How to Become a Handyman or Licensed Contractor

Are you looking to start a contracting business but do not know where to start? Are you feeling overwhelmed and lost? Do not worry.

No matter your experience level or area of expertise, becoming a profitable handyman can be achieved by following the steps below.

How to Become a Licensed Contractor

Evaluate your skill level

The most essential step in the process of becoming a handyman is to first evaluate yourself to recognize the contracting skills you possess and/or lack. This evaluation can help you decide what your area of expertise will be, or what services you would like to offer.

Many people assume that a handyman should possess every skill imaginable, but this is largely a misconception. Many successful contractors run their business by offering a specific and limited set of services.

Some areas of work you may want to consider include HVAC, electrical, plumbing, masonry, cable installation, lawn care, or various repair services.

Review state laws

Once you decide the set of services you would like to offer customers, you must learn about the contract laws and guidelines for your area. Contracting laws are different in each state, and some services may require you to obtain a license to legally offer them.

An example of this is the state of North Carolina. North Carolina requires a license for offering HVAC services, and a job worth more than $1000 requires a contracting license.

A great place to begin researching the state guidelines for contractors is to visit your state’s contractor board website.

Find your customers

Starting any type of business cannot be a successful endeavor without defining your clientele. Focusing your services toward a specific group or groups of people can help maximize your earned profit.

Ensuring customer satisfaction can help your business grow with referrals and recommendations, and in turn will help grow your success.

If you offer your services to uninterested or dissatisfied clients, you might be forced to lower the price of your services in addition to the quality of your work completed. Targeting a specific audience to gain customers will help your contracting business flourish.

Researching your ideal clientele will allow you to more easily attract favorable customers.

Have reasonable pricing

Similar to any beginning business, it is imperative that you research reasonable and affordable price points for your desired customers.

Oftentimes this aspect of running a business can be the most difficult, as there are many everchanging factors to take into account. The quality of work and skill level you are able to offer should be heavily taken into account here.

Many contractors choose an arbitrary number to set as their hourly rate or fixed price projects, but using a cost-based pricing model is highly recommended for this step. Basing the prices you charge on the cost of completion can help guarantee that you will gain a profit for any project you complete.

Have a plan for marketing

After identifying your desired client base, it is necessary to determine how you will market yourself and your services to the people you wish to work for.

One of the many benefits of the contracting world is that there is a never-ending supply of work, as people are constantly looking to rebuild, update, or start projects from scratch. While this is a positive, the large amount of work available also means that the contracting business can easily become very competitive.

This can sound intimidating, but never fear. With the right marketing plan in place, you can easily stand out as a quality handyman.

To design an effective marketing strategy, it is important that you make note of how to best relate to your clients. Creating a website or placing advertisements in high traffic areas in person or online is another great way to inform the public about your business.

Getting Your Contracting License

As stated previously, to offer certain handyman services in some states may require a license. To obtain a license, it is recommended that you complete the following tasks:

  • Research contracting guidelines in your area. The State Board of Contractors is a reputable resource to learn about the contracting laws you need to abide by.
  • Locate a contracting association. Associations such as these may be able to offer insight into the licenses you need to obtain to be a practicing handyman.
  • Obtain training. To become legally licensed, you may need to complete some form of official training from an agency or institution.
  • Take a test. Many states require testing before obtaining a license
  • Apply for licensing. After passing the exams and tests required, you will need to complete an application for a license. The timeframe for obtaining one may change from state to state.

Helpful Tips

If after following these steps you are still unsure about how to become a contractor, here are several additional tips to follow.

Trade School or Community College

Small-scale institutions or colleges may offer educational or training courses in different areas of expertise, which may include electrical, plumbing, or HVAC.

Taking a course can be an excellent way to begin a contracting business, as it will ensure that you possess the necessary skills to perform a quality level of work for your clients. Taking a course may also help you expand the services you can offer.

In some states it may be a requirement to take such courses in order to obtain the necessary licensing for contracting work.


Volunteering for community organizations that complete contracting projects, such as Habitat for Humanity can be helpful when becoming a handyman. Participating in such projects will help you gain experience under the guidance of those who possess the skills you want to perfect.

In addition to community organizations, you may want to dedicate your time to assisting a local contractor or handyman.


One of the best ways to gain experience in the contracting business is to practice. Practicing on your own or your family and friends’ homes is an easy way to do this. Completing improvement projects like window installation, laying molding or crowning, constructing fixtures, or fixing plumbing are just a few of the examples available to you.

With any project you wish to complete, it is best to conduct research first. Oftentimes this step can be as easy as an internet search/

Making mistakes is an inevitable step of the learning process, so practicing on projects where the stakes are low and you have room for error is an excellent way to learn and improve your skills.

Conduct Research

The internet is an excellent place to find a myriad of resources to learn about contracting work. Many websites and platforms offer information on how to complete projects or enhance skills.

Locate a Mentor

Learning from others is an excellent way to reinforce your skills or learn how to complete new projects.

Establishing a relationship with someone who has experience and knows the ins and outs of the contracting world can be extremely beneficial, and will eventually help you stand on your own two feet to be a successful handyman.

Where to Begin: What Skills to Have

Being a “handyman” is kind of an ambiguous description, so you may be curious as to what specific skills you should possess. There is more to contracting than the obvious HVAC or electrical work. To be a successful handyman, you do not need to have every single skill under the sun, but the more tasks you are able to complete, the more money you will be able to make.

Here is a list of some basic skills you may want to focus or improve on when becoming a contractor:

  • Locating studs
  • Repairing tiles
  • Filling/spackling holes
  • Caulking a shower or bathtub
  • Unclogging/snaking a drain
  • Sealing concrete cracks
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Changing a doorknob
  • Painting (walls, windows, etc)
  • Replacing screened windows or doors
  • Unclog toilets

Start your Business Today

By following the steps and recommendations listed above, it is guaranteed that you will be able to begin your successful handyman business. Be sure to complete thorough research and obtain the necessary skills and licensing to optimize your profit.