It has been said that the greatest gift you can give someone (or give yourself, for that matter) is an education. That’s because the knowledge and skills we accumulate pay us back time and time again, allowing us to grow professionally and earn more money. Why bring this up today? Because as graduation season approaches, lots of people – both …
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At CSLS, we are proud of the fact that we have been able to help tens of thousands construction professionals to become licensed California state contractors and move their careers in the right direction. As virtually any one of them could tell you, however, becoming licensed is just the first step – there’s a lot more that goes into being successful, both financially and professionally.

Because we want to see you enjoy all the great things that can happen to you as a result of your hard work, here are the seven habits of highly successful construction contractors in California:

1. They do business legally. It goes without saying that successful contractors don’t just become licensed, but then follow the letter of the law when it comes to permits and regulations. The last thing you want holding your business back is a legal or liability issue.

2. They are always marketing. Although earning your California state contractor’s license makes marketing your construction company easier, it still takes a bit of steady work to find and keep clients. Smart contractors know that marketing is an ongoing process.

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When it comes to launching their businesses as licensed California contractors, many new CSLS graduates find that marketing is the hard part – at least for the first few months of their careers.

That’s understandable. It can be difficult to get those first few clients and projects when you don’t have a lot of references, or long track record, to draw on. And so, many of them turn to all kinds of complicated marketing techniques and schemes.That’s perfectly fine, but some people miss the easiest thing they can do to get more work as a licensed contractor: just be easy to work with.

In other words, clients (as well as other contractors) like to be around people who are helpful and have the right mindset. They dislike working with people who are late, rude, or unprofessional. That’s certainly not hard to understand, but it can mean a shift in thinking if you aren’t used to paying attention to behavior in that way.
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alk to any veteran contractor, and they’ll be able to tell you stories of projects that end badly, clients that they’d like to never see again, and headaches that just wouldn’t go away. To a certain degree, that’s just part of life as a licensed contractor – or being your own boss in any industry. But, there is a simple way you can avoid making the same mistakes… and stop yourself from taking the worst California construction projects in the process.

All you have to do is ask around before you accept any new work from a customer you don’t know. Simply phone other contractors or professionals to see what their experiences have been like.

Think about it this way: you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) take a job from an employer if you had no idea about the history of the company, how they treated their workers, etc. So, even though you might not be working for a person or company for a long time, why not do a little bit of digging to see if it’s worth the time or effort?
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Most people start every new year with big goals and ambitions, and 2013 is certainly no different. In fact, we’ve heard many former students and working construction professionals tell us that they have set big targets for themselves in the coming months.

And so, we invite you to ask yourself right now: are you on track to meet your personal and professional 2013 goals?

If you aren’t, don’t get down – you certainly aren’t alone. This is the time of year when most of us start to forget about the holidays and feel busy and rushed again. Things that seem like a great idea on January 1 don’t necessarily seem so important, or even possible, now that the year is back in full swing.

But, whether your goal was to become a licensed California contractor this year, earn a new certification, find more clients, or do something different, there’s still plenty of time to get back on track. Here are a few tips to help you out:

Take one step at a time. Lots of things in life – including becoming a licensed California contractor – can be overwhelming when you think about them as big projects. But, by taking things one little step at a time, you realize that the path in front of you is a lot simpler than you’d imagine.

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From time to time, we like to remind former students and current contractors that it’s always a good idea to come back and sign up for a new training session or seminar. But given that most construction professionals don’t love sitting in classrooms, is this really good or important advice?

We certainly think so, and the top professionals in nearly every field or industry seem to agree. If you don’t believe us, check out some of the best-selling books, most popular articles, or most famous speeches given by business leaders. They’ll all tell you that continuous education isn’t just important, but one of the most important things you can do for your business and career.
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As we’ve mentioned in our newsletters many times in the past, the hardest part about becoming a California state licensed contractor is usually making the decision to do it. In other words, once you have taken that first step and called our school, the rest of the process tends to fall in line.

So, if you’re looking for an easy way to push yourself and make the commitment, here is a great way to find the motivation: talk to one of our former students who has already taken the next step.

