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.
The 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.There 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.Then we started masking off the parts that we didn’t want to paint. The majority of the step would be stained later.I used both ‘Frogtape’ masking tape and masking film to prevent as much splatter-related mistakes as possible before I started applying the white paint.When the white parts were all done, I started adding the violet details! Once again I masked off as best as I could.Then took the frogtape off again afterwards to make sure it looked right.Sometimes 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.Before 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.After they were dirt free again, then I applied the woodstain. A nice warm yellow tone to compliment the violet.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!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.
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.
What’s my basic hourly rate for any odd-job work?
What did I think I could make a career out of before I started Odd-Jobbing?
What else have I been up to in the community that’s been keeping me busy?
Why are my rates so low?
Can you find all the answers? (Hint: they’re in bold!)
I definitely need to take the time to finish updating this blog. I actually had a client ask me about the book I was working on. I had to tell her that there is no book anymore, at least not at the moment. Doing odd-jobs is working out well for me, and so my writing career is on hold. At least for now.
I didn’t make this decision lightly. I really thought that telling stories for a living was going to be my calling, so I did my research to find out what it would take to be successful at it. I’ve always learned best by doing, so I got writing. I also tried out some of the tricks I’d learned about social media marketing and ran a pretty successful writer’s group on Facebook for a while.
In the process I figured out how to self-publish and learned a lot from fellow writers. I also got to see first hand how much work actually goes into writing a book, and how little readers appreciate it. Writing is a more than full time job. Especially as an indie writer. You need to keep writing, every day, and you need to promote yourself and build an audience.
What this really means is that you spend all day, everyday shut in your office (which in my case is an old card table I put my laptop on in the spare room of my parent’s house, aka my bedroom). It gets lonely and depressing, especially when you and every other writer you talk to can’t seem to actually make any headway.
There are some writers I’ve talked to that have cracked the code and manage to produce enough writing to make a more than healthy living. They do so by studying market trends to see what sells well, and writing to market. They are able to churn out a daily quota of writing because they follow a plan that conforms to their audience’s expectations.
Sadly, this isn’t the kind of writing I want to do. I want to write the stories I have in my head. It’s possible that I could get to eventually if I write what the people want for a while, but my heart just isn’t in it. I can’t do it. It just sucks all the joy out of writing. I thought maybe I could freelance to make money instead of compromising myself, and found that freelancing as ghost-writer and article writer is just as hard to break into as creative writing.
I then thought that perhaps I could try taking a part time job to bring in some cash that way, but found that finding a job in the small town of Kidwelly was almost impossible, and commuting to the next big town over was problematic. I don’t have a car as yet (because it requires money and a UK license) and so I have to use public transport. The last bus from Carmarthen to Kidwelly is at 6pm, and most employers want you to work past that time.
Out of desperation, frustration and impatience, I decided to offer my services as an Odd-Job guy locally. I knew there were plenty of people living here that could use an extra hand or two from time-to-time. I’ve missed the gardening, DIY and small home repairs I used to do when I had a house, and this seemed like it would give me an outlet for the skills I’ve learned, make me a bit of money, and help people out.
It turned out to be so much more than that! It gets me out of the house, gets me using my body instead of wasting its potential at a desk, it allowed me to meet people in the Kidwelly community and hear their own stories, it makes me feel good to do a good job for the clients and see my progress, and I even have other people interested in working with me. It’s a lot of fun.
That last part, about the work being fun, is the biggest surprise. I always thought I was too dorky, too wimpy, to be able to do a physical job (I also thought that conforming to a sexist sterotype was inherently sexist). Admittedly, it was a lot harder when I started. My body just wasn’t used to working up a sweat. Now though, I’m disappointed if I don’t get do do at least four to five hours a day of fighting brambles, sawing wood, or hefting something heavy from one place to another!
It’s so fulfilling I feed no need to write fiction. My real life is better. I’ve expressed this sentiment before, but it’s true. I still run my two rp groups, but they’re more of a social game than actual story writing, particularly since it’s just for fun, not profit. I might write some non-fiction later, and maybe some fiction too, but for now I’m happy to let the business grow, and help it along. I’ll go back to writing books when I don’t need the money.
I won’t be able to do physical work forever, it’s bound to take a toll on my body, but for now the aches and pains I have at the end of the day are tangible evidence of a job well done, and it feels good. I feel like I’ve achieved something instead of just waiting for something good to happen.
