Make More Money: Physical Tasks & Home Improvement

Dec 13, 2022

TL;DR: Home improvement projects, furniture assembly, odd jobs, and other physical tasks literally let you flex your strengths while getting paid to do something you’re good at. They can also pay more than other gig work. But these jobs tend to be physically demanding, and you risk getting really injured, with no benefits to fall back on. Here’s how to set yourself up for success while staying as safe as you can. 

Nothing odd about these jobs

If you’re the one friends call when they need help assembling furniture, painting the house, mounting TVs, and other tasks that fall under the general category of Fixin’ Stuff, there’s a way to turn your natural handiness into a paycheck. And if you’re licensed, even better. 

Traditionally, these are the kind of odd jobs that you might see advertised on flyers at a coffee shop, on a college campus, and on Craigslist. But now, licensed professionals and amateur home improvement buffs alike can find hourly work (and even get regular clients) by using mobile apps. By amassing good reviews and ratings, you’ll see your jobs and income increase.

The work available can include: hanging pictures and shelves, mounting TVs and sound equipment, fixing the AC, plumbing, electronics and smart home setup, moving, furniture assembly, electrical work, painting, window treatments, garage door repair, garage reflooring and epoxy, carpet cleaning, and residential and commercial cleaning. 

Are any of those in your wheelhouse? If so, read on.

Gearing up

Apps for finding odd jobs, home improvement/repair projects, and other physical tasks include Angi Services for Pros, TaskRabbit, Handy, and Thumbtack. These jobs can pay around $20 an hour on the lower end, and reach upwards of $50 an hour if you’re highly experienced — making them more lucrative than standard gig work you might find on Fiverr. On some apps, you’re assigned a rate that you’ll be paid (for example, $XX an hour for house cleaning) and on other apps, you set your own rate. Either way, the app makes money by charging customers fees on top of your rate. 

You might want to focus on building a presence on just one to three apps. If you spread yourself too thin, you could end up not building up enough reputational points on any app. But before you get in too deep, check to see if the app charges a registration fee or background check fee. Some, like Taskrabbit and Handy, do charge fees. Others, like Thumbtack, don’t charge you to join and don’t charge membership fees. 

After signing up, you’ll create a profile. (Heads up: Workers who include a profile photo get significantly more jobs. So make sure to capture your good side, and say cheese.) List your specialties. It can be helpful to be both general (e.g. interior house painting, for example) and specific (e.g. removing popcorn ceilings). You can also include before and after photos and videos of projects that you are working on or have worked on. While listing your specialties, really be honest with yourself about what you’re good at, and what you have experience in. Accepting a job that you don’t know how to do can lead to disaster, including injury and/or terrible reviews. 

You might also want to complete a “commonly asked questions” section in your profile, so potential customers can get a sense of how much a project might cost, how fast you work, et cetera. Your profile is also where you’d list any certifications or licenses you might have. 

After you pass a background check, you can start working. Since you’ll be getting jobs and communicating with clients on a mobile app, you’ll want to make sure your smartphone is in good working condition. You’ll also want to find out what you need to do to get paid (for example, sending an invoice versus simply pressing a button), how long it takes to get paid (within a day or once a week?) and how you’ll get your money. Do you need a checking account for direct deposit? Or can you get paid via Zelle or Venmo or another P2P payment app? 

You should also beware of what happens if you don’t accept, cancel, or are late to jobs. You can be penalized (as in not promoted in the algorithm) for not accepting jobs or for being slow to respond to people. You can also get charged steep fees for canceling within 48 hours, showing up late, not showing up at all, or leaving early — which is what Handy does, even if you have an emergency. 

Lift with your legs, not your back!

Physical work like home repairs can be difficult — goes without saying. And with electrical or plumbing work, these kinds of projects require a lot of experience. If you’re certified or licensed, you’re able to do better work in a shorter amount of time, so you’ll have an advantage over competitors on the greener side of these apps. You’ll be more in demand, able to increase your rates (if the app lets you set your rates), or able to move up a pay grade (if the app sets your rates for you). This can add up to significant freelance income — which can be a life-changer if you aren't in your local union and can’t access larger jobs. On apps like Thumbtack, you might be able to stack up enough jobs to make a living. 

What if you don’t have experience? The old “fake it till you make it” cliche does NOT apply here. Don’t try to work a job you can’t do. If you’re inexperienced and something goes wrong on a job, you or someone else could get hurt. (And since you’re only considered an independent contractor and not an employee on these apps, you’ll have little to no benefits and won’t be entitled to worker’s comp.) Bad ratings can haunt your career. Instead, find what you’re good at, and make money in that lane. 

One unexpected place to advertise your services — whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro — is NextDoor. Just make sure to be candid about your level of experience. 

Is moving really…the move?

You could also get paid to move entire households — apps like Dolly and Bellhop specialize in these gigs. Before you put on a back support belt, remember that these jobs are risky and are often not worth it. 

Wages for app-based house movers are advertised at $20 to $30 an hour. But you’ll be lifting items that can weigh over 100 pounds and possibly carrying them up and down multiple flights of stairs. It’s difficult, dangerous, stressful work. If you get injured? The app doesn’t consider you an employee, so you aren’t covered by worker’s comp. You’ll also have to have your own health insurance, which can cost several hundreds of dollars a month. And mileage reimbursements often only kick in after a certain distance. You can hire an “assistant,” but some platforms won’t pay for that extra help — it’ll come out of your own wages. So that $21 an hour can quickly start to look more like $10 an hour, or even less.

Get up & Go!

There are more ways to get started here than you can shake a wrench at. Whether you're a master plumber or just really good with an allen key from IKEA, get out there and make that money.