By speaking with someone who was in your shoes a short while ago, we think you’ll hear three things for yourself:

1. That making a change in your life and career is possible. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the material, studying, scheduling, and details that lie ahead when you decide to become a licensed contractor… until you talk to someone else who has already been through the process. They’ll tell you that, taking things one step at a time, it isn’t nearly as complicated or daunting as you might imagine. Tens of thousands of CSLS students have done it, and you can too.

2. That becoming a Licensed California Contractor is worth the effort. We have yet to hear of someone who wishes they hadn’t gone back to school or become licensed. That’s because there isn’t any other feeling like the one of being your own boss, or owning your own company. The ability to set your own pay, career direction, and schedule are more important than you might think, and are well worth the time and effort spent achieving them.
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If you were to ask enough licensed contractors, you’d probably hear dozens of different opinions on Internet marketing. Some think it might be the best tool ever for finding new clients and projects, while others prefer more traditional techniques like word-of-mouth and printed ads.

With that in mind, it’s reasonable for new (or future) contractors to ask whether Internet marketing can be a valuable tool for them. Here are a few things you can use a website for, even if you aren’t that well-known yet, or don’t have a lot of money to promote your contracting business:

Search engine marketing. That’s a complicated term for a very simple idea: if you’re like most people, you turn to Google (or maybe Bing) when you need answers. So do most customers, which is why it pays to have the ads on the sites, especially if you have a specialty business. For example, you might want someone who is searching for “best Pasadena cabinets” to find your website, since that could lead to a new project right away.

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If you believe musicians, then “more money” almost always equals “more problems.” But, as your licensed California contractor business grows, does that always have to be the case… does earning more have to mean more headaches, too?

The answer all depends on the way you manage your company and take care of the details. To see what we mean, take the following seven pieces of tried-and-true advice:

1. Managing money is as important as managing your work. You can be one of the best contractors in the world, but if you can’t manage your business finances, you ultimately aren’t going to be very successful.

2. You don’t ever want to get behind on your taxes. IRS problems aren’t just a hassle, but an expensive one. Take care to ensure that you are up to date with your filings, quarterly taxes, and other details. Hire an accountant or attorney to help you keep things straight if necessary.

3. A strong business savings account is a big asset. Having some business savings can help you make it through lean times or afford important repairs, pieces of new equipment, or even additional employees when you need them most.

4. Learning to bid correctly is a money-management skill. One of the easiest ways to be more profitable and take better care of your money is by making a bit more on each project. For that to happen, you have to become skilled at bidding and estimating new construction projects.
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Earlier this month, we noted that even the best, most professional construction contractors are occasionally going to have to deal with complaints and client issues. The same could be said of slow periods – nearly every successful contractor or construction company has them from time to time.

Although there are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself busy in a larger sense, it’s hard to avoid slow times altogether. That’s because economic turmoil, canceled projects, and other factors out of your control sometimes get in the way of an otherwise-smooth calendar. And when they do, you could find yourself with some unplanned downtime, trying to figure out how to put more projects back on the books.
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Lots of men and women come to us to become licensed California state contractors because they want to “be their own boss.” That’s a great dream, and a perfectly good reason to attend CSLS classes, but what about being the boss of other people?

As your California construction contractor business grows, you might find that you need other employees to help you run and grow your company. Surprisingly, though, managing other employees can be one of the hardest parts of the job. As the old saying goes, it truly is “hard to find good help,” much less keep it once you do

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There is no way around it: No matter how great your work is as a California licensed contractor, no matter how fair your prices are and how hard you try to please clients, there are going to be some who complain to you about your work.

Thankfully, this happens very rarely to the best contractors. Still, there are lots of things that could happen on a project that are outside of your control, from rising material prices to inclement weather and even poor performance by employees or subcontractors. Sometimes, things just aren’t going to go as planned, or clients are going to come into the process with unrealistic expectations.

So, when you do face client complaints, what’s the best way to handle them? Here are some steps the best California construction contractors take:

Bite your tongue. In most cases, it’s usually easier to just fix a problem to the client’s satisfaction than it is to argue with them about the cause. Your reputation (and time) are usually more important than a tiny bit of profit.

