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When you finally reach the age to step out into the world and carve out a niche, to do the work that will likely define your life, you have many options before you. And this can be an overwhelming time in anyone’s life. But if you have the aptitude for design and you’ve always been good with your hands, becoming a contractor might be the perfect career path for you.

Blue-collar work is often looked upon as a subpar way to earn a living, often offering only average wages. But this is actually far from the truth.

Studies have shown that blue-collar workers can earn just as good a living as anyone with a college degree, and often these jobs are in high demand because of labor shortages.

If you’re looking for a rewarding career, where you get to help build your community while using your skills, the following will detail a few steps to take for becoming a successful contractor.

Education

Education offers you the chance to explore many interesting career paths. But you should note that most contractors begin their careers as laborers. Basically, many learn the skills they need to advance while on the job as helpers and general laborers. And depending on what field of contracting you enter into, this can mean learning a variety of skills.

If you’re looking to advance yourself beyond what you can learn on the job, you can take college classes that could propel you into advanced levels of contracting work.

A few college courses you may consider majoring in are as follows:

  • Drafting
  • Engineering
  • Construction technology
  • Industrial engineering
  • Industrial design
  • Construction Management
  • Project Management

It’s also good to be aware that during and after high school, vocational programs can also offer you the means to develop and master skills in construction technology. Additionally, degrees in electrical engineering and plumbing are available as well.

Get Licensed

Beyond earning your keep as a laborer and developing the skills you’ll require to venture out on your own, you’re going to need to be licensed if you hope to be taken seriously and work on big paying jobs in your local community. And getting licensed not only allows you to work on the big jobs, it’s proof of your skills as well.

Most states require a license for specific contract work such as any type of electrical or plumbing work. But general contractors usually don’t have to have a license for jobs valued under a certain amount. But in this regard, not being licensed limits you on the types of jobs that you’ll be able to work on.

For example, if you want to work with government agencies, city planners, or on jobs valued over 25,000 dollars, you’ll likely need a valid license. And without a license, these big paychecks will end up being cashed by your licensed competitors.

At the end of the day, getting licensed is the best strategy if you hope to be taken seriously and to make a living as a contractor.

Build Your Reputation

Finally, every contractor needs to build a solid reputation within the community. Because without a solid rapport, you won’t be able to land new clients or keep your contracting business afloat.

So, how do you establish yourself when you’re just starting out? Believe it or not, it’s as simple as networking with others in your trade, and by getting involved in your community.

Offering your services at a discounted rate is a great way to gain new business, especially if you’re trying to establish yourself. But if you really want to branch out, you should begin by asking other contractors if they need help, or if they have any clients that could use your skills.

You may be surprised, but many established contractors have more work than they can handle. And these professionals often welcome assistance on jobs if you’re able to prove you’re qualified to handle specific jobs.

Additionally, you’ll also want to keep an initial portfolio of documented work that you can present to prospective clients as you advance in your profession as this will show proof of your skills and what you can do.

If you’re determined and self-motivated, this is about 90 percent of what you need to make a living as a contractor. And once you get licensed and have a few clients under your belt, you’ll be surprised at how fast word of your skills will travel, and how fast your business will grow.