Sometimes, hiring a self-employed independent contractor is the best way to guarantee a building project gets completed quickly, expertly, and within your budget.
For instance, many business owners prefer hiring contractors over employees for certain projects because of the time and money saved on training and employee benefits (e.g. a construction company performs most of the work on a commercial building, but hires a painting contractor to help put on the finishing touches).
Likewise, an individual working on a DIY project like remodelling their home might want a contractor’s help when it comes to bigger tasks (like shingling their roof) that they may not be able to complete on their own.
In either situation, business or personal, most people expect the independent contractor they hire to be a trustworthy professional.
So, how can you tell if a contractor is the right person for your project? Read on to explore a few quick tips that will help you hire the building contractor you need.
Related Document: Independent Contractor Agreement
Check the Contractor’s License
An important factor to remember when hiring an independent contractor is to check whether or not they are licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Unfortunately, there are many instances where people are taken advantage of by illegitimate contractors posing as professionals but who are actually unlicensed scammers.
That said, it’s important to ensure the contractor you’re considering hiring is actually the licensed professional they claim to be; to do this, you can look up the contractor by name and license number in your local government’s directory. For instance, if you live in California, you can verify a contractor’s license on the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
You can also search for a contractor based on their type of license. For example, a search for a landscaping contractor in Los Angeles on the CSLB site returns over 200 contractors that you can pick and choose from. While this list might take some time to sift through, you’ll have a good resource for comparing the portfolios and prices of contractors and their competitors.
Often, contractors who acquire a license from their state board are required to take and pass an exam before they are granted a license, and they might only be eligible to take such an exam after meeting minimum requirements for experience (e.g. at least four years). So, if you’re hiring a contractor with a state-issued license, you can be sure they have adequate knowledge and skills in their trade.
Plus, state boards will sometimes point out phony contractors and con artists—which is another reason it is so important to research a contractor before hiring.
Check the Contractor’s Background
Once you’ve verified a contractor’s license, the next step is to research their background by checking their references and looking at examples of their past work. For instance, if you’re working on a big bathroom renovation that involves moving water lines around, you can investigate how much experience a plumbing contractor has doing this type of project.
If your contractor hasn’t supplied a list of references, don’t be afraid to ask for one. A professional contractor should have at least one or two past clients who can attest to the quality of their work. You can also check reviews online (either on the contractor’s personal website or on review sites like Google My Business or Better Business Bureau) or ask friends and family members who’ve worked with this contractor before to share their experiences.
When talking to references, be sure to ask questions like:
- How was your overall experience with this contractor?
- How did the contractor deal with problems or obstacles?
- Would you work with this contractor again? Why or why not?
It also benefits to ask for pictures or examples of the contractor’s work so you can get an idea of how the contractor might complete the project you’ve got in mind. For example, if you are considering hiring a painter or interior designer and prefer to leave the creative aspects of your project up to them, it’s essential you review their portfolio to ensure they can match the style and tone you’re looking for.
If the contractor works in a field that is difficult to demonstrate visually in a portfolio (e.g. an electrician might have pictures of external fixtures they’ve installed, but not of internal wiring), asking references to describe their experience can provide a similar level of insight.
Create a Contract
If, after your research, you’re confident in the contractor and decide to hire, be sure to create an Independent Contractor Agreement to outline your business relationship before starting the project or investing any money. With a written agreement, both you and the contractor can prevent misunderstandings about the service to be completed and expenses to be paid.
For instance, many independent contractor agreements will include details such as:
- A complete description of the services being provided
- The contractor’s and client’s contact information
- Billing (e.g. hourly rates, any additional fees, and payment dates)
Having this information in a written agreement can help lessen the disputes that may arise from miscommunication between you and a contractor.
Related Document: Construction Contract
Hiring a Trustworthy Professional
There are many contractors out there competing for your business and not all of them are legitimate. To be sure you’re hiring the right building contractor for your project, remember to do your due diligence: verify their license, check for references, review examples of their previous work, and create an official contract. By keeping these tips in mind, you’re sure to find a professional contractor you can trust.