Monthly Archives: March 2021

Is Going Into Debt a Good or Bad Idea for Your Contracting Business?

Let’s face it: Few people are starting with such wealth that they can begin a business without having to scrimp or go into debt. While opening a ton of credit lines and borrowing lots of money isn’t necessarily the best choice, neither is avoiding debt as if it were the plague. Like most parts of business management, a good balance is key. Here’s how to determine when going into debt is likely to be good or bad for your business.

Sources of Funding
When you start a business, you’ll usually have a few sources of funding, such as:

  • Savings
  • Other income
  • Investor funding
  • Loans

Before you have clients, you may not necessarily have income. Some people choose to keep a side job or even a full-time job while they build their business. This isn’t necessarily an easier task, depending on the type of work you do. Savings can be difficult to accumulate, but has the benefit that it’s freely available and never needs to be paid back. Maintaining a variety of possible funding sources, including crowdfunding or investment money, makes debt less of a risky proposition.

Steady Income
One of the first things you have to establish before you take on debt is how you will pay it back. In some industries, people can start a business and find paying clients very quickly. This depends heavily on your location, your competition and the type of work you do. Otherwise, you’ll need to figure out how you plan to pay yourself and your debts, plus other overhead expenses like equipment or materials. This is why a lot of people will build a contracting business more slowly at first, so they can keep other income opportunities flowing at the same time.

Limited Spending
If you’ve been waiting for years to be able to start your own contracting business, it’s tempting to start spending as soon as you have the opportunity. But if you rack up a bunch of debt before you have reliable clients and income to pay it off, you’re going to find yourself with too much overhead and not enough profit. Getting into debt on a limited scale to help you get established can be helpful. It will be easier to manage if you can stick to what you need instead of what you’d like. For example, you’ll spend less to pay for rentals on equipment that you don’t need daily than you would to buy them.

Type of Loan
When it comes to getting into debt for your business, the type of loan matters significantly. There are a variety of lending options for businesses, including:

  • SBA loans
  • Secured loans for vehicles or other equipment
  • Credit cards or other lines of credit
  • Cash advances

The interest rates that you’ll pay vary depending on your credit and the type of loan. For example, a loan that is secured by an asset, like an auto loan, tends to have the lowest interest rate. Credit cards and cash advances usually carry a higher risk to the lender, so they have higher interest rates. This affects how much you have to pay each month and how long it takes to pay it off. As such, getting one type of loan may be more practical than others, depending on the purpose.

Plan to Pay Off
As a good general rule, you should develop a plan to pay off all debts that you accumulate for the business. This is true for revolving debt like credit cards, as well as loans with a set amount and a defined term. The last thing that you want is to spend the next 10 years making minimum payments on a debt that you could have paid off within a year. Formulate a plan in advance to handle the debt before you take it on. This can help you make sure that you actually need to make the expense, as well as give you a path to manage it.

Funding your business wisely is one way you can ensure it will last. Getting a great education is another. To start building your contracting business, contact CSLS today!

5 Things to Do in Your Construction Vehicle Each Day

As a construction professional, you’ll probably spend more time in your vehicle each day than most people. This is especially true if you spend your day commuting to projects that take only a few hours. Having everything you need in your vehicle is important, but you also need to be able to find it all. And if you practically live in your vehicle during the day, it’s wise to make it livable. Here are five things you can do with your vehicle each day to ensure it stays that way.

Check the Fuel and Other Indicators
You probably know what it feels like to get in your construction vehicle in the morning, only to realize that the tank is running on fumes. When you run a tight schedule and you don’t have a lot of time before you need to get to your next client, having enough fuel to arrive at each destination is crucial. So is the ability to keep your vehicle in excellent working condition. Each night, take a moment to check your fuel gauge and confirm that you don’t see any other indicators. Make sure that all the lights are turned off and the door is locked.

Put Equipment Away
If you use your vehicle for performing certain types of services, not just commuting to a jobsite, you may have equipment that you need to put away before you are done. Keeping equipment in the right spot helps you to identify if anything is missing. It also makes it easier for you to start the day with everything in its place. If the equipment itself is dirty, you can give it a quick wash or wipe it down before you set it aside. This will help to keep your vehicle in a cleaner condition overall, so that you don’t need to deep-clean it as frequently.

