Having founded OnlineTradesmen.ie in 2006, and operated it successfully since, we've seen a lot of changes in the construction sector. Irish property owners have posted more than 750,000 home improvement jobs on our marketplace, and we've delivered more than three quarters of a million jobs to our members. Weâ€™ve also been privileged to get great insight into how tradespeople operate and – in the aftermath of the construction crash – how many have had to evolve.
It's the lessons learnt by our members that inform this ˜Five Things They Don’t Teach You as an Apprentice' guide. We hope it can assist some new, or even established, tradespeople to develop their business.
- Deliver what the customer wants
You might be the most gifted person in your field, creating works of art wherever you go, but unless you keep your customer happy, your God-given talents won't amount to much. Making sure that you understand exactly what the customer wants before starting the job is key. For bigger jobs, it's in your interest to enter a formal contract for any work you are going to carry out, specifying exactly what will be delivered, when it will be delivered, and when you can expect payment. Even for smaller jobs, you should formally agree what is to be delivered. This way, the customers get what they need, preventing disputes and bad-mouthing later.
- Be Professional
Sound obvious, right? Unfortunately, some tradespeople let us all down by failing to observe the basics. Being professional means turning up at the agreed time, being courteous to the customer and portraying a positive image at all times. Having branded workwear and business cards can impress a client initially. But respecting the client when youâ€™re on the job is far more important. This means communicating with them regularly, ensuring they are comfortable with what you are doing, and with any other tradespeople you bring in on a job. A professional tradesperson will get more word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business every time. Oh, and one other thing, always clean up your mess when you are finished!
- Collect your money as a priority
As the old saying goes, money makes the world go round. This is true of any business. For this reason, it's important that you collect the money owed to you quickly. Many tradespeople go out of business due to poor cash flow, even as they are owed thousands that could have kept them afloat. You should think twice about giving credit to customers at all. If you must, make sure you invoice quickly and collect in a timely manner.
From a payment perspective, the most important thing you can do is to enable your business to take card payments via a mobile phone or PC. It's more convenient for your customers and removes any excuse about not having enough cash on hand to pay.
- Market Yourself
There's no point hiding your light under a bushel. Get out there and tell the world how good you are. As a small business, there is only so much marketing you can do. Traditional marketing activities are worth a try, but they often yield poor results. Google Adwords is effective, but tread carefully as it can be expensive unless you know what you're doing.
In reality, selling yourself when you're new to the market can be frustrating as you have no references, and customers have nothing to measure you against. Websites such as OnlineTradesmen.ie can help qualified tradespeople make the most of their credentials.
Many feet make light work! Think about that as you try to build your business. Are you better off going it alone or joining forces with other like-minded operators? Lots of tradespeople have a network of other contractors in different trades. They collaborate by sub-contracting to one another and helping out when work dries up. It's important to build your network locally through meet-ups, chambers of commerce and other networking events.
Ted Laverty, CEO, OnlineTradesmen.ie
Looking to grow your business? We receive over 4,000 job leads each month across Ireland. You simply pick and choose the ones that suit you. You can access and reply to jobs directly from your PC or Mobile phone. Contact us at http://www.onlinetradesmen.ie/