Not Just Practical, but also Creative!

If you’ve actually had a little poke around this webpage and noticed that there’s a fiction section. That’s because I like to write. In fact, before I had the brilliant idea of starting the Odd-Job Antony business, my hope was to become a successful independent author. I’ve since come to realise that if I want to make story-writing lucrative, I need to do it a little differently.

I will probably babble on about my writing plans, and how it will tie into my love of role-playing games, in a future blog post. What I really want to talk about is that my website hasn’t really grown the way I wanted it too, why I think that is, and what I’m going to do about it.

My intention was to use this website as my official business page for Odd-Job Antony. The site that prospective clients would go to so that they can learn more about what I do, how much it costs, and what other happy clients are saying about me. When this didn’t happen, partly because I was getting more than enough work via word of mouth without a website, it occurred to me that I could still write about odd-jobbing, but with the attention of attracting others to the business or even just offer tips and tricks to gardening and home-improvement.

I came across a few hurdles with these ideas. For one, I can’t seem to find a way to effectively record what I’m doing as I’m working. Also, there are already lots of articles and videos available online that teach people how to do pretty much anything far better than I can. I also just didn’t like the idea of limiting my writing to just odd-jobbing articles.

I’m a total geek. I love fantasy and sci-fi stories, movies, tv shows, games (both video games and tabletop games), music and cosplay. There’s lots of stuff rattling around in this brain of mine, and only a little of it is about odd-jobbing. There are songs lyrics (some of which are original), D&D characters, bad jokes, observations about life in general, business ideas, and more, all begging me for attention, and the few odd-jobbing articles that occur to me while I’m working are often completely drowned out by these other random thoughts by the time I get home to my laptop.

You may have noticed that the blog section of this page is STILL titled ‘Blog of Indefinite Purpose’ from back when this was my official author website and I would use the blog to write whatever I felt like writing. This was mostly writing practise, a technique known as ‘free-writing’, to help me work through writing blocks, develop ideas, and built up a habit for writing every day.

I think I’m going to go back to that, and stop limiting myself to one subject. I am, after all, a jack of all trades. I don’t just pull up weeds and put up shelves. I can also run a great game of D&D, tell a great story, make little origami things, customise and paint gaming miniatures (though not as well as a professional custom model converters and painters), build scenery, and even do voices. Articles about this stuff might also end up on my Games & Geekery page (also sadly neglected since moving back to the UK).

I’ve also acquired a lot of career skills including customer service, sales, marketing, interpersonal communication, negotiation, presentation, influence, incentivising and leadership. I’ve worked in bars, restaurants, game shops, formalwear rental, call centres, fast food, department stores and even a factory once, before I became self-employed, and I’ve been known to use these skills and experiences to come up with new ideas that could improve existing businesses or incorporated into new business ventures. This stuff would fit better on the Business Demon page

The website will probably end up looking like a glorious mess, but that’s sort of the point. I need to allow myself to express my creativity in whatever way I need to at the time. However, more polished versions of these random outpourings may appear on one of my other WordPress pages, Facebook pages, or perhaps even compiled and published as a book.

This is basically going to be my notebook, and perhaps you’ll get a better idea of who I am and how I think, and look beyond the high-vis coat. Maybe.

Or maybe it’ll just be for me. Either way.

Have a great day.

Winter is Coming!

Winter draws closer, the weather is becoming wetter and colder, and the days far shorter. Gardening jobs are gradually getting a bit hard to find. This is the time to explore other opportunities, and I’m not just talking about trying to get more indoor home improvement jobs. You don’t have to limit yourself.

I, myself, will be taking advantage of my extra time to get back into writing. Before I had started looking for other ways to make money, I had been trying to become a successful full-time author. It soon became clear that the standard business model wasn’t going to work for me. I’ve had some other ideas while I’ve been busy doing odd-jobs, and now I’ll start to have the time to explore them.

