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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!

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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.

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.

The Viking

I’ve been wondering lately if I should get back into writing. When I saw that Facebook was piloting subscription groups, I even thought about resurrection the old ‘Creative Writers’ group from the dead. If I could collect a small subscription fee from each member it would help make up for the time and effort I would put into running the group. However, I don’t really have the time.

I had another idea. A way to get back into writing without taking time and focus away from the odd-job business. Tool and equipment reviews! Ideally I’d be using a wearable camera to record a first-person view as I’m working. For right now, I’ll have to make do with using my phone. 

Also, I have a new logo!

I’m going to talk to businesses, most likely starting with the local Builders Merchant, Travis Perkins, and ask them if they have any tools they’d like me to review. Perhaps even tell them what jobs I’ve got coming up so we can pick products that would fit with what I’m doing. Even if they don’t offer to pay me from their marketing budget, having some free tools to use in exchange for a review would certainly help my bottom line.

First, I think I need to write a few sample reviews, based on equipment I get to use already, so they can see exactly what I have to offer. Hopefully you can help me get my readership numbers up by sharing this and subsequent review articles to anyone and everyone you think might be interested. Don’t just spam everyone. That’s just annoying. Be selective 🙂

So here comes my first ever non-geeky review article ever (unless you geek out about garden equipment). It’ll be shorter than future ones, since I’ve already blathered on for quite some time now just introducing you to the idea.

The Viking!

Today I got to use a Viking GE 355 wood chipper. I first tried using it in the summer to get rid of some hedge trimmings, but I hadn’t been able to figure out how to turn it on. No amount of poking the switch was working. It had been sitting in the client’s garage for quite some time and I was worried that it was in need of repair. I put it back in the garage until I could get around to tinkering with it.

Thankfully, it was only the well-used extension cord that was faulty. I plugged it in directly to the electric socket and it worked right away. There was quite a pile of garden waste built up over the summer. A lot of it had been burned, but it’s been too damp lately to get the fire to catch, so I thought I would give the Viking a try to get rid of the rest, making use of a new power extension lead.

I discovered that it dealt with the smaller twigs and sticks with no problem, but it got choked up and stopped if it was over-filled. Particularly if there was anything over an inch thick being fed through along with the lighter stuff. Luckily the two black knobs at the top of the base are bolts that allow you to easily remove the feed hopper from the base and get to the blade. Making clearing any bits of wood that are jamming up the works super easy.

I’d highly recommend making sure the blades spin freely before you put it all back together. It’s a little frustrating to think you’ve cleared the blockage, only to have the motor stall again. You can’t test the motor before you put it back together. The blades won’t turn without the bolts screwed back in. A good safety feature really, but having to take it apart again because you weren’t thorough is annoying. 

All in all it’s a good bit of kit. It will even chew up the thicker pieces if you don’t put anything else in with it, and just let it chew. I have trouble maintaining the patience for this. It’s really helpful that you can open it up so easily. 🙂 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIR3JD6CkIM

Business to Business

When I first moved to Kidwelly, I tried to get a job with one of the local businesses. One of these businesses even gave me a trial shift. I didn’t hear back from them, until yesterday. It’s been months, but I guess with Christmas around the corner they’re looking to hire some extra hands.

This reminded me of an idea I’d considered a while back. Offering my extensive experience to businesses as well as private individuals. My workload is full at the moment, but with winter coming, and gardening work becoming unnecessary, I expect I’ll be needing other kinds of work to maintain a steady income.

I’ve been doing painting jobs, assembling furniture, etc. which has been great, but projects like that end. Once the walls are painted, the new furniture assembled, the curtains hung, the carpet laid, the cracks filled, or whatever other work I’ve been asked to do is done, there’s nothing else to do but hope they find more work for me.

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I’ve already begun making contacts among the local rental property owners and done some work for them. I’ve done handyman work for other local businesses too, gardening. I’d be more than happy to do more of the same, but it never hurts to have more to offer. I am, after all, a true jack of all trades. It would be a shame to leave some of my skills untapped.

So here’s my thinking. Local businesses can hire Odd-Job Antony, just like they might hire a plumber or an electrician, to do a job for them. This might be to cover for an absent employee, or to help with the Christmas rush, or even to do some handyman work. Either way they don’t have to employ me permanently, or even put me on the payroll. I’m a contractor, not an employee.

