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A few questions for installers about possibly doing it for a living.

Discussion in 'DIRECTV Installation/MDU Discussion' started by Soulweeper, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    O.k. we all know the economy is very slow, and I'm self employed in the trades. I usually make a pretty good living whenever I'm working, and just like anything in the contracting field, sometimes it's really good. Plus, there is the freedom of being self employed, which I'm very used to now.

    Now, all that being said, it's been slow lately, and at the moment, not sure when my next job is. I'm not trained for anything else, and in the past when it's been slow, I've toyed with the idea of being an installer. Reason being, I do all my own stuff at home, so it's not something completely foreign to me, and I know they work all the time. I've been thinking about it again lately, but I'd never do it unless I took a good look at all the variables, and weighed everything out. I've heard in the past that it's 12 hour days and mandatory 6 days a week, so that made any thought of doing it go right out of my head. I'd do whatever I needed to do to pay the bills, if things got bad enough, but it hasn't been "that bad" yet.

    I was talking to the installer that did my in-laws install, and he said he does pretty good, works 5 days a week, and doesn't work 12 hours days. He actually seemed happy. He said "they take care of us pretty good". I was a little surprised, because it's different than what I usually hear. He has been working for Directv for 3 years.

    That being said, I know it's work, and not a picnic, but what can a person expect out of doing it, especially at first? What kind of money do you make weekly, on average, and what kind of hours do you put in. I don't want to get into anyone's personal business about income, but maybe someone could give me a "you won't make any less than (x)" answer, or something like that. Just a general idea of what to expect, and what it's really like. You could even pm me if there is anything you don't want to post. Tell me I'm crazy, I don't care. :) I appreciate any honest feedback. Thanks!
     
  2. ndole

    ndole Problem Solver

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    Aug 26, 2009
    Before joe chimes in,
    My first year was the toughest, getting started was costly. But I made near $40,000. That from an income of $15,000 the year previous.
    My second year was not as plentiful, I think I only barely cleared $30,000. Sometimes work gets slow, but if you budget well, it's not too much of a problem. At times it can be a bit seasonal, but like I said, if you can save money during the boom times, you'll be just fine.
    This year, my third, I got a promotion. I have a set pay [less than I made before] and the opportunity for performance bonuses [which adds up to much more than I made before]. The bonuses for the most part have been a great motivator, and I'm generally getting them consistently.

    All of these factors are unique to the particular company that you'd work for. Each Home Service Provider [HSP for short] is very different, some like one more than another. From what I gather I work for one of the better [and bigger] HSP's, and they make a huge effort to accommodate our needs as employees.

    It's a tough job. I've got calloused and scarred hands. I've been out all night before (just driving home). And there were times when I've cursed my employer/supervisor/coworkers/and especially some terrible customers. But one set of facts remain: I love my job, I like the company I work for, I have a lot of upward mobility, and I don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon.

    My .002 ;)
     
  3. joe diamond

    joe diamond Hall Of Fame

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    Feb 28, 2007
    Yup, I do have a position on this issue,

    What ndole stated is accurate and I agree with all of it. I would emphasize that the Home Service Provider you find in place in the area you plan to work will make all the difference.

    I my case I have had to use the courts to get paid for completed work. The last deal didn't go to court because the state's attorney told the guy to find the money and pay or go to jail. The one before that I have an uncollected judgment for four thousand dollars. The one before that paid all but slowly.Two other companies I dealt with paid every penny on time over a period of several years each. Both got out of Directv installations because the money offered was lowered.

    If you took every installation I ever did the number would not be a significant portion of the installation industry. But Directv said they would not involve themselves in the dealings between contractors. Their HSPs said the same thing. So you are on your own to work for subcontractors.

    I liked the work and considered it an honor and privilege to enter the homes of neighbors to bring a superior product. It just got too hard to get paid.

    It can be a good job.

    Joe
     
  4. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    Mind if I ask what an average startup cost might be.....just roughly?
    I think the guy I talked to last week said that Ironwood provides everything, but I want to think along the lines of worst scenario when looking at all this.
    Well around here it is Ironwood. Don't know if there are others, but that's who has always come to my house. I've heard the complaints about the people they send, but haven't heard much as far as how they are as a company, to work for.
     
  5. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    What have you heard about Ironwood, as far as how they are to work for, if anything?
     
  6. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    Oh, thank you both for your input. :)
     
  7. joe diamond

    joe diamond Hall Of Fame

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    Feb 28, 2007
    Yup,

    Ironwood is on my list of companies I would decline to recommend. My last contact with an ironwood office (Middletown / Bear, DE) was at least three years ago. My impression at the time was that they were spread way to thin on techs so the routing was impossible. You can make no money if you spend all your time driving instead of on site doing installations. They had very little inventory on hand. The money offered ($50.00 for the first receiver and $15 for each additional receiver was way too low.