For those who are curious, I’m going to highlight the problems I have with the standard procedure for writing a novel. First, you need to write something. It may not seem hard to write at least 1000 words per day, after all, I’m not a great typist, but I can manage 32 wpm according to a typing test. It should take only a little over 30 minutes to write 1000 words. 10,000 words per day should be easy to do if you work an eight hour day, right?

Sadly, this is not true. You’re not just copying from notes, you are also creating the notes as you go. There are some writers who will even create a set of outline notes first, before they even begin the rough draft, most (myself included) will skip this step, and start just writing. The rough draft will, inevitably, be full of writing errors and plot holes, and it will need a rewrite before you can even think about publishing.

However, if you’ve managed to produce an average of 1000 words per day, and allowing for the fact that you may have to cut about half of that out and add rewrite the rest of it, it would take about 100 days (5 months if you take weekends off) to write a novel’s worth (about 50,000 words).

If you had been working minimum wage instead of writing, I’d have earned about £5000 after taxes, but I wasn’t earning anything yet. Professional editors and proofreaders will offer to fix any remaining spelling and grammar mistakes that you may have missed, for a big chunk of money you don’t have. You can avoid this if you redraft again, painstakingly checking every line of your manuscript to catch every mistake, but at this point you might be beyond desperate to be done with it.

If you decide it’s ready to print, then need to make a choice. Appeal to traditional publishing houses like all the greats, or self-publish. If you choose to self-publish, you need to create, or buy, some cover art so that the book will catch people’s eye among the tens of thousands of other self-published novels available online. You’ll also need to create your own marketing, or pay someone else to do it. You’ll also need to choose a fair price, and most people seem to post their work for 99p.

I think you, as the author only get about 33p of that each time a book sells, so you would need to sell about 15,151 copies of your book, immediately, to make the same amount of money you would have gotten working full time that last five months, assuming you never got distracted or procrastinated while writing it, and you haven’t had to pay for editing, proofreading, formatting, cover-art, marketing, etc. Don’t expect to break even anytime soon.

If you want to go through the traditional publishing route, first you need to get you book accepted. You could be working on your next book, or doing further rewrites, while you wait, but as you get rejection letter after rejection later, you may find yourself losing faith in your work. If you are eventually accepted, it will still take a long time to make any money from it.

The hardest part for me was the soul-crushing fear that it would all be for nothing, and that while I was working on the story I had no real assurance that anyone would even like it. On the other hand, I have been working on three stories that already have an audience, and I already know people like them. This is where my new idea comes in. I’m going to polish up the three narrative roleplay campaigns I’ve been running, and republish them on this very website, and also Wattpad, Tumblr, Reddit and Patreon.

This might not make me any money yet either (unless I get a lot of new patrons), but it will, hopefully, get me some notice without making anything public that isn’t already publicly available. If I can get more followers interested in my stories, maybe then I will feel assured that the long, anxious, process of writing a full book will be worth it.

The money won’t flow as quickly or easily as it does doing Odd-Jobs, but I’m concerned that I depend too much on my physical well-being. I try to work safe, but one bad accident, a random heart attack, or even the early onset of arthritis and I’m done. I could still guide and coach other Odd-Jobbers, and help them gain more repeat clients, but so far I haven’t had much luck selling people on that idea either.

I have an idea for that too, so maybe my luck will change. If you want to see what I’ve posted on Facebook that will (hopefully) encourage more people to accept my help to become Odd-Jobbers, here it is. I would like to help more people to help other people. It’s part of a slow-burn plan since I won’t take much money for this. Once I have lots of experience I plan to write an online course/ self-help book on the subject.

If I get enough people interested, I’ll be able to spend all the time I’m not doing odd-jobs myself helping others to find more work and expand their skill-set. It would make me happy if successful odd-jobbers passed what they’ve learned on to others as well. Perhaps even (once it’s published) using my book to aid them. That’s a little way off though.

It would make me equally happy if they made enough money the rest of the year to explore their hobbies and interests, self-improvement, and nice, relaxing, time off. Speaking of hobbies and interests, I’ve wasted more than enough time writing about writing, without actually writing anything I set out to write. I’d best get to it.