Here’s what I can do. Even before I got my first job in retail, I was raised to believe that a little good customer service can go a long way. I wanted to be even better, so I studied interpersonal skills, body language, and sales techniques. This served me well as I tried my hand at telesales as well as face-to-face sales positions, bar work, and even a supervisor role at a laser-tag arena.

I ended up back in retail again when I moved to America. I also got my first opportunity to work in a kitchen. It was just a McDonald’s, but it was a start. I got back into sales after that, and found I was good at over-the-phone debt collection. I only quit that job because I had to move. I found out I wasn’t so good at car sales. At least, not then. I’m a little curious if I could now with all I’ve learned since.

I started looking for other ways to make money. Particularly after I got a taste of management and corporate-ladder climbing. I started reading about self-improvement, leadership, entrepreneurship, and marketing. It got me a promotion to the marketing department of the communications company I was working for at the time. It gave me the opportunity to see how demographic data was used to increase sales, and even train people how to sell.

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I learned so much about business and management that I want to try starting my own business. I once spent a whole evening finding names and contact info for 200 people with the intention of inviting them to a tarot reading provided by my ex-wife, but she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of cold-calling strangers. In hindsight she was probably right, but it was kinda fun gathering all the information.

If you want I can tell you more about that little business venture, but it will have to be in person, or a least a private message. I started writing and blogging after that, inspired by the books I was reading. Hoping that the key to building wealth was writing. When I came back home to the UK I went back to working in bars and hotels. Until I moved to Kidwelly.

I found it hard to generate an income from writing and blogging, even using every social media marketing trick I learned. Local jobs were hard to come by, but I applied for every one that popped up. None of them panned out. I noticed though that lots of people were asking for help on the Kidwelly Noticeboard groups on Facebook. I realised there was a need that I could fill, and that’s why I started Odd-Job Antony.

To summarise. I’m a customer service and sales expert experienced in bar-work, retail, hospitality, entertainment, marketing, blogging and entrepreneurship, as well as being handy with a paintbrush, trowel, saw, hammer or screwdriver. In fact, if you can find something I can’t do, I’ll knock £10 off the next job. That’s a free hour doing anything you want. You could even use that hour to train me up if yo like. Want to try me?

Stairway to…?

This post is mostly going to be a pic dump showing the progress/process of painting a client’s staircase.  It was a fun project, and a little different from the way I normally work. Instead of charging by the hour, I was asked to provide a quote for the materials and labour. Which I did, and they were happy with my quote! 🙂

Technically my client was the landlord, rather than the home’s resident, though I’ve worked with the resident before to mow her lawn and do some other bits and bobs. She and I had already figured out how she wanted the staircase to look, and the landlord was happy to let us be creative.

20181010_110901The first thing I had to do was fill the gaps in the wood. The workmen that put the new stairs in used the original banister rails, and they weren’t quite compatible.20181010_110924There were also some MDF pieces, that weren’t quite flush with the pine steps. More filler to the rescue! We would definitely need to use paint here.20181010_110938Then we started masking off the parts that we didn’t want to paint. The majority of the step would be stained later.20181010_124822I used both ‘Frogtape’ masking tape and masking film to prevent as much splatter-related mistakes as possible before I started applying the white paint.20181010_14084320181010_14084920181010_15390920181010_15392220181011_115610When the white parts were all done, I started adding the violet details! Once again I masked off as best as I could.20181012_10282020181012_102826Then took the frogtape off again afterwards to make sure it looked right.20181012_10331820181012_103321Sometimes there was a little bit of ‘bleeding’ despite my best efforts. Where I could I cleaned up these edge afterward with white paint and a small brush.20181012_112312Before we could start staining the new wood, I would have to clean up the dirty paw prints and spills. Some sandpaper took of the surface dirt without having to get the wood wet.20181012_11423520181012_11424120181012_11461220181012_114616After they were dirt free again, then I applied the woodstain. A nice warm yellow tone to compliment the violet.20181012_17343620181017_104258[1]After a couple of coats of varnish to keep the wood looking nice and make future cleanup easier, it was time for final touch-ups and the tile-effect stickers on the risers. They were easier to keep bubble-free than I expected!20181017_114756[1]20181017_114802[1]I was pretty pleased with the finished staircase, and the resident was overjoyed! 🙂

Technically there are still some carpet pads to put on there, and the resident would also like to put mirrored mosaic tiles on the violet not-quite-triangles, but the work I was commissioned for is all done. 🙂

I really enjoyed doing this. Hopefully I’ll have more DIY, painting and creative projects to keep me occupied as the gardening work drops off.

