General Contractor vs. Handyman: What’s the Difference?

So you want to be a handyman? Or do you want to be a general contractor? If you think there is no difference between the two, you couldn’t be more wrong. Your clients will usually know, and if you market yourself incorrectly, you could get in a lot of legal trouble. We’ll dig further into legal issues momentarily, though. When starting your business, the title you give sends messages to your customers about your line of work and how much your services cost. So it’s essential to be transparent to avoid confusion.

Both career paths are lucrative in their ways, but you must choose carefully. Certain things come with each job that many don’t consider before investing time and money into their business. For example, do you prefer to work alone, or do you want to manage a team of workers? Are you willing to put in time for specialized training, or do you want to start working right away? Do you want to take on tasks that only take a few hours to complete, or do you prefer long-term projects? Consider your answers as you continue reading.

So What’s the Big Difference?

The difference is enormous, and it all boils down to licensing and job scope. A handyman often takes on small, odd jobs that only take a few hours at most to complete. These tasks include minor repairs and replacements, such as patching drywall or installing a new washer. You don’t need any special licensing to become one, and you can get started right away. Keep in mind that customers often hire handymen because they cost significantly less than general contractors, so you won’t ever find yourself short of work. You just won’t be able to charge the same prices.

A general contractor can charge way more because they work on larger projects for weeks to months. Many of the jobs you’d take on are dangerous, so you’re required to take special training for licensing. This is where those legal issues come in. Many handymen market themselves as a general contractor, thinking nobody will know they don’t have proper licensing for a project. Your clients know what to ask when searching for the right person. Anyone can easily report you to the state, and most won’t take the risk of hiring a non-licensed, non-insured worker with the wrong job title.

Costs to Keep in Mind for Handymen

Handymen generally carry less overhead costs, and they’re known for being cheaper than contractors. Handymen are in high demand, and they’re always going to be. To be successful, though, you need a skill set to prove you’re capable. For example, if you don’t know how to fix a leaky faucet, don’t say you can just because it sounds easy. A leaky faucet could turn into a flooded bathroom if something goes wrong, which would be costly. Your customers want someone skilled and low-risk. If you don’t have handyman insurance, they may see you as a potential liability.

Choosing this career path has perks, especially if you enjoy working independently. Handymen typically work by themselves, tackling several tasks over a few days. So they have more free time than general contractors do. However, since the work is short, you have to do more outreach to land clients and keep steady work coming in. To be successful, you need to do a great job and get some testimonials. Make sure to keep the number of a general contractor handy if you come across a job outside of your expertise. A simple job could turn out to be more complicated as you work.

Costs of Becoming a General Contractor

If you prefer managing a team of people and taking on large projects, this is the best path for you. Since you’ve taken the time to acquire proper licensing, you can take on large projects and charge way more. Keep in mind that general contractors often work over 60 hours a week and work on the same thing for weeks to months. As a result, they have less free time than handymen, but they make more money. And since they take on large projects, they don’t have to spend as much time booking clients.

To be a great general contractor, you must comply with your state’s laws. So check the requirements where you live as they vary throughout the US. Finding a high-quality training program is essential for starting on the right foot. Your clients will want you to be licensed and insured to reduce liability and injury. Investing in yourself will bring higher profits down the road, so make sure you can afford to put in the time and money it takes for this career.

To be a Handyman or a General Contractor?

There is so much to consider when choosing whether to become a general contractor or handyman. You have the opportunity to make a lot of money with both paths, but you have to understand the demands of each. Do you want more free time and flexibility to work as you please? Becoming a handyman would be the best route then. If you choose to become one, though, do you have a comprehensive set of skills that will land you enough work? Even though there are no requirements for this job, you should make sure you can safely handle the requested tasks.

If you feel that you would be better suited as a general contractor, are you willing to invest the time and money it takes to get there? Can you responsibly manage your money to keep up with overhead as well? If you’re not financially able to become a general contractor right now, you could start a handyman business and save your money to pay for training. In addition, you’ll gain some experience and industry knowledge that’ll give you a leg up in training. You can use this time to figure out what type of work you want to specialize in down the line.