    Since you mentioned that they provide everything......this would imply they are offering you an employee position. If they offer an acceptable hourly rate to start it could be ok. If they try to convert an hourly rate to piece work or production you are in the presence of bandits,,,,run!

    I can cover three small rural counties with a one way to the first job forty mile radius and reasonable routing to number two and three (if there is one.) These companies will route six or more new installations a day with service calls mixed in if you let them. They do not care about completion because if you are late they will back charge you more than you would get paid for the job.

    See what they say......my experiences are not universal.

    Joe
     
  8. bt-rtp

    bt-rtp Icon

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    Dec 29, 2005
    The thing about being a good installer that that you need to have a fairly broad skill set. The craft encompases many technologies from microwave, to electrical, carpenter, computer, telephony, HDTV, home theater, and of course using ladders and working at heights. It's a creative job too because you have to determine the design for new installations. I loved it and learned a lot of skills that I still use to this day many years later in my career. I never had a problem getting paid and made good money. Some of the better customers will give tips for extra effort, such as hiding wires or for doing a wall fish but I never asked for tips, it's all part of the job.
     
  9. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    I just got word that in my area, it's Directv Home Services now.....Ironwood is no more. It is owned and operated by Directv, and the person told me that they are good to work for, so that's encouraging.
     
  10. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    Thanks for the input!
    Yeah, my skill set is fairly broad, to a degree. I'm a painting contractor, by trade, so using ladders is nothing new. I do all my own satellite work at home, and I've done a little bit of a lot of things, on my home. A little electrical, carpentry, etc. I wouldn't call myself a jack of all trades, but I've had a hands on with a few. It's not foreign to me, is what I'm saying.......been around the trades all my life. It's not like I'm a bank teller, thinking of being an installer.:) Some of the skills needed I would definitely be "green" at though, but If I did this, I feel confident I'd pick up to anything I didn't know pretty quickly.
     
  11. BattleZone

    BattleZone Hall Of Fame

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    Nov 13, 2007
    I wouldn't recommend *starting* as a contractor, even though I did. As a contractor, you have to have all of your own tools, supplies, and gas money to get through both your (unpaid) training and through the first pay-period or two. That makes it very hard to start from zero.

    If you work as an in-house tech, you'll be provided with everything, and you'll get some training and experience, and aren't taking nearly the same risk, because if it isn't for you and you quit, you aren't out much. But if you like it, then you can use your in-house experience, training, etc. to get yourself set up to be a contractor. A truck/van, ladder, meter, tools, and experience makes the transition to contracting much easier, and you will make more money that way.
     
  12. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    Thanks! Yeah, I would definitely work for someone, just for the training, and to see if it's something I want to stay with.
     
  13. joe diamond

    joe diamond Hall Of Fame

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    Feb 28, 2007
    Yes,
    Some of their HSPs and ASPs turned out to be embarrassing to them so Directv took them over in various ways. This varies from market to market.

    Should be interesting.

    For example...Directv is intent on connectivity. You will be expected to connect receivers to a land line phone 75%.....60%...45% (take your pick) of the time. As an employee you would do your best to run phone lines and connect the boxes. If you serve in a region not served by land lines or with high cell phone penetration you might not see a land line phone all week. Connectivity is still an expectation.

    Another non recommended HSP, DirectSat USA used the term "compensation from a lower tier" for failure to hit connectivity requirements.

    Look at their entire deal...if they stutter when you ask questions head for the door.

    I want the job carrying the receivers in on the silver platter as shown in the ads.

    Joe
     
  14. netraa

    netraa Godfather

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    Mar 27, 2007
    Tools I use daily:

    18v impact driver
    Hammer drill driver
    7/16 and 1/2 ratcheting combo wrench
    2 regular 7/16 combo wrenches
    1/4, 5/16 nut drivers
    7/16, 1/2 deep well impact sockets
    Wire cutters, cable prep tool, fitting compressor
    6 in one screwdriver
    Box cutter
    Torque wrench
    1/2, 5/8 augar bits, 3/8 twist drill bit
    Same as above in concrete bits
    Fitting thumb wrench
    Glow rods

    Pocket toner
    Gale 8 way cable mapper

    Superbudy 21 satelite meter


    These are weekly/monthly use
    Bosch SDS rotary hammer
    Various pliers
    Hammer
    Grabzit
    6' flex bit
    Post hole digger
    Sawzall

    Plus some I am sure I forgot
     
  15. dettxw

    dettxw MRVing

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    Nov 21, 2007
    Choctaw, OK
    FWIW the installers that did my GF's house (HR24, H24, std box, whole home with ICK) yesterday seemed happy with their jobs with the local (OKC) outfit.
    But since D* took over the local HSP 2 years ago our installers work for D* directly. I have no idea how common D*-owned installation offices are.
    They had D*-provided tools/meters, though I wonder if the small Mikita driver that the one tech had was his own or not. I was surprised to learn that they have to screw in all the cable run retainers, no staples or nail-based retainers any more.
    Anyway, the installers took their time, didn't seem rushed, and did a fine job.
    Gave them $60 tip which surprised them but seemed appreciated.
     
