Saying that you want to be a contractor is probably one of the most vague, general statements you could make about a career. By definition, a contractor works on a project by project basis from a contract. A independent contractor provides services to a company, who is doing work for a homeowner or business or municipality.
A contractor isn’t an employee of the company providing the work, and the work they do must reflect the language set out in the contract. That’s what it is, but there is a lot more to it than that.
What’s Your Motivation?
On the quest to become a contractor, perhaps it’s wise to figure out your motivation before you start the journey. This way, you’ll know where to devote the bulk of your attention and efforts. Are you in it strictly for the money? Are you in it because you notice a need in the marketplace? Are you in it because you really love this kind of work? Maybe it’s a combination of the three?
Whatever is driving you, try to figure it out at the start and it will make everything a lot clearer and easier to navigate as you proceed. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will help.
What Kind of Contractor?
Another important step in becoming a contractor is figuring out precisely what kind of contractor you want to be. There are several different types of general contractors like a general building contractor or a general engineering contractor. You could be an electrical contractor, a drywall contractor, a concrete contractor, a flooring contractor, roofing contractor, elevator contractor, fencing contractor, landscaping contractor, masonry contractor, refrigeration contractor, the list goes on.
You may have been exposed to a certain kind of contracting work earlier on, or you may just feel more suited to a certain type. However you arrive at the answer, try to figure it out so you are pointed in a specific direction. If your answer to the motivation question was money, you may want to check out which ones are the most lucrative and have the most career prospects.
When you do know what you want, you may want to head to a trade school or similar institution to get some formal training. This isn’t always necessary, but you may get your foot in the door a little easier if you have some civil engineering education behind you. If you’re already involved in the construction industry and want to branch out, some extra classes or training surely won’t hurt.
Ask About an Apprenticeship
In some cases, getting a contracting apprenticeship is the best way to get into your chosen field. If you already work in the general industry, you could ask for one from your employer, and some unions provide them to help get people started. Some areas where an apprenticeship is valuable include plumbing, carpentry and masonry.
Basically, you will be learning practical skills on the job from an expert who is more than happy to teach you. Another important skill that an apprenticeship can teach is leadership. You may have to be in charge of workers and you’ll certainly be in charge of running projects, so being a strong leader is important, in addition to all of the practical skills.
You’ll Need a License
No matter where you live or where you work, you will require appropriate licensing and certifications to be any type of contractor. At least, any contractor that works legally and has a positive professional reputation. Different places have different licenses, and sometimes they are transferable, but it is up to you to find that out. In all likelihood, you’ll want to belong to the local organization for your type of contractor and possibly be a member of a union. As long as you have all the proper licenses and they are always completely up to date, your professional status won’t be in jeopardy.
Where the Grass Is Greenest
One aspect about being a contractor that not everyone considers is that sometimes it’s best to pick up and leave your town or city and head for greener pastures. Meaning, where there is the most work in your particular industry. If you have a family with kids, that may not be an option for you, but it’s not uncommon for contractors to go where there is the most work.
It is certainly something to consider as you make your way through the process. What if your specialty dries up for some reason? Are you prepared to pick up and go? Consider all of the possibilities and all the options before starting, then go out and become the best contractor you can be.
Mark Clair is a 46 year old interior designer, decorator and has worked as a contractor in Clera Windows. He is a prolific writer and enjoys putting his thoughts into words on pretty much anything around that evokes an interest in him. Happily married and the father of a new born girl, Mark is now exploring the many little joys and challenges of parenthood. For more information, follow him on twitter.