Want to know how to find work as a contractor? Contractors Society of America has developed The Ultimate Guide.
As a contractor, you most likely already have a considerable degree of gumption and bravery. Striking out on your own as a contractor is a major challenge, and some people simply aren’t cut out for it. We have known extremely skilled merchants in our time that should have started bidding on their own jobs and building a team under them years ago. But they never did because the prospect of drumming up their own work was simply too overwhelming for them.
So if you have your contractor’s license and are actively looking for work, congratulations. You are already more courageous than many people can be. But now is when the hard work really starts. How do you even find work as a contractor? How do you make your workflow sustainable? How do you drum up new leads? These are scary questions but nonetheless, ones that can be answered. With a bit of due diligence, hustle, and tips, you will be able to find work as a contractor.
If at any time you would like more information or resources to assist you in your efforts, simply get in touch with us here at the Contractors Society of America. We provide lots of industry resources for contractors of all kinds.
Part I: Networking & Relationship-Building
1) Get to Know Local Businesses
If you do commercial work of any kind, you are going to want to get plugged into the local business community. Check around to see if your city has a business or professionals’ club you can join. These are usually low-obligation, casual organizations that gain members and meet once a month or so for networking events.
We knew a contractor just starting out with his handyman business in a sleepy town in Northern California called Santa Rosa. His landlord was actually a real estate agent, and she invited him to join the local business owner’s club of which she herself was a long-standing member. Through her personal references and people he met through the club, this newbie contractor grew his business to 20 employees in just over a year.
Business clubs like these are a great way to get know other business owners who may need your services as a contractor face to face. Being able to establish a rapport with potential customers and making your name prominent in their minds means that they are that much more likely to remember you when they need a contractor. Plus, if you do good work, you will already have a referral network that could grow your job rate exponentially.
2) Make yourself Available in Multiple Capacities
We know the glamour of the General Contractor title is alluring. But when you are just starting out, it can be hard to win bids against already established companies. You are probably starting out as the little guy in a sea of Goliath’s and you may miss out on a lot of bids in your early days. There is no shame in it – it happens to all of us.
But that is why it is important to keep yourself open and available in your days as a neophyte general contractor. Do your best to win bids. Do your best to find out who you are bidding against. But when you don’t win bids as a general contractor; seek work as a subcontractor.
When you lose a bid to another company, reach out to them and let them know that you are willing to help them on the project as a subcontractor. It may not be your ideal but when you are first striking out on your own, you may need all the income you can get.
A mistake that many contractors make is not even considering doing work as a subcontractor. They don’t go the distance because they don’t make themselves available for paying work – even if it isn’t as a general contractor. Taking work as a subcontractor will help you supplement your income, get your name out there to clients and other contractors, and provide you with the opportunity to show people what you are capable of. It isn’t a demotion so try not to view it as one.
3) Understand (& Learn) Your Clientele
You can’t generate leads and win bids if you don’t know who your clientele is. Your client base will consist of anyone that would ever use your service. For example, if you are going into housing construction, one of your potential clients would be local land developers. If you are in commercial construction, it would be a good idea to get in touch with commercial realtors. If you offer handyman services, your client base could consist of property management companies.
The beautiful thing about being a contractor is that you have no shortage of clientele. But you should make a list of the types of commercial entities and private consumers who are most likely to need your services. This will help you focus your energies on the hottest leads and make the most efficient use of your time.
4) Scout Prospective Clients
As a contractor, one of your prime objectives is to secure sales. This includes marketing and meeting with potential clients. But how do you find potential clients? One of the easiest ways to find potential clients is to use Google. Your search will depend on the kind of contractor service you offer. For instance, if you are a commercial electrician, you may do a search for “businesses near me.” If you are a remodeling contractor, you could do a search for “real estate offices near me.” All kinds of businesses large and small need electrical services and real estate agents are one of the leading customers for renovation contractors.
Your search will turn up a sizeable list of potential clients and all you have to do is jot their names, addresses, and phone numbers down. But that is not the end…
Part II: Getting Official Clients
1) Sell Yourself & Your Services to Clients
Again, as a contractor, much of your efforts will have to be devoted to securing clients. In many cases, that means pursuing and meeting with clients. Once you have a good list of potential clients in your area, take a day or two to go out and meet with them. Visit them at their place of business, make FaceTime with their secretaries and staff, leave your business card with them etc. If you can meet with them face-to-face, let them know how your services can help their business or improve their property. This may be out of your nature as a tradesman but remember that this is part of your job description now if you want to be a successful contractor.
Face-to-face meetings are ideal since it allows your potential clients to put a face to the service you offer, which, in turn, makes you more memorable than an email or business card. But if you can’t get any FaceTime, emails and phone calls can’t hurt. Reach out to them by any means and let them know the service you provide and that you are ready to go to work for them.
2) Use Lead Generation Services
If you don’t have a lot of time to spare and you can afford it, lead generation services are extremely helpful for new contractors. The best lead generation services are well-established networks that connect owners, land developers, investors, and the like to contractors and subcontractors.
Their databases are massive and millions of potential clients go to their website every day in search of all kinds of contracting and sub-contracting companies. While many of these lead generation services charge an annual fee and a small fee per each contract won, some of them offer free trial periods that you can use to get started. Keep in mind that there are commercial and residential lead generation services and those that are industry-specific so be discerning with which one you use.
3) Optimize Your Web Presence
Even if you have just a basic website up for your contracting company, Search Engine Optimization is crucial for business in the modern world. There are tons of SEO guides that are readily available online for free and many of the practices to help your company appear in more Google searches are things that you can do right now.
You can use Google Ads to find out which keywords are trending in your particular trade and utilize them in the content of your website.
Pictures with good descriptive captions are another SEO tool that will help you rank higher on Google searches. If available, post a picture of your past work on your website so that Google will be able to find your site easier and pull it up when someone makes a search relevant to your company.
Even as you start to win bids and work on more projects, you should still be in the hunting mindset. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from people you have worked for or are working for. Contact architects, mall management companies, construction management firms, and interior designers and let them know you are ready to work.
Starting out as a contractor isn’t easy but if you aren’t afraid of hard work and venturing outside your established skill sets, you have a great shot.