Subscribe to the Design/Builders Blog

The Design Builder's Blog

Essential Business Hacks for Independent Contractors

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Mon, Oct 05,2015 @ 05:30 AM

Essential Business Hacks for Independent Contractors

Man_at_Laptop_talking_on_phone-wr-1Over 10 million Americans are independent contractors, according to the most recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Labor. Whether that means you do freelance work or have started your own company and hope to employ many people yourself one day, most independent contractors have one thing in common: they are learning as they go.

Here are some tried and true tips to help you navigate the time, energy and, most importantly, money-sucking pitfalls of entrepreneurship, so you can actually appreciate the joys of working for yourself:

Get Eco-Friendly

Your customers will love you for getting eco-friendly and so will your bank account. Eliminate paper from your processes as much as possible. Having everything digital makes your business run faster and smoother and saves you money and time down the line.

If you travel for work and your vehicle is not the most fuel efficient, you’re throwing money out the window every month, as well as contributing to smog and pollution. But that doesn’t mean you have to invest in an expensive electric car to save precious startup money. Check out the EPA’s new SmartWay certification for a list of budget-friendly vehicles that reduce carbon emissions and have saved drivers over $16.8 billion in fuel costs since 2004.

Buy in Bulk and Ahead of Time

Office supplies for contractorsFrom office supplies to packing materials, the biggest waste of time and energy is buying things you knew you would need at the last minute and paying full retail price. If you’re a retailer, seek out wholesale options and buy in bulk for the maximum discount. Look into a Costco membership for any and all office supplies. Office furniture can also be found at the local thrift store, furniture rental company or hotel furniture liquidators for pennies on the dollar.

Don’t Let Cash Flow Stop You

You are bound to have cash flow issues at some point. The thrill of working for yourself can quickly become the anxiety of "why on Earth did I think I could stand not knowing how much money I was going to be making each month?" Your bills may be fixed, but your income is not, so saving money prior to striking out on your own and during the startup process is crucial. It’s impossible to foresee all the hidden costs that are sure to crop in the beginning, so you need a little cushion.

SBA Loans for contractorsBut not even a lack of cash flow can stop you these days. With the popularity of crowdfunding, job placement services and Craigslist, there are outlets everywhere for the hard working, resourceful, independent contractor. Leave no stone unturned and check to see if you qualify for any small business loans or grants from the SBA.

Leverage Free Technology

Marketing yourself doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, but beware of companies looking to take advantage of unwitting new contractors. There are a lot of lead referral services out there that boast thousands of job postings for everything from nannies to graphic designers. Often they pull the old bait and switch move: you spend hours creating a profile for their sites, adding product pictures, reviews, references and certifications only for them to ask for a credit card and a hefty fee when you’re about to hit submit. You don’t want all that work to go to waste, so you plunk down your credit card against your better judgment and pay for a month (or three) of leads that, honestly, may not even exist.

The good news is you really can market yourself for free. Research your competitors and find out what social media outlets they’re using. Take notes and improve upon their tactics to stand apart from the crowd. Many SEO experts recommend using five or less social media sites and keeping your focus on original, quality content. And don’t discount the power of LinkedIn for finding and connecting with the top names in your industry; it’s like the Facebook of finance.


Stacy EdenGuest Blogger:  Stacy Eden is a Phoenix, Arizona native with a passion for art, power tools, and historical significance. She draws inspiration from classic cars, ancient mythological sculptures and jewelry designers such as Delfina Delettrez, Shaun Leane, and Dior Jewellery creative director Victoire de Castellane.

Topics: Business Financials, Starting a Business, Free Stuff, Cash Flow, Marketing Ideas, Guest Blogs

As Construction Recovers, Look at Business Operation Tools

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Dec 09,2014 @ 06:00 AM

As Construction Recovers, Look at Business Operation Tools

Business tools for contractors



The construction industry that drives so much of the contracting business is steadily gaining throughout the nation. U.S. News & World Report reports that new home construction grew almost 22 percent in 2014. Moreover, builders themselves are optimistic, according to the National Association of Home Builders, which reports its members have seen an increase in "serious buyers."


This is great news for the contracting business. But with the recovery still a bit fragile and lenders reluctant to release loans, smart contractors need to be able to respond to work requests quickly. This means working smarter, including the work that runs the business. Luckily, there are tools that can let them focus on their craft and leave the business end in responsible hands, too.


Outsource Complex Financial Tasks

Mountain_of_pitch_book_binders-wrLots of small businesses, including many contractors, outsource accounting services like payroll and tax preparation. This is a smart move; tools like QuickBooks and NetSuite are constantly improving their services and lowering their costs. Even better, they are hosted online—in the cloud—so they can be accessed from any secure Internet site, reports Forbes. Online accounting services are very good choices for new firms and small ones that do not have a large enough accounting infrastructure to handle all functions and future growth. They're also heavily focused on security and maintaining backups of their own clients' data.

What about revenue management? This is not part of standard accounting services like QuickBooks. But managing your revenue is how your company stays afloat and can perform tasks like payroll and paying your own suppliers.

Customer management firms like Chargify have filled this important gap, providing clients from businesses of all sizes with online, cloud-based services that include:

  • Accepting payments from several sources, including ACE, eChecks, PayPal, and credit cards.

