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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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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