Pros and cons of self employed or working for a existing company

About to take the exam for my state license soon. At first I wanted to be completely self employed, now I’m sceptical, between all the software and tools, I would need.im wondering if I should find someone to work under. What I really want to know is realistically how much start up money should I have.

Everyone’s circumstances are different. Ask yourself this question, how long will it take for my business to sustain itself. Most home inspectors are self sustained after 2 to 5 years. In my opinion you should be prepared for this.

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I plan on working under my own company eventually, but I’ve been very glad to work under a couple other companies in my first year and I plan to continue to do so for another 1-3 years.

The coursework school I went to emphasized starting your own company and making $80k/yr right off the bat… I think it’s a way they sell their school.

Unless you have extensive experience in residential construction, you will miss things. No one is an expert just from the coursework. Not to mention the amount of tech & marketing know-how you need to design & set up your own systems to be successful. (Even with that know how, it’s not easy to convince clients & realtors to trust someone new. Use it as a way to start your foot in the door of your local real estate community.)

Find a small team of smart inspectors that will train you further and review your reports for a while. You’ll learn a lot that would take you much longer on your own. Look at the first couple years & the money from these inspections that go to the company as an investment in your career. In fact, you may actually make less money working on your own for a while, compared to working for someone else. You may find yourself spending large amounts of time at home, not learning or making money.

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Excellent advice Michael!

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Great advice!

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I think you are correct. Maybe 15 years ago, but the large amount of competition in most areas has kept the prices in-check. Also, multi-inspector companies will rely on volume and will keep prices low to keep the volume coming in. The one-man show inspectors, as I am, need to focus on quality and customer service in order to charge the higher price we need to keep the lights on.

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This really isn’t an inspection question, this is a life question.

What is more important to you?
Being your own boss? Or a (relatively) stable paycheck?

Doing marketing, business planning, filing state paperwork, dealing with insurance, etc, etc OR Just inspecting and letting someone else handle that stuff for you?

Do you want to wake up and go handing out flyers, brochures to agents before inspections, and then stay up all night working on your website and templates, Or do you just want to wake go inspect, and go home and enjoy wife/kids/tv/whatever?

Keep in mind, if/when you go out on your own, the 1st year you’re going to spend more time marketing than inspecting (and that doesn’t matter if you work for someone else or not 1st).

Personally, I’m not a fan of the “work for someone else, then go out on your own” thought. One, it’s disrespectful to the person who hires you. They’re going to put a lot of time and money into training you. To just use them like a wet tissue is not cool. Two, it’s a lifestyle decision. If your goal is to be your own boss, then be your own boss. Getting the business off the ground won’t be any easier down the road.

Everyone thinks inspecting is the hard part, but no, the hard part is getting anyone to call you. Working for someone else 1st will never change that.

Read this for more info:

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I agree with Ian. You need to be prepared to handle all aspects of the business if you go on your own. This will mean pulling long hours in the beginning because you need to do the actual work plus the administrative stuff. This isn’t unique to the home inspecting industry. Anytime you start your own business from scratch, you will be putting in long hours until you get established and can afford to hire some help.

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I’ll agree with Ian also. I don’t miss my years spent in a windowless cubicle in a large office building designing automotive parts , or the next job spent in a windowless cubicle in a large office building designing sports equipment. I didn’t make anywhere near my engineer’s salary in my first years as my own boss but the lifestyle and job satisfaction of running my own company and setting my own hours as a home inspector these past 10 years has really been a blessing. Each year has been better than the one before.
Being my own boss has been a blessing to me and my wife. I have unlimited vacation days to go help out our older family members or friends when she is stuck at work.
In our particular situation, my wife’s steady income and excellent health insurance has been a blessing. It allowed me to start out from scratch and build up my business slowly with no financial pressure. Not everyone has that luxury.

If my circumstances had been different I would have considered joining a local company or becoming part of a franchise to get that steady stream of business from the beginning (at the expense of kicking up a percentage to the main office).

I like Michael’s advice about finding some experienced inspectors to give you some guidance. If you can find some local mentors, it can get you going in the right direction.

To answer your questions about start-up, all you really need after paying for insurance and licensing (depending on your state) is a good phone/camera, ladder, gloves, flashlight, screw drivers, electrical testers, appropriate clothing. I personally would add uniforms, decent software, a professional website and email and membership dues to InterNachi for continuing education classes and access to this forum to read daily and learn new things always. I would budget $10k minimum for a basic start-up for the first six months. And don’t expect to make money the first 6 months or more. I think I spent around $25K my first year. And another $25K my second year.

But then there is no limit to the additional tools and equipment that you might add to this as you grow in your career. And consider spending some on marketing.

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Maybe, but it depends on your area. I find that when I do market research here on pricing, the one man shops are the ones keeping the prices low.

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It really comes down to how bad you want it, and how long you can sustain without making money. Also, don’t be afraid to diversify and take on insurance inspections. This can help fill your schedule until you are able to do so with just home inspections. A part-time job also helps make things possible. Filling your schedule helps keep your mind busy and prevents it from telling you that you are going to fail.

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I wasn’t expecting to make 80 grand off the bat. I was hoping for 40 though. But I started pricing stuff and a few different things I didn’t think about started popping up.

See that’s why I posted that question. Going into this. I wanted to be my own boss, and still do. I kinda figured 6 grand or so. Would be a good starting point. But yesterday I was crunching some numbers and figured that wasn’t enough.

Also until yesterday I hadn’t looked into software or marketing and insurance. Had some ladders priced out and had been buying a couple flashlights and electric test here and there just build up little by little. But yesterday realized 6 grand was not enough.

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Everyone’s mileage will vary, but for myself, I spent more than that just on marketing during my first year. Without going into specific numbers, I spent as much on marketing as I did on all other expenses combined during my first year. There are many ways to successfully do free marketing as well, which I also do a lot of. It all just depends on what platforms you want to be on and how far you want your reach to be.

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Have you considered losing money? Read Bert’s post carefully. Most new inspectors don’t make it past the 3 year mark. Lack of planning and liquid cash can kill any new business.

Put yourself in your buyers shoes. They’re going to spend $500,000 on a house and need an inspection. Are they going to hire somebody new or a seasoned inspector? It’s an uphill battle but not impossible.

You’re right that’s not even close to being enough.

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Don’t hope for a profit the first year. Hope to break even. Profit takes time with and business.

At least…

Use payments from jobs to buy tools as you go. Basic essentials up front, fancy gidgets, gadgets, and gizmos later…

Especially if you are in an unregulated state like Colorado. Persistence and steadiness wins the race. Good luck.

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As he is really the only one that has eluded to the necessity for business knowledge!
What is your (OP) experience operating a business? Education?
You can be the best inspector the world has ever seen, but if you know squat about running a successful business, you are doomed!!
At a minimum, you really need to possess a College Business 101-102 level education… just to get started operating your own business. IMO, this is the real cause for the high failure rate with inspectors… other than newbies wasting huge amounts of money on gimmicks they don’t need in their first three years, if at all.

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Yep, new inspectors are a real target. Everybody wants that starter to money before it dries up.

My recommendation to the OP, before spending money on this or that, put out a feeler here for real world feedback.

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I know you meant “inspectors,” but you’re are absolutely right. Many of the vendors scan NACHI for new members to contact. Most of the vendors that have reached out to me say they got my name from NACHI.

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Agreed! Muti-inspector shops aren’t interested in low prices. They have massive overhead to pay.

It’s the few inspectors in every town who are so desperate for work that they undercut everyone else that keeps prices low.

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