I moved into a new house recently and all of my amazing storage space had cheap crappy wire shelving inside. The main issues were my walk in closet:
And my laundry room:
I didn’t get a before picture of the pantry but it was also pretty bad.
So I called California Closets and Inspired closets. Two national chains and the only providers of a service like this in Athens GA. They both had very slow response times and took more than 3 weeks to visit my home to do a walk through and then another 2 weeks to get a quote.
They were PRICEY. California came with this proposal for $2,929:
Our goal was to get rid of our dressers in our master bedroom and have some drawers in the closet so we could fit all of our clothing in there.
Eric let us know that an option with 16 drawers (8 for each of us) would be $5,000 or more plus tax. He also let me know the install team is backed up and it would take 6 weeks until they could get to the job. I didn’t bother hassling him for a quote.
So I shopped around a bit and decided to buy some Easy Track systems from Build.com. I looked around my house and decided to not only build out my master closet but also my laundry room, pantry, three guest bedroom closets and basement bedroom closet.
I measured each closet and drew some designs on a notebook:
Then I made a list of the Easy Track systems I would need to order to accomplish all of this:
Then I compiled my order on Build.com. I called them and was able to get a 10% discount on the pricing you see here:
$2,710.02 + $189.70 tax for a grand total of: $2,899.72
Then I borrowed my neighbors miter saw and got to work. First I ripped out the old wire shelving and then spackled the holes and repainted. This took about an hour. I drank 2 miller lites while doing this. If you end up starting a business I recommend skipping that step.
I drank two more miller lites and listened to this audiobook while I put together all 16 drawers with wood glue and a rubber mallet. This took about 3 hours total and was the hardest part of the entire process.
The next morning I hung the track system on the wall using my laser level (which is the most handy tool ever for a home owner) and started the install. This took a total of about 8 hours for the master closet. I got a lot faster on the second half. If I were doing it again I would probably get it done in closer to 5 hours.
This is the final product:
I’m really happy with the result. We cleaned out all three of our dressers and fit all of the things from the previous closet layout in with ease. My wife and I made a promise to never have more clothing than what will fit in this closet. If its full we have to donate something in order to buy something.
Next I did the same thing for the pantry and the laundry room:
I went on and did the other 4 closets and easily multiplied my available storage space in this home by 8x overall.
How much would all this work have cost me if I hired it out? No telling. Maybe $8k? $10k? 15k? Not to mention the fact it would have taken about 10 weeks from the desire to get it done to actually getting it done.
I spent about 20 hours and $3k. If I did it again right now I think I could do it in 10-12.
Doing this while you have a full time job is the perfect way to start. More on that here.
Buy a web domain and hosting and build a WordPress site. I like Bluehost for a cheap yet reliable hosting service. Get a Google My Business location at your home. I wrote down all the early tools I used here if you’d like to check it out. Google is going to power your business early on. Get a logo and some door hanging flyers put together using a freelancing site. Get your logo embroidered on a nice polo shirt.
Write some great content focused around keywords in your town. Use ahrefs.com to research the keywords you want to target and build some DIY closet building guides for homeowners in your town using those keywords. Some really useful stuff that people will engage with. Thats content marketing and its the best way to get a leg up on google. More on that here. Put videos of yourself doing these closets on youtube targeting ideal keywords.
Speed (as in turnaround) is the key in this business. Offer to do some building for friends for free (if they buy the system). Get those friends to take pictures of your work and leave you a nice detailed review on your Google My Business location. Get at least 5 reviews. Have them call you and get directions to your location and click through to your website before leaving the review so Google knows it isn’t fake. This sounds silly but makes a difference for rankings.
Watch Zillow and Realtor.com and filter for homes that are recently sold in your target areas. New homeowners are exponentially more likely to want closet building services than a random joe off the street. Put on your polo and a pair of khakis and go to the homes that recently sold and knock on the door. Smile at them and shake their hand firmly. Tell them about yourself and that you’d love to offer them a free quote to help them get more storage space. If they don’t answer hang the flyer on the door and go to the next house.
Ignore getting a social media following. Not worth your time or money. Post videos of your work on youtube with local keywords instead. Experiment with social media marketing and PPC marketing by hiring a freelancer who specializes in this sort of thing.
Get creative with your marketing. You know where your customers are and who your perfect customer is. Go find them.
Housekeeping stuff. Register with the state as a sole proprietor and get liability insurance. Liability insurance is important. What if a child pulls on a drawer and the whole thing comes crashing down on him? Before you hire your first employee get workers compensation insurance and consider incorporating. Get accounting software like quickbooks and outsource your payroll to a service like Gusto or Paychex. Keep very detailed records of everything and read this book.Consider hiring a bookkeeper but make sure you understand most of it yourself as well. Become a licensed contractor in your state.
Get out and build some closets. Price high and make speed and service your competitive advantage. Answer the phone every time with friendly, eager professionalism and enthusiasm and you’ll be in the top 10%. Nurture your Google Business location. Its your most important asset. Reviews with photos are worth 10 regular reviews.
Play around with the price you charge. Price your time at what you estimate would be $50 per hour at first but make sure to charge by the job and not by the hour. You will get better at quoting over time and you will also get much faster at painting.
When you start to get some momentum set up a CRM like Jobber. It allows you to look way more professional than you are. Do all of your billing online. Attach photos of the jobs as they are completed.
You are not going to compete on price. You are going to compete on speed, professionalism, customer service and quality. They are going to like you as a person and want to do business with you. Learn more about this concept in my episode#13 “never compete on price again”.
When you get some momentum and some business rolling you’ll need a cargo van. Here is my used cargo van buying guide (i’ve purchased 15 or so used vans all under $7500 and they are amazing assets). Get a table saw instead of a miter. You’ll need to hire some help on the weekends you work. Pay well, $30+ per hour, and get competent people. Oversee them for a while until you trust them to build without you being there.
Avoid being a subcontractor. General contractors only care about one thing – price. You aren’t competing on price. You are adding service the the equation so your business only deals with the customers one on one.
Focus on what you do best and outsource everything else.
Form a personal relationship with your customers. Know the names of everyone in the family. Show up with a teddy bear for the little guy. Send a thank you note a few weeks after the job.
Eventually you will build a great little business. You will compete on speed and quality and not price. You can choose to stay small and charge a high price or try to grow and scale the business.
“On demand” is going to be your competitive advantage so you can charge a higher price. Make sure you can offer next day site visits or same day site visits. As soon as you get too busy to do that you need to raise your prices or hire another employee. Make sure that person is presentable and clean cut.
Now spend all of your time answering the phone, dealing with clients, and quoting jobs and managing the marketing.
When do you quit your job? That is all up to you. Lean out your life and your business so its less risky and you can get by on earning less. Stay lean as you grow and keep your expenses variable so you can change, pivot and close up shop if things go poorly.
Don’t like closet building? Check out this list and take your pick.