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Currently, nearly six million employees are working in the construction industry for more than 650,000 employers, and that number is slated to grow in the coming decade. While the construction business offers many opportunities for those who want to work for a mid- to large-sized company, there are also ample opportunities to branch off on their own.

 As a qualified contractor, experienced and inexperienced people alike have an option to hang their own shingle, taking on a piece of the large, profitable construction market. While there are inherent benefits to taking this path, there are also downsides that should be considered. First, it is crucial for individuals to understand the qualification process for becoming a qualified contractor, as well as the traits necessary for success.

The Qualification Process

The qualification process for becoming a contractor looks different for everyone. In some cases, starting with on-the-job experience as an apprentice or shadow is beneficial; for others, an academic approach to gaining knowledge of the industry and best practices is the most sensible route. In either scenario, the qualification process is based on some level of experience in the industry. Once this is gained, those who want to become a qualified contractor need to abide by the rules governed by the state in which they plan to work.

 Each state has its own requirements for getting a contractor license, which may include passing a knowledge exam or proving the skills sets an individual has because of his or her past experience in the industry. Some paths toward becoming a qualified contractor also may require a background check, a review of personal or business finances, and securing the right insurance or bond. It is necessary to recognize the requirements laid out by each state before deciding to become a qualified contractor.

Contractor Traits

In addition to knowing the rules surrounding obtaining a contractor license, qualified contractors should have some personal traits working in their favor. Most importantly is the ability to build trust with others quickly. This comes from being honest and direct, and always standing by the work performed.

 Also, it is helpful to have the ability to build and maintain relationships. Not only does this pay off in terms of gaining new clients, but it also makes for easier work environments when using subcontractors, vendors and suppliers on the job.

The Advantages

After understanding the process and traits needed to become a qualified contractor, making the move in that direction often comes down to the built-in benefits. Following are the main advantages.

  • The potential to earn more. Working as your own boss offers more control over the hourly rate or per-project price being charged to clients. This means that, over time, someone can earn more as a qualified contractor than if he or she was working for a construction company as an employee.
  •  More freedom on and off the job. Qualified contractors get to choose which clients they want to work with. This can make for a much more enjoyable work environment. Additionally, qualified contractors have more freedom in scheduling and taking time off when needed.
  •  A flexibile career path. Those who work as contractors get to design their career path, from the jobs they work on to the people they choose to work alongside. Also, there may be more flexibility in where they work, and whether projects are large, small, residential or commercial. Qualified contractors get to make these decisions on their own without being tethered to anyone else.
The Drawbacks

There are also drawbacks to becoming a qualified contractor.

  •  Less financial stability. Getting started as a qualified contractor can be intimidating from a financial perspective. Without steady clients, income can be far lower than what one may earn as an employee of another company. However, successful qualified contractors do have the potential to earn more over time, easing the concern of financial instability.
  •  Increased expenses. There are a handful of extra costs for qualified contractors, including those associated with licensing and bonding requirements, business operations, marketing, and personal and business insurance needs. Being prepared for these expenses before becoming a qualified contractor can help ease these concerns, as can setting aside some earnings over time to help cover these costs each year.
  •  Business ownership challenges. Most qualified contractors know the ins and outs of the construction industry, but may not be fully aware of how to run a successful business. Responsibilities in this realm include accounting, recordkeeping, marketing, benefits management and future planning. If these business ownership requirements do not come naturally, consider outsourcing them in order to focus on what you do best.

 When the benefits and challenges are weighed against one another, those who have the personal traits and follow the licensing process will be set up for long-term success as a qualified construction contractor.

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