Connections and career paths: Building a handyman business, then an online handyman consulting service

handyman startup
A page from Daniel Perry's Handyman Startup site

Matt Handal, who has built a reputation as an expert on AEC proposal development and management, recently introduced me to Reno, NV-based Daniel Perry, whose career evolved from mechanical engineer to handyman, then to providing online training and services for people who want to build their own handyman businesses.

Perry and I connected on phone for a conversation, where he initially said he regretted his choice of the “handyman” niche to build his online career and business. (I’m turning paraphrased quotes into direct quotes here — so there may be some language interpretation in my writing.)

“It took me five long years to make this work,” Perry said. “I should have realized at the outset that there would be better niches — because it is best to go into markets where there is money, and people setting out to be handyman often don’t have much money to start.”

Dan Perry
Dan Perry

I pushed him on this point, asking him the politically incorrect “but journalistically?quite appropriate) question:? “How much are you earning?”? He hesitated a few seconds, but then said: “It’s in the six figures.”

Do most handymen he guides ever get near that income level? Impressively, he says he answer is “yes” — a truly exceptional answer since few handymen would ever expect to earn so much with a small one-person business.

Perry says he doesn’t do much actual handyman work himself these days, perhaps about five percent of his total volume (but when he was in primarily in the handyman business he was earning good money from it.) After the conversation I was able to track the website for his local business, HandyGreen Home Solutions, which creatively plays on the “green” trends while providing a variety of services.

I also explored how he built his (to me) sophisticated online marketing website and resources. “I did it myself,” he said, relying on consultants and third-party services for only limited resources.

Handal and Perry met at the annual Forefront online marketing conference, in Chicago. I asked Perry if the conference was worthwhile. He was a bit hesitant then said it provided support for the concepts he had learned from Ramit Sethi, CEO of?I Will Teach You to Be Rich.

(Sethi’s website is a masterpiece in the truly overcrowded “how to get rich” online marketing space. Notably the introductory page has a rather intriguing example of rudimentary artificial intelligence at work — with a sequence of qualifying questions that would allow his online backend system to spew out a continuous flow of marketing materials targeted to the emotions and goals of the person seeking information. Alas (or perhaps fortunately) I could see I was screened out by the initial questions since there is no category for someone who has been self-employed for two decades and is financially comfortable personally, despite the business never being an overwhelming success or generating six-figure annual personal incomes.)

What can we learn here?

Perry has demonstrated the value of a focused niche and perseverance in business and marketing. While he asserted the “handyman” niche wasn’t the best for an online business, it had he advantage of being unoccupied, so with effort, he could build a solid place of his own. (Also, notably, his life story reflects an ideal client — someone with a “good” job (paying relatively well) wanting to break free — thus someone with the cash to pay for the online instruction, which based on Perry’s observations and testimonials from clients, is worth every cent they pay.)

It took him five long years to make the online business succeed. While it generally isn’t fun to bang your head against the wall, if you don’t “carry on, carry on” with any project or committment, you’ll probably fail before you come close to success.

Finally, of course, there are Perry’s offerings. He acknowledges very few handymen make $100,000 or more a year. But if you are an engineer frustrated in a desk-job or with corporate bureaucracy, and want to work with your hands and do your own thing, Perry’s may be right for you, especially if it allows you to break from the crowd and truly earn a good living at the new career.

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