Inventory Supplies
Contractors who are not sure which types of supplies they will need for a particular job may choose to keep an inventory of tools and materials in the vehicle. It might seem like a hassle to take an inventory of these supplies at night when you’re tired, but this is the best time. While the day is still fresh in your mind, you’ll be able to get through the inventory more quickly because you can focus on the tasks you know you were working on. This is a good time to identify supplies that you need to order for replacement the next day.

Clear Out Trash
As a business owner, you may sometimes feel like you live out of your vehicle. Of course, there’s a difference between feeling like you live in your vehicle and actually living in it. When you start to see packaging from supplies, receipts and other things pile up inside your car, you need a better system for handling waste. Keeping waste out of your vehicle helps to act as a deterrent against theft, and you’ll generally feel better about climbing in each day. If you don’t have room for a small wastebasket, consider keeping a roll of small bags in your glove compartment or console so that you can bag up garbage and take it away quickly.

Organize Files and Receipts
When you’re regularly commuting to a jobsite, you often have to bring your work home with you. This is where important documents can get lost. For example, if you complete a job and have a client sign a receipt form, you don’t want to lose that form under the seat. Instead, you should designate a spot in your vehicle where you can put receipts, contracts and other written documents that you need to keep for your business. An envelope or small flexible file can help. That way, when you get out of your vehicle, you can simply take them back to your office.

Keeping your vehicle clean and ready for use is a daily part of running a contracting business. First, you need the foundation. To find out how expert exam preparation can help you get ready for the contractor licensing exam, visit CSLS today!

Should You Hire a Photographer for Your Contractor Business Marketing?

When you work for yourself, you become a big part of your own personal brand. If you want to put yourself and your business in the best possible light, you may need good photography. Research shows that consumers and potential clients expect images to look excellent, and your competition probably already knows this. Here are a few reasons to consider hiring a photographer for your contracting business.

Brand Your Business
When you first start a contracting business, you might be running it all by yourself for a while. For many contractors, faces and names are a big part of their branding. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what about you makes clients want to hire you to work on their projects. If you use your own image on your website, you want to present yourself in a way that conveys commitment, professionalism, and other important qualities. A professional photographer can take pictures of you in various poses that you can use on your logo or other aspects of your brand.

Take Your Online Presence to a Higher Level
No one enjoys browsing a website with choppy design and terrible images. Similarly, if you plan to market by social media, you’ll need to add a high-quality image to catch the eye and persuade people to click. As a business owner, your online presence tells people stories about the way your business works. Marketing experts say that images are one of the best ways to convey a feeling to potential customers. If the image is too dark or obviously taken hastily on your phone, they may conclude that you are too quick to cut corners. Professional photography for your website and social media shows that you care about how things look, which is an important part of construction success.

Present a Professional Portfolio
It’s common for prospective clients to ask for a portfolio of images and details about similar projects you’ve completed in the past. You may want to keep one on your website so that customers can browse through it at their leisure. Since this is a point where people are usually getting ready to make a choice, professionalism is important. On the last day of the project, hiring a photographer to create pictures of the finished result is a great idea. You’ll have dazzling photos of your project from multiple angles, making every aspect look its best for posterity.

Keep Up With Competitors
Hiring a photographer is an investment. Sometimes it costs thousands of dollars or even more, depending on what you are asking for. It may make it difficult to justify the investment until you think about your competition. In most cases, contracting businesses have a handful of competitors in the area. In the early years, you’ll be working hard to present a professional persona that sets you apart from the rest. Professional photography can turn a website that looks amateurish to professional.

Save Time and Hassle
In the days where every job takes much of the week and the business only has you, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. And yet, you do want to present a professional look to clients, subcontractors, and your eventual employees. You can certainly buy an expensive camera and spend your nights and weekends learning how to take pictures of projects, but that takes away from your other work and relaxation time. Hiring a professional photographer saves you time and the hassle of worrying about how to get the best images without having to devote weeks to it.

