Today we’re talking with Debbie Farson, the owner of HomeWise Referrals. After many years of home ownership and some disappointing home improvement outcomes, Debbie recognized the need for a one-stop service to locate contractors who would return calls, show up on time, and follow through with high-quality work. Debbie’s background as a lawyer, homeowner, home renovation veteran, and mom make her sensitive to the issues that can complicate home improvement for many homeowners.
Read on to see how’s she’s able to work from home as a homeowner referral agent.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
I don’t consider myself a “natural entrepreneur.” By that, I mean, I am one heck of an employee. Give me a task and I’ll meet and exceed it, on time or early, but ask me to come up with something from whole cloth, with no guidelines or “boss” to whom I’m accountable, and I feel a little lost. I had been successful as an attorney, in litigation practice with the Virginia office of a DC-based firm, before having my first child and deciding I wasn’t going to be able to leave the office stress at the office sufficiently enough to also be a good mom. Five years into domestic goddess-ness and about the time I was expecting my third (and last child), it seemed right to ease back into the marketplace again, but still without the stress that comes with the practice of law. Debra Cohen’s HRN model offered a perfect blend of independence (I’d be in business for myself), training, and accountability (I’d have her business plan and ongoing mentorship.)
How did you train for this career?
My training started with Debra Cohen’s detailed written materials and continued with hands-on training and mentoring by Debra. She coached me through those things that I was uncertain about or scared of, like seeking publicity for my business. Debra and I are still in touch today, and I call on her a couple of times a year when I have a question or need advice. She keeps me on track and accountable to my goals while acting as a sounding board for new ideas.
What do people learn in the Home Owner Referral Network Training?
HRN owners learn from Debra and her materials everything they need to know to start and run this business. From business structure, business name, publicity, record keeping, and contractor interviews, Debra's materials provide it all.
Give us an example of how you landed one of your first clients.
Early on, Debra helped me put together a pitch piece for a widely-read local publication that had a home improvement issue coming out. I was profiled in that publication, and the response it brought was so overwhelming that I had to scramble to put into place follow-up procedures to keep on top of all the new business. One that particularly sticks out was a man who had experienced trouble for years finding reliable contractors and was so pleased when I was able quickly and efficiently to connect him with just the roofer he needed. I heard from him frequently after that and still receive a call from him every year or two when he needs something done around his home.
What are some of the benefits to owning home referral business?
I love that I make my schedule and can operate my business from anywhere. I'll be in Arizona for a couple of weeks this summer and will clear my calendar of all but the most important follow-up activities while I'm gone. I'll be able to check in on those important matters and process new business from my vacation with nothing but my computer, cell phone and an hour or so of time each day.
I also appreciate the connections I've been able to make in the home improvement community (my fixer-upper home is reaping the benefits) and the ability to earn as much money as I'm willing to put in time and effort to obtain.
Finally, and probably most importantly, this opportunity has allowed me to work my business around my family's needs. With three teenagers now—each of them involved in sports, arts, and academics—that has been so important. I would have had to miss so many games, performances, and ceremonies if I'd stayed with the practice of law.
Is a home referral business for everyone?
It is for anyone who can manage their time well, strictly putting boundaries around “office” and “home” (just because you could do five loads of laundry since you work from home, doesn’t mean you should if it means time away from your office hours.) No one is cracking the whip over you when you’re in business for yourself, so you need to set office hours, understand your strengths, hire out tasks you can’t do or are more efficiently done by others, and utilize mentors to keep you on track.
Tell us what a typical work day looks like for you.
I typically work four to six hours per day while my kids are in school. I start the day blocking out my time into specific tasks, trying to give priority to the important, not the merely urgent. Then, I take on new business first, follow up on existing matters, pursue marketing or PR goals through blogging or social media, and develop or clarify strategies to reach particular goals—all roughly in that order. There are, of course, days where I don’t get to all of that.
Realistically, how much can someone earn running a home referral business?
It depends on your work ethic and your market (medium to large metro areas are best; small areas work too if they have a good-sized middle and upper-middle-class population.) Some HRN owners are pulling down $100,000 or more in some places. Certainly $50,000 to $75,000 is reachable part-time.
What advice would you give to a new home referral entrepreneur?
Follow Debra's model to the letter, even more strictly in your first couple of years. Refer questions back to Debra. The model is tested across time and markets. If you think your situation requires a change, get Debra's input. In rare instances, you may be right, and chances are Debra has seen your particular permutation elsewhere across the HRN universe and can help you implement changes in ways you'd not think of on your own. Manage your time well. Set boundaries around your office hours, your tasks, and your growth. Make your goals detailed and documented, and then treat those boundaries as if they were handed down by a boss on a job. In this way, you'll be productive and move your business to the next level continually.
Find out more about the Home Owner Referral Network Business Opportunity here.
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