These guides will help your surveying company succeed.
Everything from starting your company, to getting more clients.
Practical steps for starting your new surveying company
Starting a business is an exciting and daunting task.
To be successful, you’ll need to market yourself, find clients, and manage your cash flow. Many people find it a risky but rewarding career path. So what practical steps do you need to take, before you can start to generate new income?
"The riches are in the niches" as the saying goes.
It’s easier to find work if you market yourself as an asbestos surveyor in Newcastle, rather than a general surveyor in the UK.
Find your niche and market yourself accordingly. Don’t try to offer everything. It makes it harder for people to understand what you do, and you’re less likely to be the top of their mind when someone asks them for a recommendation.
Sticking to a specific niche makes it easier for your website to rank higher in the search engines too.
If you’re a new surveyor, you’ll need to attend a training course to get the basic knowledge you need to carry out surveys.
There are training courses available for both licensed and non-licensed surveying. Find the training body for your industry; for example, UKATA is a training body for asbestos awareness through non-licensed works and licensed works training, or BOHS lets you find asbestos surveying courses in your area.
Courses are usually just a few days long, and you’ll get a competency certificate at the end.
If you’re already an experienced surveyor, it’s still a good idea to refresh your knowledge from time-to-time and make sure your skills are up to date.
Do you have the necessary accreditations or licenses to operate your business?
Find out which accreditations are available for your surveying industry, and if you need them to trade. To get started quickly, you might want to get the required certifications and work towards the desirable ones at a later date.
e.g. Asbestos surveyors can trade without UKAS accreditation. However some clients may be inclined not to work with you, since it proves your competence and capabilities.
The days are gone when you need to find a web developer to build a website.
There are now online tools that let you create a professional-looking website with no technical skills. Check out Squarespace and Wix - two of the most popular website builders. If you need a designer, these platforms have a list of design partners who can help you.
Simply having a website isn’t enough.
You also need potential customers to find you. The best way to do this is to register your business on Google Business. Registering your business with Google means:
Your first clients will probably be people from your network.
Send some personalised messages to people you know. Explain your new venture. Your goal is to show people what you’re doing - not give them the hard sell. You’re laying the groundwork for future opportunities and finding supporters. Sales will come naturally later.
Keeping track of sales leads and prospects is vitally important.
You’ll get enquiries and leads from phone calls, emails, recommendations, social media channels, so it’s easy to lose track. You need somewhere to record conversations with the companies you’ve spoken to.
We use a CRM tool called Pipedrive for managing sales leads and deals. It’s easy to use and you can install plugins to automatically log your email conversations, nice!
Did you leave employment to start your business?
If so, you’ll need to be mindful of non-compete clauses in your old contract. Non-complete provisions may prevent you from poaching clients from your previous employer.
Non-compete clauses can be an issue if you expect to work with the same clients. In reality, governments rarely enforce non-compete contracts, as they don’t like to restrict trade. But it’s worth checking your previous agreement to see if any non-complete clauses exist, and the length of time before they expire.
Very few surveying companies operate without software these days. Writing reports manually takes hours. As a small surveying business, you should be focusing your time on surveying and business development. If you’re spending a lot of time writing reports, your profit margins will suffer.
Flow Mobile Surveying is the fastest surveying software. It can improve your survey turnaround time by 80%. But there are many others on the market too.
As a start-up, you'll want to cut costs where possible. Look for software without up-front costs.
If you use a surveying app, you’ll need a mobile device.
To avoid repetitive strain injuries, we recommend a modern Android or IOS smartphone with a large screen. Tablets cause repetitive strain injuries over time. They can can damage your shoulders, elbows, and wrists when used frequently.
As any plasterer who lifts a heavy trowel and plasterers hawk all day knows, repetitive strains are no joke. Surveyors often experience pains in their arms from carrying tablet devices for long periods.
Phones are also easier to carry and use in confined spaces or up ladders. Phone cameras are better too!
Where does your target audience hang out. Is it LinkedIn? Twitter? Facebook?
Use the 80/20 rule to start building your reputation there. Spend 80% of your time networking on the platform you want to target, and 20% of your time networking and posting on other platforms. Try to be consistent. Post daily, weekly, whatever suits you best.
Share your milestones and newsworthy stories at every opportunity. The 80/20 rule applies here too. When you release content, it should be 80% customer-focused, and 20% brand / PR focused.
We use Freeagent because it’s easy to use. It doesn’t have technical jargon like other accounts packages.
Modern invoicing systems like Freeagent get data directly from your bank feed. You don’t need to be a bookkeeper to keep track of your sales and purchases easily.
If you’re unsure what to charge, ask other surveyors in your network what they cost. They will probably be willing to help if you’re not direct competition, so ask people outside your area if possible. If you’re still not sure, just remember one thing, don’t be too cheap!
Competing on price is a race to the bottom. Clients you win by being cheap won’t value your time. Clients who value your time are more enjoyable to deal with and less demanding.
Surveying work can be intrusive or damaging to your client’s premises, so it’s essential to get Professional Indemnity insurance in place before you head out on-site.
It’s always worth shopping around to make sure you get a good deal.
A well-organised system for scheduling work will stop you from feeling lost.
If your surveying software has built-in scheduling, then you can use that, or you can use a 3rd party calendar like Google Calendar. The advantage of using a calendar like Google Calendar is that you can access your schedule from anywhere.
Finding partners in complementary industries is a good strategy for finding new work. For example, if you’re an asbestos surveyor, you can partner up with a legionella surveyor or a fire risk assessor, and agree to refer work to each other.
Testimonials are a powerful way to get new clients. So encourage your clients to write testimonials if they’re satisfied with your work.
Send clients a direct link to your Google Business page, or a brief email request. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to write you a review.
If you don’t have any clients yet, ask people you’ve worked with to give you a testimonial.
If you choose any modern surveying software, this won’t be an issue, since they come with pre-built surveying templates. But if you want to do things the old fashioned way, using pen and paper, you’ll need to design a document from scratch.
If you’re in the asbestos industry, you’re in luck. We wrote this handy guide on how to create an asbestos management template
A good accountant will pay for themselves, with the money they save you.
Make sure you choose someone with research and development expertise, as this will reduce your tax bill. Research and development conjure up images of ‘men in white coats’ - but that’s not the reality. If your business spends any time exploring new activities or processes, that counts too.
Choose someone you like working with - our accountant went to school with us - so we can always pick up the phone and chat with him if we need some help!
Starting a business can be a hugely rewarding career path.
Companies with the best systems often succeed where others fail. If you want to hit the ground running, see how you can create high-quality asbestos or fire-safety reports quickly, using Flow Mobile Surveying.