Category Archives: Employment

How to Become a General Contractor in 2020

Independent Contractor

The prospect of becoming a general manager may be appealing to you if you are good at delegating work, finding the right fit for specific jobs, and are the type of person who can see the big picture. General contracting is a great responsibility but for the right kind of person, it can be a very rewarding profession. General contractors don’t do too badly in the financial department either. The average yearly income for a general contractor in the United States is $89,711 with an average of $6,750 in additional overtime pay.

And of course, if you are really good at your job and win high-paying bids, that number can certainly go up. But it takes a lot of time and dedication in addition to natural acumen to excel in this line of work. But as the ancient Chinese proverb goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Before you can begin thinking of tackling large construction or renovation jobs, you need to know where to begin. 

In the following post, we will share with you a basic guide on how to become a general contractor. Be advised that the specific rules and requirements will vary from state to state. But most states have similar guidelines. 

  • Education and Experience – One doesn’t simply up and become a general contractor overnight. There are two main paths to becoming one: you can either pursue higher education or you can gain experience in the construction industry. If you wish to go to school, construction management and civil engineering are very helpful subjects to study. You can also gain hands-on experience by getting hired by a local construction company. Be advised that no matter which route you take, you will need to set aside 3-5 years before you can really start applying as a general contractor. And in general, the best general contractors will have both college degrees and hands-on experience in the construction industry. 
  • Take the General Contractor Exam – In most states, you will have to pass an exam to get your general contractor’s license. This is going to require a good amount of studying. In most states, this is a multiple choice quiz that includes technical construction knowledge as well as business and tax questions. You can find out where and which local government body administers the test with a quick Google search. But in general, you will need to pass this exam before you can even apply for a general contractor’s license. If you need help studying, there are plenty of free online resources you can take advantage of like practice exams
  • Meet Bond Requirements – In some states, you will have to acquire a licensing bond and a performance bond. A licensing bond is a certain amount of money you will have to put up to guarantee that you will adhere to the local statutes and regulations set out for general contractors. A performance bond sometimes called a contractor’s bond is a separate amount of money you will have to put up to protect your clients should you fail to meet your contractual agreements or fail to finish the project – sort of like insurance. In most cases, you will have to put up one or both of these bonds before you apply for your general contractor’s license. 
  • Apply for your License – Once you have met the experience/education requirements, passed your state, city, or county general contractor exam and acquired the necessary bonds, you are finally ready to apply for your general contractor’s license. In most states, this means filling out a written application and providing a number of documents that can include your exam results, your driver’s license or birth certificate, background check results, your bond documentation, your proof of insurance, and proof of financial responsibility. 

Other Considerations for General Contractors

Becoming a general contractor isn’t all filling out forms and taking tests. There are a lot of practical considerations you must mull over before and during the process. 

  • Time – Here at Contractors Society of America, we get asked the question, “how long does it take to become a general contractor?” a lot. And this is an important consideration to analyze because it can take anywhere from 5-10 years to get your general contractor business up and running. Some people simply decide to work in the trades until they feel they have the knowledge to become a general contractor which can take many years. 
  • Getting Started – The general contracting business can be brutal for beginners. You will need a lot of resilience and gumption not to get discouraged because chances are, you won’t be winning a lot of high-profile bids when you first start out. And that’s perfectly ok. Something our members tell general contracting newbies when they ask “how do I get started as a contractor?” is to not shy away from smaller bids – even if you think you can handle more. Overseeing small home renovations and construction projects is a great way to build your reputation and value as a general contractor. 
  • This Work is a Learning Process – Another important thing to understand about general contracting is that it is a ceaseless learning process. You have to understand that pretty much every project will present you with a new challenge and you will have to learn and adapt on the fly. You have to be open to accepting new challenges and committed to learning on the job – even when you think you have seen it all. 

General Contracting is Rewarding

It sounds like a lot of work – and it is. But general contracting work comes with great rewards if you stick it out, are committed to improving and have a passion for seeing projects through to the end. Here at Contractors Society of America, we are dedicated to our community of professional contractors. We hope our guide on how to become a general contractor has been useful for you. Once you get your license, become a member of our community!

