If you’ve ever owned or lived in a home that needed a little work that’s beyond your abilities, you’ve probably played with the idea of hiring a handyperson or contacting a contractor, right?
Or, perhaps you’re thinking about opting for one of these as your career choice?
Since some of their abilities often overlap, drawing the line between the two and choosing the right one for you can be a bit baffling. It’s no surprise because both handypeople and contractors are part of the same home services industry.
However, beyond a couple of surface-level similarities, they are completely different as can be seen in their cost, job size, expertise, responsibility, and licensing requirements.
In this article, we’re going to clear up the difference between a handyperson and a contractor to help you decide which one you should choose to become.
What is a Handyperson?
As its name slightly suggests, a handyperson is someone who can come in handy (pun intended) when handling small repairs or low-scale home improvements – of course, for a proper price.
While in most countries one doesn’t need a specific certification to be a handyperson, this line of work does call for some practical know-how and hands-on experience in home repairs and improvement.
Although equipped with their own tools and some level of knowledge, a handyperson typically lacks the extensive expertise and license needed to take on more complex tasks.
What does a handyperson do?
A handyperson handles the household tasks you could in theory do by consulting a couple of how-tos but lack time, energy, or desire to do so. A handyperson often understands a variety of trades, although they can specialize in some types of small or medium-sized home repairs and improvement projects.
Some of the most common tasks a handyperson could be hired for include interior patching and painting, assembling furniture, adding an on-wall shelf to a mounted TV, caulking a shower or tub, or something as simple as changing a lightbulb.
Most handypeople know enough about electrical work, plumbing, and interior decoration to perform simple tasks such as changing a light switch, fixing a leaking faucet, or painting a wall. However, for more complex home projects you’ll have to go with a contractor.
What is a Contractor?
Contractors are professionals that offer their skills and services to companies and individuals for a specified period of time whether it’s a certain number of hours, a fixed deadline, or the duration of a project in question.
What sets them apart from handypeople is that they often work as a part of an in-house crew or with external sub-contractors. Nevertheless, they can also be self-employed and run their own business.
Also, almost all contractors possess licenses and certifications, meaning they have formal proof of specialist education that allows them to take on large-scale projects. Whether self-employed or employed by a company, contractors can work on one or more contracts at the same time.
What does a contractor do?
Some of the large-scale tasks contractors can set in motion include interior and exterior house painting, roofing installation, repair and replacement, major home additions, installing an electrical panel, completing complex kitchen renovations, setting tile and marble installations, and the list goes on.
Since something like a freelance contractor doesn’t exist (unlike with handypeople), it means they can only be contacted through their company. These types of professionals are bound to keep up with licensing requirements and consider every little thing when it comes to home projects.
No matter what sort of business you want to start, you’ll likely be expected to obtain a license before making your first steps – so, what does the law say about a handyperson or a contractor?
Handypeople don’t generally require a permit to perform their work and most countries and states don’t offer special handyman licenses. That being said, if you look hard enough you’ll find several expectations in which a handyman license is a requirement.
For instance, in some US states a handyperson needs to get a specific license if they work on jobs worth $500 or more, while in others the license is required before any serious structural work is done.
While there are different types of contractors (such as general contractors, subcontractors, electricians, and such), all are required to get a contractor license which is usually provided by the government, but in some cases also by a labor union.
A contractor license will allow you to start your own contractor business, employ subcontractors, market your services, or apply for jobs that earn big bucks.
What are the main differences between a handyperson and a contractor?
Instead of comparing these two career paths at once, let’s break down the three of their main differences and see how they contrast each other.
While contractors are generally required to get licensing before offering their services, this isn’t the case with all handypeople. However, in some countries, they’ll need to have proof of insurance or to pass an exam to prove they possess the skills essential for this line of work.
So, before making any moves, check out your country’s laws and regulations concerning the handyperson permit, licensing, or any additional requirements.
Also, it’s a smart idea to get in touch with local contractors and find out more about the types of tasks you’re allowed to perform as a handyman and as a contractor.
Cost and job size
Since the scope of handyperson’s service is smaller, it’s no surprise that their cost is smaller too. Most of the time they work alone or with one helper only meaning they have low overhead. Also, in many countries, a handyperson is allowed to take jobs up to a specific value and it usually varies between $500 and $2,500.
Handyperson’s services include smaller job sizes such as simple home repairs and uncomplicated maintenance tasks, while a contractor is able to cover more challenging, complicated, multiple-day projects that require both specific permits and licenses. With the complexity of the job the overhead also rises, which is why contractors usually have higher wages.
As for expertise, a handyperson should possess a fair share of know-how across multiple fields, which means they can take on a wide variety of home projects that are at a low or medium level of difficulty.
On the other hand, a contractor is commonly a single-field specialist and possesses a wide knowledge of a specific trade, which means they are able to carry out everything from the simplest tasks to large-scale projects.
Since working on higher-scale projects comes together with higher responsibility and risk, contractors have to undergo a much stricter licensing procedure than handypeople.
Which should you choose to be?
The answer to this question depends on your previous professional experience, personal preference, and business plans.
So, if you have a bit of experience in home maintenance and repair, enjoy working on simple, low-scale projects, and don’t mind being self-employed – becoming a handyperson might be your best bet.
However, if you’re a well-versed veteran of your trade that has previously participated in an apprenticeship program and wants to start your own business and tackle complex, large-scale projects – becoming a contractor might be the smartest move.