Part of running a contracting business involves figuring out how to put your best foot forward. Professional photography for your marketing and other parts of your website can help you present an ideal image from the very beginning. To learn more about the things you’ll need for a career in construction, visit CSLS today!

Is It Time for Your Contracting Business to Get Into Residential Construction?

A lot of construction professionals tend to choose either commercial or residential construction, and then they stick to it. Right now, there is so much need for new housing that many pros are reconsidering their commitment to just one or the other. Of course, it’s hard to know from the beginning if building housing is the best choice for your future career. Here are a few ways to determine whether residential construction might be a good fit.

Does Your Area Have Room to Grow?
One thing about new construction is that it needs space to grow. Although many custom home builders will take down an old home and construct a new one in its place, most of the new construction developments in California require some open spaces. A city that is almost completely built up may not have as much room for new construction as one with lots of open fields on all sides. In short, if you’re living deep into the suburbs or even on the outskirts, there may be a lot of opportunities for residential construction.

Do You Like Working With Housing?
Although it’s important to choose a field that allows you plenty of work and opportunities to make money, what you want to do with your career also plays a heavy role. The commercial sector has a lot of unique aspects that might not translate as well into residential construction. For example, if you want to construct, maintain, or repair elevators, residential construction may be relatively limited for your skillset. However, if you love to see a building come to completion from start to finish, you may get more satisfaction from building homes instead of large office buildings.

What’s Your Commute for Residential Construction Work?
If you happen to live in an area with lots of housing construction potential, you might be able to find all the work you need within a short drive of your home. Of course, this isn’t going to be the case for everyone. If you live in a built-up area that is more commercial than residential, you may need to commute farther out to find where the newest construction is happening. Set a driving distance you are willing to make for daily work, and figure out how far from your home that will take you. That should give you a range that you can compare for possible job opportunities.

Are You Looking for Steady Growth?
Experts were thinking that residential housing was going to decrease somewhat in 2020, but they didn’t anticipate how it was going to play out. Instead of tapering off just a little, housing plummeted due to the pandemic and now is rising steadily again. If you want a career with steady growth, now might be the perfect time. With the millions of new housing units that California still needs, it’s likely that anyone who gets into residential construction will have a lot of work to do for the next several years.

Do You Have the Ability to Work in Both Industries?
Ultimately, you may not have to make the decision to work exclusively in residential or commercial construction. Although many contracting businesses do generally focus on one or the other, and some have no choice but to stick to one, most have a fair degree of flexibility. The ability to move from one to the other, or choose projects from both throughout the year, is a highlight of building your own contracting business. With the right knowledge and training, you can find the part of the industry that suits your needs most.

Residential construction is a growing part of the industry and will be for a significant amount of time. If you want to break in and start building a career that offers you flexibility, security, and steady growth, you have picked a good time. For more information about residential construction careers, contact CSLS today!

Is Your Contracting Business’s Waste Management Strategy Putting You at Risk?

When you think about waste management on and off the jobsite, it’s more than an issue of cleaning up a mess or making sure you dispose of hazardous materials in the right way. It’s a matter of your own safety and the people around you. Here are a few factors to consider as you decide if your waste management strategy is ideal, or could use a reboot.

Environmental Risks
Whenever you work on a construction site, even if that place is a warehouse or your own home, you may have a variety of environmental concerns to worry about. Since this is heavily dependent on your working location, you’ll need to inspect each site and conduct testing as required before you can establish the type of environmental risks you’re facing. For example, you might have to deal with high levels of certain contaminants in the soil, like radon. The presence of a free-flowing water source nearby may make prompt cleanup more important, to avoid contaminating that water supply.

Population Concerns
You will also need to pay attention to the people who live and work around your construction site, and how the production of waste may affect them. In 2020, many construction workers in California have been invested in renovating or retrofitting existing hospitals to accommodate increased numbers of patients due to COVID-19. However, doing construction work in a hospital that has patients in it presents unique risks to a highly vulnerable population. You should consider the impact that dust and debris can have if they shift from the area where you are working before you have a chance to clean it up.

