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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As a new contractor, you’ll quickly find that your schedule doesn’t always match the one your friends and relatives might keep. That’s because things like weather, workload, and project deadlines can all affect your decision of how many hours to put in at work, not to mention how many days you’ll want to work every month.

This can be particularly true during the holiday season, when a lot of businesses and industries slow down very noticeably. But, will you be taking time off during the time around November and December?

Here are a few things to keep in mind:
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As any experienced California contractor could tell you, even some of the most excited and enthusiastic potential clients are going to decide not to work with you, or at least to put off their construction projects until some other time in the future.

There are any number of reasons this can happen, and most revolve around things like funding, scheduling, the economy, etc., that are outside your control. But, while you can’t necessarily do anything about new clients deciding not to hire you at the moment, you can make an effort to win their business later and increase your odds of working with them at some point.

The best way to do that, of course, is simply by keeping in touch. There are a lot of ways to accomplish that, but here are a few of the best:
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For the majority of construction professionals who come to us because they want to become licensed California contractors, the dream is to start their own business and become a self-employed professional. That’s a great goal, since it can mean more money, control over your own time and work, and even the potential to build the life or career you want from the ground up.

One thing to remember, however, is that many of our students don’t take this step right away after passing their licensed contractor’s exam. In other words, it’s a myth to think that becoming a licensed contractor has to mean quitting your job and venturing out on your own immediately (or even ever).

A lot of our graduates wait to become self-employed, and a few never even go that far. There are a few good reasons why:
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Are you interested in becoming a licensed California contractor, but think there might be too many obstacles in the way? We hear about these kinds of situations every week, and in almost every case they can be overcome. The fact of the matter is that fear holds more construction professionals back than anything else – once they overcome their hesitation to get started, they quickly find that the “problems” they thought would keep them from going to school simply melt away.

To give you a sense of what we mean, here are three things that should never keep you from achieving your dream of becoming a licensed California contractor:
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Does studying for your California licensed contractor exam have to mean giving up your current job, or taking lots of time off? This is a big concern for a lot of construction professionals who come to us, especially if they have families who are counting on them to earn income.

The short answer is that you absolutely do not have to stop working to attend our school. Many of our students keep working regular hours while attending classes, and in fact this can be a better approach than trying to learn everything at once. And, contrary to popular belief, the amount of studying needed isn’t so overwhelming that you’ll have to concentrate on it day and night.

Here are a few other things to take into consideration:
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Occasionally, new potential students will meet with a member of the CSLS team and wonder if they have what it takes to succeed at our school and become a licensed California contractor. In almost every case, the fact that they’ve had enough drive and ambition to visit with us in the first place tells us that they have the skills they need to make it through their exam and in the construction industry.

Going a little bit deeper, though, there are five things that we have noticed can make our students more successful at our school:
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There are a lot of things in the California construction industry that are hard to learn without experience. That is, one of our instructors, or an experienced construction professional, can tell you all about something, but it isn’t until you go through it firsthand that you really understand.

What sort of things can the right insurance protect you against? We could give you a list that is dozens of pages long, but here are a few of the most important situations:
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When it comes to the California construction industry, the high level of competition in every city means that contractors are always looking for some sort of marketing edge – something that won’t just set them apart from all the other professionals in the area, but that will allow them to find new customers and projects inexpensively.

Because we know those answers can be hard to come by, today we’d like to share four unconventional but potentially effective ways contractors can find new business quickly:

1. Team up with real estate agents and other professionals. Often, people who are selling homes want help adding to the property’s “curb appeal.” Alternatively, new buyers might want to make improvements so that the home will better suit their needs. Either way, you can probably help. Over time, having just a few Realtors®, home inspectors, and other professionals in your network can give you a big boost in referrals.

2. Hold workshops highlighting your specialties. By showing attendees how to do things like make a kitchen more modern, give their guest bathroom a friendlier look, or choose a contractor for outdoor deck repair, you can help inform the public and get them thinking about your knowledge and specialties at the same time. At the end of your presentation, you can invite interested attendees to follow up with you for more information.
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If your contracting company gets big enough, there will probably come a point where you will have to hire other construction professionals to work for you. That can be a great thing, since it means your company can tackle bigger projects, but you also have to be very careful. You might not realize it in the beginning, but anyone who represents you is your business, and you’re always going to be liable for what they do.

That means that, if they do great work, show up on time, and treat customers respectfully, then you’re leaving a great impression. On the other hand, though, if they use foul language, show up in a condition that isn’t safe for work, don’t finish projects to your standards, or otherwise offend customers, that’s going to reflect poorly on you and cost you more projects in the long run.

So, how do you make sure you have the right people on your side? Generally speaking, experience and careful screening processes are the best guide, but here are a few tips to get started:
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