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Let’s face it: Most people don’t think of studying for an exam as something that’s “fun” or “entertaining,” even if the outcome could lead to a new career direction and change their lives forever. Even though we make the process of preparing to become a licensed California contractor as simple and straightforward as we possibly can, it still requires a bit of work and effort.

There is one thing you can do to make it more fun, though: Get a friend, or group of friends, to join you.

It isn’t unusual for students to come to CSLS together. And we think it’s usually a great idea. Here are just a few of the best reasons why:
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Have you ever had the experience of wishing you could go back in time, meet with your younger self, and give him or her a heaping dose of good advice? Most of us have – it’s a natural byproduct of thinking what could have been if we had made a better decision at some point in life, or if we had only known what kinds of challenges would be waiting for us in our later years.

Unfortunately, we can’t put you into a time machine and change the course of history. What we can do, though, is give you a good piece of advice that our graduates seem to pass on from one year to the next: Start your business off on the right foot.
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Contrary to what some of the other California licensed contractor schools might want you to think, there are big differences between CSLS and the competition. We’ve built a reputation that has lasted more than two decades, and have a 99.9% first-time passing rate for students. The reason other schools don’t tell you the same thing is because they can’t… our record in helping construction professionals to become licensed contractors is unmatched.

But, the statistics don’t tell the whole story. In fact, there are a lot of things you can get at CSLS that you might not find elsewhere. Here are three of the most important:
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At CSLS, we get the opportunity to work with construction professionals of virtually every age, at every experience level, and from just about every different background you could come from. We hear the good and the bad, see the highs and lows. And, throughout all of it, we still consider construction to be one of the greatest career choices you can make, regardless of whether you’re just starting out or are looking to transition into something new.

Why work in construction and eventually become a licensed California contractor? Here are just a few of the reasons we like:
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There used to be an advertisement that called being in the Army “the hardest job you’ll ever love.” You’ve probably met schoolteachers, or possibly nonprofit administrators, who feel the same way. There are some jobs that are tough yet rewarding. Self-employment definitely falls into that category.

Perhaps that’s why so many California contractors never even seriously consider working for someone else once they’ve found a bit of success with their own businesses. How could they? Here are just a few of the things that await you once your construction company gets off the ground:
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Although retirement’s probably the furthest thing from your mind when you are in your life as a self-employed contractor, the fact of the matter is that there may come a day when you’ll think about doing something else (or even doing nothing at all). When that idea comes into your head, you might explore the possibility of selling your business.

That’s something a lot of construction professionals never really think about, but why not? Businesses are started and sold every day, even in the construction industry. Obviously, you and your expertise represent a big part of what will go into your company, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other elements (such as your equipment, or your company’s reputation) that might be worth a lot of money to another construction team in the future.

The key to leaving your options open isn’t to decide from the outset that you’re going to want to sell your construction business someday, just to take a few important steps to be sure you have choices later:
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When you first begin your professional life as a self-employed contractor, it can be hard to get your business going, or even to make ends meet. As a result, new contractors are often very thankful for every project – and dollar – that comes through the door.

As a result, though, some great construction professionals never learn an important skill: knowing when to turn more work down.

Why would you ever turn away good money for your talents? There are a few reasons you might:
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Once you start marketing your contracting business, you’ll probably come across the notion or advice that you should consider discounting your work (or pricing your services on the bottom end of the scale) to attract your first few customers. But, is that necessarily the best way to go?

In some cases it might be. If you are unknown within the market, you’re going to have a hard time charging the same rates as your competitors who have a long track record and lots of people who know them. And, doing discounted work might not hurt you if you have very low business expenses, or have hung on to another full- or part-time job while you make the transition to self-employment.

Beware of discounting your work for too long, though. That’s because, the longer you do great construction work for less than anyone else, the more you’ll notice a few things will start to happen:
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Surveys show that tens of millions of us have made resolutions this New Year's, or at least set goals for ourselves that we'd like to meet in 2014. But, while a lot of these are personal in nature (like losing a few extra pounds, or finally quitting cigarettes), smart contractors make resolutions for their businesses, too. In fact, here are …
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If you talk to self-employed professionals in any field for long enough, you might get the impression that it isn’t worth the time and effort.

Certainly, you can be sure that there are disadvantages to trading your paycheck and starting your own company. For one thing, you’re responsible for coming up with your own clients and customers. And for another, the headaches that come with managing employees, finances, marketing, taxes, and so much more can be daunting.

So, why not skip the hassles and avoid self-employment altogether?

Certainly, that’s what a lot of successful construction professionals do, and you can make a great living as a builder or manager working for someone else. But, most contractors who set out on their own do it because it’s a lifelong dream. And, many find that they make better business owners than employees anyway, even with the hassles and responsibilities that are involved.

Plus, when you are your own boss, you get a lot of benefits that can outweigh the negatives, such as:
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Recently, we encouraged anyone thinking of becoming a licensed California contractor to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes with the new year and look into taking the next step. Today, we want to examine the other side of the coin, and ask you to think about where you’re going to be a year from now.

