Steve Caskey is a jack of all trades, who has been renovating homes for 30 years. Based in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, he offers on an insiders guide on tradie-land.

Don’t ask for a special price. “If a customer bring up wanting to do ‘mates rates’ or some kind of cash deal straight away, I’ll usually steer away from them.”

If you are renovating, have an idea of what you want. “People need to have a good understanding of what they want to do. A lot of people get you in and they go, ‘I just want to do something to this side of the house’, which means as a tradie you have to be designer, as well as a shopper. It really helps if the client starts by doing a bit of homework. Or if they are happy for me to direct them to do homework.”

Clear the area being fixed up. “If people move their stuff away from the area you are going to work in— that’s always nice.”

Don’t mention negative experiences with other tradespeople. “If someone says ‘I’ve had another builder but they ripped me off and now I’m getting you’ — well, bringing that up brings up alarm bells because it’s like ‘What did you do to the other builder?’ This could be a two-way street so I’ll always enquire ‘So tell me what happened to the builder, tell me exactly what they did wrong?’ As a builder, I can tell if its the customers fault to some degree. So bringing up a history of problems with tradies is a no-no. That’s definitely a red flag.”

Don’t stand over the tradie when they are working. “It’s a classic problem and one that a lot of clients do. People want to watch and they’ll sit and chat with you the whole time you’re working, and it slows you down, and it ends up costing the customer more. I’m not sure what they’re trying to find while they are staring at me. They are either inquisitive or cheapskates that want to make sure you’re not bludging when you are meant to be working.”

Don’t be suspicious on costs. “People are suss on how much tradies charge all the time. I’ve had to go so far as to let people know what my actual taxable income is at the end of the year and people are incredibly shocked at how low it is after working six days a week all year. If people whinge generally about your price, I’ll just walk away as I’ve got plenty of customers that are happy to pay it.”

Tradies like working by word of mouth. “You’re not suss on each other as much. I can find out about prospective customer from the person whose recommended me and vice versa.”

Some tradies won’t work with real estate agents. “They are often slow to pay and they’ll just try to charm you out of doing a job properly. Or they’ll try to get a cheaper rate but saying it’s repeat business. People who offer you repeat business straight up is another red flag.”

A busy builder is usually more expensive. “People often freak out about quotes and how much they vary and basically it usually depends on how much work the tradie has. If he has lots of work, he’s going to quote you high because he doesn’t really need the job basically. The guy who are hungriest for the job will generally give you the cheapest price.”

A cup of a tea and a biscuit go a long way. “I’ve worked for people who will make themselves a cup of tea right in front of you but never offer to make one for you. When you are in someone’s house, you are in there kitchen — unless I start bringing my own kettle along, it’s impossible to have a cup of tea.”

Good manners. “Being a little bit appreciative of the free quotes, advice and consultations that we frequently give to clients and potential clients goes a long way.  I’ll never accept but I love it when clients offer to recompense for time and effort given where many expect a freebie.”

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