You have no experience in construction, but you’re interested in getting your general contractor’s license. Maybe you want to build your own home or just oversee the construction of a particular property. Whatever your reason, you want to know how to become a general contractor with no experience.
You may be surprised to find that you can attain a general contractor’s license in many places in the United States without any background in building.
How To Become a Licensed General Contractor
Licensing requirements for general contractors vary by state and locality. You will need to check with your state licensing authority for the specifics in your state, county, or city.
In most areas, you will be required to pass a criminal background check and a licensing exam. You will probably be required to be insured and bonded as well.
Related: Should I Become a General Contractor?
How Long Does it Take To Become a General Contractor?
It depends on what state you’re in. In some states, there are no statewide licensing requirements, such as Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, Missouri, and others. In states where there are no state guidelines, you may still have to follow licensing or insurance rules for the specific municipality where you wish to work.
Because the requirements vary so widely from place to place, the process could be completed in an afternoon, or it could take several years. You may only need to pay a fee and file a few papers, or you may need to prove that you are a competent builder with years of experience and pass a licensing exam.
For example, in Oklahoma, depending on your business structure, you might not be required to do anything at all before going to work as a general contractor.
In Massachusetts on the other hand, you will need to have a minimum of three years of work experience in building and construction and you must pass a state licensing exam.
What Are the Requirements to Become a General Contractor?
How to become a general contractor with no experience depends mainly on where you live, so you’ll need to start by finding out what is required where you want to work.
Skills That You Should Have
In a broader sense, however, there are some basic skills you should have if you want to be a general contractor. You will be responsible for organizing and orchestrating the entire building project.
You will be expected to keep the construction moving according to the anticipated timeline and ensure that it stays on budget. Delays and disruptions can be very expensive, so you’ll need to have an idea of what to expect as the building progresses.
You will have to make hiring decisions for building professionals such as framers, roofers, plumbers, and electricians, so it’s helpful to know at least a little bit about each of these areas of construction. If you have some managerial experience, it will come in handy with this aspect of the job.
People That You Should Know
It’s beneficial to have a working relationship already established with some experienced contractors as well. Knowing what you can expect from your laborers and tradesmen will help you plan, stay on schedule, and keep to your promised time frame.
People in construction who know you will put you first on their schedules; people who don’t will often use your project as a filler. In other words, they’ll show up on your job site when they don’t have a better place to be. Keep in mind that every work crew needs filler jobs to cover gaps in scheduling. You don’t want to be managing the filler job.
Businesses and Vendors You Should Know
The general contractor also makes the purchasing decisions, so it’s useful to know which vendors provide which products, and who has the best price or the highest quality of a specific item. If you have an idea of delivery schedules to the location of your job site, that is helpful information too. Most suppliers will be in a given area only once or twice a week, so you’ll need to plan ahead for materials to arrive at the site when needed.
How Do You Start Your Own Business?
What will you need to get your general contracting business off the ground, aside from these general skills and a few key professional relationships? The business end of how to become a general contractor with no experience is also important.
At a minimum, you will need:
- Business plan
- License and insurance
- Bank account
Draft a business plan as a first step. Define your goals and the services you will provide, plus your strategy to achieve success. A clear business plan will be critical if you plan to borrow any start-up funds.
Be sure you are licensed and insured for where you will be working. You might also consider incorporating the business to protect your personal assets in case you are sued in the course of running your job site.
You will need a separate bank account for your business. You can’t mix company funds with personal finances. To secure a bank account, you will need to have documentation that your business is an established entity. Requirements vary; if you want to know exactly what you’ll need to initiate this account, talk to your bank.
Other Likely Needs
You will probably need some equipment just for day-to-day operations, such as a vehicle. A truck is a good choice because at some point you’ll need to make a last-minute run to the lumber yard yourself and you’ll need to be able to transport materials back to the job site.
You’ll need operational funds to work with as well, for that same unplanned excursion and other small or unforeseen expenses. You may find that you’ll need a bookkeeper or an accountant, especially if you plan to have employees.
How To Become a General Contractor With No Experience
Now you know that it will require some real effort to become a general contractor but in many places, it’s possible to do without any building experience. Your first step is to explore the requirements for where you live. Visit General Contractor License Guide to learn what you need in your state and get your general contractor business off the ground.