It pays to be handy — if you’re in the right city at the right time, and you charge the right rate.
When his mother was alive, Brian Keith Schrier was her go-to handyman. “Even when I didn’t know how to do it, she had faith in me to figure it out,” he says. “I would learn how to do it. When I was young, I used to take everything apart and didn’t always get them back together. I enjoy figuring things out.”
He has worked in construction and owned a petition management company, which collected signatures for special interest groups to put issues on the ballot and, in 2014, Schrier, 45, found himself at a career crossroads. He signed up to work for TaskRabbit, the online marketplace that allows users to outsource small jobs to others that, along with other odd-job service apps such as Handy and Fiverr, partnered with Amazon Home Services earlier this month to offer handyman services.
Schrier, who lives in San Francisco, spoke to MarketWatch about how he can earn up to $14,000 a month doing odd jobs.
MarketWatch: How did you come to work as a handyman?
Schrier: I had a friend stay with me who had moved to San Francisco from Missouri and he picked up TaskRabbit for some side work, he’d come home and brag about it. He showed me all the jobs that he could pick from and talked about it until it was actually a bit of an annoyance.
MarketWatch: What do you charge?
Schrier: I charge $150 an hour. I used to do minor home repair and handyman things, but since my rate went up, mostly I do more of the specialized tasks that take a higher skill: Electrical plumbing, TV mounts and things like that. Some of the other categories like deliveries and IKEA furniture assembly, most of the people who do those charge cheaper rates, so I don’t really get picked for that anymore.
MarketWatch: What did you start out at?
Schrier: $20 to $25 an hour.
MarketWatch: Whoa! That’s quite a jump.
Schrier: I was working between 12 and 16 hours a day and I was getting way, way too much work. I didn’t know how to say no to that work. I started raising that rate to meet supply and demand. I just wanted to reduce my hours. I enjoyed fixing a problem from scratch rather than putting together IKEA furniture. It’s more important.
MarketWatch: Does it get complicated?
Schrier: Yes, if someone wants a chandelier hung but there isn’t an electrical socket. Sometimes you have to reroute the electrical wiring for that stuff.
MarketWatch: So how much are you making these days?
Schrier: I have a pretty major project in my life right now. Normally, I will work 20 to 25 hours a week. I’ve been working a bit more this month. I think I’m at about $14,000 this month.
MarketWatch: Did you say 14,000? Is that rubles or dollars?
Schrier: We have a way of checking on our app. It’s exactly $13,976 for 30 days.
MarketWatch: wow. That must have been a particularly big project. You are clearly busy. I recently had a tasker who earns about $3,000 a month, but he only charges $38 an hour and that’s in New York.
Schrier: They’ve given me a huge lift. I had to fix a door, sand and re-stain a banister and hang a chandelier.
Podcast: These blue-collar workers make $100,000 a year
MarketWatch: Yes, you really have to be careful, especially with expensive items like chandeliers. Does TaskRabbit pay you to do PR for them?
Schrier: No. TaskRabbit has done a lot for me and I’m more than happy to give back where I can. They’ve given me the freedom to work when I want to work, to take days off when I want, to pick and choose the jobs I want to do. I made a midlife career change that was really scary and it put me in a great place.
MarketWatch: Do you have children?
Schrier: I have three kids and they’re all grown, going to school and starting their own lives…
MarketWatch: Do people really pay $150 to mount a TV in San Francisco?
Schrier: At that rate they get peace of mind that I’m going to get it done right.
MarketWatch: How did you get so handy? And what’s the most common task?
Schrier: I’ve picked it up along the way. I grew up on my father’s ranch in Eastern Oregon. TV mounting is the most common task. I usually get picked for one of the most complicated mounts. Drill into their wall and make holes. I get picked a lot more for those.
MarketWatch: I am picturing a nice San Francisco townhouse and a Silicon Valley millionaire who can write complex computer codes, but doesn’t know how to use a hammer and a nail.
Schrier: The tech industry is moving into this city, starting off fresh. I do get a lot of younger clients. As far as male and female, I think it’s pretty even.
Schrier: Well, I think it’s slightly more female.
MarketWatch: Has anyone ever hit on you or flirtted with you?
Schrier: I just had that experience a week ago. It wasn’t the client, it was the client’s neighbor. As soon as the client left, she told me how lonely she was. It was really awesome. All I did was bounce across the house with different tasks. So I didn’t engage in that conversation. Afterwards, it was really funny but at the time, it was more, ‘Oh, boy, lady.’ When the client came back, I told her in a lighthearted way. I didn’t want the client to feel like she had put me in a bad position.
MarketWatch: What’s the oddest job you’ve had?
Schrier: I got hired to fold T-shirts for $70 an hour. It really blew my mind that someone needed to do that. It was a startup that needed them done right away.
MarketWatch: Nice work, if you can get it.
Schrier: For some of these jobs that I do, the only other alternative is to hire a contractor. They’ll say, ‘I’ll hang that TV, but I’ll charge you for half a day’s labor.’ For me, I can hang a TV in less than an hour or access behind a bookshelf to get to a phone plug and it’s still cheaper than having a contractor. Many movers charge a four-hour minimum.
MarketWatch: Any challenging tasks?
Schrier: I will get a job when the client is really not in a good mood. That’s a little bit stressful. I’m kind of walking on egg shells. I’ve still got that job to do, but in the back of my mind I’m wondering if their world is dark like that, if that is going to spill over to me in my review.
MarketWatch: I still wouldn’t call $150 an hour cheap.
Schrier: Maybe people have gone through some bad experiences and they’re just not ready to roll the dice anymore. I get as much work as I want. With this amount of work, I could raise my rate, but at this point I really don’t want to. I’m not greedy. I’m going to keep it where it’s at.
MarketWatch: And now you have more business through Amazon AMZN, +1.49% .
Schrier: I have my first actual appearance for Amazon later today. The client’s RV has gotten some water damage. They want the roof of the RV stripped off and weather sealed and made strong enough so they can put some lawn chairs on that and hang out. The client’s out in Treasure Island.
MarketWatch: Treasure Island! That’s the perfect place to end.
(This interview was originally published in April 2015.)