How Much to charge?

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2/5/2013 at 8:03:23 AM

I was recently let go from the renovation company I've work for, for the last 12 years. I guess because of the time I've been there I was too expensive and i've probably been replace by someone half my age for half the money, that's life I guess.

Since I need to make a living, I've decided I will start my own Handyman business. Since I dont have any licences, I'm limited to the services I can offer. Still, I think I can make a good living doing the small repairs and little things here and there.

My question is, how do you guys know what to charge?... is there a website? book? software?... I dont wanna charge too much nor too little for my services.

Any advice at all on my new venture would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

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James from Coey Stairs in Milton
Date/Time2/5/2013 at 9:35:41 AM

Hey Leo,

I live in milton and my stair shop is in Brampton.

$25 - $30 is what a homeowner would expect to pay for a handyman with no plumbing or electric licence

presuming you are fairly efficient.

It is difficult to get more without liability insurance, proof of wsib, proper branding and a good reputation from many other clients.

James Coey

416 994 7824

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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 9:45:32 AM

Before you even get started you need to get hooked up with WSIB, get your insurance minimum liablity for $2,000,000.00. We have $5,000,000.00 and register your business. By doing this you will start down the right road, this eperates the wheat from the chaf.

Starting out charging 1.5 times the cost of your materials cost is the usual way of quoting projects. This covers all of your overhead and still leaves a little for yourself. This formula works for me.

Do not expect to have lots of work right away as you will have to build a reputation (hopefully a good one), get some business cards done and don't be cheap on handing them out. The more you hand out the more you get your name out there.

Good luck!!!!!

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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 9:57:01 AM

Hello Leo,

I have had the same question. about 2 years ago I left my job and started my handyman business, more parttime for I knew the leads would lot flood in. I am now doing it almost fulltime. I have a few contracts that actually tie into my business, so in some ways Im doing it full time.

I agree with the charge per hour of $25-$30 per hour to start. I also agree start your business right, get registered, get insurance, get WSIB etc, these are costs, but you can proudly display your name then. I had a logo designed and am working on getting all marketing material to match. I operate out of Burlington, and would be more than willing to sit down for a coffee and talk further. I have also joined a few groups through linkedin and continue to do research and educate myself as best I can.

Wishing you much success.



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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 11:12:53 AM

Finding out is reserved for those that search. There's lot's of info out there, all you have to to is study, study, study.

Here's also a good resource in the form of a magazine and web site.

I find they have constantly put out great articles that are very relevant to the construction industry, very helpful. I've been to one of their seminars recently and found they had a lot of good experience to share.

Besides home owners you may find some renovation firms hire sub trades on a contract basis, you may not do their plumbing or electrical but they need contractors to do demos, haul away debris, do small jobs here and there.

Good luck

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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 11:33:51 AM


I somewhat agree with the other however it depends on the situation and how you charge. I started my business for the same basic reasons, four years ago. I charge $45/hr ... but don't charge mileage or travel time within a certain radius. In my area there are several "handyman" people who charge less, but insist on cash only ... be very cautious.

Definitely get insurance, a business license, WCB coverage. Business cards are the cheapest form of advertising and fairly productive. I also advertise in a local paper. Word of mouth will be your greatest asset.

Also, what I attempt to do is to have the client purchase the material themselves or at least pay for it without going through my business. Reason is that until you reach $30k revenue, you don't require GST. After that, you have to charge and report your revenue. Some contractors also mark-up the materials (if they buy it) and this can work in your favour. Just make a plan and try to stick to it.

Back to what to charge, I try to provide an over-all extimate based on my hourly rate. This way there is room to move. For you, my friend, just follow the advice, be honest ... and patient.

Good luck.


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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 11:36:46 AM

Hi Leo,

It is impossible to tell you how much to charge for you services. Everyone has different costs and expectations so they have to do their own calculations to get their hourly rate. The basic formula is

Labour + Materials + Overheads + Profit + Pita factor = Rate.

It sounds simple but in reality, it is not. You have to know accurate overheads such as insurance, WSIB, auto costs (and replacement), tool costs,marketing, communications, mortgage, etc. In other words what it will cost to be you every month before you even make a cent. You also have to account for the time you need to spend marketing, paying bills, doing quotes, etc. Not every hour of the week will be billable time.

The same thing happened to me and I found an organisation called Jobskills ( that offers a course to teach you how to create a business plan for your business and how to use it to operate. I was forced to analyse everything about my business idea and create a viable model. It was intense and outstanding. You should check them out and see what they have to offer.

If you can, do some research before you jump into something - it will be time well spent.

Good Luck with it!

Jim Kuzma

Kettleby Handyman Services.

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Bertram from TASCH - GROUP in MISSION
Date/Time2/5/2013 at 4:09:56 PM

Hi Leo,

All the above posters are right with their given tips.