Is Finish Carpentry A Good Career?

Is Finish Carpentry a Good Career? (Cover)

Although a hampered economy may slow trade work, the trades are always among the first industries to come roaring back after a recession. But which trade is right for you? There are lots to choose from and the answer to the question ‘is finish carpentry a good career’ is typically a suggestive one. But in today’s post, we aim to help people decide for themselves if finish carpentry is right for them by presenting some key considerations and indisputable facts. But as always, you can find more information and resources regarding the trades here

One of the most attractive prospects that the trades have for young people is that these jobs never die. The trades are one of the safest bets in terms of job security. No matter what the economic climate is, people will always need structural repairs, plumbing repairs, electrical service, and other types of projects. Even in the current pandemic crisis, many trade jobs in many states like Washington have been deemed essential.

What is A Finish Carpenter?

A finish carpenter is one who specializes in the finishing touches of a structure construction project. Finish carpenters are typically hired to install molding, hang windows, drywall, hang doors, install stairs, install flooring, and other lighter-duty work. They essentially come in after most of the work is done and handle the more delicate aspects of a construction or remodeling job. Finish carpenters work in both the residential and commercial sectors. 

Why Would Anyone Want to Be A Finish Carpenter?

Finish carpentry tends to be less taxing on the body. In fact, a lot of tradesmen who have been in construction for a long time often shift to finish carpentry because it physically less demanding. If you are interested in the trades but aren’t too keen on doing a lot of dirty work, finish carpentry might appeal to you as well. Most finish carpentry jobs are done in cleaner environments and don’t require the presence of large crews.

There is also the potential for market growth. The job demand between 2016 and 2026 for all carpenters (including finish carpenters) is expected to increase by 8%. So there is also a job security factor at play here. 

What Can I Expect to Make as A Finish Carpenter?

The average annual earnings for all carpenters (including finish carpenters) hovers between $44,000 and $46,500. Of course, these are mean figures. They represent an income that is slightly below the national average. But the local market will be a major factor in how much you can expect to make every year as a finish carpenter. For example, the average annual income of a finish carpenter in New York is about $50, 600 while the average annual income of a finish carpenter in North Carolina is only about $37,000. 

Carpenters in general however can earn up to 70,000 dollars per year if they are exceptionally skilled and service a robust market.

What Does it Take to Be A Finish Carpenter?

The main requirements you will need to cover to become a finish carpenter are 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of job training. All of this can be covered in a 3 to 4 year apprenticeship program. In most cases, exceptionally skilled carpenters who have been in the trade for years make the leap to finish carpentry naturally. 

But aside from qualifications and certifications, you need to have a firm grasp of math. Finish carpenters often follow he blue prints of a general contractor to complete a job. These plans need to be carried out to a tee since someone else came in and did most of the work that will dictate how you go about the work. 

Finish carpentry also requires a keen eye for detail. The best finish carpenters – the ones who earn the lion’s share of the work – will also place a high emphasis on craftsmanship as well. Remember, your job as a finish carpenter will be to put the last, crowning touches on a construction job. More often than not, finish carpentry is at least 50% cosmetic. And while there isn’t as much heavy lifting involved in finish carpentry as there is with regular carpentry, you will still have to be able to bend, stretch and work your body in physically exhaustive ways.

Final Considerations as a Career

So is finish carpentry a good career? Now that you have the important facts, you are more suited than anyone to answer that question for yourself. What may appeal to others may not appeal to you. Like so many things in life, the answer to this question is subjective.

But a lot of people gravitate towards finish carpentry because, at heart, they love the artistry of it. It is a great way to be expressive through trade even though you will be following a blueprint most of the time. It can save your body a lot of wear and tear too. If you would like more information on finish carpentry and other trades, become a member of the Contractors Society of America.

How to Find Work as a Contractor: The Ultimate Guide

Want to know how to find work as a contractor? Contractors Society of America has developed The Ultimate Guide.

How To Find Work as a Contractor Blog Cover

Introduction

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. 

Conclusion

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.