  16. tech24218

    tech24218 AllStar

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    Aug 12, 2009
    I'm pretty sure I work for the same HSP as ndole. They supplied me with 28 ft ext. ladder, 16 ft combo, birdog meter, compression and prep tool and maybe a couple other small tools. That took out a lot of my cost. But they are very particular that you have all of the right and necessary tools. Wrenches, drill bits, power tools ect... I thought I was going to go under my first couple of months buying tools and supplies.

    After taxes my first first year I was bringing home $1000 every two weeks. In my second year I'm bringing in about $1500 every two weeks after taxes, health, dental ect... My next check if 1000$ is taken out by uncle sam ill bring home about $2300 on friday. But that includes one week working 55 hours over six days and another working 71 hours over six days. The last two weeks we've slowed down tremendously. Im expecting to get closer to $1200 on the next check only doing 2-3 jobs a day vs. 5 or 6.

    I've had days where I've made $200 by 2 pm and been sent home to enjoy the rest of the after noon. I had a job a couple of weeks ago that I spent 11 hours on a one box upgrade. I had to basically re work an install in a 4 million dollar house, the job paid me 50$. Not worth the time spent, but I charged the customer $220 in custom work and got a 40$ tip. So on that job I made roughly $28 an hour but you never know what your going to get into.

    I think everyone here has been pretty spot on about the job description. The HSP you work for is key. I like mine, there is certain things I think they could do better, I think that in certain situations they could/ should pay more for the things I do. There is certain metrics we have to hit like phones and sales that are damn near impossible. But over all I have an excellent employer. They give me a hell of an opportunity to make money. I've never had an issue getting paid.

    The one thing I can say about my job as an installer is every day is different. Some days are great, you make lots of money meet lots of interesting people. Some days its cold, raining, your customer has a terrible attitude and things just go wrong. Today was a bad day. At my first job things went terribly wrong. My first customer was super nice wanted a tv in his kitchen hooked up. The HR24 was acknowledging swm, but wasn't showing any signal strength. I changed out everything in line to find out it was a bad receiver. This made me late to job 2 where the customer wasn't very happy and made it perfectly clear to me every step of the way. But Everything went smooth as far as his installation went. I got home at 3:30 after doing 2 installs paying $150, but I wanted to do one more, but nothing was available.

    As my team leader once told me some times you step in dog crap, and you have to wash it off an keep going.

    I've met former state governors, SEC football coaches, video game developers and several other multi- millionaires doing my job. I've made several connections with people who need stuff done on the side. I've also been to places where you wonder how people can live they way they do with a trashed house, they're either drug addicts or drug dealers, the house is falling apart and your pretty sure they're illiterate but they need their tv to distract themselves from their miserable existence.

    To sum up this lengthy rant, I love my job. I get a lot of freedom on the road by myself to do things how I want to. It can get messy, more stressful then it needs to and you feel like you're working for peanuts. But then again it can be extremely rewarding in multiple ways.
     
  17. tech24218

    tech24218 AllStar

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    Aug 12, 2009
    As for training goes the first month I made $10 sitting in a class room a couple days a week and then riding in the field with a tech. the second month I was thrown to the wolves making 10$ an hour with tools that barely got the job done. After the second month was up I was given a test to see if I was qualified to be a production tech. Money was tight the first couple of months but that training structure was good for me. btw, when your first starting out you can typically expect to work every Saturday and Sunday. I was at my position for about 6 months before they switched my day off to Sunday. The HSP you get into maybe different. I don't like working 6 days a week, but now that we're back on 5 days, I know I'm going to miss that extra day of making money.
     
  18. Soulweeper

    Soulweeper Icon

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    Jan 9, 2005
    ^^ Thanks for both of your posts! Much appreciated. That goes for everyone that has given some input.
     
  19. ndole

    ndole Problem Solver

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    Aug 26, 2009
    I believe you're correct Mr. Adams ;)
     
  20. tech24218

    tech24218 AllStar

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    Aug 12, 2009
    Thats a little creepy:lol: , but like i said they don't pay the most out of all the hsps but the security of the job in this field and the reliability of getting paid is excellent.
     

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