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If we were to host a seminar with some of our most successful graduates, the advice they would give new and potential students would probably cover everything from correctly estimating projects and working with clients to choosing the right specialty and setting fair rates.

One thing we know they would recommend, however, because we hear it time and time again, is how important it is to take your education in the construction industry seriously.

That is, any of the top California construction contractors would happily tell you that knowing more is the key to earning more. Contractors with the right education and background are able to win more business and command higher fees. Those who fall behind, on the other hand, are always facing an uphill battle against their competitors.

To see what we mean, here are a few quick tips on learning in the California construction industry:

1. Set the right habits early on. Many of our students struggled in school when they were younger simply because they didn’t have great study habits. If you can condition yourself to spend a short time each day on reading and learning now, it’s a habit that will serve you well for the rest of your career.
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Are you the kind of person who dreads taking exams, and doesn’t necessarily love the thought of studying, either? If so, then you might be surprised to know that you could be the perfect CSLS student.

We understand if you’re a bit skeptical – many of the young men and women who come to us dream of being California state licensed contractors, but aren’t eager to face another test at this point in their lives. But, here are a few reasons that nervous test takers make great CSLS students:

Nervous testers tend to study harder. Strange as it might sound, those students who struggled in school, or just don’t like taking tests, tend to compensate by being very prepared for their licensing exams. That means that, on average, they tend to have an easier time and get better scores. So, rather than letting your anxiety hold you back, why not let it work in your favor? We’ve seen thousands of other students do exactly that

People who were poor students in the past ask more questions. The more engaged you are in the learning process, the more you’re going to get from it. And so, while there’s nothing wrong with coming into our classes feeling confident and prepared, it’s the students who feel nervous about their exams – and ask a lot of questions because of it – that end up getting the most insight from their books and instructors. It’s okay to start from scratch; we’ll be happy to show you everything you need to know in order to pass your test on the first try.
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Although lots of different types of people decide to become California State licensed contractors, one thing that many of them have in common is that they never enjoyed sitting through long classes in high school or college. That’s understandable – the construction industry tends to attract people who would rather be doing things than reading about them. In fact, most of them are more than happy to leave their classroom days behind when they graduate.

Given that, it isn’t surprising that many dread the process of studying for, and eventually taking, their licensed contractor’s exam. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be nearly as bad as you might think. Here are five of our best tips for getting more out of your study time and boosting your chances of passing your test:

1. Study in increments, not all at once. Although lots of people like to “cram” for exams (or at least are in the habit of trying to do it), it’s not an efficient way to learn. Your brain is designed to learn through continuous repetition, not all-night studying.
2. Take away as many distractions as possible. Studying with the television or radio on in the background, for example, might be more relaxing, but it’s also less efficient. Try to keep things calm and quiet while you look over your study material.
3. Move at your own pace. Don’t worry about skipping ahead or moving quickly through your material. Instead, make sure you know the basics thoroughly before moving on to other sections.

4. Consider using a study group. Sometimes, having others around can make it easier to reflect on ideas and make studying less boring. Just be sure to choose study partners who are helping you learn, not just giving you someone to talk to.
5. Be sure to make practice tests part of your routine. Practice tests are great because they don’t just tell you whether you’re learning the material and not, but also help you get more comfortable answering the kinds of questions you’ll have to deal with on your exam.
If you’re serious about passing your California state contractor’s license exam and want to give yourself the best possible chance, then check out our list of upcoming CSLS online, self-study, and in-class programs – our 99% first-time passing rate speaks for itself!
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The California construction industry is fast-moving, and the one thing you can count on is constant change and evolution. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of things you can count on, however. Here are four current industry trends that every licensed contractor has to be ready for in the coming years:

1. Green building. Concern about the environment isn’t just limited to press coverage – businesses and homeowners at every level are looking for ways to get comfort and efficiency without damaging the planet. Licensed California contractors who can take advantage of the newest technologies and show off their green building expertise are nearly certain to shine over the next few decades.

