Just because you’re not doing as many home inspections in the winter months, that doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off. These tips, provided by veteran inspectors and small business experts, will help you build your business even if new clients aren’t pouring in.
Expand Your Skills
“Diversify,” says William Decker, Senior Inspector with Decker Home Services in Skokie, Illinois. “…The model for my company is complete home inspection services. I not only do pre-purchase inspections, I also do pre-listing, maintenance inspections and energy audits.”
Decker says that about half of his business comes from services he offers outside of pre-purchase home inspections. The extra income keeps the business viable when home buying slows down.
Of course you don’t have to go at this job alone. Groups like ASHI, NAHI and InterNACHI not only offer conferences and continuing education credits, they also offer invaluable support systems for home inspectors breaking into the field.
“New [home inspectors] should look at joining ASHI and finding a local chapter for local support, education, camaraderie and mentoring,” says Bob Sisson, owner of Inspections By Bob in Boyds, Maryland.
Test New Toys
That infrared camera you’ve been eyeing…that moisture meter you’ve had in the back of your mind…that amazing home inspection software for the iPhone or iPad that provides five inspections for free…Well, now’s the time to take them for a test drive. To ensure that you’re prepared to provide a better, more thorough home inspection service for next year, test the new tools and toys you’ve been salivating over during the off season. Find something that works and your job could be a lot cooler once business starts flooding back in.
Find a Back-Up
That vacation you didn’t get to take last year? You’re going to disappoint your family again next year if you can’t find someone to take up the slack while you take a break.
“Take the time to make friends with a few inspectors in your area,” says Michael Wirth, co-founder of Tap Inspect. “It’s always helpful to have another point of view on the market, to talk over problems and to refer clients when you finally get a vacation.”
Connecting with the competition benefits your clients as well. Your business will be taken care of in your absence and you’ll have extra work when your business buddy takes his much-needed break.
“Don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from others who are willing to share,” tweeted James Brantley, owner of Magnolia Home Inspections, LLC in Brandon, Missouri.
As the home inspection season winds down, conferences and networking events ramp up with the ASHI Inspection World Conference landing smack dab in the middle. Take advantage by making connections with veteran inspectors who can answer your questions and solve problems.
Account For Yourself
Sure you know how much money you billed out last year, but do you have any idea how much you actually made once gas, office supplies, car maintenance, office space and employee payroll are taken out? Taking a cold, hard look at your financials and calculating your per hour net pay can indicate whether you’re actually earning wealth or bringing in money just to see it go again.
Offer Something for Nothing
To get your foot in the door with new clients, William Decker of Decker Home Services says that he offers free safety inspections to clients who want their home to have a good once-over.
“[Safety inspections, usually at the beginning of the heating season] only take about 10 minutes to complete and they’re free,” Decker says. “I tell clients that I won’t fix anything, but I will tell them what’s wrong. You’d be surprised how much that little bit of good will helps.”
Mark Up Your Marketing
Your inspections might be spot-on, but they could be overlooked if your marketing is poor. Welmoed Sisson, Marketing Director of Inspections By Bob, says that new inspectors should take the slow season to revamp their social media strategy, rework their web sites if needed and take a careful look at the message they’re sending potential clients.
“Work on your marketing materials,” she says. “Order flyers and business cards…Are you using the same flyers from last year and the year before?”
Think Outside the Box
Home inspectors, builders and real estate agents can give you contacts, but so can those outside of the home and real estate professions. William Decker says that one way that he connects with members of his community is through his local chamber of commerce and through general networking groups like BNI and LeTip International. General networking communities often break members into smaller, diverse groups.
“In those kinds of groups, only one person can be a lawyer or a real estate agent or a home inspector,” he says. Decker’s group meets once a week over breakfast to exchange leads, critique each other’s elevator pitches and improve on each member’s public speaking skills. Thus far, Decker’s networking groups have connected him with several leads as well as a reliable handyman and a remodeler.
“If you know somebody that you can personally vouch for, that’s good,” he says. “It’s a marketing multiplier for you and a service multiplier for your client.”
See the Family
If you don’t decompress, at least a little now, you’ll be a mess once business kicks back into high gear. In the midst of testing, accounting and networking your fanny off, take a breather. Once clients start calling again, you’ll be glad you did.