Author Topic: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?  (Read 1429 times)

Offline HandyManTex

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Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« on: November 13, 2013, 11:10:13 AM »
Hey everyone, new guy here. I currently work full-time in a cubicle prison and do apartment maintenance part-time. The apartment gig allows me to dabble in several types of handyman jobs however, I'm lacking in appliance repair. I have done some basic stuff up until this point. I've replaced dryer fuses and installed a dishwasher. That's about it on appliance repair.

My question is this...I'm thinking about starting my own handyman/appliance repair business on the side and working it until I can hopefully take it full-time. Is it worth it in this day and age? I've read some posts about how customers would oftentimes rather buy new versus getting their existing products fixed.

What are your opinions on this? I've reserved the book, "Troubleshooting and Repairing Major Appliances" by Eric Kleinert at the library to find out whether or not I want to buy it and to help increase my skills.

I'm also pretty good at also learning via YouTube videos and such. I can usually observe something once and then have it down. Any other learning tools you guys/gals can recommend?

Thanks!  O0

Offline whirlpooltech

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2013, 12:44:40 PM »
Last year I decided to it was time to change careers after working for myself as a appliance repair technician for 25 years.

Seen a ad in the local paper for a maintenance position at one of our local hospitals. Was told I was one of a dozen guys that applied for the job, but I was the only one that had any real troubleshooting experience.

Long story short, they made me a offer I could not turn down. Their starting wage (first offer) would have had me making about 20% more then what I made the year before. Told them that was not enough for me to quit what I had going for me now. The offer I finally ended up excepting was another $4/hour more then their first offer.

That is just the wages, there are also many benefits. Vacation in accumulated by the number of hours you put in a week. After my first year of working 40 hour weeks I accumulated just about three weeks of vacation. I had to be there just six months before I was able to start using vacation time. They also have a pension that is 100% funded by them.

Anything over 8 hours in a day is time and a half. My regular hours are from 8:00-4:00 with a one hour paid lunch. I'm on call every other weekend and every other week for evenings, but not much happens that can't wait until the next day to be repaired. But if I do get called in it's double time for me.

I do miss running service calls, but on the other hand it's nice to not have to work as hard as I use to and make more money.

Seemed kind of strange at first to be making more money changing light bulbs then running all over the country repairing appliances, but after doing it for over a year now I have gotten use to it. :D
« Last Edit: November 13, 2013, 12:54:16 PM by whirlpooltech »

Offline schleven

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2013, 03:35:34 PM »
I have been working on my own for three years. I have always had a gift of geing able to fix things. I work about 30 to 40 hours a week and I will make about 50k profit this year. My profit goes up each year as I tighten up the area I work and get more repeat and referrals. 95% of my customers choose to have the appliance repaired.
The hardest part is getting customers when you are new. If you are fair, on time, and honest, you will build a business.
I will never work for someone else again!
"It's not what happens to you, it's what you do about it"

Offline RAH52

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2013, 06:26:04 PM »
Whirlpooltech if I got an offer remotely as good as yours I'd be gone in a heartbeat .






Offline wildimaginations

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2013, 06:42:48 AM »
There is so much to learn in this field.  Not only will you need to know appliance repairs, you will need to know electrical schematics and how to read them quickly.  You will need to know the principles of gas appliance operations.  You will also need to know customer service and how to handle an angry customer who just got ripped off by the last tech before you. 

I believe that the appliance repair industry is still a viable business that will keep you busy for many years to come.  I'm approaching my 10th year in my own business.  I'm so busy that I have to refer some of my calls to my competitors because I have no time slots available for them.  So yes, keep learning and keep doing.  You will get better with time.



WhirlpooltechI don't envy you at all.  I've been in that corporate world before this and I really enjoy the freedom of doing my own work when I feel like doing it.  It sounds like the money is really good so I wish you best in life.
Appliance Service Technician
Authorized servicer on LG appliances.
About 45 mins east of San Francisco

Offline HandyManTex

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2013, 02:15:18 PM »
Thanks to all of you who replied. It's good to know that the trade is still alive and well. It's something that has interested me for quite awhile. I finally had to reach the point to where I can no longer sit in an office all day. I've worked as a technical writer for about 12 years now and I'm done.

What is the best way to learn other than reading about the repairs? Is it best to just get out there and do it, seeking help when I need it?

It's also good to see both sides of the coin (those that are self-employed versus those that work for the corporate world). I'd really like to take the self-employment route. How do you guys market? I assume word of mouth is probably your biggest method, but what about when getting started?

Thanks again!

Offline AJ

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2013, 04:55:58 PM »
Hi HandyManTex,

What does a technical writer do?

Quote
How do you guys market? I assume word of mouth is probably your biggest method, but what about when getting started?

For anyone starting out I would highly recommend that you start branding yourself online. Be it a website, Facebook, Twitter or what have you.
As with word of mouth it can also take time to build up your online advertising campaign.

Advertising online is something you can probably do yourself, but if you need any help let me know. I have about 7 years of web publishing experiance now.

If your going to register a domain name I would highly recommend using either http://www.namecheap.com or https://www.godaddy.com
Hosting is another issue and I would not recommend hosting a website with either of them two.

Here is a website I created for one of our members.
http://northcountryappliance.com

At this time I also provide the hosting for his site.

So have you actually quit your tech writer job then?
Hope you find our site helpful.