You Are Your Best Asset

When you’re self-employed, everything depends on you, so you need to take care of yourself. You are the entire workforce from the janitor all the way up through every level to the CEO. You’re the human resources department, the marketing team and customer service. You’re all of it, so don’t work so hard that you burn out.

That’s pretty much the entirety of what I wanted to talk about today, but I’m going to elaborate anyway. When I started doing Odd-Job work, my entire body would hurt after just two hours of pulling up weeds and planting. I knew though that it was just because I wasn’t used to the work though, and I pushed through it. I knew that as my work load gradually increased, I would become fitter and better able to handle it.

I was right, but only because I made sure that I took a break when my body needed it and got plenty of sleep when I got home. I had to treat it like a workout at the gym. Plenty of protein in my diet to help my muscles build up, and staying hydrated while on the job. Clients often help with this last part by offering a cup of tea!

If the clients are pushing you to work harder, or to put more hours in than you can manage, you have to say, ‘no’. If they can’t handle that, they may threaten to give the job to someone else. Let them. There’s plenty of work to go around, and your mental health is just as important as your physical wellbeing. They can go be a bully to someone else.

You’re going to need to take time off occasionally. When you’re helping lots of people, you’re going to catch a few bugs. Especially if weather is warm and damp. Which it has been recently here in Wales. I’ve had to take over a week off to really get over the infection. It can be difficult when your income is so directly dependent on working to give yourself the time you need without feeling guilty, but you have to be kind to yourself.

You don’t necessarily have to be physically ill either. You might just be having a bad day emotionally, for whatever reason, and just need to take a personal day. Luckily for me, most of the time when I’m having a bad day, it’s raining too much to do any gardening work anyway, and since gardening is mostly what people ask me to do, rainy days usually give me a day off anyway.

Hopefully you won’t be taking time off for an injury. You need to be safe at work, which is part of the reason you shouldn’t be working while feeling sick. Feeling ill affects your focus and concentration, making it much easier to hurt yourself, and if you hurt yourself badly enough, you might never be able to work again. Be careful.

I’m not trying to scare you off. I’m saying you should go for it. Go do the thing and push yourself to work at it even harder. Just also be aware that you’re not a disposable member of the workforce. You’re the ONLY member of the workforce, and you need to take care of yourself.

I personally recommend working no more than 30 hours per week, giving yourself weekends off, and making sure you take breaks every two hours, including an hour for lunch. It also helps if you’re putting a little of your money away so that you can take days off without hurting too badly financially.

If you push yourself too hard and find yourself working too many hours for too little money, then you may as well be working for a company, instead of yourself. If being self-employed isn’t giving you a better life than working for an employer, then you need to take a look at how you’re treating yourself, and maybe your client list, and then make some changes.

I hope this has been helpful. If you need more detailed and specific advice, just ask me. Have a great day.

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First Steps

Since I’m not well enough to work right now, it seems like the ideal time to write the article that has been swimming around my brain a while. However, my brain is, itself, swimming in snot so this may end up being utter nonsense. Here goes.

I’ve been thinking about three topics that I was going to discuss in details in three separate articles, and I wasn’t sure which should be discussed first. However, I think I’ll worry about that later and for now cover the basics of all three topics in this one article. Maybe I’ll even leave it up to you, the reader, to determine what I write about next.

I’d love there to be more odd-jobbers out there, like myself, helping people do the small gardening and home improvement jobs that they can no longer do themselves, but odd-jobbing isn’t for everyone, and there may not be enough demand for it where you live to earn a sustainable income from it, which is why I think the best place to start after you’ve decided that you want to be self-employed is figuring out what you’ll be doing.

The best way to do this is to ask around. Ask people in your community what it is they feel is needed. One of the easiest ways to do this, if you have the opportunity, is to pay attention to local online noticeboard groups. Not every community does it, but you may find, after a quick search on Facebook, that there is at least one Group or Page dedicated to local news, events, and requests.