No more pushing myself to write something and worrying that it’s statistically unlikely to sell a single copy. This is a far more effective and sustainable business model. The next step is to get my bodycam working so I can make videos of what I’m doing that I can then post on YouTube. I’m also working on getting a UK driver’s license so that I can try to get a van. Luckily there’s a guy interested in joining our little Odd-Job Squad that has is an experienced truck driver and is thinking of getting a van too, so I might be able to do bigger jobs earlier than expected! 🙂
I’m really happy, and I never thought it would come from this.
I changed it! Do you like it? Don’t worry, I’m still going to write (in fact I may actually write more frequently), I’ll just be doing it for fun, instead of trying to make a living at it. My main source of income (for now) is performing random tasks, odd-jobs, chores, and bits and bobs!
Most of what I’m doing is gardening. Mowing lawns, ripping up weeds, pruning, strimming, hedge-trimming, planting, etc. Occasionally I get to assemble and hang shelving units, curtains rails and pictures, or to clean up and repaint garden furniture or a fence. I’ve also poured concrete, cleared gutters, shovelled gravel and even helped people to access their emails more easily.
I’m looking forward to some bigger challenges. I have one client that would like to extend their decking. Another has an old wood-frame greenhouse they would like to have repaired (removing the rotten wood and splicing in new, fresh timbers). One of my newer clients has some cracks on the outside of her house that have gone mossy. They’ve been filled before, but they clearly didn’t clean out all the moss. I’ve gotten some expert advice from my Dad on how to fix it properly, and I’m looking forward to it. Even though I’ll have to be up a ladder!
In my last post to try and get more clients (it’s a slow week at the moment), I offered to work an hour for free if someone can find a job a that I can’t figure out how to do. I’m going to do all I can to figure it out, of course, but if it’s beyond me and needs to be referred to a professional, I will happily work an hour for free. Especially if I can work alongside the tradesman that gets the job and learn a new skill. If I have do work of something else, that’s fine too. It will give me another opportunity to impress the client.
I also still have my ongoing referral offer. I hadn’t felt the need to mention it when my weeks were booked solid, but now I have empty slots AND a willing sidekick, I’m going to need to get more work. The referral offer, in case you’re interested, is £10 off your next job for every new client you help me find.
I’m considering trying to find some clients in Carmarthen also, however, those clients will have to pay a travel surcharge. It costs me £5.50 to get a return/day-tripper ticket from Kidwelly to Carmarthen. However, if I can get more than one Carmarthen client per day, I can split the cost between them. Building a client base in Carmarthen would allow me to potentially move to Carmarthen in future, at which point the travel expense will be removed or modified.
Remember the side-kick I mentioned? During a week when I was booked solid, and I was wondering how I would come with the workload should this trend continued, a lad contacted me and asked if I could use an extra pair of hands! It was great timing, however the trend did not continue. I expect work will pick up again, but there’s a cycle race coming through town this week, so everyone is busy with preparations for that and talking about it in the message boards. My posts are getting shoved down the page, unseen.
It did occur to me today that, in a town as small as Kidwelly, I may reach a maximum number of possible clients. Some people aren’t ever going to be interested, no matter how much marketing I do. Others will never be able to afford it. There may even be a few that weren’t happy with my work and will never call me again. So it makes sense to try and expand my client pool to include Carmarthen, and possibly Llanelli too. We’ll see.
I’m also considering creating a GoFundMe for a van, so I can work further afield and do jobs that will require the moving of materials, waste, and equipment/large tools. Crowdfunding would allow me to acquire the vehicle faster than saving up for it, and I doubt I’d be eligible for a loan, even if I wanted to take on a debt. Rewards would include ad-space on the van. The bigger the donation, the more space they’ll get. Starting with 1cm square. I just need to figure out which van I want, how much usable and visible surface area is on that van, divide the cost of the van by the number of 1cm squares there are available in the usable and visible surface area, and set up the campaign.
I might pitch the idea to various van dealers, or even the vehicle manufacturing companies, to see which of them wants to be involved and if there’s a particular van they want to promote. After the campaign is set up I could then approach both local businesses and large brands I like. Mountain Dew/ PepsiCo would definitely be on the list of big businesses I’d talk too! Perhaps a tool manufacturer like Bosch too. I’d also talk to the local builders merchant, Travis Perkins, and the other two big names in town, Gravells, and Burns.
I need to get my British driver’s license first. starting with a few driving lessons to get me used to driving in the UK. Perhaps the driving school will want to put their name on the side of my van too?
If you know of any businesses and people that might be interested in sponsoring my transition from foot-slogging my way to every job to driving to jobs in a nice new van, please let me know. Either by commenting on this blog post, emailing me, or messaging me via Facebook.
You can also contact me to ask me to do something for you, or just to chat. 🙂