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One thing that separates the top performers in every field – the men and women who win awards, make more money, and make it to the top of every industry – is that they are always seeking to improve. That is, they are never satisfied with what they’re doing, and always know that they could be accomplishing more than they are now. That’s especially true in the California construction industry, where things are changing on a yearly basis. How could you improve your contracting business? Here are just a few quick ways:
By developing new construction skills and specialties. By learning new construction specialties, like green building, blueprint reading, etc., you can make yourself more versatile and get the opportunity to bid on new kinds of projects. The more you know how to do, the easier it is for new clients to hire you. By learning more and raising your fees. By the same token, taking on new specialties (or learning more about the ones you have and polishing your skills even further) is a great way to increase your earning potential. After all, customers will pay more for construction work from a knowledgeable contractor, so becoming one of the best in the field is bound to lead to bigger, more profitable projects in the future. By expanding your business and making sure it’s structured correctly. Too many contractors don’t understand things like incorporation, insurance, and taxes. By working with our approved vendors to sort out these issues, you don’t just make the “paperwork” simpler – you also reduce the odds that a costly mistake or oversight will hurt your business.
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Do New Year’s resolutions actually help you improve your life? Experts will tell you that the short answer is “it depends,” with the results tied very closely to your level of commitment to the goal. In other words, the more you want something, the more likely you are to actually go out and get it… whether that’s on January 1 or any other day of the year.

With that in mind, we think that there is one New Year’s resolution every California construction professional should make: to become a licensed contractor in 2013. If you read our blog or newsletters often, you probably already know why. By becoming a licensed California state construction contractor, you get the opportunity to own your own business, make more money, control your future, and even be in control of your own schedule. Those are the kinds of benefits that bring thousands of students through our doors every year, eager to make a big change in their lives. One thing they sometimes don’t understand, however, is that the higher income, increase prestige, etc., aren’t really the point. That is, they certainly matter, but what’s really important is having the opportunity to live your own dream, whatever that might be.

For some of our students, the dream might be to grow from a small one-person operation to a large construction company that employs hundreds and generates millions of dollars a year; for others, it might be to take lots of time off and do some traveling, spend more time with parents or kids, or even to have the flexibility to only work on projects they really enjoy. Any of these is a great goal. The bottom line is that it’s all up to you, and that by taking control of your future and destiny, you can design your life to be any way you want it to be. Best of all, all the traditional reasons for holding back or putting off the decision tend to fall away once you enroll in a course at CSLS. We have a 99%-plus first-time passing rate for our students, so we have the expertise and learning environment you need to take the next step in your career.
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If you have clicked through our site a few times, then you probably already know that we are big fans of continuing education – that is the learning you do after you become a licensed California contractor. This isn’t just because we love having our students come back to us again and again to talk about their success. It’s also < important for your career and marketability in the long term; the more you know, the easier it is for clients to make the decision to work with you. Not all continuing education is the same, however. Here are the two types of learning that matter most in California's competitive construction industry: First, the kind of continuing education that teaches you more about construction The art of putting together buildings and projects is changing all the time, and the more you can keep up with these changes, the bigger advantage you have over your competitors. From learning about solar power and green building technologies to improving your blueprint-reading and project estimation skills, there are lots of classes that help you directly on the job.
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Other than the basics of what they need to know to become licensed contractors in the state of California, one thing that we try to impress upon our students (and new professionals entering the field) is that most things in your contracting business are best handled gradually.

That’s especially true with marketing, where making a small, continual effort is a lot easier – and more effective – than occasionally trying to do a big push or promotion is. That is, sending out a handful of fliers each week, following up with old clients on a consistent basis, and placing small ads even when you don’t think you need them is a smart long-term strategy… suddenly making a big marketing push when you need new projects isn’t.

To understand why, here are four reasons to make continual marketing a part of your contracting business:

1. Continual marketing helps you avoid slow times. A classic mistake in contracting, and in business in general, is to wait until the last minute to start marketing. That’s a bad idea, because it means you’re going to have lots of downtime between projects.