In my case I found that a lot of people in my area were asking for help with small jobs, but you may find that the people in your town are frequently asking for pet-sitting/walking services, cleaners, carers, piano tutors, math tutors, children’s entertainers or tax accountants. See what opportunities are available, and, if any of them take you fancy, reply that you are willing and able to help.

If you don’t find anything you can do locally, and you’re willing and able to deliver your products and services to anywhere, then spread your online search further afield to see what people in your field of expertise/experience are clamouring for.

Now, there’s a good chance that you won’t be qualified for some of the opportunities available. For example, perhaps you don’t have a degree in accounting, but you do know your way around a tax form. It’s okay to let your potential client know this. Most of the time they can’t afford a ‘professional’, and they don’t really need one. If the job is something they used to do themselves, they may even be able to teach you a thing or two.

I’ve already begun telling you about the next topic. How to find clients. I’ve got most of mine online to begin with, and then from word-of-mouth recommendations after that. I also got one or two from posters I put up in places I expected potential clients to go. I also hung out at the local ‘community hub’ to introduce myself in person while I was between jobs.

Participating in community events and projects will also help you get noticed.

The best way to get clients by far is by word of mouth recommendation, so when you’re doing a job, it helps to bear in mind that you’re also the best form of advertising for your business that you can get. You need to make a great impression, and maintain it. However, you also need to be honest, and be yourself. Some people have the knack to charm people, others, like myself had to learn it. However, it’s going to take more than one article to explore that topic.

The third topic I wanted to mention was money, specifically how much you need to charge. I actually hadn’t figured this out when I started. I knew I wanted it to be more that minimum wage, but I didn’t know what people would be willing to pay. I hoped that people would see my work and pay what they thought it was worth. It turns out that people like to have a number. Your best clients will be the ones that think the work is worth more than you’re asking.

Now, as your own boss, you need to pay yourself a fair wage for the work you’re doing. Ideally it needs to be enough to cover all your expenses even this is your only job. Also, you need to reach the target with just 20 hours per week (or less). As the word spreads and your reputation grows, you should be working more hours than that, but when you’re starting out, it may be a struggle to get that much.

Add up all your monthly expenses, for the whole household, for the year. Monthly expenses rarely include clothes shopping trips and things like car repairs, and you may have to guess how much unexpected expenses will cost you. The more thorough you are, the better, but even a best guess will give you a starting point. You can adjust later if necessary.

It may be mind numbing, but it will be worth it.

Once you have your grand total, subtract any other sources of income you may have (like a spouses, or a part-time job you’ve been doing) to see how much of the grand total you still need to make up. Divide that number by 52 (the number of weeks in the year) to see how much you need to reach per week, and again by 20 hours per week to see how much you should be charging per hour to cover these expenses.

If the amount you have left seems unreasonable, feel free to do the calculations again, and see what you can sacrifice, at least until you get more hours. I myself like to buy games, but I had to put that on hold until the basics were covered. For you it might be cigarettes, or your favourite fast food. Hopefully you won’t have to do without it for long.

Doing this will also show you how insufficient minimum wage jobs really are. Particularly if you don’t have 20 hours spare between caring for children/ other family members and that part-time job you’re doing. You may have to quit that part time job once your own business succeeds. As much as you may like it, you may start to resent how little it pays. Sorry about that.

If you feel tempted to discount your hourly rates to even less, bear in mind you’ll need to work more hours to cover your expenses. One of the biggest mistakes that new businesses make is undervaluing their time and their products. A high price suggests quality, and a low price suggests the opposite. You may surprise yourself to see what people are willing to pay for a good job well done, even if you’re telling yourself you could have done better.

There will be some clients that think you’re charging too much. Some will will insist on getting a flat-rate quote instead of charging by the hour. Be wary of clients like this and replace them with others who like what you do and are happy to pay what you ask (or more) as soon as you can. However, particularly if you’re making products, you may want to offer a price for each item, or project, rather than charge by the hour.