Cleanup Intervals
There are many different approaches to waste management on the construction site, and most of them have a different cleanup interval. If you are in the habit of cleaning up when a project is completely done, and not one minute before, you may be putting yourself and others at risk. The chance that dust and debris can blow away from an open jobsite is relatively high. But you should also keep in mind that it can create a slipping or tripping hazard while you continue to work in the space. Setting a more frequent cleanup interval, as often as every hour, keeps the excess out of the way.

Disposal Practices
Although cleanup at the jobsite is a major part of your waste management strategy, it is not the last step. You also need to dispose of your construction debris and garbage on a regular basis. Knowing how to dispose of materials is a vital skill that you as a business owner must master. In many cases, being able to control all aspects of site cleanup is a matter of following the law. If you haven’t thought about these practices in a while, now may be a good opportunity to re-evaluate them. You may have more options for recycling or local disposal than you did in years past.

Employee Training
As in many industries, you may discover that there is a significant difference between what you are supposed to do and what people are actually doing. In a lot of cases, this is an indicator that people are unaware of how to dispose of waste on a construction site. Since this can be a serious matter of health and even life or death, training should be an important component of your business practices. Make sure that you know how you should handle site cleanup depending on the site and the type of project that you are doing. Then invest the time and money to confirm that everybody you work with has that knowledge as well.

Waste management is a time-consuming task, but one that you need to do for your health and the security of your contracting business. For more information about building a successful business in construction, contact CSLS today!

Simple SEO Tips When Your Contracting Business Doesn’t Have a Marketing Budget

You probably know that if you want business success, you’ve got to have an online presence. But in order for your potential customers to find you online, they need to be able to find you in a search. Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is a way of targeting the content you put online to help your business in a search. You can pay a marketing company to handle this for you, but there are a few things you can do for yourself. Here’s what you can try.

Search for Common Terms
In order to figure out where you would like your page to show up, you need to figure out what’s there. Some keywords are overused, and it’s hard to tell how much until you start searching for them yourself. For most small businesses that operate within a limited location, your ideal keywords will be the type of services you offer in your broad location. If you live in a small suburb or in a rural area, you may need to search for multiple nearby cities to get a sense for what may work. Search terms that don’t bring up a lot of hits may have a need that’s not met, or a lack of demand. Use your best judgment to determine which is the most likely scenario.

Try Various Types of Keywords
There are many different ways to approach keywords. Potential clients may use a variety of them, or stick to just one. For example, you might have clients who search for “plumber in Los Angeles,“ while others search for “plumber Los Angeles.” There’s been a resurgence in the use of long-tail keywords, which are long key phrases that encapsulate what the user is looking for. You may have more of an opportunity to increase your search rankings by using them yourself. You might try creating a few different pages that each focus on a different keyword style.

Answer Questions
To improve your search engine rankings, adding value is the thing you need to do most. When you search for something on Google, you’ll often see a list of similar questions that people search for, related to your topic. These snippets can be an excellent way to get your business onto the first page. You may have to make a few guesses as to which questions are most important to your prospective clients. But if you can answer them better than other companies, you might be able to get a big reward that way.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Years ago, many companies aimed to bring their search engine rankings up by cramming each page with the same keyword dozens of times. This is an old trick that may have worked in 2010, but is likely to cause problems for you in 2020. People visit your site or your social media pages because they are looking for relevant information. A page full of nothing but keywords isn’t likely to get them what they need. As a result, Google tends to penalize pages full of keywords with lower rankings. Aim to keep the content natural, with a handful of keywords sprinkled in. Using them in headings or near the top of the page can be the most helpful.

Track Your Progress
Although you’re trying to do this on a tight budget, that doesn’t mean you should just make a bunch of random efforts and hope that something sticks. You still need some kind of a strategy. In order to know how well your SEO techniques are paying off, you’ll need to track it somehow. Social media platforms may have easy ways to track visitors and engagement. If you want to track the performance of your website, it might be worth signing up for something like Google Analytics. Many of these services offer a free version, but it’s usually pretty limited. Consider it a way to evaluate your options and decide which one is worth making an investment.

SEO is one way that people can find your business, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. To discover how becoming a licensed contractor helps you build the business of your dreams, contact CSLS today!