As Mark already said: Be patient! It may need a while until you can make a living out of your business. Building a good reputation over the time is the best you can do for your business. The word of mouth will be your greatest asset.

But The word of mouth it can be also your greatest "enemy" Therefore it is very very important to be ALWAYS honest ! Just one unhappy client can destroy yours over the years hard built reputation. I just say Christopher Dietz

Kind regards,

3D-Tile-Design - Bertram Tasch

Maple Ridge, BC (Greater Vancouver Canada)

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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 7:38:52 PM


There are so many variables involved to say what to charge for what. The best thing to do is get a copy of the Carson Dunlop Report which you can get online and print it off. I myself charge what I believe I can make off a job, no hourly rate.

The report will give you guidelines in Ontario which you can take from there. Remember though, there can be as much as a 300% difference in prices from contractor to contractor. Depending on their overhead and labour costs.

Some people work for $150 per day and are happy.

Hope this help.

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Date/Time2/5/2013 at 8:27:46 PM


Go to Lowes or Home Depot (I can't remember which store sells this book) and get a copy of "Start and Run a Handyman Business" from Self-Counsel Press. The website is They also have a lot of information that you will find helpful (forms, etc.).

Also, I was at Jobskills with Jim from Kettleby Handyman and the program was very helpful.


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Leo in Milton
Date/Time2/5/2013 at 9:01:52 PM

Thank you everyone for taking the time to write back. All your ideas and tips are a great help. I will definitely follow them.

And Lee, I'll take you up on that coffee and chat anytime.

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Dave from 360renos in Ottawa
Date/Time2/6/2013 at 6:26:50 AM

Morning Leo

Do some reading of Michael Stones book Mark up and Profit to help you understand your business numbers. Although American publication it still applies to the Canadian market

Good luck


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Robert from ElecTriLight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time2/6/2013 at 7:33:27 AM

Try to remember one important thing, do not offer services you cannot perform well. If you do and end up making a mess of it, it simply shows your lack of skills and professionalism.

As an electrical contractor, this is what I stick to. People ask me if I can do the drywall, crackfill, and paint to finish up any jobs that I've been called in for. Thing is, I can and do it very well, but I admit as a professional, I stick to my profession and call in my other contacts to help out and it gives them work too. (And my truck isn't flooded with 4-5 types of trade materials).

If there are any people in this forum who are interested in offering services to help me and my clients out, or if you require electrical work done, let me know, would be happy to share work.

Just don't work for cash only. Claim as much as you can expenses, File your HST on time!!

Good luck.

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Leo in Milton
Date/Time2/6/2013 at 9:46:26 AM

That is a very good idea Robert, I will make sure to exchange business cards with you as soon as I have them.

On another note, I am working on a website and would not mind adding a page with links for those interested.

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Date/Time2/6/2013 at 9:47:43 AM

I think Jim from Kettleby nailed it... there is not such thing as a 'going rate'. If you apply that approach to your business model you will go broke, or at least not be as profitable in your venture as you should. You need to do as Jim suggests, add up your costs, including your own pay plus your profit.

Nayurally costs per hour are lowered as you employ more people. It is import to include all costs, including telephone, computer, stationary supplies, fees, etc. You also need to consider capitol costs and repairs for things like tools, truck, replacement items, etc. You could then base that on a 2000 hour year. The variables are things like gas, material etc; these are prices that fluctuate so much that you cannot easily nail them down at a regualr rate, so you need to calculate a formula to include them as material costs for the job.

@ Dave from 360 Renos, that exact books sits on my desk as a ready reference; an excellent resource.

@ Rob from Electrilight, great advise as usual.



John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

How Much to charge?
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Date/Time2/6/2013 at 7:51:04 PM

Like a lot of the other guys are saying $25-35 per hour get yourself insured if you are going to be self employed with no employes and doing strictly residential and working direct with the home owner you are WSIB exempt. Any private business/liability insurance is better then WSIB any ways several very good articles on that subject online.

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Date/Time2/7/2013 at 6:28:29 PM

Hello again Leo,

I go to Milton every Tuesday night to over see a cleaning crew. I have to be there at 8:45 pm, so if you want to meet for coffee on Tuesday night before then then give me a call or email me from the contact info on this site. If Tuesdays dont work, then lets try and meet another time.

To all who have posted, I have gained some more helpful knowledge, especially the books! Thanks to everyone. And wishing everyone continued success!!



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Shawn from Arrow Contracting in Vaughan
Date/Time2/23/2013 at 11:51:57 AM

Just an FYI update with regards to WSIB. As of January 1, 2013. any contractor preforming work requires WSIB coverage. That now includes an owner, even if he has no employee's.

Traci Kroft

Arrow Contracting

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Date/Time2/23/2013 at 1:28:39 PM

@ Shawn from Arrow. There are exceptions to WSIB witch I have stated. All can be found on there website or by calling there office.

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