"I am your Exterior Decorator!"

That?s how I introduced myself to most of the homeowners requesting services over the years. Homeowners these days seem to fall into two very different categories: those who want as little as possible for as little cost as possible and those who want the best overall work with as many upgrade services as possible.

Making money, for my two cents worth, is all about finding the latter group and catering to their every whim. Part of that service is to make sure they know what you can provide them.

If you clean and seal decks and fences, do you offer to wash their house, drive, and walkways? Of course you do! Have you considered doing more? Of course you have looked around for wood play sets and other items that you can clean and seal, but there may be lots of other services you haven?t considered yet.

Offering custom-made gates for deck stairs will delight families with small children, for example. If you are handy with power tools, you can replace an existing deck floor with new wood in most states without being a licensed carpenter. (You aren?t building anything structural, just replacing old boards.) Changing the boards to lay on a bias will give added dimension to a deck and is the trademark of the newest and most beautiful decks.

You might also consider routing the handrails of railings for a more finished look.

How about replacing old wood spindle railings with decorator railings? How about adding low-voltage lighting to decks and stairs? Some of these services require you to have some experience with power tools or, as in the case with low-voltage lighting, a sense of the aesthetics of exterior decorating and lighting.

You can get a lot of ideas just by walking around your local home improvement store. Although DIYers shop there, they aren?t really your customer base. Your customers want YOU to tell them what you can do and what the latest trends are.

Decorated concrete is a hot trend, and several suppliers are willing to train you at no charge if you buy their products.

One of the hottest trends these days is outdoor living space (beyond decks). People are adding outdoor kitchens instead of simply buying a new barbecue, for example. Starting with a patio or deck area, these areas may feature counter systems with drawers and drop-in barbecues. Often these outdoor kitchens include ice boxes or refrigerators.

If you clean and seal decks, as about half of our customers do, it tends to be a seasonal business for most parts of the country. Consider services that can fill in your slow time. Wintertime services include snow plowing and chimney sweeping and putting up seasonal decorations. Fall and spring are great for gutter cleaning and gutter guards.

When you clean and seal a fence, consider offering copper post caps and post-cap solar lights to your customer. They are easy to buy and install, and set the fence heads above the neighbors? in style for just a few dollars per post.

You have to be imaginative in selecting services to offer. There is no limit except your talent and ambition and ability to present your services to your customers. I found that sending out postcards every couple of months offering a timely service kept me and my crews going all year ?round.

HINT: Consider having your advertising printing done by an online supplier. I discovered Print Direct For Less a while back, and their quality and pricing is pretty impressive. They have mailing lists and postage programs to help you keep your costs down, too.