How to Use Your Senses to Assess Construction Site Safety

As you start to think about construction site safety from the vantage point of a business owner, you’ll spend a lot of time reading rules and guidelines. But once you start to master them, you’ll find that you need to be able to assess the situation regularly and quickly. If you use your five senses to your advantage, you’ll see how your natural instincts can tell you what could be wrong.

Sight
What you see on the jobsite is probably your first indicator of its safety. For most people, sight is the first or possibly the second sense they rely on to understand their surroundings. You can use your vision to evaluate the surrounding environment for each task you’ll be doing on the site. It’s important to get a 360° view, because it’s likely that there may be hazards behind you. For example, if you’re working in a busy warehouse, you should know if there will be equipment in use behind you, or people moving through with small vehicles. Working with multiple people helps to increase the likelihood that someone will see a disaster before it happens. But this isn’t guaranteed, so you’ll want to evaluate it in advance.

Sound
Sounds on the construction site can be trickier to navigate than what you see. This is because many pieces of construction equipment generate a lot of noise, and that isn’t necessarily an indicator that something is wrong. In some cases, the task you’re doing produces so much noise that you need to wear protective gear to reduce sound levels. This means that other people, who might call out to you to get your attention in case of a hazard, may not be able to get through. Tools for construction safety often use a combination of indicators, like a loud beep and a bright flashing light, to get someone’s attention even if they may can only hear or see it.

Smell
If you have ever walked into a room that had left natural gas running too long, you know the unmistakable smell. This scent exists to warn you of danger. In some cases, a bad smell is an indicator that disaster is about to strike. A strong burning smell may come as the result of a natural construction process, or it could be an accidental fire. Unfortunately, people are often trained to ignore bad smells because it is sometimes impolite to comment on them. But it’s better to make a note of them than to tune them out. Of course, for contaminants like carbon monoxide, you may not be able to smell it at all. That’s why you install things like carbon monoxide detectors to alert you, in the event that the room is not properly ventilated.

Touch
You’re less likely to rely on your sense of touch when you can see and hear clearly. But if you can’t, your sense of touch may be the difference between safe passage and a fall. Falls on construction sites are one of the most common sources of injury or even death. They’re more likely to happen in places where people cannot see clearly, or where they are distracted by the task at hand. When you’re working above the ground, make sure that you can keep both feet flat. If you start to feel that you don’t have a firm grip, you may need to use additional safety equipment or temporarily suspend work.

When to Trust Your Instincts
When you’ve got a long day of work and you’re most of the way through, it’s tempting to ignore your instincts just so you can get the job done and go home. Statistically, this is when accidents are more likely to happen. You don’t need to be on constant alert to the point that you can’t focus on the task. But you should certainly take breaks to evaluate your environment for possible hazards. That way, you can manage them before you start the task, and ensure that you leave the environment safe for the next person.

Trusting your senses is one way to keep your contracting business safe for years to come. To learn more about taking the contractor licensing exam, contact CSLS today!

5 Reasons to Start Your Construction Career in 2021

Now that 2020 is starting to fade into the past, you may be reminded that you have a whole new decade full of potential. Is 2021 the year you’ll start in construction? The choice is yours. Here are five reasons you can be optimistic about your decision.

Construction Is Rebounding in 2021
Lots of industries shut down or slowed down for most of 2020 due to the pandemic. Construction is no exception. Plenty of investors and property owners decided to scale back or even abandon projects that they were thinking about doing because they weren’t sure if they would be able to find qualified professionals to handle it or how the economy would look by the end of the year. But as 2020 started to come to a close, the interest in new construction starts began to rebound. And now, the demand for housing is still high. The next few years are going to be really interesting for the industry, and those who get in on the ground floor are more likely to reap the benefits.

California Needs New Construction
At the end of 2019, the need for buildings in residential and commercial sectors in California was already high. Cities like Los Angeles were neck-deep in urban renewal projects to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And not much has changed since then. California still has a housing crisis, especially since many people have shifted to working exclusively from home. Although housing needs often wax and wane from one decade to the next, this is a problem that’s likely to continue for many years into the future. The state needs qualified construction professionals who are able to meet the challenge.

