Becoming a contractor can be a fulfilling and rewarding career choice. You’ll have the opportunity to lead projects, showcase your skills, and build a successful business. If you’re interested in a career in construction, this guide is a great starting point.

The path to becoming a contractor requires careful planning, acquiring the right skills, obtaining licenses, and setting up your business correctly. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps to becoming a contractor in 2023, helping you navigate the process with confidence and clarity.

How to Become a Contractor in 9 Steps

1. Determine what type of contractor you want to be.

The first step is to define the type of contractor you want to become. The most common options are general contractor, specialty contractor, and mechanical contractor. Each type has its own set of responsibilities and requirements. Research and assess which type aligns best with your skills, interests, and career goals. 

Here’s a quick overview:

  • General contractors oversee the entire construction process from start to finish.
  • Specialty contractors focus on specific areas of construction, such as plumbing, electrical work, or roofing.
  • Mechanical contractors specialize in installing, repairing, and maintaining mechanical systems in buildings and infrastructure. They may work on HVAC, plumbing, piping, refrigeration, and fire protection systems.

2. Gain the right skills and expertise.

Building a successful contracting career requires a strong foundation of skills and expertise. Seek opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field and participate in training programs. Also consider pursuing relevant education, such as a degree in construction management or a related discipline. Developing critical skills like project management, communication, leadership, and technical expertise in your chosen area of specialization can set you apart.

Technical Skills

Contractors need a solid foundation of technical skills related to their specific field of expertise. A strong understanding of construction principles, techniques, and materials is crucial.

Project Management

Project management skills are vital for contractors to oversee and coordinate all aspects of a construction project. This includes planning, scheduling, budgeting, resource allocation, and ensuring timely completion while maintaining quality standards. Project management skills help contractors navigate complex projects and deliver successful outcomes.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Contractors must possess excellent communication skills to successfully interact with clients, subcontractors, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Clear and effective communication is necessary to convey project requirements, negotiate contracts, manage expectations, and resolve conflicts. Strong interpersonal skills also build positive relationships and foster teamwork on construction sites.

Business and Financial Acumen

Contractors need a basic understanding of business principles, including financial management, estimating costs, and preparing bids. Knowledge of accounting, contract management, and legal considerations in the construction industry is valuable. A solid grasp of business fundamentals allows contractors to make informed decisions, manage finances, and run their contracting business effectively.

Training and Certifications 

Pursuing training programs and certifications specific to the construction industry can enhance a contractor’s credentials and demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and expertise. These can include certifications from industry organizations or trade associations that validate competence in a particular area of specialization.


While a formal education is not always a prerequisite for becoming a contractor, obtaining a degree in construction management, civil engineering, or a related field can provide a comprehensive understanding of construction principles, project management, and business fundamentals. Higher education can also increase career advancement opportunities and broaden one’s knowledge base.

Hands-on Experience

Practical, hands-on experience is invaluable for contractors. Working under experienced contractors or in entry-level positions within the construction industry helps individuals gain a deeper understanding of the trade, refine their skills, and learn industry best practices. Hands-on experience provides real-world insights and helps contractors develop problem-solving abilities.

3. Apply for a state license.

You’re required to obtain a state license to become a contractor. Research the specific licensing requirements in your state, as the process can vary. Generally, it involves passing the state contractor’s license board exam, submitting an application, providing proof of experience and financial stability, getting a contractor license bond, and paying applicable fees. 

Here’s the general process for getting your state license: 

  • Contact your state’s contractor licensing board.
  • Determine the type of license you need (general vs. specialty).
  • Meet the experience and education requirements.
  • Pass a background check (if applicable).
  • Pass the licensing exam.
  • Obtain a surety bond.
  • Submit the application and required documentation.
  • Pay the application fee.
  • Wait for your application to be processed. If everything is in order, you’ll be issued your license!

4. Build a business plan.

A solid business plan sets the foundation for a successful contracting business. Identify your unique selling proposition, assess your financial situation, outline your marketing strategy, and develop contract and agreement templates. A well-crafted business plan will guide your decisions, help attract clients, and establish a roadmap for growth.

