Making Money as a Small Contractor

You may have the idea that in order to make a decent living, you will need a large crew, secretary, brick-and-mortar location, fancy trucks and advertising, etc.  Not true. At all.  The fact is, you can make a comfortable living as a contractor with no employees!  This doesn’t mean you will be able to do every job by yourself, but it does mean you can avoid having the hassle of employees, payroll, worker’s comp., OSHA, and all the other headaches that go with having a larger business.

So, how can this be done?  Through careful planning of your business model.  If you focus on small interior or exterior repairs, and other one-man jobs, you can quickly become the go-to small contractor in your area.  This doesn’t mean you can’t tackle a larger project.  If you would like to take on some larger jobs, it is best to hire a reliable sub-contractor to do the work for you.

As per the law (at least in the United States), the sub-contractor must be fully insured.  If the contractor has a crew, all crew members need to be covered by insurance.  If not, you could risk serious ramifications if a problem would arise on the job.

Here are some ways to become a successful contractor:

  • Be a specialist-  Set yourself apart from the rest by specializing in one particular area.
  • Be personable- No one likes a grump.  You don’t have to be Joe Salesman, but at least be polite and have a smile.
  • Communicate- Whether in person, by e-mail, text, or phone, make sure you communicate clearly with the customer.  This also includes writing clear estimates.  Confusion is a great way to get way to lose a customer, and a possible referral.
  • Be Honest- If you can’t do the job, tell the customer you can’t do the job.  If it will be weeks before you can get the work done, let them know.  If they want you to do a job that isn’t one of your strong points, make clear what kind of work you will do in that area.  If you mess up, fess up.
  • Meet or Exceed Expectations-  There is no better way to thrill a customer than to exceed their expectations on a completed job.  Whether it is finishing the job under the estimated cost, or throwing in a few freebies (upgraded product, additional repairs) any extras you include after agreeing on a price will elevate you and your business in the customer’s eyes.  Unmet expectations will leave a sour taste in the customer’s mouth and will possibly hurt future sales.