Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Contractor


Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds


The construction industry can be a smart place to build a long-lasting, profitable business for those who have the right experience and understanding of the field. Over the next five years, construction is slated to grow by 16%, giving individuals interested in becoming a contractor a clear path toward success. While the journey to becoming a contractor is not the same for everyone, there are similar steps that need to be followed to create a sustainable business. Here are the most important tasks to complete on the way to becoming a contractor in the construction business.

1 – Get the Right Education

Construction contractors are often viewed as blue-collar workers, requiring less formal education and industry experience than other business verticals. However, that perception is not based in reality. If becoming a contractor is on your agenda, you need to start by recognizing the education requirements needed for the job. For some, a more conventional route of training and education is followed, including two- or four-year college degrees in a related field. Earning a college degree in construction, business management, or even technology can offer a sturdy foundation of training which can be used to move a contractor business forward effectively.

For others, earning a college degree is neither a desire nor a need. Instead, gaining on-the-job training through various programs can be beneficial. Working as an apprentice for an experienced construction contractor offers invaluable real-world education to prospective contractors. Also, those who want to work with a specific type of construction, such as masonry, carpentry, or electrical and plumbing work, may opt to obtain training through specialty courses instead of a full college degree.

2 – Gather Experience in the Industry

In addition to formal or on-the-job training, individuals who have a desire to become a licensed contractor need to gain experience in the industry. Working for a small or large construction company offers an opportunity to get acclimated with the types of projects and clients available, as well as insight into how business operations are run. The combination of this experience also helps build a strong resume which can be used to gain clients as a contractor on your own.

3 – Understand How to Be a Business Owner

Construction contractors are, at the core, business owners. While construction work may come naturally, it is common that business ownership and operation skills do not. However, spending time working with successful construction companies can be helpful in gaining this type of acumen for your own business. Also, potential contractors should work toward understanding the ins and outs of business management through business courses, offered both online and in-person from a variety of sources.

If business knowledge seems to be too much to handle, the good news is that advisors and professions are willing and able to take on outsourced business requirements. These requirements may include financial management, recordkeeping, technology solutions, or personnel management.

4 – Recognize the Licensing and Legal Requirements

After you have gained valuable industry and business knowledge, the next step in becoming a contractor is following through on licensing and legal requirements. First, each state has guidelines for how to become a contractor, including taking an exam, completing a background check, and showcasing skills gained from experience. Most states also require you to have a surety bond in place to help safeguard the clients who entrust their contracting work to you. Be sure to check with your state’s licensing board or use this in-depth resource to determine what requirements are necessary for contractor licensing.

Finally, new contractors may also need to create a legal structure for their new business. There are several types of business structures available, each with advantages and drawbacks, so it may be helpful to speak with an accountant or tax adviser for direction on this front. Just like obtaining a contractor license, new contractors need to closely follow the guidelines for business operations based on state requirements from the start.

Becoming a licensed contractor can be a profitable endeavor for those who take the time to understand the process. Start with the right education and training, and follow up with acquiring valuable industry experience. Also be sure to know what it takes to be a business owner, including the legal requirements to operate in your state. Following these steps will ensure you are set-up for success as a construction contractor.

Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.

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