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Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 206
I know I have mentioned this in other posts but I am a new Contractor in my area and I am trying to build up some business. Anyone have any tips as to approaching builders and potential clients?

By the way - if you are in Central Ohio and have an excess of work I'll be happy to take some overflow [Linked Image]

Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 280
Unless you have unlimited funds, try advertising locally like newspapers and word of mouth. I am from Ohio too, a small ad in the yellow pages runs from $1200-1800 dollars per year and the bills come everymonth even when things are slow. Getting the first year out of the way is the longest and the hardest part.
Oh and by the way Good Luck

Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 206

Definitely don't have unlimited funds. Luckily, I have a mother-in-law who is a retired small business owner and willing to fund our first six months of health insurance. W ehave been at it for nearly a year now but only having weekends and evenings and working our full-time jobs as well. Its been a bitch if I may be so blunt.

As soon as the Insurance is set up we will get one guy going full-time, try to build business and then pick ourselves up as we go...

Thanks for the good wishes and advice!

Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,457
Go right out and get the work. If you see a development or a house going up find out who is in charge and talk to them. Sometimes it really is as simple as that. In my opinion spending alot of money for advertising can be a financial burden when strting out. Send out some introductory letters to local builders and such. Small postcards listing the types of jobs you do are cheap and cost effective. I have also searched recent real estate transactions and sent postcards out to those people. I have also called general contractors on the phone to introduce myself. All of theses things worked quite well for me.

Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 206
EMS - that is exactly what I plan to do as well. Call people - cold calls - it might be all I have right now. Luckily I am also an intermediate graphic designer so at least I can develop some marketing tools (flyers, brochures, etc) on my own without having to pay someone...

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 257
One time I was driving by a lot where they were just starting to break ground. I didn't know what they were building so I stopped to find and talk to the super on the job.

I asked him what he was building. He replied "A hotel".

I asked "Is it going to have lights?"

He said "As a matter of fact I think it will."

I asked "do you have an electrician?"

He said "No".

I said "Well how convienient, thats what we do!"

I got a set of prints, bid the job, ended up negotiating the job and was awarded the job.

So see, sometimes it is that simple.

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 914
We get most of our work throug word of mouth, but you have to start somewhere. One thing I've done is "scout" subdivisions on the weekends when nobody is on the job. I look for the houses with sloppy work. Then during the week I'll go back and find the super/ builder( I like the personal touch rather than phone to introduce). I ask him/her if they are happy with the electrician and point out a few problems and tell how nice our work is. Generally they will ask what we charge and I tell them that every electrician charges differently but if they will give me a copy of the other electricians bill I'll compare it and let the know what we would charge. You'd be suprised, but most will gladly give you the bill. I don't try to beat the other guy's bill, I generally will figure out how we can come in near the same or slightly higher and point out what we are giving them that the other's aren't.

Side Note: Most builders couldn't care less about the quality inside the walls, so you have to give them things that you can see after the walls are closed in. Assuming you're wires are neat, you can point out that they can use this to sell a buyer in the framing stage.

Hope this helps

Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Word of mouth and recommendation is pretty effective in the rural area where I am.

Many local shops/businesses around here have a bulletin board on which for a very small sum (e.g. less than £1 per week) they'll keep a business card or small ad.

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,392
yup, the posters here are right, ya gotta beat the bush....shakin' hands.....kissin' babies...buttton that top button....make eye contact...(insert entire boy scout creedo) .......

Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 328
10 I just noticed an ad for a 'customer-based referral service for finding service professionals' on one of our local TV/news stations' website: - My first thought was "Wow, that'd be useful. To know that other customers would know who did decent work and then pass that info on to those looking for qualified/reasonable/capable [fill in the blank]." It looks like you (the service professional) sign up and then your customers can search for someone (you) in their area.

2) The other avenue for information that I personally have found useful in terms of knowing what needs to be done and what to look for (quality-wise) was through my home inspector who mentioned several things that needed improved that I wouldn't have known:
- sliding glass door was not tempered glass (not good w/ 3 rowdy kids)
- 'new' window install wasn't done right - no vapor barrier up to window edge. (The idjuts didn't even finish their work as the stucco was never redone but it made the other issues easier to find.)
What this indicated to me was that at least there was a knowledgable source of info to help me improve my home. It was kind of nice to hear advice from someone who didn't have a 'vested interest' and wasn't going to make recommendations based solely on his own profit motive.

3)I've suggested here before that through church or civic organizations you can become a known entity by offering a free short course on 'what to look for' in your field of expertise or do a quick handyman's ministry kind of thing (call it a complimentary service call or a senior citizen's advocate visit or an annual safety check if you're not comfortable with 'ministry') - just do something free, nice, quick, simple, etc. for your fan/customer base and they'll remember you.

4) Trade fairs are a good place to start. Rent a table or booth, hand out cards, flyers, fridge magnets, and set up a display to show things that need annual visual inspections or things to check for safety, quality vs. poor quality in electrical installs, hazards to warn children to stay away from - anything that your local population may not be aware of or may benefit from.

5)Career days at your local schools:
- teach the little kids to look (but don't touch!) for unsafe conditions in their homes and you'll have a whole platoon of little tattle tales to send business your way, I guarantee it!
- Go to the Jr. High or High School and offer to help with a class project, supply or loan tools for the day (with your supervision, of course), hand out a 'door prize' to a student or two, they'll remember you and so will their parents. I am a huge advocate for mentoring and apprenticing! (One of my all-time fav memories is getting coveralls for a birthday & using my dad's tools to tear apart a couple of engines. He used to call these kind of projects 'therapy' for a motor-mouthed grease-monkey kind of girl.)

6) Find the summer day-camp coordinator and set up a 'let's do a seminar' kind of 1-day thing. Send each kid home with a card, a flyer, a photo of them with the project/tools/etc. Your name will be first on their lips.

7) Offer to do a series of short informational columns for your local paper. An example might be "Aluminum wiring: is mine safe?" and address what to look for, what to do to reduce the risk of a problem, etc. Another example is "When to call an electrician." and give examples of situations the home owner should or should not tackle without professional assistance. Our local realtors have been doing this in every Sunday issue of the paper regarding the real estate realm and it has been very interesting and enlightening.

It doesn't necessarily require a big financial investment - just become someone your community looks toward for your field and be someone they can trust and rely upon.

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