Tag: building

Alix James Decorators

For Alix St. Claire, the decision to become a full time painter and decorator was not necessarily an obvious one. We joined the man behind Alix James Decorators on a sunny day in Brighton to find out what made him choose a career path so different from his degree in primary education, and to learn about the work he’s currently doing on the Brighton Dome.

Getting Into the Trade

From a young age Alix helped his father with painting and decorating jobs, and by 12 years old he was taking a wage for his work. “It snowballed from there”, he told us. “Whatever needed doing, I’d be doing it on my own from then on”. Alix continued taking jobs throughout school, and in between embarking on a chalet season in Meribel and moving around the country, Alix continued painting and decorating as his main source of income. However, after a few years Alix faced feelings of uncertainty. “I was getting to that point in life where I was worrying a bit”,  Alix said. “I kept thinking I needed something official, like a prescribed career path that wasn’t a trade”.

At the age of 24, Alix undertook a degree in primary school education which brought him down to Brighton. Despite realising half way through the course that he wanted to return to his trade, Alix was determined to finish, telling us; “I’m a completionist – I don’t like quitting things”. Finishing a degree he wasn’t passionate about followed by taking a year out to travel the world culminated in a revelation for Alix. “We have the luxury to be able to choose our own lives. I came back with the ethos that I’m actually bloody lucky, and it doesn’t really matter what you do in life as long as you’re happy. That’s the most important thing. I should be grateful for the position I have in life, so I thought I’d get on with it and enjoy myself. So that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

Alix James Decorators

When we met Alix he was preparing to start work replacing a curtain wall on a beautiful seaview flat, and Alix James Decorators has had more than a few exciting local projects. The most notable of these is on the Brighton Dome, Brighton’s historical multi-arts venue. Proudly donning his ‘Access All Areas’ pass, Alix told us; “they’re doing a refurb in the bowels of the building, and it’s a massive rebuild”. He’s not exaggerating – his work has covered meeting rooms, offices and the Founders Room just to name a few, so it’s no surprise when he tells us; “I’m constantly getting lost – it’s like a rabbit warren in there!”

Alix’s Inside Tip on Quoting

Alix’s advice for impressing clients is to promptly put together a professional, detailed quote. He tries to give quotes within three hours, and to ensure his clients know where they stand he avoids estimates as he feels they are “too open ended, whereas a quote is more set in stone”.

His gratitude for the opportunity to quote for big restoration and refurbishment jobs is reflected in his formal approach. “When you’re talking about big money, the quote deserves respect – not a text with bad spelling”.

Alix also emphasised the importance of a comprehensive quote, telling us; “I’m really explicit in my quotes. I’m not going to list every tiny detail (like petrol or tooling costs) or the client will think you’re taking the mick, but I break it down so it’s fairly obvious to them – it’s all there in the quote.”

So far, Alix has had only positive experiences with MyBuilder, and we have no doubt this will continue – we wish him the best of luck in his future jobs!

Check out Alix’s profile on MyBuilder

Glen Younger of Finished Homes

Glen Younger of Finished Homes

This month we’re celebrating a tradesman who has just hit 150 positive feedback comments after delivering incredible service to clients in both London and Brighton during his five years with MyBuilder.

Glen Younger from Finished Homes started plastering when he left school, working with an experienced plasterer for two years. But his career took a detour when he joined the Evening Standard, working for the London-based newspaper for 8 years. When he was offered voluntary redundancy, Glen took the opportunity to turn a hobby into a career. “I took most of the redundancy money to do a plastering course, that was five years ago”. We found out a bit more about his business…

Finished Walls to Finished Homes

As with a lot of trades, Glen found it difficult to establish his business at first. “I found it hard at the beginning”, he told us. “You haven’t got as many tools, a small van and I couldn’t pay labourers. I started doing small jobs and gradually built up from there. The feedback from those jobs made it easier to win more work”.

It has been Glen’s dream to move out of London, so after a couple of years he headed down to Brighton. Because of his feedback, Glen was able to adjust his profile to find work, which help as he didn’t need to build up a reputation from scratch. “At first it was it was strange. Brighton is different to London because there wasn’t as much work when I first moved. I would still drive to London because all my clients were there, but eventually I got enough work in Brighton from the site that I don’t need to do that anymore”.

After building his reputation through plastering, Glen was able to expand his business to incorporate bigger jobs. As a result, he changed his name from Finished Walls to Finished Homes. “Most of the jobs I do now is refurbs, so it’s normally strip, plaster, paint, flooring and skirting. Then I’ve got two or three guys for electrical and plumbing”.

