You’ve honed your craft and gained invaluable experience working for someone else, but now you’re convinced it’s time to go it alone and run your own trade business.
To help make your journey to successful self-employed as smooth as possible, we’ve gathered together our top tips on everything from marketing and advertising to winning rave reviews and keeping customers happy.
You can be the most gifted tradesman in the world, but with plenty others plying their trade nearby, how do you stand out from the crowd and land those all-important customers that are so crucial to your success?
As we reported recently, 71% of homeowners use Facebook to find tradesmen online. So, if there’s one place you really need to be advertising your business, it’s there.
Create a Facebook Business Page and keep that page updated regularly, as an out-of-date or abandoned Facebook page is about as effective as having no page at all.
That said, you’ll also benefit from using platforms like Pinterest, and from creating your own website which, as we outlined in our recent guide to digital marketing, is easier than you might think.
Showcase Your Portfolio
Nobody likes a show-off, but in your line of work, it’s pretty much essential.
High-quality images of your best projects can prove highly effective in persuading customers that you’re the right tradesman for the job. Before and after pictures work best, but be sure to ask the home or building owner’s permission first.
Once you have your pictures, upload them to your website and social media, with a clear description that lets people know more about the work you do.
Get those reviews in
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Reviews matter.
Though it’s obviously more difficult to get customer reviews when you’re first starting out, it’s not impossible. If you’ve done jobs for friends or neighbours in the past, ask them if they can log onto Facebook or a dedicated review site and leave a few words about the work you carried out.
Once you start generating your own clients, remember to encourage them to leave feedback.
You might find our advice on collecting customer reviews helpful with this.
Create a good first impression
Of course, like all good things in life, positive reviews aren’t just given – they have to be earned.
That means maintaining an outstanding level of professionalism from first to last.
Look the part
It’s in the very nature of your work that things get a little untidy, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn up looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.
Keeping your van, your uniform and your appearance tidy can speak volumes about your professionalism, creating a good first impression that your customers are bound to remember.
Join a trade body
Joining a governing body or trade association for your industry adds a sense of credibility to your work, helping you to earn the trust of your clients and promote yourself as a reliable, trustworthy tradesman committed to delivering quality work.
Take out the appropriate cover
Having public liability insurance will make a big difference to you – not only instilling a sense of confidence in customers but ensuring you’re well covered should something unexpected go wrong.
Be prompt & polite
Nobody expects you to be available 24/7, but it’s reasonable for any customer to expect that they can get hold you during the working day.
Being at the other end of the phone when you’re needed is vital to ensure you’re delivering great customer service, and as we all know, great customer service leads to great reviews.
Play fair with pricing
A big part of developing a successful trade business is knowing how to price fairly.
Quote too high, and you risk losing customers who know they could get the work done for less. Go too low just to get the work, however, and you take away the chance of actually making any profit.
Be clear & upfront
Speaking of all things financial – be clear and upfront about exactly how much the job will cost. Nobody likes being hit with nasty additional costs they weren’t expecting to see on their invoice.
Likewise, avoid asking for money up front wherever possible. If you absolutely have to, be clear about what you’ll be using that money for and provide the appropriate evidence that you’ve used it for its intended purpose.
On the job
Congratulations, you created a great first impression and now the job is yours. Now that it’s time to get to work, here are a few tips to help you out.
Stick to what you’re good at
Tempting though it may be to work outside your skillset in order to land a job, it will soon prove not to be worth it if things go wrong because you’re way out of your depth.
If a job does require specialist expertise, consider bringing in a sub-contractor to help you out.
Finish what you start
There’s no better way to earn a starring role on one of those ‘Builders from Hell’ TV shows than leaving a job unfinished.
See things through and complete the job to the proper standard to keep your customers happy and those glowing reviews coming in.
Your customer took the morning off work so that they could be there when you arrived at 9 AM just like you said you would, so don’t go annoying them by strolling up sometime after lunch with no explanation or apology. Of course, sometimes unexpected problems like traffic can occur, but that’s when you pick up the phone and call your customer to explain the situation.
Likewise, if you promised that the work would be done by Friday, get it done by Friday. Customers value a tradesman who can stick to the schedule and keep their word about when things will be done.
Treat every job like it’s your own home
No, that doesn’t mean downing tools and watching the telly whilst your better half nags you about all the jobs you promised you’d do!
It means taking pride in your work and completing jobs to a high standard. If this was your home, would you be happy to leave that kitchen, bathroom, or floor looking like that?
Tidy up after yourself
Few things are more infuriating than a tradesman who leaves a homeowner with a big mess to tidy up.
Again, treat each home you enter with the same care and respect that you would your own, and at the very least get the dustpan and brush out at the end of the job.