I am going through "labor pains" if you will regarding getting my business going. I have everything in place, insurance, truck lettering, yellow pages ad coming out next month, studying codes, bookkeeping system in place, advertised in local papers with unsatisfactory response. Matter of fact when different newspapers call me I tell them straight out I am going to spend my advertising dollars elsewhere. And from what I am reading in other posts, the yellow pages ads aren't all that great either. I am new to my area so I have to rely on some type of advertising to get my name out there.
Can any of you elaborate on the hardships, successes, failures, struggles with spouse, etc. etc. when you were starting up your business?
[This message has been edited by JFLS41 (edited 04-15-2005).]
Hang in there, Jeff. The first few years are the hardest. I have less business sense than most, and after my first 6 months my wife asked, "When are you going to get a real job?".
Don't give up on advertising even though it seems that you're burning money you don't have. Carry business cards and hand them out to anyone with a pulse. Talk to your friends, people at church, join groups, etc.
Until you get established, think about doing anything to survive. Sometimes the little old lady will ask you to hang a shelf. I used to tell people "I do windows".
Dave, thank you for the encouragement. One of the things that is discouraging is opening up the local swap paper and seeing a bunch of classifieds saying they do electrical work and they are "Cheapest in town" or something to that effect. It makes me wonder how much work is really out there and if the handymen are getting it because they work for peanuts and do all the other stuff like carpentry, etc... In my area, as we discussed once, their is no lic requirements (except for City of Pittsburgh) and my town I live in doesn't even issue permits. The only time an inspector is called out is for new construction and commercial. I am seeing that alot of slipshod workmanship went into wiring jobs around here because hardly anyone is held accountable. When I talk to potential customers I think I might be overpricing myself because doing things to code and not taking shortcuts costs more. I guess I will have them sign Release of Liability if I do a job and its not according to code. Is this what it will take to be competitive and get work, do shortcut work and take low payed jobs just to get work?
I saw an ad in local classified paper, "Electrician" "Nobody can beat my prices!" etc... I have to wonder, how does he know what I charge to be able to make that claim? Hopefully someone like that won't last long or will work his tail off a few times and find out he has just enough money to pay his materials. So having said that and seeing all those ads in the local papers I am starting to get the picture it might be a real rocky road trying to establish a viable business thats going to be around in 2 years. As for my wife, she works and is carrying the burden for us, and believe me this is a real point of contention at times but right now is going ok. She has said a few times I don't have a business yet and I told her I do have a business but no work.
Thanks for letting me vent...
[This message has been edited by JFLS41 (edited 04-15-2005).]
JFLS41, The first thing I'm going to advise you on is this:
By this I mean: Who are you? What type of work do you do? What type of work do you want to do? What seperates you from them?
Most, and I use the word "most" loosely, say they are "Residential, Commercial Industrial" electricains. Most are not. Most want to be.
I say this, because this is one of the keys that I worked by. I hate resi work. But when I started I needed it for quick cash to buy materials, tools and advertizing. I always wanted to be a Commercial, Industrial guy. But to compete in this type market takes alot of money, and companies pay very slow. By defining yourself early, you have a starting point, something to work at. Finding a niche is the best thing to do.
Best advertizing is "Word of Mouth". Best way to get it, is to do the very best work you can and be the very best person for customers to deal with.
Unfortunately, you may have to start out competing against hackers, just don't stoop to their levels.
One other thing, you better like what your doing. Alot......
Why is that an indicator someone wants to screw you? I take it that you found out the hard way?
My very first customer was a friend of my wifes who I gave a cheap rate to in exchange for her husband who is a graphics guy to do me a logo, company name, he gave me one lousy logo that looked like a 13 year could have come up with. I waited and waited for him to come up with something else but it never transpired. If they ask me to do more work I will be charging full price.
Can anyone tell me how they advertise and what to say and not to say?
As I understand it, PA is a "no licensed required for electricians" state. That makes it easier for anyone to get into the business, good or bad. But it makes it hard for the good guys because of so much low-end competition and the pressure to do minimal and even sub-code work (because the bad guys do).
Around here you have to have a licence just to go fishing.
Put your ad right next to Mr Cheapest in Town and say "Best Service in Town, All work garanteed and insured". Or "Need electrical work done... Call an Electrician." Try to provide the best service not cheapest.
Maybe new construction and small comercial might be for you because around you they are inspected.
As for some kind ow waiver for work not done to code sounds like it would not hold up in a court. Worse yet he has proof on paper that you knew your work was not done right.
I feel you pain with advertising. It's easy to tell someone elce to spend $$$ on it. But when it's you cash and money not cominging in like you need it's hard spend on it.
I also avoid trading labor. I seen too many problems.
You did not say what type of customers you have. Poor, working class, or filthy rich. A customers income leval can affect their perception of prices.
Building a book of business takes time time time. My experience has been that its not what you know (or what your prices are..) but who you know.. who you know that can & will funnel business your way. The first few years are going to be really tough unless you are an extremely patient type who isn't rattled or daunted by "big mountains to climb" so to speak, or you are just lucky real quick. Good customers will lead to other good customers, but finding the good ones is the hard part that takes so much time. And in between there are lots of quickie one-time service calls etc.. In california homes have to undergo an inspection before they get sold and these inspections often uncover problems in all the systems in a house, often including the electrical systems. I try to cozy up to realtors, property management companies and other types of business that deal in houses and have a chronic need for electrical repairs. I try and make that my bread and butter. These are non technical types (paper pushers) who don't understand electricity or building codes, yet they bear the executive responsibility for the condition of the houses they have in their hands and they need "mechanics" to get in and remedy whatever problem is holding them up (or holding up escrow closing.. which means their paycheck is being held up too.. nothing better than a "motivated" agent). It certainly isn't the most glamorous of work- no complex industrial motor control or anything- most often is small simple little things, but I get a chance to get into a place and look it over for other problems in the house, which is like having a crack at your own personal closed bid job, because you are already on scene doing the work. I don't want to knock joe & josephine homeowner who need their kitchen remodelled- god knows that pays too, but I would search out and advertise among people at in businesses that deal with houses as their business. The real estate/prop-mgmgt community has been a good friend to me and repairs lead to recommendations and passing your card on to others who "wondered if you know any good electricians..". Most of the stuff I get is t&m too.. although it has made me get lazy and out of shape when it comes to good bidding- buts thats another story Something I have found though is that realtors and other assorted paper pushing types have a real need for "connections" in the trades. They don't really understand the trades or what we do but they know they need em from time to time, and once they find a good tradesman of any kind they will pass your card around because, at least out here there are lots of RE agents who are all in the exact same boat. Hope the ideas help...