You still need to take into account how much time it will take you to complete the project/product, as well as any materials used. If it will take you six hours, then the client will need to pay you for six hours work, plus the cost to replace any materials you’ve used. Even if you had everything you needed laying around, you will need to buy more for the next one, and the cost should be included in the products price. As does the cost of any ‘free samples’ you’re handing out.

If you can make it and people want it, then do it. 🙂

It’s going to be a struggle at first, but once people start praising you to others, you should be able to cover all of your basic needs, as well as save up for holidays and treat yourself to the occasional fancy meal, expensive gadget, or snazzy new outfit. Though you may find that the first things you spend the ‘extra’ money on is more tools and marketing for your business.

I hope this advice has been useful. Feel free to ask me questions. I’ll be happy to explain anything in more detail, or discuss your particular situation and how you can still be successful despite your personal obstacles. For the moment this is all free because I’m figuring out how to teach all this as I go and your feedback will help me improve my coaching methods and advice.

Thank you for reading, liking and sharing, and have a great day 🙂

Tool Foolery

When you’re first starting out as an odd-jobber, you’re unlikely to have a lot of tools. Not unless you had some money put aside to invest in new business ventures. You’re going to have to build up your arsenal a little at as time, as and when you can afford it. The type of work your getting, and the problems you find keep coming up, will help you figure out what you need to buy at the time.

Having said that, if you can afford to invest a little money into buying tools before you start though, it will definitely help avoid embarrassment when a client’s tool breaks while you’re using it. Look after client tools as well as you can, but sometimes they just break.

It might be because it was a cheaply made tool only meant for light work, and the work that needs doing is too much for it, but sometimes your client won’t share this opinion, and just sees that you broke their stuff. If at all possible, avoid working for clients that jump straight to accusing you of deliberate misuse. Keep the clients that are more worried about whether or not you hurt yourself when the tool broke.

If at all possible, have the right tool for the job before you start. If the right tools aren’t available, or you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to manage the client’s expectations beforehand. “It looks like the ground is really hard. We could use the fork and spade, but it’ll take a while. A mattock would be better if you have one.” for example.

This also helps with under-promising and over-delivering. If you tell the client that it’s going to take a while, but then do the job well in less time than they expected, they’ll be a lot happier than if you say, “No problem. I’ll have it done in a jiffy”. Chances are, you’re going to come across some issues you didn’t anticipate. Don’t be afraid to undersell yourself, then allow your actions to speak louder than your words.

Back to tools. Chances are, when you’re first starting out you’ll have very few of your own tools. You may not know enough about DIY and Gardening to know whether or not the tools provided are going to be good enough. You’ll just have to take care, and be willing to learn.

Chances are, you’ll be working for people that used to be able to maintain their home and garden themselves. They have all the tools, and the knowhow, but their body is letting them down. Make sure they know that you’re new to this work, but you are willing clay, and let them teach you.

Sometimes the client may not know much themselves, having always relied on a late partner or other handy-folk. Luckily, you can make use of the internet to search for how-to guides and videos for nearly everything you’ll be asked to do. You can also ask friends and relatives that have done Gardening and DIY themselves, including me. I’ll be happy to help anyway I can.

Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing how to do everything already, or for not having all the tools necessary for every job. I started with only the experience I’d gained from helping my parents and having (briefly) been a homeowner myself. You’ll learn a lot, very quickly, and before you know it you’ll be able to make suggestions about how best to tackle the job.

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More Odd-Jobbers Needed!

The blog is in a bit of a mess right now. It used to be my writing blog, where I talked about whatever was on my mind, kept my audience up to date with my work-in-progress, and (eventually) promoted my upcoming books. My writing career fell flat on it’s face when I realised it was a bad business model, and found myself doing odd jobs for money instead.

I then thought I could use the blog to showcase some of the work I’ve done for people, and perhaps increase my client base as a result. This turned out to be unnecessary as word spread quickly, and I found myself too busy to maintain the blog at all. There are still more people asking for help with simple little jobs. More than enough to go around, if you’d like to become an odd-jobber too. I’d be happy to help you do it too.

