6 Tips for Getting Started as a General Contractor

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As you consider your career options for the upcoming year, you may not want to rule out starting your own business as a general contractor. Starting your own business is no small feat, and becoming a general contractor requires a special set of skills and knowledge. If you’re looking to become a general contractor, chances are you have some experience in the construction industry. But there’s a big difference between being an expert laborer or even a supervisor, and being the head honcho of a construction project. To ease into the process, follow these six tips for getting started as a general contractor.

1. Get Licensed

The first thing you have to do is get your contractor’s license. This requires passing the contractor’s license exam. It might sound daunting to think you’re going to have to hit the books and study for an exam, and you might have thought you had escaped school for good. But the complexities of a construction project, the dangers to you and your workers on the site, and the large sums of money involved mean you have to be knowledgeable and prepared for any issues that might come your way. Fortunately, there are accessible and helpful training sites specifically engineered to help you work as a general contractor.

2. Secure Surety Bonds

A surety bond protects you and your clients, and they are required for any construction company to operate legally. A surety bond can be obtained from a third-party source who promises that if something should come up and you are unable to complete the project, your client can get their money back.

When you apply for a surety bond, make sure your application covers all the details, including the estimated project completion time and all the financial documentation required. The person or company assessing your surety bond application will look at your past history of bidding, project completions, and more to determine the risk level of granting you the surety bond. Make sure you have all the bases covered to avoid your surety bonds getting denied.

3. Know Your Industry Regulations

You probably have extensive knowledge of the regulations for working on a construction site—but do you know all the ins and outs of the industry regulations? Being informed and up-to-date about the different regulations for the construction industry is your best bet to protecting yourself and your investment. Make sure your knowledge is up to date by checking out the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s government website on the rules and regulations for the construction industry.

4. Be on Top of Your OSHA Certification

Being certified for the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) doesn’t just protect your workers on the job—it protects you and your investment. If you pursue a government contract and your OSHA certification is up to date, you could not only lose your contract—you risk being fined or imprisoned for failing to meet OSHA regulations and your company being shut down. Make sure you know about any changes to OSHA requirements, including submission deadlines and the most recent OSHA certification for the Injury Tracking Application (ITA).

5. Hire Labor

When you’ve got your bases covered for the administrative side of becoming a general contractor, you’re ready to hire labor. This means not only hiring skilled laborers, but hiring managers and crew leaders who you can depend on to oversee the daily operations.

6. Take Advantage of Construction Management Software

In this day and age, it seems it’s all about technology—but you can make technology work for you. There are numerous construction management software systems out there developed to help general contractors take care of all the small details of completing a project and getting the job done right. These software programs can be tailored to fit your general contracting needs and the needs particular to your business size, annual revenue, estimated project line-up, and more. There are even mobile capabilities with some of the software so you can manage your business while you’re on the go, meeting potential new clients, or surveying a project site.

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