2. It’s easier to raise your fees for construction projects when you are always marketing. This works for two reasons: For one thing, you feel more confident when you have lots of work already on the calendar. And for another, it’s hard to raise prices on existing customers, so you might need to find new ones if you want to raise your fees or bid on larger projects.

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When new students come to us wanting to become licensed California contractors, it’s usually because one detail has stuck out in their mind: that CSLS has helped more than 99% of our students pass their state exam on the first try.

We will admit it’s something that we are very proud of, and a strong selling point for our program. After all, if you are looking for results, it’s hard to do much better than that!

But, as exciting as our success rate has been, we’ve noticed that a lot of potential students tend to overlook another important reason to come to us – CSLS has a number of different tools and relationships you can use to help you get your business off the ground quickly.

In other words, we know that having your contractor’s license isn’t much use to you if you aren’t able to find construction projects to bid on, file the paperwork to open a new company, or manage things like payroll and taxes.

Through more than two decades of experience, we have become some of the best at helping students with things like:

Setting up their contractor’s businesses. Whether you need paperwork for a partnership, limited liability corporation, or other business arrangement, we can help you complete your paperwork quickly, completely, and accurately. This can help you save weeks in delays, and avoid potentially huge problems later.

Arranging for insurance. Not only are you required to have good insurance in order to bid for most construction projects, but it’s also just good business. Because CSLS has long relationships with a number of different insurers, we can help you find the coverage package that suits you at a very competitive rate.
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“Being your own boss” is an expression that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? Although many of our new students like to imagine that it represents the freedom to do whatever you want at any given time, that’s really only half-true. As a self-employed California state licensed contractor, you certainly do have a lot of freedom… but at the same time, you have a lot of responsibility, too.

To give you a better sense of what that actually means, here are five things that surprise many new CSLS graduates about being their own boss:

1. The money can be better than you think. Most students assume they’ll earn more as licensed contractors, but many don’t realize how significant the pay raise can be. Think about it this way: No one would pay you for construction work unless they were charging more for the project. As a licensed contractor, you can put more of that money in your own pocket.
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With 25 locations around the state, we meet a lot of California construction professionals. And, one of the things we have noticed is that most of them have a strong desire to eventually become California licensed contractors – in fact, even in a growing industry, there are many more who want to make the move than there are students in schools like ours.

That leads us to an interesting question: Why don’t more people become California licensed contractors?

There are a lot of different ways you could answer this question, but we would bet that 95% of them (or more) really comes down to some form of fear or procrastination. That is, these potential students think they don’t have what it takes, even though we know from experience that it’s well within their abilities. It’s just worrying about the unknown holds them back.

That’s a shame, because that small bit of fear could be preventing them from reaching their dreams of a higher income, being their own boss, and enjoying the flexibility that comes with self-employment.
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The decision to become a licensed California state contractor – and realize your dream of becoming a self-employed professional and controlling your own future – is one of the biggest you can make in your life and career. For that reason, it’s important that you have all of the right information on your side.

Here are three enduring myths about becoming a licensed California contractor that CSLS would like to clear up:

1. It’s too hard to pass your California contractors exam. If you are the kind of person who dreaded your classes earlier in life, we can understand why you might feel nervous about studying for a major exam again. The fact of the matter, though, is that more than 99% of our students pass their test on the first try. If they are able to do it, you certainly are, too. Another thing to note is that CSLS has become known for our proprietary “Mizener method,” which takes the facts and details you need to know for your California contractors exam and makes them easier to understand and retain. With the best educational tools and system in place, it’s a lot easier to reach your goal.

2. Most students have trouble finding enough time to study. Studying for your exam probably won’t take as much time as you think it would. This is partly because we make it easy to learn what you need to know and go over the material during the spare minutes you have in your day.
Additionally, we do everything we can at CSLS to make learning fun. And so, you might be surprised to find that while you’re taking classes with us, you would rather do a little studying than watch TV or play video games. Of course, you can get back to both after you’ve passed your test!

3. It’s too expensive to go to a good school. At CSLS, we work with every student to ensure that they get the maximum financial aid available based on their individual situation. We also offer a variety of payment plans and options, so getting the education you need is never out of reach because of budgetary concerns.

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