Arizona is a hot spot for aspiring contractors, with a booming economy and plenty of opportunities for those in the industry. Add in the perks of being your own boss, setting your own schedule, and spending your time doing something you love. It’s a win all the way around! But how does one get started in such a competitive industry?
If you’re interested in leaving your mark in the field, keep reading to learn everything you need to do to join the growing ranks of successful contractors in Arizona.
Start Preparing Now: Gain Experience and Hit the Books
Before you can start working as a general contractor, you need to get a license from the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. To get a license, you need the following:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a minimum of four years of experience
- Pass the state licensing exam
- Pass a background check
- Pay a fee
While you can’t exactly control your age, you can spend the time finishing school, gaining experience, and studying for the licensing exam. For the best chance at passing on your first go, consider taking a prep course for the Arizona general contractors license. A course can help you understand what type of questions to expect, better understand the related topics, and prepare helpful references for the open-book exam.
To gain experience, apply to work for local contracting companies. Be honest in your interview about wanting to train for the licensing exam, as that may affect your job duties, or they can let you apply for other opportunities if they aren’t in a good spot to take on an apprentice.
Plan Your Business: Get Licensed, Register Your Business, and Find Good Insurance
Once you have your experience and exam under your belt, it’s time to apply for the license. You will also need to complete the AZ statutes and rules training provided by the Registrar, which is a simple online training course. There are different licensing options, and they each have their own fee, so know what you want and budget for it.
After you are licensed, you can start setting up your business. You will need to create a business plan and then register your business with the Arizona state government. If you want to grow your business, then you should also register with the IRS for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) that you would use for bank accounts, taxes, and any other financial information.
Your business plan should include realistic goals for finances and growth, but it should also detail planned expenses like tools, equipment, and insurance. Liability insurance is a must for contractors, as construction alone is hazardous without adding in the client and their property. Liability insurance protects you, your client, and any employees you hire should anything go wrong.
Establish Your Reputation: Network, Network, Network
Contract work has an odd paradox of both being highly competitive and highly cooperative. Various companies will compete for contracts, but networking with other contractors opens the doors to new resources, cooperative projects, and more. You can meet other contractors by applying to subcontract on projects, attending industry events, or having your former boss/mentor introduce you to their network. Your mentor will be your first contact, and they’ll help you get established in the industry.
Another network to build is a network of peers. These peers are professionals in other industries that are closely related. By forming business relationships, you can refer them to clients and have them refer you. Potential peers are lenders, real estate agents, architects, engineers, and more.
The third and final network is the client network. This includes everyone you’ve completed a project for. Always ask customers to rate you on platforms like Yelp, Google, and Angie’s. Highly satisfied customers will keep coming back for more and recommend you to any friends, family, or work acquaintances considering a contractor. Reviews on third-party platforms also help market your business, as potential clients are more likely to find them objective than if they are only on your website (but you’re welcome to quote them on your website).
Help Your Business Thrive: Stay Up-To-Date, Utilize the Latest Tech, and Offer Exceptional Service
The construction industry is ever-changing, with new regulations, techniques, and tools being released practically every day. Passing your licensing exam doesn’t mean you can stop learning. You should constantly be on the lookout for new updates, even going so far as to attend industry workshops and seminars and take continuing education courses or master classes. This helps you provide the best solutions for your customers and work more efficiently.
Another industry to keep an eye on is technology. As tech continues to evolve, it also continues to make contract work easier. From design tools for planning to software for bookkeeping, a plethora of helpful tools are available for your business. Some contractors use drones to get a birds-eye view of a worksite or tablets to set up contracts at a consultation. Even standard tools like stud finders are getting more techy, able to pinpoint wiring and pipes as well.
Finally, you need to provide exceptional customer service. Reputation is everything in the industry, and customer service is the first thing people rate. Your clients want to feel valued and respected, even if they don’t understand everything about the project. Always communicate clearly and respectfully. If there is a delay or unexpected cost, be transparent with your client and offer a few options or an updated timeline. If they have any questions or concerns, respond as quickly as you can. It’s also a good practice to call a couple of days after project completion to see how everything is going.