For some of you, 2014 is going to be a big year, a stepping stone to a brighter future. Later in life, you might look back on it and see the point where you decided to make a change, take control of your own career, and follow the first steps that will lead you toward life as a successful business owner.
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The beginning of a new year is always a special time, and one that gets people thinking about their hopes and dreams. Not only is it a “clean slate” that you can fill with new opportunities, but it’s also a reminder that another 12 months passed by, and that if you haven’t taken any action on your biggest goals, there is still time to get started.

And so, now is as good a time as any to ask: Should you be doing something to change your life and career path?

The majority of new CSLS students come to us not because they really want to sit in classrooms again, but because they want to enjoy the chance to learn something new, grow in their career, and even become self-employed business owners. If you’ve arrived at these pages, that’s probably your dream, too. Isn’t it time you took action?

Here are just a few of the ways you can begin pursuing that goal right now:

Talk to our counselors to find the study plan that’s right for you. It doesn’t matter what your current schedule is like, even if you are working or have family responsibilities. With home-study and in-class options available online and off, we have a course for virtually any student. Just let us know what your needs are, and we’ll help you find the choice that’s right for you.
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Although you undoubtedly have a lot of plans for the holiday season, most of them probably don’t have much to do with your California contracting business. That’s a good idea – we hope you’re enjoying some time with friends and family without worrying too much about work.

But, we do think there is one thing every California contractor should do during the holidays: Look back over the previous year and see if there are any lessons to be learned or conclusions to be drawn.

Sometimes, the very best improvements and breakthroughs come when you’re relaxed and not thinking about the day-to-day rigors of running a contracting company. What sorts of things might you discover by peeking back through your calendar, proposals, and invoices? Here are just a few things to look for:
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Because the team of CSLS instructors is made up of experienced industry professionals, we try to sprinkle in a lot of practical advice about working in the California construction industry along with our exam prep lessons. And so, one piece of advice that each student will hear at least a few times is “don’t cut corners with your contracting business.”

In every industry the temptation to do things a little faster, or cheaper, can be strong. That’s especially true today, when most of us are facing more competition than ever before, along with tighter project deadlines. Still, there are two good reasons to make sure you do every part of every project the right way:
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As we get toward the end of another year, you’ll undoubtedly receive marketing proposals and sales pitches that advise you to “take advantage of tax write-offs” before it’s too late. But, is spending more money on your company at the end of the year really a good idea?

The first step to finding the question is understanding the way business taxes actually work. Generally speaking, you pay a percentage of your earnings to the government only on your real profits. So, business expenses (like payroll, new equipment, etc.) can often be “written off,” meaning that you don’t have to pay taxes on the amount you spend to keep your company running.

And so, if you had a very profitable year and have a big need for some new piece of equipment, it can make a bit of sense to spend money and take advantage of the tax deduction. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:
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Although California is known worldwide for its warm, sunny weather, the fact of the matter is that, in many parts of the state, you could be facing lower temperatures – and even snow – over the next few months. While our state’s “winter weather” is certainly not as severe as it might be in other parts of the country, there are a few precautions that contractors should take:
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Although California is known worldwide for its warm, sunny weather, the fact of the matter is that, in many parts of the state, you could be facing lower temperatures – and even snow – over the next few months. While our state’s “winter weather” is certainly not as severe as it might be in other parts of the country, there are a few precautions that contractors should take:
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For all the time most of us spend looking for the perfect holiday gift for a young person, most of what we buy ends up in the back of a closet sooner rather than later. So, why not do things a bit differently this year and give someone in your life something truly special – a portion of their CSLS tuition that can help them take the next step in their careers.

By helping someone to pay for their education, you tell them that you care about their hopes and dreams, and that you believe in their potential to do amazing things in the future. And, because becoming a licensed construction contractor in California can be the first step toward starting their own company someday, you could actually be handing them the keys to a whole new life. How many other gifts can really be said to do the same?

When students come to see us, either after college or following a few years of work in the construction industry, they get a few advantages they can’t find elsewhere, including:
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If your contracting business is successful enough, it won’t be long before you need help. After all, there is only so much work a single person can do, and many construction projects require more than two hands to finish them properly.

But, hiring your first employees, even if they are other contractors, can bring risks. In order for it to be worth the effort and expense, you need to make sure that the people you’re bringing aboard can not only do their jobs competently, but follow your instructions while keeping the overall goals of the project (including budgets and schedules) in mind.

That’s why it can often be a mistake to do as many new contractors do and hire friends or family members as your initial construction employees. Why not turn to the people you know best? It’s not always a bad idea, but there are a few things to look out for:
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When you work for a construction company, it’s usually up to your employer to provide you with the tools and equipment you need. As a self-employed California contractor, however, you’ll have to decide on your own when to purchase different pieces of equipment, and whether or not an investment makes sense.

This can be more challenging than you might first imagine, especially since today’s contractors use everything from hammers and hardhats to electric saws and even iPads.

So, how do you decide whether or not to spend the money on new tools and equipment? Here are three good guidelines to follow:
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