clockHome based businesses and small sole traders get a bad rap sometimes. Unfairly criticised for being too small to handle “proper jobs”.

That’s a rather condescending attitude, considering that small business is by far the world’s biggest employer group, on average providing well in excess of 60% of the jobs globally.

But let’s stop and ask ourselves why that is though? Why do people have such a bad perspective on smaller businesses, and sole traders, and in particular the trades?

Using only my own experiences as a client of several smaller businesses around me, I can say there are 6 main issues relating to how professional you are, and how you are perceived.

I’ll address all 6 of them over the next 6 blog posts, one by one, and give you tips to managing things without adding extra strain to yourself.

Committing to a job, or taking on work that you cannot do is the first issue.

So, why would you take on work that you cannot do?

There are various reasons why you could not do a job, and they may not have anything to do with your qualifications, or passion and dedication. It really could be as simple as the fact that you don’t have the time to fit in with my deadlines.

That’s perfectly acceptable. Whatever the reason is, how you handle it when you speak to me is going to make all the difference to our ongoing (or not) business relationship

Let’s take a quick look at 3 of the most common reasons why you may not be able to help me, and some suggestions to handling the situation professionally.

1)      You don’t have the license, insurance, experience, manpower or  equipment

Come clean, immediately. If you are a one-man show, and my job requires at least 3 to 4 people, some scaffolding, and an excavation of my back yard, it’s likely I will suspect that already. If you claim to be able to do the job, and you have good intentions that fall through, trust me, you don’t look like someone who was trying to help, you look like someone out of their depth. And ultimately you don’t look very professional.

If I need a licensed plumber, and you are a handyman, then refer me to a plumber.

If you are going to outsource and subcontract the work, say so. Better that I am prepared for it before we agree on a fee and work starts, rather than suddenly having strange people showing up and digging up my yard that don’t look like they come from your business.

You really should turn the work down, if the job is out of your depth of expertise. It would be even better if you could refer me to someone else, because that has the added bonus of giving you the opportunity to cement both your reputation and integrity with me. And it creates goodwill between you and the person you are sending the work to.


2)      You are fully booked and cannot fit me in in a timeframe that’s reasonable for mecrm

Say so. And send me on my way to someone who can help me.

Trust me on this, no-one is feeling sorry for you, we’re all just a little peeved that you didn’t bother to call when you were going to be late. That you overbooked and rushed the job, and left cement dust on the tiles, and mud on carpet, as you rushed off to the next double booking, leaving a trail of unhappy people in your wake.

If you have the choice between booking 3 smaller jobs in one day, or squeezing in 5 of the same type of jobs and rushing from one to the next, take a moment to think about which is actually better for your business in the long run.

Having 3 happy, satisfied customers, who sing your praises and refer work to you every chance they get, or 5 unhappy people warning everyone they meet about their horror experience with another late, unprofessional tradie?

That’s the real cost of trying to fit 5 jobs into a day when you can realistically only do 3.

Rather give me a referral to someone else, who may be able to fit me in. I may decide to wait for you, I may go with the other person. Either way, you end up looking fantastic, with the added bonus that I will likely be speaking to my family and friends about how professional you are.

3)      You’ve taken an instant dislike to my attitude, and don’t really want the work.

This is tough one. But it’s actually the easiest to deal with once you deal with your discomfort.

It’s a fact of life that you won’t be mates with everyone, and sometimes there are people that you really don’t want to work with.

If you find yourself in this situation it’s usually best to wrap up the conversation as quickly as possible, politely decline the work, say that you cannot help, and leave me with a referral for someone else.

Don’t make up anything, or lie about how busy you are; ultimately, if you don’t want to do the job, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to decline, and you are under no obligation to explain why.

A simple polite “Unfortunately, I can’t help you, but here’s some numbers for people who may be able to” are much better than making up something or being abrupt and rude.

If I ask you why, a simple “I just can’t do it , but my mate at “XYZ Referral” will be a good person to help”