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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi I'm in the process of starting my own business being a general contractor. Currently I am employed full time in custom cabinetry/millwork and need a change. I have 2 associate degrees and a bachelor degree in residential construction and I am looking to utilize them. Unfortunately I am unable financially to just step out full time self employed and would have to do work in the evenings and on Saturdays. I have been educated on all aspects of building from masonry to framing and interior trim. My first job out of college was being a lead carpenter for a design/build company. Sadly that company wasn't right or anyone working there and I moved on after 3 months to my current job of almost 2 years. My main concern is have you guys had any luck starting out this way doing night and evening jobs? I feel that customers would be unwilling to have someone work that way on their home. Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated.



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Yeah, many customers will not be down with that. They want a full time contractor who knows everything, will take care of everything, and who has been doing it for 20 years.

But also there are customers who will take a bid based on price alone. You can simply tell them your next opening is sat/sun, you don't have to say that you're a weekend warrior. If that doesn't work say next sat/sun ("squeeze them in").

I once tried piecing together a job, few hours here, few hours there, while I was in school; it was not fun, took way too long, and I lost money.

Best bet is to save up until you have enough to live on for 6? months.

If you can get weekend jobs then do them, just dont pay for leads or anything.
 

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If you dont have dependents you might just have to give it a shot. If you do, the you need a more carefully thought out plan.

This is a good time to specialize. You need a particular repeatable product with a target audience instead of saying Im going to build stuff.

Six months reserves is smart. To do it legit with license insurance taxes etc plan on take home being one third of gross sales minus materials. You want 500 a week thats all yours? You have to sell 1500 a week. I pay city county state and federal taxes, insurance for car and liabilty, gas, tools, bond, licensure, required continuing education, advertising, vehicle expenses etc... Same ratio applies to employee wages but some trades like roofing have workers comp rates at 30 percent of wages or more.
 

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I offer evening and weekend services to customers, because thats what time works for them, but there is a big difference between you need a cable run 10 feet up the wall and you need a house built.

There is also a big difference between I read it in a book one time so I know it and I have done it for 10 years so I know it.

I have met a lot of people who have all kinds of certs and book knowledge and ask them to do something and they are completely lost.
 

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How are you going to cover your overhead with a part time gig?

I sure don't see that working out---what services would you be offering that could be done with so little time?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well my education wasn't all book learning, I was able to apply everything that we learned from books and other materials. My main focus would be small things to start such as decks and small interior remodel stuff to build up a clientele. Then as business picks up and larger projects being asked to bid step out full time. As for a plan, I have been working on a business plan for over a year and have been thoroughly thinking about everything. Being part time doesn't carry as much overhead as being full time so I have developed a budget and know what my markup needs to be. I know time will be the most crucial thing, a customer isn't gonna be happy with a job being drug out for months. Things that don't affect the clients daily lives to much would be the best jobs to pick up.


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I have a similar background minus the formal education.

Started out exactly how you are suggesting. Doing sidework on night/weekends/days off from regular job. Its a good way to get your name out there, get your basic tools built up, get a feeling for what you're up against when you're full time.

I did it for a few years before officially going full time working for myself.

You are right, a lot of people aren't going to go for a moon lighter. What you need in your situation is the people who know you and are ok with moon lighting and the people who like to give a guy a chance. It takes both to get going the way you are suggesting.

As you do projects for friends and family your name will go out and your horizons will expand. You want to get to the point where the phone is ringing and you're tracking down leads to do new jobs. Don't get discouraged if a ton of leads aren't coming in. It really won't take off until you "make yourself available" full time.

You have to be good to make this work. No cutting corners, no bad customer service. You have to decide and believe that you will be the best. That attitude will permiate off of you to your clients and word will quickly spread.

Don't jump prematurely. Work hard and get yourself set up with the basics. There will never be a perfect time so don't be afraid to jump out after you've done your due diligence.

Its good to specialize but very hard to get a business going if you are to picky. Take whatever comes and then when you have more than you can handle that's when you start to pick and choose jobs and aim at your specialty.

Be a good person, treat people right, and it will come back to you. A lot of guys are stuggling to keep businesses going because their clientel sucks because all the people they associate with are the bottom of the barrel type people. The type of person you are will be the type of client you attract.

Get used to the fact that you are going to have to work work work. I'm talking 90 your weeks. You will not have much of a life a lot of the time if you really want to chase this dream. It takes a lot but the rewards are tremendous.

I also was doing custom cabinetry/millwork and needed a change. The pay sucked. I didn't know how I was going to support a family on what I was making. I hated dealing with the people drama. I could go on and on. Bottom line, starting my own business has been the most liberating thing I ever did. But remember...hard work...it was a dream almost 10 years in the making before it was realized. Countless thousands of hours of study on sight like this, late nights moon lighting, disposable income going to tools instead of entertainment, it takes sacrifice but its worth it....I'll quit rambling.
 

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Clientele is overrated. The overwhelming majority of customers will be one-job-wonders. Make sure to factor that in. But if you have no wife and kids to take care of, like Metro said, now is the time. One you have dependents you are pretty much screwed unless you win the lottery or something.
 

