Independent contractors are one of the major contributors to modern economies, mainly due to their flexibility and ability to adapt to new situations and requirements. Starting your own contracting business may be lucrative, however, there are several things every prospective contractor needs to know.
Make yourself available
While your potential customers will appreciate a well-designed and informative website, they also appreciate talking to a real human being, especially during normal business hours. Asking someone to handle the phone all day might be challenging, especially in the startup years, but it’s necessary unless you want to risk losing your customers. For example, you can divert your business calls to your mobile when you step out of the office, so you can call the customer back even if you don’t manage to answer their call at once. However, to avoid any confusion and unrealistic expectations, state your business hours on your website and the business cards.
Don’t let down the marketing game
Well-placed marketing campaigns are not only about providing a steady influx of new customers but also about landing more profitable projects and making your existing customers happy. These days, that means establishing an online presence and interacting with your target audience through blog posts, social media and emails, where you show them how your company solves problems similar to their own. However, being a location-specific industry, you should also focus on marketing your business locally. Become active in local newspaper forums and attend chamber of commerce meetings.
Revise your internal organization
A comprehensive assessment of your company includes answering questions like: Is your business stable financially? Do you have customer referrals? Are you experiencing repeating sales? What is your employee turnover rate? You can provide answers to questions like these by reviewing your books, listening to what other people are saying about you online, and talking to your employees and returning customers. It’s important, however, that you focus on areas that need improvement before you grow your business too much, as it becomes much more difficult later on.
Learn from best business practices
When they attempt to improve efficiency and grow their business, many contractors experience problems in agreeing on the industry’s best practices. Every established company has some sort of a system in place that they’re comfortable with and consider is best for them. For example, in Australia, not many startup contractors invest in their own fleet of cranes. Instead, they use services of companies who rent them out for each specific job. One of such companies for crane hire in Brisbane operates a diverse fleet of cranes of all sizes and capacities, including the latest mini-crawler models which make the minimal impact on the site. The truth is, you can use any system you prefer to handle segments such as bookkeeping, scheduling, invoicing, training, etc., as long as you provide step-by-step instructions for each employee.
Choose who you work with
While no one sane would recommend turning a customer away, the hard truth is that some customers are better than others. Chasing down a couple of hundreds of dollars from a deadbeat customer who only asked for some minor contracting work, for example, isn’t worth putting a client who pays you upfront on hold. The bottom line is that you want customers who provide a solid ROI, instead of those who leave unpaid bills. You can avoid much of the latter kind if you learn how to spot them before agreeing on a project. Ask your fellow contractors if they’ve had any experience with a specific customer in the past, but also pay attention to customers who are being rude and abusive to your staff or avoid giving you a down payment.
Do your own accounting
In the initial phase of your business, you can save money on accounting fees by using the available time to organize your accounts, invoice your customers, etc. These days many startups use accounting software, many of which come as cloud-based packages that are ideal for self-employed contractors entering the world of accounting. For modest fees, of around $10 per month, these starter packs include invoicing, expense tracking, and simple reporting.
Seeing your contracting business grow successfully boils down to cutting the unnecessary expenses and adopting customer-friendly approaches from the very start. While you can rent specialized equipment such as cranes and large machines, you can keep tasks like accounting in-house, by using specialized platforms that cost far less than an accountant would.