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How to Select a Contractor

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Elmer Thomas Jr.
If it has not already, there will come a time when you will need to call upon a contractor to help fix some issue or create an enhancement. My goal is to help you understand how to make value based choices when seeking contract labor.

  • Check their state contractor's license

The Contractor's Reference site http://www.contractors-license.org/ has a state by state index for each contractor's board.

  • Check the BBB

You can search the BBB http://search.bbb.org/ to get a reliability report.

  • Location?

Do they have a physical location? Is it staffed? The idea is to use that information to gain some perspective on the professionalism and stability of the company.

  • How long have they been in business

Your State's Secretary of State office http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_of_State_%28U.S._state_government%29 will be able to verify a Corporation, for other entities you will want to check your local City Hall for business license information.

  • Insurance (Workman's Compensation and General Liability)

Workman's Compensation is necessary when the contractor is bringing in additional labor. General Liability insurance should be provided by all contractors. Be sure to check the actual certificate.

  • Samples of work

If possible, visit actual work sites and try to get an interview with the customer.

  • Level of expertise

You want to be sure that the contractor has experience with your specific problem.

  • Guarantee?

Find out what guarantees the contractor offers and be sure that those guarantees are in writing.

  • Get referrals

Ask for a list of referrals of past customers, as many as you can get. With each name, you want the phone number and the type of project. Be sure to contact all the people who have had similar work done first.

  • Get competitive bids

Use a service, such as ThemBid.com http://www.thembid.com/ to get several contractors to compete for your business.

  • Get references from family, friends and/or a Realtor

You can often save some time by asking trusted people for suggestions, especially if they have already had the same work you need done with success. But even so, I suggest you still get some competitive bids to provide yourself some leverage.

  • Interview

At the minimum you want to have a phone interview, but an in person interview at the contractors place of business is ideal.

  • Financing

The contractor should require no more than 33% up front and final payment should be given upon completion of work. Typically you will find a 30 (up front)/30 (midway)/20 (near completion)/10 (after completion) breakdown.

  • Contract

You should have your attorney review the contract for maximum protection.

Before selecting a contractor is it very important to clearly define your requirements (the Scope of Work).


Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com.  Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com.

Elmer Thomas Jr. is Founder of Above the Limit, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at www.AboveTheLimit.com.

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