I don’t have a background in the trades. Both my father and my grandfather were tradesmen though, as well as a couple of my friends. I used to help my Dad with projects around the house, and did more for myself when I had a house of my own. My previous career falls mostly into the retail, customer service, and hospitality fields. I’ve also studied business and management, personal development and entrepreneurship.

I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a business of my own for some time, and had a few false starts along the way. When I moved to Kidwelly, joined the local noticeboard groups on Facebook, and saw how often the locals were asking for help with small jobs, I saw this as my opportunity. I didn’t know at the time it would be as successful as it’s become. I just thought it would give me some pocket money while I figured came up with something better.

I found the work enormously rewarding, and I doubt I could ever be happy in a ‘regular’ job again now. Many of my clients are elderly or have mobility problems, or both. They often used to do jobs like this themselves, but can’t anymore, and they appreciate having someone around to help. You’ll often learn a lot from these people. Others just don’t have the time, or the confidence, to do it themselves, and are thoroughly grateful for lightening their stressful workload.

At this point I often have people contacting me directly to have me do things for them, and there are still more on the Kidwelly community noticeboard groups. I want to help everyone, but I can’t do it alone. Having more people join the odd-job squad and take on the work that I can’t get to myself would be wonderful. Like I mentioned earlier, I’d be more than happy to help you establish yourself and be as successful as I am, by offering tips and advice through this blog, and even via messenger.

For example: One of the easiest ways to impress a new client, is simply by showing up on time, or even a few minutes early. It never hurts to give yourself extra time to find a new location. It’s important to make sure, when setting appointments, that you allow enough time to travel, and to relax a little before you go do another job. Some of them can be tiring and hard work.

Here’s another quick tip for you that ties into the first. Underpromise, and over-deliver. If you’re not sure how to do something, tell the client that you’ll give it a go, and you don’t have much experience, then get online and figure out how to do it. When the time comes, you’ll do a better job than the client expected, and they’ll be far more likely to recommend you to others. If you do it the other way around and talk yourself up to get the gig, but then clearly demonstrate that you’ve never done it before, don’t be surprised if you never hear from them again.

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It’s okay to be a complete amateur when it comes to DIY and gardening. Most of the time the client knows exactly what they want doing, and even have most, if not all, of the tools you need to do it. They just need someone with a stronger back, younger muscles, and the time to do it. Sometimes all they need is a second pair of hands to hold something in place while they still do all the actual work.

You’ll quickly learn as you go. Particularly if you take the time to look stuff up online whenever you come across something you don’t know, or even ask the clients themselves how they would like it done. You’ll also find yourself getting fitter. If, like me, you were doing call-center work and waiting tables before you started odd-jobbing, you’ll find doing physical work for a couple of hours to be exhausting.

That’s why breaks are important. You’ll need to get something to drink, to eat, and to slow down for a spell before you go to the next job. Be kind to yourself. This job is going to be way better than working for a company. Pay yourself better than a regular job would, work fewer hours, keep your break times and days off as sacred as you can, and take care of yourself. Use sunblock if you’re outdoors, knee-pads if you have to kneel, and never turn down a drink.

I’m going to wrap this up for now, but there will be more posts like this coming. Feel free to ask me to elaborate on any of the points I’ve touched on, or ask me another question you might have about how to get started. You may even have a problem I’ve not had to deal with, and I’d still be happy to help you figure it out.

There are people out there that need your help with simple jobs, and they would be happy to pay you to help them. You can have the freedom to set your own hours, your own pay, and choose which clients you work with. Becoming Odd-Job Antony was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I suspect it will be for you too.

Good luck!

My Definition of Professional

I was considering writing an article about my background and experience to let people get to know me better. My thinking was that it would let potential clients get to know me better.

I was a little worried that anyone mentioned in my story might recognise themselves and disagree with my interpretation of events or their influence on me. Since everyone remembers things differently, this is practically inevitable.

However, something happened earlier this week that illustrates my personal philosophy far better than my life story, and won’t ruffle any feathers (or at least none that I personally care about).