  • Issuing refunds.

  • Emails to customers that handle electronic invoices and receipts, payment reminders, and upcoming credit card expiration dates.

  • Coupons and discount redemption.

Best of all, these online services guarantee their accuracy and post solid customer ratings.


Go Online for Business and Legal Filings

Online legal services for contractors

Most contractors are small businesses but still have to file the same paperwork as the big guys. Unlike the big guys, they don't have in house attorneys and generally don't have time to run downtown to talk to a lawyer about filing for a business license or how to get a federal EIN.

Online legal services can help with the routine legal issues that don't involve the courts. Services like Legal Zoom and RocketLawyer provide small business owners with information and assistance that can help them understand how to address common legal topics that often arise in the course of business, such as:

  • Whether to file as an LLC, partnership, or S-corporation.

  • Steps to take to ensure corporate compliance.

  • Debt collection advice.

Subscribers also get access to common legal forms like employment contracts, cease-and-desist templates, and nondisclosure agreements. On call lawyers are available to answer general questions around the clock.


Go Online for Office Software

Perhaps the biggest online industry is office products like word processing and spreadsheets.

Small businesses used to shell out a lot of money for office software and then spend more on antivirus software, backup systems, and of course upgrades. They don't have to do this anymore with online services from well-known companies like Google and Microsoft.

To get Google's free online office products, just open a free Google account which includes the famous Gmail email service and more free services:

  • Online drive that stores virtually any kind of document uploaded to it.

  • Word processing.

  • Spreadsheet.

  • Presentation slide.

  • Forms.

  • Drawing tool.

If you or your office staff can't live without Microsoft Office, the online Office 365 delivers the full suite of Microsoft products, including online meeting services, upgrades, and security. Prices start at $12.50/month.




Guest Blogger: Ruth Ann Monti is the founder of TimeStorm Communications, which provides original content, copywriting, social media and marketing services for entrepreneurs and small business. She lives with her son and two dogs in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.


Topics: Business Financials, Technology for Remodelers, Legal Related, Free Stuff, Business Management, Guest Blogs, Software Related

Free RRP Renovation Checklist Will Help You Document Work Practices

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Dec 12,2013 @ 06:00 AM

Free RRP Renovation Checklist Will Help You Estimate And Document RRP Work Practices

RRP Renovation Checklist free


One of the requirements of the RRP rule is that the certified firm must create and maintain documentation of the work practices used on any renovation projects falling under the RRP Rule.  EPA is not doing field inspections unless someone reports a violation of the rule.  Rather, EPA checks on a firm’s compliance with the rule through the required paperwork a renovation contractor must create and keep on file.

It has come to my attention that in addition to illegally operating businesses, even many RRP Certified firms are not doing this required paperwork.   That’s a big mistake with the potential of up to a $37,500 fine for not having the documentation if EPA does an audit.   Plus, if you don’t have any documentation to prove what you did do, you may be subject to additional fines because you won’t be able to prove you used any of the required work practices while completing the work. 

Remember, the fine is up to $37,500 per day, per violation! Ouch!

Help with RRP implementation

To help contractors out with implementing the RRP rule I will be presenting a half day RRP Implementation Workshop along with Mark Paskell of the Contractors Coaching Partnership.  The first workshop will be held in Mansfield MA at National Lumber on January 7th, 2014 from 8AM -12:30 PM.  Additional dates and locations will be announced soon. 

At the workshop I will be sharing a complete set of the required RRP documentation paperwork with attendees.   The paperwork bundle will include several custom forms I created to help contractors and their team members with RRP rule compliance. 

RRP Workshop for contractors


The RRP paperwork bundle will include all the forms a renovator needs:

  • Non-Certified Worker Training Documentation Form
  • Lead Test Kit Documentation Form
  • Paint Chip Sample Collection Form
  • Occupant Pre-Renovation Notification Form
  • Common Area Renovation Notice
  • Record of Tenant Notification Procedures form
  • Renovation Recordkeeping Checklist Form


About the free RRP renovation Checklist

The form that I think will be most valuable to attendees is the Renovation Recordkeeping Checklist Form.  When I created this customized 3 page form I did it in a way such that the same form can be used in three different ways as follows:

RRP Checklist Form
  • The estimator can use it to help assess what work practices will need to be included in his estimated costs, for both interior and exterior projects.
  • The production manager can then use the same form to go over RRP work practices and containment requirements with the team doing the project.
  • The certified renovator can then use the same form to document what work practices were actually used.
  • Because of the design of the form, employee are less likely to miss or forget what needs to be done to be in and prove compliance.


At the workshop I will be going over the forms and how to use them to properly and accurately prove compliance with the rule.    After doing so at previous workshops many of the attendees said they found that RRP compliance and completing the required documentation was nowhere near as hard or as time consuming as they had imagined.  Plus, they found my forms to be easier to use and much more intuitive that the EPA sample forms.

download free RRP checklist

Shawn McCadden speaker for remodeler events

Click here for information about the workshop

If you would like to Shawn to conduct the RRP Implementation Workshop at your place of business email Shawn or call him at 978-726-6531




Topics: Free Stuff, RRP Training, EPA RRP Lead Rules, RRP Related