Would you like to see more posts like this? Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Have a great day 🙂

 

Time to Commit

I think it’s time to take the stories down. I need to make this website all about the handyman work. The fiction distracts and detracts from the new direction I’ve taken. So, to that end, I’ll be taking it all down. From now on every page will be related to the Odd-Job business. I won’t take down the old blog posts, they show my journey if anyone is interested, but future blog posts will mostly be about how the business is doing.

It won’t all be business. Sometimes I just want to write about something that’s on my mind. I’ll try to avoid anything controversial, but hopefully these random musings will get people to know me better as a person. I’m a firm believer that people tend to work with people they like. You could be the most talented, experienced and professional handyman in the area, but if people don’t like you they won’t hire you again.

I don’t put on a show though. Part of the reason I prefer working for myself instead of any other job I’ve ever had, is that I can just be myself. I don’t need to conform to what some manager with no training thinks the customer wants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very nice to people, but not because I’m being told to. I’m nice because I like to be nice. It feels good to smile. It feels even better to make others smile.

I won’t tell you I can do something if I don’t think I can or I’ve never tried. I will tell you up front if I have no access to the resources necessary for the job. If I haven’t done something before, but I have a good idea how to do it and I’d like to give it a shot, I’ll tell you that too. I prefer honesty to making promises I can’t deliver on. I do like doing new things though. It’s how I get more experienced, after all. Plus, it’s way more fun doing something new than doing the same boring old things all the time!

Things I really can’t do at the moment includes anything that involves driving anywhere or transporting stuff (I don’t have a van yet), going up to a second storey on a ladder (I really don’t want to die or be severely injured for £10 per hour), or raise an army of the dead (I could never find any decent necromancy classes). I’ll try my hand at almost anything else, but please bear in mind that I’m an enthusiastic and helpful amateur, and not a tradesman of any kind. Most of my experience before I started has been from helping out friends and family, and maintaining my own house and garden when I lived in the US.

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening for people, including mowing lawns, strimming, pruning, weeding, trimming, planting, and even burning the garden waste. That season is drawing to a close though. Luckily I’m also getting a lot more DIY jobs like hanging shelves and curtain rails, painting fences, sheds and staircases, building furniture (from flat pack and from scratch), disassembling furniture carefully for re-assembly elsewhere, and I’ve also helped clear out a junk room and walked dogs (though that’s not really DIY).

I’d love to get more jobs that involve making something. It could be anything from helping to make toys and clothing (did I mention I can sew?) to a new partition wall in your house. Anything I don’t know how to do, I can learn. If the client knows how something is done, and just needs an extra pair of hands to do it, I’ll be happy to learn from them. If not I can do the research and get back to them. I’ll show them what I plan to do, making certain it matches their vision and figuring out together what needs to be changed.

Since my overheads are low (I’m living with my parents rent free and I don’t have a vehicle to maintain), and I’m not a certified tradesman, I can keeps my rates low too, though I do appreciate it when a client feels that my work and my time is worth a bit more. One client that did so without any prompting from me said, ‘If I pay you a decent wage then you’ll keep coming back to me’. He’s absolutely right. If I have a scheduling conflict and I have to chose between client that only pays my base rate and him, I’m going to pick him!

It’s getting so I’m busy every week now, which is great. With luck and kindness, I’ll be able to start saving up for my own place, or a cheap vehicle, soon. It’s been slow going at the moment while I invest in more tools for the business, work clothes, bus travel (I have a client I visit twice a week that lives out of town), but I’m trying to cut back on these expenses so that I can begin making some real head way.

I’ll keep you up to date on my progress when I can. I’ve been so busy that writing this post has taken over a week to write! To be fair, it’s not just the Odd-Job business. I’ve also got a Games & Geekery club started in Kidwelly that’s branched into Family Games Day and a Warhammer group too, plus there’s my personal life. I won’t talk about that here though. Local geeks and gamers are welcome to join the Facebook Group. I also have a WordPress site for anyone to enjoy.

If you want to know the more personal stuff, you’ll have to know me better 😉

I’d best wrap this up and get this out, or it’ll be another week before I do. Before I go though, I have a few easy questions. Just to see if you’ve been paying attention.

  1. What’s my basic hourly rate for any odd-job work?
  2. What did I think I could make a career out of before I started Odd-Jobbing?
  3. What else have I been up to in the community that’s been keeping me busy?
  4. Why are my rates so low?

Can you find all the answers? (Hint: they’re in bold!)

Thanks for following, and have a great day! 🙂