-13-2011), TNTRenovate (03-13-2011)
Old 03-13-2011, 02:08 PM   #15
jhark123's Avatar
Trade: Pro Cat Herder
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Enumclaw, WA
Posts: 2,526
Rewards Points: 1,760

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

Sounds like you need a part time/weekend job to support your business (find one that is NOT physically demanding)

Time to work 80 hours a week, yeeeehawwwww.
jhark123 is offline  
Old 03-13-2011, 03:48 PM   #16
mnjconstruction's Avatar
Trade: Finish carpentry, drywall, Tile
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Bangor, Maine
Posts: 893
Rewards Points: 500

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

Construction is just like any other buisness, it takes a few years to really get off the ground. And just like any other buisness you must have some capital. But many many people everyday throw some tools in the back of the truck, quit there job and are now "contractors". And some even have a few jobs to do right off the bat. Then they run out of work. They get into a finacial bind then are back to work for someone else. Happens all the time.

Like many others here said, if this is really what you want go down and get a partime job somewhere. A great place to work would be lowes/home depot. you could do the nights/ weekend thing for them and work on growing your buisness during the day.

And if you do good quailty work, I wish you the best of luck!!!!
mnjconstruction is offline  
Old 03-13-2011, 11:19 PM   #17
Sawdust Sweeper
carpentershane's Avatar
Trade: Carpenter
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Powell, WY
Posts: 690
Rewards Points: 42

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

I went out on my own a little over 2 years ago and the first year was rough... Mostly from the learning how to quote and make money. I went into debt for the first time in my life over the first year. Second year was much better... So stick it out and hopefully the same will apply with you.

That said... I would not necessarily narrow the focus if you are capable of doing different kinds of work. I had the advantage of working for GC's in the past that did alot of work in house, so I have a variety of skills that I am comfortable in quoting. Starting out I worked a broader base of work in order to stay busy... I will not experiment on peoples' homes so I wouldn't quote jobs that I had no experience in, but just focusing on decks limits you to some extent.

I took what ever small jobs came down the pike, performed them to the best of my ability, with a good attitude and sometimes small jobs lead to bigger jobs. I do repeat remodeling for a client that started out just altering a few shelves in a cabinet... Every customer, no matter how big the job can be a door to another job, usually bigger!
"Perfection is an unachievable goal, the illusion of perfection is the work of a true craftsman. " LoneFramer
carpentershane is offline  
Old 03-13-2011, 11:40 PM   #18
Head Grunt
woodchuck2's Avatar
Trade: Electrical Contractor&Home Maintenance
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: North Creek, NY/Lower Adirondacks
Posts: 3,270
Rewards Points: 2,196

Re: Just Starting Out And Its Just Not Working

I think the biggest thing to be learned is to keep your overhead down and keep the business out of debt. Having accounts are great but if someone fails to pay you and you cannot pay off your accounts then you begin to fall behind. Right now my overhead is killing me and if it was not for that i would be comfortable right now even as slow as things are.


woodchuck2 is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Join Now... It's Fast and FREE!

I am a professional contractor
I am a DIY Homeowner
Drywall Talk is for

At DrywallTalk.com we cater exlusivly to professional contractors who make their living as a contractor. Knowing that many homeowners and DIYers are looking for a community to call home, we've created www.DIYChatroom.com DIY Chatroom is full of helpful advices and perfect for DIY homeowners.

Redirecing in 10 seconds
No Thanks
terms of service

Already Have an Account?