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The pandemic drove people to fix up their homes. Here’s how you can cash in

TaskRabbit is a freelancer-friendly site that allows independent contractors to define what they do and set their own rates.
(Essdras M Suarez / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

When the pandemic sent the world home to work, Americans looked around and came to a near-universal conclusion: Their residences needed improvement.

Whether due to a lack of dedicated office space, an outdated bathroom or kitchen or simply poor lighting and frayed carpets, many who have been working from home felt the need to renovate.

Residential construction has soared since the pandemic’s start in 2020. According to construction analyst Ed Zarenski, spending on residential construction jumped 22% in 2021 and is expected to continue growing in 2022.

This spells opportunity for people who can do anything from plumbing to interior design. But how do you nab these jobs?

Jobs working on homes

In this first of two reports on how to find home improvement jobs, we examine options for construction tradespeople: electricians, plumbers, painters, builders and handymen/women. Next week, we’ll look at where you can find work in interior design and landscaping. (And, by the way, if you’re not looking for work but are looking for workers, these sites are great places to find contractors, too.)

However, it’s worth noting that some of the best-known online platforms aimed at construction trades have been abandoned by many skilled contractors. Why? They nick contractors for steep upfront referral fees that often prove useless. ThumbTack, HomeAdvisor and Bark all fall into this category. Another well-known site, Handy, is panned by contractors for other reasons. Most significant, it fines workers for showing up even a few minutes late or for having to reschedule. In today’s tight job market, skilled workers don’t need to put up with these practices, so they avoid these sites.

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Several lesser-known sites provide valuable help finding work, and contractors can often use them free of charge.

Nextdoor

Consider the social media app Nextdoor. Officially, it has little to do with contractors or finding work. The site is mainly a way for neighbors to talk to other neighbors about everything from lost dogs to local ordinances. Yet, depending on where you live, it can be a great place to find prospective clients for your building, plumbing, electrical, heating, painting or appliance-repair business.

Why does it depend on where you live? Because Nextdoor employs an army of volunteer “neighborhood leads.” These leads decide what is and isn’t appropriate to post. They often shut down both political and commercial discussions. But because the site gives neighborhood leads great discretion, some allow posts that are practically advertising; others cut them off.

However, what is rarely eliminated are posts written by happy clients, recommending your work. This sort of sincere neighborhood referral is what many users are looking for from the site. If your neighborhood lead won’t let you post before-and-after photos of your latest project, you may be able to get a happy client to do so. Indeed, providing customers with an incentive — even a small one, like $50 off a $1,000 job — to recommend you on Nextdoor and/or Yelp could be the best advertising money you’ll ever spend.

TaskRabbit

In its early years, TaskRabbit got plenty of flak for strong-arming freelancers into accepting jobs they didn’t want. It has since morphed into a freelancer-friendly site that allows independent contractors to define what they do and set their own rates. Outside of a small setup charge, the site’s fees are paid by clients, not contractors.

Although the site allows workers to offer a wide array of services, including shopping, delivery and cleaning, a good portion are for household projects: painting, plumbing, pruning, hanging pictures and assembling furniture.

Contractors can set a standard hourly rate or vary their rates based on the job. It’s common for plumbers, electricians and other contractors to charge $75 to $100 or more per hour.

Houzz

If you’ve ever contemplated a remodel, you’ve probably run into Houzz, a beautiful website that provides information and resources on everything related to home improvement.

The site allows providers of general contracting, landscaping, interior design and more to sign up and post a profile. It’s free to post a profile with photos of your past projects. The site also makes it easy to get your past customers to review you and connect your Houzz profile to your Facebook profile.

The catch? When you do post a profile, you’re likely to get pitched to join Houzz’s “pro” network, which will charge you monthly to advertise your services on the site. Contractors say these advertising agreements cost a small fortune, don’t necessarily pull in any new business and are nearly impossible to cancel. Most of the agreements are 12-month contracts that automatically renew.

Our advice: Post a free profile, but don’t answer the phone when Houzz’s sales representatives start calling.

ToolBelt

If you live on the West Coast, one of the best places to find contracting work is ToolBelt. This young online platform allows plumbers, electricians and others to search for open jobs for free.

However, contractors who need workers and subcontractors may have to pay to advertise their openings. Although the site’s advertising rates are substantial, contractors who use the site generally rave about it. It is available in California, Washington and Oregon.

JiffyOnDemand

Another great place to find work, depending on where you live, is JiffyOnDemand. This site connects consumers needing repair or maintenance work with contractors who are willing and able to do it. However, Jiffy sets the rates and pays contractors 82% to 88% of the set rate. (The bigger the job, the lower the site’s commission.) That differs from most of the other sites, which allow contractors to set their own rates.

That said, Jiffy’s rates are generally reasonable. Lawn care, for instance, is charged at $50 per hour, appliance repair at $75 per hour and electrical work at $100 per hour. But Jiffy operates only in Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa.

Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy.


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