Perks, pitfalls and perfection

Everybody has parts a job they don’t like, and it comes as no surprise that Artex is top of Glen’s hitlist. “It’s my enemy, the Artex. Even when I walk into a mates house, the first thing I do is tell them to get rid of it!”. Glen also explained the challenges with plastering hallways, “when you’ve got a massive hallway and stairs it can be tricky. You’ve got two or three ladders going up to the top, scaffold board across the top and then someone has to feed you plaster – it’s tricky!”


The Dreaded Artex

Glen finds that different things make him happy now. “The favourite part of my job now isn’t even the plastering! Because I’m doing full renovations, I find that doing other things make me happy, because I still think of plastering as graft”. But what really satisfies Glen is the end result. “It’s a great feeling to walk around with the client at the end of the job and they are completely happy, when they say ‘That’s perfect!’”

Using MyBuilder

“I found out about MyBuilder through I plumber I knew”, says Glen. “I joined along with a number of other trade sites. But after a while I decided to just stick with MyBuilder”. He is a big fan of using online services to market your business, “people trust these sites now more that putting an advert into your local paper”.

Glen also uses MyBuilder as a showcase for clients, even if they haven’t found him through the site. “I use it as my website now, if anyone gets in touch I make sure to send them to my profile to check out my feedback”

Advice for Other Tradespeople

  • Be the key contact throughout the job “I do the quote for every customer, tell them exactly who will be attending and am always contactable throughout. I also make sure I walk around with the client at the end so I know they are completely happy. I’ve had a couple of mates that I’ve had to let go over lack of quality, we fell out but it was the right thing to do”

  • Make contacts for the future Whether you win the job or not, treating all your clients politely leads to more jobs and recommendations. “I recently completed a £20k job in Brighton. My contact details were passed on after I won a smaller job on MyBuilder”

  • Offer reasonable payment plans “Some tradespeople take too much money upfront in my opinion. All I need is money to pay my labourers”. Glen believes a payment structure where there is a large final payment is beneficial for both parties, “It’s nice to get a lump sum at the end, the client feels reassured and I feel like I’ve earned it”

Check out Glen’s Profile

Decor Builders
I posted my first job on MyBuilder in 2008.  My experience with personally recommended builders up to that point was not great, so I didn’t know what to expect from MyBuilder. Within no time at all we met and hired David, a true craftsman who made a fireplace surround that we talked about until the day we moved out. I remember writing to Ryan shortly after posting my first feedback comment, enthusiastically telling him why he should hire me as head of customer service.

I’ve hired lots of tradesmen through MyBuilder in the time I’ve been here and learned a lot about home improvements. I hoped to put my knowledge to good use as we embarked on the most ambitious project to date: buying our first house.

As anyone on the London property ladder knows, unless money is no object and you’re paying someone to do the legwork for you, finding and buying a flat or house is a process that consumes your life. At the time we were looking, demand greatly outstripped supply and prices were so high that most houses were simply beyond our reach. We had two options: move out of town or try to find a wreck and do it up. Moving out simply wasn’t practical and in any case, we were up for a challenge – despite the fact that my wife and I work full time and have two young children.

The problem with viewing refurbishment opportunities is that you need a builder who is willing to come along for the ride. This is a punt for the builder and while some are prepared to accept the risk, others are not. So long as the builder is made aware before he gives up his valuable time, I think this is a reasonable request. I made a point of declaring our position when posting our job.

I shortlisted Jacek, a builder who had no previous experience through the site to speak of, but whose references were very complementary. He spent a good chunk of time at the house with us and followed up a few days later with his estimate. Unfortunately, our offer on that house was unsuccessful. We thanked Jacek for his time and parted company. I appreciated the effort he made though and wanted to return the favour at a later date. So, when our offer was later accepted on a different house, we posted another job on the site and, along with other builders, invited Jacek to quote.

Make no mistake, organising quotes for a big job takes time. Three builders each spent around 90 minutes at the house, gathering information and discussing options with us. Factor in at least two rounds of revisions and then waiting to receive the amended quote (yes, good builders normally work during the day and most don’t have office staff who are on hand to prepare quotes). As Ryan once wrote on this blog, builders are providing a service from the moment they walk through the door. I would have gladly paid to receive a detailed quote as part of the service we received from all of the builders who tendered for our job.

A word or two on price. When the first quotes came in our faces dropped. Friends had once warned us of what to expect but we laughed it off at the time. Over the next few days, our original plans changed dramatically as we battled to keep the job within budget (who needs furniture anyway?) Getting a range of quotes is essential, if for no other reason than to confirm that your expectations were wildly misplaced.

In the end, we chose Jacek. Why? He wasn’t the cheapest, appeared no more qualified and had less feedback than the others. Yet, of all the builders we met, Jacek was the person with whom we felt most comfortable and trusted. In my opinion, these are the most important factors to consider when deciding who to hire – it’s not just about the quote. Did we make the right choice? Watch this space to find out how the refurbishment unfolds.