People in business for themselves may be finding it difficult to advertise and to round up work these days; even contractors are finding it hard to come up with the money to pay for much-needed advertising. Contracting through insurance agencies may be an easy way to get your name out there and to round up some quality business.
Build a solid reputation and collect good references from jobs you've completed. If you work on a project for a homeowner or a commercial business owner and you think you did a good job, ask the client to provide you with a good reference. Always gain permission to use a person or a company as a reference before listing them. Once they agree, find out which method of contact works the best for them. They may prefer a phone call on their cell phone or may provide a direct line to their office land line. Some will prefer e-mail queries or will want potential clients to speak to them in person.
Build a portfolio, which includes information about the projects you've successfully completed, along with before and after photos. Use a word-processing programme to print out information about each project, leaving enough space to paste or tape one or two photos on the top or bottom of the information page. Keep the book organised so that it can easily be looked through. List the name of the project, the date it was completed, what was completed on the project and before and after photos. For example, a page may say something like "The ground zero Hotel, completed on July 17, 2008, demolition and tile installation, contact John Peterson, Hotel Manager."
Once you've established consistent contact information, a good reference list and a portfolio, you may want to think about putting together a website. A website is also a sort of portfolio and should have some of the same information as your portfolio. The website is a way for people to find you online and can be another place where you mention your certifications, the fact that you are fully insured (this is very important for contractors) and that you are a preferred contractor for local insurance companies.
Network with local insurance agencies. Start with your own insurance company. Many of them collect business cards to hand out to other clients who are looking for services. Literally go "door to door" to various insurance agencies around your city. Offer a 5 or 10 per cent discount for their clients. Show the insurance company representatives your portfolios and leave them a stack of business cards, flyers and brochures. You can also try joining a local networking group. Here, you will be connected with a lot of different people from various companies and backgrounds, but you will also be networking with insurance company agents. These types of networking groups tend to like to use people within their network for referrals.
It's important to have all of the necessary certifications and licenses in order to be a contractor that works with insurance companies. If your speciality requires any type of certification, obtain that certification and keep it up-to-date, making sure to have valid proof of the certification on hand. Some states require that you be a licensed contractor; licensing may also be required by the city or county that you're working in. For example, Wisconsin requires a state test to be a licensed contractor, but in Ohio, you must take each individual test for each county throughout the state. Some states also require that you become bonded. Find out what your state requirements are (you can obtain this information online or by calling your local state or county office) and make sure you have those requirements.
You can avoid a lot of additional expenses by doing the work yourself, putting together your own portfolios, websites and business cards. Websites like Overnight Prints offer excellent business cards at a very reasonable price.
Networking can be difficult, so don't be discouraged if the first few attempts leave you empty handed. You may have to talk to 50 different insurance agencies before one gives you a chance. Once you get at least one insurance agency under your belt, others may follow.