You’ll Have Lots of Opportunities to Learn
Along with a new understanding of the building needs of the state, you may see a renewed interest in professional trades. There was a time, decades ago, when trade schools and apprenticeship programs started to fade away in favor of colleges churning out degrees. Now, people are realizing that they needed these professional trades all along. If you’ve been looking for the perfect opportunity to study on the job or find a paid apprenticeship that gives you the expertise you need for a challenging career, you’ve picked the perfect time to get started.

Growth Potential Is Still High
If you’ve read anything on the subject, you probably know that construction has had a labor shortage for almost a decade now. It just keeps getting worse as the most skilled professionals in highly-competitive fields retire with no one to replace them. With the right training and experience, that person could be you one day. Right now, there’s a lot of interest in investment but not as many professionals who can fill the roles that complete the projects. A targeted career trajectory could get you exactly where you want to be with less competition than you might have had 5 years ago.

Your Career Is Waiting
Any year can pass by in a flash. Blink, and you’ll miss it. And for any big opportunity, the first step is often the hardest. Once you get started building experience and the requirements you need to become a licensed contractor, you’ll be so glad you did. So what you are waiting for? The sign that you should get started has been shining brightly for some time. Follow it now and see where it takes you.

Starting your career in construction may be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made for your life and your future. All you have to do is make the choice and get started. To learn more about making construction your future, contact CSLS today!

 

How to Improve Your Retention When Building New Skills for Your Contracting Business

Experts say that you’ll need to practice a new skill a lot in order to master it and remember all the steps in order. Sometimes you have the time to invest, and other times you need to get up to speed quickly. Here are a few ways you can improve your retention, so you can ensure a higher degree of accuracy from the beginning.

Get Invested in the Subject
Everyone has a skill they need to learn that either bores them to death or terrifies them. Most of the things you need to learn for your business won’t fall to either of these extremes, but it’s good to keep it in perspective. One of the best ways to avoid a natural disinclination to learn is to give yourself a reason to do it. Make a list of reasons that you need to develop the skill and make sure that they offer benefits for you. For example, you might note that the skill will help you complete projects more quickly or be able to offer a wider variety of services so that you can earn more money.

Take Good Notes
If the skill you want to learn requires notes, you might as well make them good ones. Most people don’t love the process of writing down the contents of an article or lecture, but experts say it is the best way to get the most out of learning through these methods. Don’t just regurgitate whatever you have read or heard. Give yourself the time to think about what you’re learning and put it into your own words. Practice getting to the point of a subject and being able to summarize it cleanly. That way, when you go back to your notes, you’ll be able to scan for information quickly.

Test Out Your Knowledge
So much of the construction industry involves hands-on skills, and that’s why a lot of people like it. Once you get some research and investigation under your belt, you’ll want to test out your knowledge. Of course, this depends on the thing you’re trying to master, and how easy it is to test out. If you’re learning how to use a new piece of equipment, it’s important to ensure that you can use it safely without risking the health of others either. As a general rule, it’s best to pick a time when you are feeling alert and not in a hurry. Exploring a new process can often tell you as much as you learn by reading about it.

Review the Fundamentals
No one gets behind the wheel of a car and is able to drive perfectly, without effort, from the very first day. Even if you understand the concept and the basic information involved with the skill, you may still need to review standards and guidelines to help you keep control of what you’re doing. Take a moment to look at your notes and review lectures as needed. Watching tutorials more than once can sometimes help you to avoid missing important details. This review process is important for the accuracy of the skill you build, as well as your ability to remember it.

Demonstrate Your Skills
Many experts believe that one of the best ways to solidify your ability to do something is to teach someone else how to do it. In the case of a complicated process or the use of possibly dangerous equipment, you may be demonstrating it more than you are teaching it. However, this process can also help you to put the individual steps into your own language. That makes it easier for you to remember. And when you do find yourself in the position of needing to teach someone how to do it, you will already have the language that you need to explain it in a way that makes sense.

Construction is a career full of skill-building. The faster and the better you can do it, the more you can make it pay off. To learn more about construction careers and how you can become a licensed contractor, contact CSLS today!