Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tips for Door to Door Fliers

By Chris McGinty

Back around late 2000, early 2001 I was working for Papa John’s. They usually had a “what we should be doing” of the week. I exaggerate… sort of. They became worried about the fact that they were printing many door-hangers, and very few of them were getting put out. They tried handing each driver 20 fliers each shift and asking them to hang them on doors. It was good advertising and would increase the number of orders we had, but many of these fliers ended up on the floors of cars. They weren’t “floor-hangers” so this would not do.

At the time overtime was ok, and I saw an opportunity. I started hanging fliers door to door for overtime. While I was out one day I realized another opportunity. There were a number of businesses that put out fliers like this. If I could find some that would pay me per flier I could easily put out 100 an hour. At eight cents a flier I would be making about the same as when I was doing it for overtime.

Since this realization I have had quite a history doing fliers. Maybe one day I’ll tell some stories, but today I would like to kick it Nathan style, and write a how to.

First of all let’s deal with pricing. Much of my recent flier work has come from an ad on one of Nathan’s websites. When he first posted the ad he moved my price up to ten cents a flier, and the truth is that by that time minimum wage had gone up, so I thought it was a good idea. A couple of years ago when he was in one of his free market moods, he moved it up to fifteen cents a flier. The truth is I didn’t have any doubts about the increase, but I was also not looking for anything more than an occasional supplemental job. As it turned out it’s still a reasonable rate. Call around. Research. Find out what the competition is doing, and set your price at what’s reasonable, and what you need.

Second, we’ll deal with payment. I started out collecting pay after the job was done. It seemed fair, but I discovered that businesses can sometimes lose you in the shuffle, and individuals can sometimes be assholes. I haven’t been screwed over too much, but when I was only taking jobs to supplement my income, I decided I would ask for payment up front, and if they weren’t ok with it, I wouldn’t take the job. I’ve had far less problems than I thought I would. I still get jobs. My suggestion is that you don’t spend the money except for supplies or lunch until the job is done, just in case something goes wrong.

Supplies will be third here. Things you might need: invisible tape, water or electrolyte drinks, sun block, something with headphones to listen to, and elastic adhesive bandages (don’t worry these aren’t for dog bites.)

About the invisible tape: It’s a lot easier to use than I originally thought. Don’t use it on painted doors though. If the paint isn’t on there well it may pull off with the tape. Stick it to the doorknob in these cases.

About the headphones: While I said you can buy supplies with pre paid money, this is presuming you’ll do enough fliers quickly to cover it. If the portable music player costs a lot, wait until the first job is done.

About the bandages: Figure out where your feet are likely to blister. Before you start doing flier jobs, go for walks and get in a bit of shape. You’ll thank me for that advice. Get comfortable shoes. If you do notice a part of your foot that still wants to blister, cover it before you go.

Fourth, let’s deal with trust. Any business you run should be built on integrity and trustworthiness. Even if you have that in place in your own character, this is a very dodgy business. Many people believe you will take their money and drop the fliers in the dumpster. I always tell my clients, “Call me on my cell phone, and come see the work I’m doing. When I’m done please drive through the neighbourhood and check my work.” I explain that I do not view this as “checking up on me” in the way that has a negative connotation. It’s for their peace of mind, and since I would like repeat business, I want their minds at peace for sure.

Fifth, let’s deal with size of jobs, and people working for you. As a general rule I only take on jobs that I can handle on my own, and I try to be realistic about completion time. My experience so far with other people helping is that it’s just a pain in the ass. It may just be me, and you may be able to find good workers. Remember, you are the one who is doing the salesman job and getting the clients. Pay your workers less than you make, and consider the rest commission. But pay your workers well. Even if you are planning on using others, I suggest that you take on jobs you can handle on your own, or maybe about 20% larger than what you can do on your own. Remember it’s you who will have to push if your workers bail.

Sixth, let’s deal with extras. It’s not always easy to figure out what “added value” you can give to your clients, but anything that comes to mind (if it isn’t too hard on your time or resources) that you can do to show appreciation to your client for the opportunity to serve them; do it. Don’t give a second thought to it. For instance, I did a job over a year ago for a local artist named Phil Volk. He was showing his work at a small gallery in Fort Worth. I posted the information in a bulletin on My Space (this was when people still signed in to My Space) along with his website. This was something I did merely as an extra service.

Finally, start small. I’ve found that this job is great for me as supplemental, but many of the jobs fizzle out after a while. If you can ever double up jobs, that’s a wonderful thing cos you’re making twice as much for the slightest more work. The point though is that you may be able to build a good business as time goes, but don’t get impatient. Find out what you can handle, and build around that. If I have anymore advice I can think of I’ll add it to this post. In the meantime, good luck if you choose to do a business like this.

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