Offline andersenappliance

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2013, 06:01:18 PM »
I don't know that the appliance repair industry is 'really' alive and well.

You may want to consider the following:

You will need to know a wide variety of skills:  Electrical, Electronics, Gas, Plumbing, Refrigeration, Mechanical, High Voltage, and more.

But that accumulation of all of these skills will be dedicated to the repair of a variety of units that have a relatively low upper limit on what the customer will spend.  If the cost of your repair approaches 50% of the cost of replacement, then the customer is just as likely to buy a new one, or even spend their money to buy a used one.  For example, you can buy a used washer for the cost of repairing your current washer.  Normally you can't do that with, say, a car for example.  You certainly can't do that with an apartment.  So, these skills which are in high demand in other sectors, do not command the same money in this sector. 

You will be working on a pretty specific field.  Appliance techs get appliance calls, but not much else.  Handymen get all kinds of different calls.  Plumbers work on plumbing, but since there is no option to buy a new house, their billing is not constrained by the replacement cost of the unit.  This means that they bill more, and get paid more.  You can buy a drain snake for $250, and have it paid for in the first call.  There is a good chance that your first repair estimate of $250 in the appliance field will be turned down.

It seems to be the trend that the manufacturers do not want to support the techs working on their machines.  High cost of tech support subscriptions, requirements for insurance, background checks, credit and piss tests, and the dictation of payment schedules as well as parts supply make it hard to work for these companies on anything like an independent basis.  Even Sears seems to focus more on selling new units or extended warranties than on actually repairing the machines.

There are also rumors going around about disposable machines, and ones that self-diagnose, both of which will limit your ability to
keep up a good business.

I also think that quite a bit of the guys on this board are 'old-timers.'  I am not sure that there are that many 20 & 30-somethings who are going into the repair field.  I recently had a RE broker ask me where all of the appliance repair guys are these days.  I asked him what the most he'd pay for a repair was.  He answered that in general not more than $200, depending upon the brand.  That, and he only calls one if his handyman can't do the job.  So he wants a cheap appliance repair guy available if his even cheaper guy can't do the job, but then he won't pay for the increased technical knowledge - he'll just replace instead.

Bottom line:  I would recommend learning these and other skills as a handyman.  I'd then go and get a general contractor's license, and cover my bases that way.  Then I'd sell myself as a maintenance service, and market to apartments, property management, commercial real estate, and keep myself busy with better paying jobs and a wider prospect of them.  You can still do appliances, but I'm not sure I'd focus on them.

Does anybody disagree with my points?


Offline AJ

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2013, 06:46:31 PM »
Videos are great, but don't forget to read a few service manuals too.
Our master collection of appliance service manuals and other training manuals can be found at this URL.

http://appliancejunk.com/googledrive

Hope you find our site helpful.

Offline HandyManTex

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2013, 09:56:43 AM »
Hi Andersen, you pose a very valid point. I was definitely thinking about continuing as a handyman, offering several different services. I live in Oregon and will definitely need to obtain a contractor license, insurance, bonding, etc.

Hi AJ, yes I still work as a tech writer. I will need to until I can start to build up a business. As a tech writer, I write manuals. Right now I work for a major trucking corporation and I write workshop manuals, maintenance manuals, drivers manuals, etc. Tech writers basically write "how-to" guides for both software and hardware. It's not a bad job, but I'm tired of it. Really, I'm moreso tired of sitting at a desk all day, staring at cubicle walls.

One other thing...I've read on this board (and other places) how working for Sears as a maintenance tech is not a very good job however, I have applied with them because I feel I could gain some good experience that I could take out on my own. Their HR called and left me a message yesterday. Do you guys agree with the assumption that it might be a good place to start? I've even thought about doing the apartment maintenance gig full-time but I'm not certain it would be the best move. That's kind of my deal....not sure of where I should start. I will take a huge cut in pay either way, but at this point I don't really care. I've learned that the money definitely does NOT buy happiness. I think my wife is tired of hearing me moan and groan about it all!

Thanks for the advice guys. You are all a really big help.  O0
« Last Edit: November 15, 2013, 10:01:23 AM by HandyManTex »

Offline andersenappliance

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2013, 10:14:59 AM »
I think Sears would be an excellent place to get started.

They will give you two tests:

One is an ethics test that will ask about how much you can justifiably steal from your employer, whether you like to beat people up or not, and other similar questions.  Answer that one from the employer's perspective and you should do ok.

The other one is mostly on how to use a volt-ohm meter, and the wiring in typical sockets.  If you know basic household electric, and are familiar with the meter's use, you should pass that one no problem.

I passed the tests, but didn't make it through the interview because my appliance repair experience was in my own business.  I guess they were concerned that either I would not do it their way, or would be side-jobbing them with their customers.  Seems like a reasonable concern.

Good luck.

Offline HandyManTex

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Re: Career in the trade...Is it worth it nowadays?
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2013, 10:22:17 AM »
Thanks Andersen. Yeah, I already took the ethics test. I guess I passed that one since they called. LOL. Thanks for the heads-up on the second test. Looks like I need to refresh myself on basic electrical. I'm self-taught with everything I know, so a lot of times I don't do as well on the test portions and the "official" ways of doing things. The property management company I work part-time for has some great online courses, one of them being basic electrical. I will take that this weekend.

That seems a bit nuts on their end for not hiring you because you were self-employed. I think you are probably right...they may have thought they couldn't "mold" you the way they wanted to.

Thanks again!

 

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