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In days gone by if you needed a good builder, plumber or electrician you’d ask your neighbours for a recommendation or, if they didn’t know one, you’d turn to the trusty Yellow Pages. There are still local directories but these are a little hit or miss. Nowadays you go online to find a local tradesman.

Finding good builders

Finding good builders can be a task, but well worth any work involved

We are going to look at all the options and main services that are available for you to find a tradesman when you need one.

There are really only four ways in which tradesman find work these days:

  • Referrals from past customers – this is the time honoured route and preferred by both homeowners as it also involves an element of checking references by definition. It is also preferred by tradesmen as it is the cheapest and most likely to turn into the work as the homeowner also has a level of commitment – more on this later
  • Advertising – Whether this is in the parish magazine, pushing flyers through local letterboxes or advertising online such as in Google, this aims to attract potential customers to get in touch and enquire about work
  • Buying Leads – When you search online for a plumber, electrician, or whichever trade you need most of the results at the top of the page are from lead generators. These are organisations that are really good as getting themselves to the top of the Google search results; they persuade you to enter your details with the promise of finding you several trades to do quote for your job. Any interested tradespeople will buy you contact details or “the lead”
  • Subscription and Review Services –The tradesman creates a profile, and this is what is promoted to homeowners like yourself with any ensuing reviews added to the profile. They pay a subscription to the company that holds the profile who uses this to money to advertise their profile (and thousands of other tradesman) to you.  The market leader here is Checkatrade, but there are more appearing all the time. In fact, our building arm, Foundations Up Construction, is a member of Checkatrade. To a tradesman this is like “outsourcing” their advertising to a third party organisation who manage all the advertising, promoting them online and critically managing an reviews or feedback that come from any work that they do

The first two approaches to finding work described above are very traditional and well understood, so we are not going to labour them here. It is the last two that are newer and therefore more interesting.

Buying Leads

Buying leads can suit a tradesman very well, as they can pick and chose the work they want and dip in and out when they have time. There is no need to get a whole advertising campaign going when you might only need a few little jobs before the next big one starts. Theoretically you get straight the homeowner and he either picks you or another tradesman to do the work.

The big issue has always been what they are buying as there is a huge amount of trust involved; is the information they are buying genuine, how serious are they about going ahead with the work and how many other people will buy that “lead”? Many tradesmen struggle to trust organisations providing these services, although this is beginning to change as the approach is becoming more established and organisations offering these services prove to be reliable.

There is a balance to be struck, as a customer wanting to get the work done, you want to have enough quotes to make a balanced decision but the tradesman doesn’t want too much competition either. You also have to agree to have your details shared. This is again something that requires trust, but again this solution becomes more established you can trust these organisations to look after you information better too.

Subscription and Review Sites

This approach deals with all the trust problems that you have with using a lead generator; you don’t provide your details and no tradesman has to buy them in the hope that you are genuine and serious about your project.

With all the money they collect from the tradesman that subscribe to their services these organisations have big advertising budgets that they can promote their subscribers with. Few tradesman can have adverts on the radio, let alone on the TV or sponsor the football, but with this approach they can, albeit with indirectly alongside other tradespeople who also use the service.

For you this solution is easy; you go to the website and search for the trade in your local area. You will then be presented with a list of relevant tradesmen nearby. You can read their profiles and reviews from their customers and you decide who you want to contact directly.

This who industry was pioneered by Checkatrade and it’s founder Kevin Byrne. His big innovation was to check and vet every tradesman that joined his scheme. While he would admit that it is not 100% failsafe his checks are more than most homeowners generally do despite being very important.

There are now other organisations who offer similar solutions. The first big name to copy Checkatrade was Which? with their Trusty Traders scheme. More recently John Lewis has developed a solution, but only for limited areas. Amazon has also launch a solution too, although we don’t yet know the levels of checks that they are promising.

Homeowner Commitment

We mentioned that commitment it important. It is something that is often overlooked especially with the narrative of “rogue traders”. There is an expectation that the onus is on the tradesman to prove themselves to you, the customer.

The reality is that the reverse is true to. Good tradesmen will be busy and booked up for months in advance so they can afford to pick and chose who they work with, and this decision will be based on how you present yourself (much as you will pick them). Here are some tips:

  • It is important to demonstrate your commitment – there are a lot of dreamers that will never go through with their project. This wastes tradesmen’s time and if they don’t get the feeling that you are going to go ahead this will cool their interest in your project, whether this is fair or not
  • Make yourself a good customer – much of the unseen time and cost that a good tradesman will bare is to keep you informed, ensuring that you make you decisions in good time (like choosing fittings he had to fit), and managing your expectations. If you can demonstrate you’ve done your research, he will know that he will be dealing with an informed, organised and reliable customer which will be much easier to manage. Our Price Doctor application can help you with much of the planning here and make you more informed
  • Respect – Being a builder or tradesman is an active career choice and a good builder will have a wealth of experience. Most do it because they love it. And it pays well – you might remember our newsletter about how brickes are now paid more than architects!

You should also check your tradesman, even if you get their details from a site who does a lot of the checks for you. There are still cowboys out there and it is your home so it is your responsibility to protect it. Find out more about avoiding the cowboys here.


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