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If there is one thing that is likely to be an ongoing challenge throughout your career as a California state licensed contractor, it’s negotiating fees and proposals with new clients or customers.

Obviously, no one likes to pay more than they have to for anything, and the high dollar amounts involved with construction mean that you are going to face your fair share of requests for a discount. Additionally, the construction industry attracts a large number of contractors (and unlicensed workers) who are willing to do a job for almost nothing, either because they plan on doing quick, cheap, low-quality work, or because they are just trying to make a name for themselves and create new contacts.

So how do you charge what you’re worth in that kind of business environment? The short answer is that you help customers to understand the difference between price and value.
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That piece of business advice has been around for decades, reminding us that relationships are every bit as important as talent and work ethic. But surely, that couldn’t be true in the competitive California construction industry, where results, schedules, and budgets make all the difference, right?
Believe it or not, it can still matter whether or not you know the right people – just probably not for the reasons you think.
Let us explain. It takes a lot to run a successful company, and many owners and contractors find that they are overwhelmed with all the small details that come up each and every week. For that reason, life becomes a lot easier when you have the right kinds of professionals on your side, people who can help you stay on top of things like:
Taxes. Trust us when we tell you that you definitely want to stay on the right side of Uncle Sam’s account ledger. Your business may have quarterly or monthly tax payments to make, and having a good accountant or tax professional can help keep you out of trouble.

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If you were to ask most of the construction professionals who come to CSLS because they want to be licensed California state contractors why they do it, the top answer would have to be “to make more money.” That’s certainly understandable, and it isn’t likely to change in the future. Becoming a licensed contractor is a great way to increase your income quickly, and become your own boss at the same time. What a lot of our new students might not realize, however, is that – as wonderful as it is to make more money on construction projects – there are actually a lot of other reasons to become a self-employed contractor, as well. In fact, over time, you might even start to think of them as being even better than getting a bigger paycheck is. Here are three things that most of our students love about becoming licensed contractors, and that don’t have anything to do with money:

1. They are free to choose their own projects and clients. We’ve all had the experience of working with a person or company that we would rather do without, or working on a project that wasn’t all that enjoyable. Guess what?
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How can you afford to take construction training and continuing education classes to save money… especially in an unpredictable economy? We know it can be tough, especially when you’re already stretching your budget as far as it can go. The better question, however, is how can you afford not to take classes like the ones we offer at CSLS.

In any economy, and any business, the best investment you can make is in yourself for your future. It’s something we’ve seen time and time again, and that any of our experienced instructors will tell you: There just isn’t any substitute for becoming more competitive and more informed.

To understand why, here are three reasons that continuing your professional education in the construction industry always pays for itself over the long run:

1. It teaches you about new ideas and opportunities. Although a lot of our students come back to our school to get better at the things they already do, it isn’t uncommon for them to leave with new business ideas and strategies that they wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. You never know where the inspiration for a new strategy or service is going to come from, but surrounding yourself with other California construction professionals (both veterans and those who are still learning) can often give you a nudge in the right direction.
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Talk to anyone who has been successful in the California construction industry for more than a few years, and they’ll tell you that finishing projects is only part of your success. As much as you need to master construction skills (the courses we offer at our school can help), you also need to make sure you can do things like develop bids and budgets, keep customers happy, and even deal with employees and vendors.

In fact, some of the most important skills you’ll develop as a California contractor don’t have anything to do with construction at all. One of them is time management – getting more from the available hours in your day. When you master time management, you can finish more projects, do better work, and have more time to spend with your friends and family. If you have poor time management skills, on the other hand, you’ll likely feel busy and rushed almost all the time, and have to cut corners in your personal and professional time.
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It only takes a quick drive down any busy street in California to see that architectural styles, building technologies, and best practices are changing all the time. Any one idea that’s popular today might not be tomorrow, and there are always new concepts and materials coming to market.
That makes it easy to wonder: Are green building ideas really here to stay?
Even though things are always shifting in the California construction market, there’s every reason to think that green building will be an ever-present part of our industry’s future.

Here are just a few of the most important reasons why:

People are more concerned than ever about the environmental impact of new construction. The environment affects us all, and the public demand for safer, lower-impact buildings – those that use fewer toxic materials and take advantage of renewable energy options – continues to grow. That means that builders have to work within green guidelines if they want to keep finding new projects.

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There are more opportunities than ever in the California construction industry. There is also a lot more competition. So how do you, as a contractor or construction professional, make your company stand out in the crowd?

One of the best ways is by developing a niche, a specific skill or specialty that makes your construction business unique. You may already have one and not even know it (is there something you do better than any other contractor or competitor?), but if you don’t, now is the perfect time to develop one.
The possibilities for a construction niche are nearly endless. You could focus on residential construction, commercial projects, or even “green” building specialties and find a huge market of customers just waiting for you. All that really matters is that you have one, and begin to use it for your advantage.
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Are other construction contractors in California colleagues… or your competition?

The answer could easily be either one, depending on your point of view. What too many contractors fail to understand, however, is that networking with others in your industry is almost always a smart move. Here are just a few of the best reasons why:

Contractors who actively work with each other get more work. No matter how many clients you get to know, or how strong your marketing plan is, it always helps to cast a wider net. That’s because other contractors are going to hear about jobs and opportunities that you won’t. Some may fall outside of their area of expertise, budget, or geographic location. Referring that business to you is a win-win for everyone involved.

Networking helps you to build better relationships. One of the most challenging (and sometimes frustrating) things about the California construction industry is that it’s changing all the time. Today’s best practices are out of style tomorrow, and new ideas are always coming to light. By networking with other contractors in your field or area, you gain more resources for information, and advice, at the times when you need them most.
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Solar construction was once the “next big thing,” but now it’s just a big, booming source of business for the licensed contractors and companies that are ready to take advantage.

The difference has come from new technologies and manufacturing techniques that have made solar more powerful and less expensive at the same time. It’s also being driven by a number of new governmental policies, including a recently passed state initiative that requires 33% of California’s electricity to come from solar sources by 2020. And that’s on top of the two federally mandated solar development zones that are already in the state.

The bottom line is that solar construction is now a $10+ billion industry. Are you ready to get in on the act?
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At some point or another, most construction professionals dream about taking the next step in becoming a licensed California state contractor. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy a little more income and the freedom to find their own projects, make their own schedule, and be their own boss? One of the three best reasons to become a licensed California state contractor is …

1. It’s Easier Than You Think

Although you may still have bad memories of tests from your school days, the reality is that the California state contractor’s license exam isn’t as big an obstacle as you might think. More than 99% of our students pass on the first try, and you don’t need any special computer training or language skills to successfully complete it. The exam itself only takes a few hours to finish, so don’t let fear of it hold you back from your dreams.

Even with these goals in mind, however, many don’t get around to scheduling an exam. In some cases, they may think the test is too difficult, or that they don’t have the time or money to prepare for it. At CSLS, we have spent more than 20 years helping people just like you to move forward in their lives and careers. We’ve seen how simple it can be, once you get going, and so we want to clear up a few misconceptions.
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