Your work as a contractor tends to be seasonal ... your expenses and obligations, not so much. Everyone and his pooch wants home improvement services (or a better doghouse) when the weather’s warm and the sun is shining.

But your work tends to slow down as the temperature drops. Problem is, you’ve still got to pay your bills. Try these 5 suggestions to keep those jobs coming your way all year.

  1. Expand your list of services. Take the classic example of a landscaping business; successful firms shift focus from lawn care in summer to snow removal when the weather turns chilly.
    Go a few steps further and add any or all of these services: spring and fall yard cleanup, garden planning and design, tree pruning, stump removal, outdoor holiday lighting and decoration, sales of products like plant fertilizer or ice melt … and you’ll be busy all year round.

  2. Offer an incentive or two. When you’re trying to attract customers in a slow period, consider offering a discount on your services. Make it clear, though, that the deal ends on a specific date (which coincides with the start of your busier season).
    If you hesitate to cut into profits that are already lower than usual, think out of the box and tempt leads with an appealing incentive that costs you next to nothing. For instance, an elegant stone countertop thrown in for free with a bathroom renovation. Sounds great! … and it can be crafted from a leftover scrap of granite or marble.

  3. Use the refer-a-friend bonus. Borrow a successful idea from online casinos – the "refer-a-friend" bonus – payable when a past client sends an acquaintance your way. Make the bonus applicable only if the new prospect actually goes ahead with the work.
    This type of deal is a double winner for you as a contractor – the discount will encourage your old contact to plan a future project with you, while at the same time, you’ve acquired a new customer, who’ll be paying your regular rates. The word-of-mouth referral provides an instant trust factor, too.

  4. Sell home improvements that add future value and sales appeal. April through June is the peak time for home sales. Encourage clients who are going to be putting their property on the market to get ready now -- by taking care of home improvements and repairs before the first house hunter walks through their door.
    Do your research so you can promote projects with a high return on investment such as insulating the attic with fiberglass, exterior installation of manufactured stone veneer, and garage door replacement.

  5. Be the go-to guy for maintenance and repair. If you’re in the HVAC field, for instance, you know the post-Christmas season can be slow as, well, molasses in January. Most potential customers for a new furnace came and went weeks ago, and the A/C installation rush is still a long way ahead. So now’s the perfect time to build up the maintenance and repair side of your business. How?
    Let the world know via your website, Facebook, or your membership in a lead generation service that you can be counted on for quick, reliable heating repair. Then follow up ASAP when you get a call for help; a lead stuck without heat when it’s 20 below is likely to hire the first contractor he speaks to … and he'll be extra-appreciative of the pro who does a fast efficient job. (Be sure to ask those grateful clients to post reviews online!)