2. An emphasis on speed. When today’s customers and clients say they want to get started immediately, what they really mean is that they wanted the project finished yesterday. That’s forcing builders to get smarter about the way they work and achieve quality, durable results that last over time. The days of slow-moving contractors who took weeks or months just to get started have come and gone – the future belongs to those builders and construction professionals who can move quickly.

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Once you finally become a California state licensed construction contractor, there are a lot of important choices to make and details to handle before you can successfully launch your business. One of these involves choosing a specialty and setting your fees.

If you were to ask a dozen different established contractors about their prices, and the philosophy behind them, it’s likely that you would quickly find that you had a dozen different answers. But since setting your fees is such an important part of running and growing your business, it’s important that you get off on the right foot.
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At CSLS, we are proud of a lot of the things that we can offer to our students who are ready to be licensed California state contractors. We truly feel that our instructors, the materials we offer, and the value in each of our programs are second to none.
When you decide to work with us, you get the very best in books and study materials, online and classroom teachers who have worked in the construction industry themselves, and even access to our computers, which can accurately simulate your California licensed contractors exam. That’s a combination you can’t beat anywhere else.

But, we also think that the real value of a CSLS licensed contractor course is in something else.
What could be more valuable than all of those elements? That’s easy: the sense of confidence you get when you register for classes with us.
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There is a lot that you need to know about being a California state licensed contractor that never shows up on any test or exam. One of those key details – and one that can make or break the success of your company – is that the construction industry is very cyclical.

That means that, no matter how busy you are at a given moment (or how hard you’re trying to look for work), conditions might be much different in a few months. Planning projects, expenses, and other details can be difficult when you don’t know what’s down the road. With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep yourself successful:

Give yourself breathing room. A big mistake (especially when you start getting a lot of work after a long dry spell) is to take on more projects than you can reasonably handle. Make sure to leave a little bit of wiggle room in your schedule and budget, in case things end up taking longer than you think they will. Having that buffer will keep you from disappointing customers and missing deadlines.

Save some of your money. Managing your company’s cash flow can be a real challenge, especially if projects start being delayed or canceled all of a sudden. Having a bit of money in the bank – and saving a little from each check you get – gives you reserves to draw on against the unexpected. That also gives you the peace of mind to know you, your family, and your employees will be covered if times get tough.

Keep learning more about the California construction industry. The best way to ensure that work keeps coming in is to grow as a contractor over time. The more you can do – and the more you know – the easier it is for others to hire you. Learning is the ultimate way to protect yourself against a bad economy, in this industry or any other.
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The best marketing tools are the ones that work well without requiring a huge investment on your part. After all, the less you spend on advertisements, promotions, and finding customers, the more money you have to devote to your construction business.

With that in mind, here are three no-cost marketing tools that any California contractor can use to make a huge impact and find lots of new projects:

Testimonials from happy customers. There is no advertising that is better, or more effective, than comments from customers who have been happy with your work in the past. The more specific they are, the more they show future customers that they can trust you with a project, that your fees are worth it, and that working with you isn’t going to bring any unexpected problems.

For that reason, it makes sense to encourage people to leave you feedback as often as you can. You don’t want to be pushy, of course, but know that you’ll get lots of mileage from every positive testimonial.

Before-and-after photos. Next to some positive reviews from happy customers, before-and-after photos can help you prove that you are a true professional who can get the job done. After all, if new customers can see for themselves what your results have been like in the past, then it’s easy for them to make up their own minds about hiring you.

To make the most of before-and-after photos, either invest in a good camera, or make friends with someone who has taken up photography as a hobby. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but it can be worth a lot more than that in the new checks coming to your California contracting business.

Volunteer work for nonprofit groups. Can you really make more money as a contractor by doing work for free? Believe it or not, you probably can. Here is why: When you donate some of your contracting services, you basically create public samples of your work that everyone can see. Plus, the boards of nonprofit organizations tend to be staffed (and funded) by people who have the power to send a lot of business your way.
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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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