I went to check out a couple of places for rent in the area. Both are in an area of town with a less than wholesome reputation, but rumours can sometimes be unfounded, so I wanted to take a look for myself. It also occurred to me that somewhere that does have a reputation might be more willing to risk taking on a self-employed tennant. 

I had arranged with the owner to look at two properties that were available. I arrived on time and had to wait in the rain for someone to show up. When someone did show up, he unlocked the first property and immediately went upstairs. I thought this was strange, but I followed him up. He told me he had things to do and left, so I started looking around upstairs first. You can see what I found in the video below.

A tour of the first house I viewed.

After viewing this house, I messaged the owner to let them know I was ready to view the other property, which I was told was twice as big, and also to ask when the house I’d already looked at would be finished. Not wanting to waste a perfect opportunity, I also mentioned that I could help them get it ready. They didn’t get back to me right away, so I hung out in The Hub while I waited.

They did get back to me though and I was able to go back later and see the second property. The property-manager/ handy-man had been told what I had said and was clearly under the impression that there was nothing wrong with the first house. So we went back and I showed him the bumps in the carpet, the missing floor tiles, the unfinished downstairs bathroom, damage to the kitchen cupboards (I don’t think you can see it in the video, but the door of the cupboard with the glasses in looked like something had chewed the bottom corner of it), and the mold.

He said that the place would be rented as it is. He also let it be known that there would be no work there for me. He said that they only hired professional contractors. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I told him that I didn’t think they’d done a good enough job. I suspect he’d done most, if not all of it, himself.

The second property was much nicer, brighter, cleaner, larger. In fact the only thing I saw wrong with it was that there were large tears in the carpets. They would have been easily covered with furniture, but I mentioned it to the property manager and asked if it would be replaced. He said no. After asking about the paint-tubs and scraps of wood in otherwise nice looking kitchen, I got a very evasive answer, as if he was telling me (a prospective tenant) that it was none of my business,

Suffice to say, even though the second property was nice, I never want to have to rely on that man to fix anything for me. Particularly since he doesn’t seem to like me much for saying that the first house wasn’t ready to be lived in.

Let’s get back to the comment he made about professional contractors. The whole line of questioning leading up to his declaration that they only hire professionals (Are you a professional? Are you a qualified tradesman?) was meant to imply that I lack the credentials to comment on or evaluate the work that had been done. As if the fact that I haven’t been to trade school disqualifies me from having standards.

I freely admit that the level of service I provide, at a very affordable rate, is that of an enthusiastic amateur. My experience with DIY has come from helping my Dad (a former plumber who also wired every socket in our old house and made a built-in vivarium for our pet reptiles) and Grandad (a joiner by trade and avid gardener) with various projects, including carpet fitting, wallpapering and plastering, and also from doing all the DIY in my own home when I lived in America.

For me, being professional is a state of mind. An attitude toward the work and your clients. It means showing up early whenever possible, getting on with the tasks requested of me as quickly and efficiently as possible, not slacking off (I give myself breaks between jobs anyway), and doing the best job I can. If I find that a job is beyond me, I get help. I’m getting to know quite a few handy-folk, many of which specialise at something I’m not so good at.

Being professional, as far as I’m concerned, means being helpful, courteous, friendly, approachable, kind and willing to go above-and-beyond to make the client happy. Yes, I don’t have a certificate that qualifies me to do odd-jobs. What I do have though is a growing number of clients that are so happy with my work that they recommend me to their friends. I even got a couple of Christmas cards and gifts.

I also think a professional should be able to listen to negative comments about their work and use that feedback to do a better job in future. The more I learn, the better I can get, and I often learn a lot more from my mistakes than I do from my successes. I don’t get in my own way.

I’m also trying very hard not to be petty or vengeful, since that would be very unprofessional of me, so I hope this post doesn’t come across as such. I admit that I am venting a little. I admit that this got under my skin a little. Hopefully, I’ve made my point without being a jerk.

Merry Christmas everyone. Have a great day.