5 Freelancing Lessons from My Remodeling Contractor

Michelle TauteMost days I work at home, and over the past few months, we’ve embarked on a remodeling project that involves cutting a hole in the ceiling and installing a spiral staircase to our roof deck. And when I say “we,” I really mean the nice man who shows up every day and makes sure this grand plan happens without rain or snow coming into our house.

The whole thing is messy, loud and generally disruptive. There’s pretty much no way around that. But I’ve also picked up a few good business lessons amidst all the drywall dust.

1.)    Communicate about problems. When our contractor ripped down the ceiling, he found beams much smaller than the architect’s plans. But he told us about the problem right away, why it happened, how he was going to fix it and what extra costs were involved. We ended up trusting him more because he was so upfront about the issue.

2.)    Have a sense of humor. On day two of the project our Walker Coonhound managed to break into the contractor’s lunch box and scarf down five pieces of pizza. The contractor laughed it off, and we bought him lunch a couple weeks later. If he’d been irritated or angry, I’m not sure the relationship would have gotten off on such a good foot. Let the small stuff slide.

3.)    Change is painful. We’ve wanted to do this project for two years, but in our minds, we were imagining the gleaming finished product–not two months of dust and demolition. For me, it’s a reminder to be more empathetic when clients want that finished report or revamped brand but aren’t always so eager to dig up numbers or tear apart the old tagline.

4.)    Do what you say you’re going to do. When you say you’re going to do it. Hitting project deadlines is a no brainer, but what about all those other small milestones you toss out to clients? Our contractor has given us accurate time frames for everything from receiving the initial estimate to when the lumber would show up in the backyard.

5.)    Clean up your messes. Before he leaves for the day, our contractor always vacuums up the dust and moves his tools out of the way. For my business, this translates into tying up all those little loose ends for clients. Am I responding to questions quickly? Helping editors track down artwork they might need to go with my story? It’s tempting to let these small tasks drag out longer than they should, especially when other deadlines are looming.

3 thoughts on “5 Freelancing Lessons from My Remodeling Contractor

  1. Rachel

    Michelle –

    Great post. Firstly, I just have to congratulate you on finding what sounds like a great contractor – that can be hard to do!

    Secondly and more importantly, I have to say amen to tip #4 – Do what you say you’re going to do. When you say you’re going to do it. In my business life as a marketing copywriter (and actually in my personal life too), I live and operate by this credo. It’s so important in establishing trust and credibility and, ultimately, a profitable business.

    I have been on the client side too and I can’t tell you how many service providers I’ve used that failed to abide by this lesson…I definitely didn’t use them for long!

    Again, great lessons…

  2. Michelle Taute

    Thanks for you comments, Rachel! I definitely lucked out on the contractor, who came highly recommended from a friend.

    And, yeah, I think #4 is a big one. It sound easy, but I think it’s much harder to do it in practice (at least ALL the time). A good reminder for all of us.

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