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Some more advice. Deck is not a small job for a beginner. Depending on how much experience you have, I would consider not touching decks for a while. Also, if you're gonna hire a guy hire someone with more experience than you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I am married and just had a little boy(best thing ever lol) so we have been very reluctant about it but prayed hard and decided to get the insurance and register with the state so I'm legal and not some Joe Schmo who could go to jail and pay thousands in fines. Hiring someone wouldn't come until I went full time for sure, I'd probably get help from people from time to time to do certain tasks. I just can't stand my current job and have been looking for some time for something new and thought hey why not now, get legal, get evening work( if there), build up the business and go for it. Just gotta be smart about it.


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Clientele is overrated. The overwhelming majority of customers will be one-job-wonders. Make sure to factor that in. But if you have no wife and kids to take care of, like Metro said, now is the time. One you have dependents you are pretty much screwed unless you win the lottery or something.
No way. Maybe if you're doing plumbing service runs in inner city chicago but for the majority of people repeat customers and referrals from previous customers make the bread and butter of the business. For the majority of business, if all a business is getting is one hit wonders, its probably because they aren't worth calling back. Clientele may not be everything when it comes to staying busy, but it is when it comes to making money. The one hit wonders get qualified on the phone when they call and often don't pass the test.
 

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I am married and just had a little boy(best thing ever lol) so we have been very reluctant about it but prayed hard and decided to get the insurance and register with the state so I'm legal and not some Joe Schmo who could go to jail and pay thousands in fines. Hiring someone wouldn't come until I went full time for sure, I'd probably get help from people from time to time to do certain tasks. I just can't stand my current job and have been looking for some time for something new and thought hey why not now, get legal, get evening work( if there), build up the business and go for it. Just gotta be smart about it.


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Work on getting your standard of living really low. Know what its gonna take for you to live each month down to the penny.

Don't take any risks that are out of proportion.

Do you have tools already? It takes a lot to get the job done and it takes more to do quality work and it takes even more to increase productivity which increases you profit.

I might have missed it. Does your wife work? If you have another source of income you can get by with less reserves in the bank. But if you are it you're gonna want to have a chunk in the bank. For most it is a losing battle starting out if you don't have your equipment paid for already.
 

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I'm not sure that working part-time will yield you a lower overhead, it's just going to give you less time to cover your overhead.

If you only have evenings and weekends I would focus on much smaller projects. I'd hate to watch a deck get built 3 hours each evening for a month. And remodeling someone's interior during the only hours they are home might be a hard sell.

I would look for jobs you can complete in 1-2 evenings or one weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for all the comments and suggestions... Tools- I have many tools but lack some bigger things such as table saw and compressor plus others. Almost can never have I many tools lol. I definitely will add to the tool list as I go and business increases. So like someone said, i can gain in productivity to. I have a truck with tool box and cap so a couple different options there. I know much of my income from jobs will need to be reinvested in the company to gain working capital and other necessary items. I have a lot of summer cabins/cottages because I live in Raystown lake area so plenty of tourists which would be a great way to gain customers and get good quality jobs. My advertising would be kept fairly minimal because of cost and not being full time. Ideal jobs again would be those 1 day jobs replacing a door or 2, replacing a couple windows, and other things along those lines. Then once those customers know me and my way of business they can get the word out and eventually remodel their kitchen or put up an addition.


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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I didn't either till I went lol... I went to Pennsylvania College of Technology and did an associates in building construction technology. Associates in building technology masonry emphasis. Then bachelors in residential construction technology and management. I went not knowing anything outside of what I learned in my joke of a shop class and came out with so much more than I can imagine. It as a great school that taught you about building, how to build, and how to manage the business and people


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Matt I am currently doing this now. I am working full time and just incorporated the first of this year, learning as I go.

I have found that most my customers work during the day and want to be home while I do my service for them.

Though I have been working on the side for a few years and work for small time general contractors here and there, so I had work that lead me to incorporate.

I have found out that every business is built and ran differently from the next and it's all in what risks you are willing to take. Luckily most the men in my family are Electricians with me and I have a good supply of information and labor if need be.

I have a few maintenance contracts with offices and businesses close to where I live that keep my monthly bills paid and then some. I keep a good relation with them and they always want me to come in and do random stuff or ask me first about any improvements to their building.

Just recently concreted an eye bolt in the ground to chain their new picnic table for vandalism and moved furniture for them and hung pictures for them. Of course I don't charge electricians hourly rate, but I do charge them my normal service call charge + a good hourly rate I've figured would be fair for certain tasks. I do a good job and they always pay.

Plus, forums like this and the internet are my best tools. Hope this helps.
 

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No way. Maybe if you're doing plumbing service runs in inner city chicago but for the majority of people repeat customers and referrals from previous customers make the bread and butter of the business. For the majority of business, if all a business is getting is one hit wonders, its probably because they aren't worth calling back. Clientele may not be everything when it comes to staying busy, but it is when it comes to making money. The one hit wonders get qualified on the phone when they call and often don't pass the test.

I've noticed that when everyone starts a service company they have this oversimplified ideal that business starts slow, but then they slowly start building clientele, and before long they just sit back and wait for one of their clients to call them, who provide them with enough income to be financially stable for the rest of their life.

Clientele is important, just not as much of a cash cow as a typical befinner might think it is. References are another story.

Most people just dont have that much work to be done on their house.
 

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Don't know if anybody mentioned this yet, but put yard signs with your company name/logo in all of your customer's yards. You must get permission first of course.
 
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