Here are the core components of a business plan for a contracting business:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Organization and management
  • Services and pricing
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Financial projections
  • Operations and logistics
  • Risk assessment and contingency plans
  • Exit strategy

Regularly review and update your business plan as your contractor business evolves. It can serve as a roadmap to guide your decisions and actions, ensuring that you stay focused on your goals and adapt to changing market conditions.

5. Start a business.

Choose a suitable business structure for your contracting business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC). Register your trade name, obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and fulfill any other legal requirements specific to your location.

6. Get the right gear.

Contractors must invest in technology, software, and equipment to support their new contracting business. Here’s a sample list of what you may need to get started:

  • Basic hand tools: Hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, tape measures, etc.
  • Power tools: Drills, saws, sanders, nail guns, etc.
  • Construction vehicles: Pickup trucks, vans, or specialized machinery like excavators
  • Safety equipment: Hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, etc.
  • Construction machinery: Concrete mixers, generators, scaffolding, etc.
  • Surveying and measuring equipment: Laser levels, measuring tapes, transit levels, etc.
  • Specialized tools: Electrical testing equipment, pipe cutters, saws, etc.
  • Software: Digital tools for project management, communication, and accounting

Adapt your equipment based on your specialization and project requirements. Prioritizing safety and investing in high-quality tools that meet industry standards can help ensure successful project delivery.

7. Find jobs.

Actively search for job opportunities to kickstart your contracting career. You can explore online job boards, industry-specific websites, and networking platforms. 

  • Develop relationships with local businesses, architects, and general contractors to increase your chances of securing projects.
  • Attending trade shows can be a great networking opportunity. 
  • Craft a compelling portfolio showcasing your past work and highlighting your unique value proposition.

8. Obtain the surety bonds you need.

Surety bonds are essential for contractors as they protect clients and project owners financially. Depending on your location and the type of projects you undertake, you may need various contract (construction) bonds in addition to your contractor license bond. 

Surety bonds protect your clients in case you fail to complete a project or if there are any defects in your work. They’re often required at different stages of a construction project. The type and amount of surety bond you need will depend on your work and the size of your projects.

Work with a reputable surety bond provider like ZipBonds to get all the construction and license and permit bonds you need.

9. Continue learning and growing your business.

The construction industry is constantly changing. To thrive as a contractor, staying updated with industry trends, technologies, and best practices is crucial. Engage in continuing education programs, attend training workshops, and seek opportunities to learn new skills. As your business grows, consider hiring employees to expand your capacity and focus on networking and marketing to attract more clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

The timeline for becoming a contractor can vary based on several factors, including your prior experience, the licensing requirements in your state, and the time it takes to acquire the necessary skills and certifications. 

The process generally takes a few years. It involves gaining experience, completing educational requirements, passing licensing exams, and fulfilling additional conditions specific to your state or specialization.

Contractors can earn a good living. The amount of money you make as a contractor will depend on the type of work you do, the size of your projects, and your experience level. Your geographical location and market conditions can also play a huge role. Some examples of high-paying cities for general contractors include Memphis, Dallas, St. Louis, New York, and Miami.

Experienced and highly skilled contractors specializing in high-demand areas can often command higher service rates. It’s essential to conduct market research, assess your costs, and price your services competitively to ensure that your income aligns with your financial goals.

Salary for contractors 2023

Source: Indeed

Becoming a contractor is a suitable career path for individuals who enjoy working in the construction industry, have a passion for building and creating, and possess the necessary skills and expertise. It requires a combination of technical knowledge, project management abilities, communication skills, and the ability to handle the responsibilities of running a business. 

Contractors often thrive in environments that allow them to take initiative, lead teams, and solve complex problems. If you are self-motivated, have strong math and problem-solving skills, and enjoy working with your hands, then becoming a contractor may be a good fit.

The job outlook for construction managers is good. Employment is expected to grow 8% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). We can expect about 41,500 openings for construction managers in the U.S. each year.

Get the Bonds You Need for Your Contracting Business

Contact the ZipBonds team to apply for your surety bond today! We offer thousands of bonds, including contractor license bonds and construction bonds. You can reach us by calling (888) 435-4191 or emailing Or apply online today! We’ll help you get bonded as quickly as possible.