When Covid sent the world home to work, Americans looked around and came to near-universal conclusion. Their personal residences needed improvement. Whether it was the lack of dedicated office space, an outdated bath or kitchen, or simply poor lighting and frayed carpets, working at home has spurred a nationwide trend of working on homes.

Indeed, since the pandemic’s 2020 start, residential construction has soared. According to construction analyst Ed Zarenski, spending on residential construction jumped 22% in 2021 and is expected to continue growing strongly into 2022.

This spells opportunity for people who can do anything from plumbing to interior design. But how do you nab these jobs?

Jobs working on homes

In this first part of a two-part series on where to find work working on homes, we examine options for construction tradespeople — electricians, plumbers, painters, builders and handymen/women. Next week, we’ll look at where you can find work in interior design and landscaping. (And, by the way, if you’re not looking for work — but are looking for workers for your home — these same sites are great places to find contractors, too.)

However, it’s worth noting that some of the best-known online platforms aimed at construction trades have been abandoned by many skilled contractors. Why? They nick contractors for steep up-front referral fees that often prove useless. Thumbtack, HomeAdvisor, and Bark all fall into this category. Handy — also a well-known site — is panned by contractors for other reasons. Most significantly, it fines workers for showing up even a few minutes late or for having to reschedule. In today’s tight job market, skilled workers don’t need to put up with these practices, so they avoid these sites.

But several lesser-known sites not only provide valuable help finding work, contractors can often use these sites for free.

Nextdoor

Consider the social media app, Nextdoor. Officially, it has little to do with contractors or finding work. The site is mainly a way for neighbors to talk to other neighbors about everything from lost dogs to local ordinances. And yet, depending on where you live, it can be a great place to find prospective clients for your building, plumbing, electrical, heating, painting or appliance repair business.

Why does it depend on where you live? Because Nextdoor employs an army of volunteer “neighborhood leads.” These leads decide what is and isn’t appropriate to post. They often shut down both political and commercial discussions. But because the site gives neighborhood leads great discretion, some allow posts that are near-advertising messages. Others cut them off.

However, what is rarely eliminated are posts written by happy clients, recommending your work. In reality, this sort of sincere neighborhood referral is what many users are looking for from the site. If your neighborhood lead won’t let you post before-and-after photos of your latest project, you may be able to get a happy client to do so. Indeed, providing customers an incentive — even a small one like $50 off on a $1,000 job — to recommend you on Nextdoor and/or Yelp could be the best advertising money you’ve ever spent.

TaskRabbit

In its early years, TaskRabbit got plenty of flak for strong-arming freelancers into accepting jobs they didn’t want. It has since morphed into a freelancer-friendly site that allows independent contractors to define what they do and set their own rates. Outside of a small set-up charge, the site’s fees are paid by clients, not contractors.

Although the site allows workers to offer a wide array of services here, including shopping, delivery and cleaning, a good portion of the services are for household projects, ranging from painting, plumbing, and pruning, to hanging pictures and assembling furniture.

Contractors can set a standard hourly rate or vary their rates based on the job. It’s common for plumbers, electricians and other contractors to charge $75 to $100 or more per hour.

Houzz

If you’ve ever contemplated a remodel, you’ve probably run into Houzz — a beautiful website that provides information and resources on everything home-improvement related.

The site allows providers of everything from general contracting to landscaping and interior design to sign up and post a profile on the site. It’s free to post a profile, replete with photos of your past projects. The site also makes it easy to get your past customers to review you and connect your Houzz profile to your Facebook profile.

The catch? When you do post a profile, you’re likely to get pitched to join Houzz’ “pro” network, which will charge you monthly to advertise your services on the site. Contractors say these advertising agreements cost a small fortune, don’t necessarily pull in any new business and are nearly impossible to cancel. Most of the agreements are 12-month contracts that automatically renew.

Our advice: Post a free profile, but don’t answer the phone when Houzz’ sales representatives start calling. 

Toolbelt

If you happen to live on the West Coast, one of the best places to find contracting work is ToolBelt. This young online platform allows plumbers, electricians and others to search for open jobs for free. And there appear to be plenty of job openings. 

However, contractors who need workers and subcontractors may have to pay to advertise their openings. Although the site’s advertising rates are substantial, contractors who use the site generally rave about it. But, the site’s services are only available in Washington, Oregon and California. 

JiffyOnDemand

Another great place to find work, depending on where you live, is JiffyOnDemand. This site connects consumers needing repair or maintenance work with contractors who are willing and able to do it. However, Jiffy sets the rates and simply pays contractors 82% – 88% of the set rate. (The bigger the job, the lower the site’s commission.) That differs from most of these other sites, which allow contractors to set their own rates. 

That said, Jiffy’s rates are generally reasonable. Lawn care, for instance, is charged at $50 per hour; appliance repair at $75 per hour; electrical work at $150 for 1.5 hours. But Jiffy only operates in Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa.