Start a land surveying business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your land surveying business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a land surveying business?
A land surveyor is a professional occupation and starting a business in the field is expensive. Besides the tens of thousands of dollars for training, there is the cost of surveying and computer equipment which can add tens of thousands of more dollars to the bill. Renting or buying a used surveying system can save a business a lot of money when it is getting started. In addition to the cost of the education and equipment, there is still the expense of renting an office, hiring staff, and marketing. Due to the nature of the business, most land surveying experts suggest companies purchase comprehensive liability insurance to protect them from lawsuits.
What are the ongoing expenses for a land surveying business?
Since the accuracy of surveying equipment is critical, it is important to maintain and routinely test all equipment. Any inaccurate or worn out equipment needs replacing immediately. Then there is the labor cost, plus the expensive of renting an office and marketing.
Who is the target market?
The target markets for a land surveying business are homeowners, land developers and public organizations. When starting a land surveying business, finding clients is one of the most difficult parts. New businesses can't afford to specialize in one particular area of the industry.
How does a land surveying business make money?
Clients hire land surveying businesses to create precise measurements of a property. There are a wide range of potential clients including land developers, homeowners and public organizations.
How much can you charge customers?
Land surveyors can charge by the hour or by the job. The cost of surveying depends on a number of factors including the size, location and type of property, in addition to the type if report or map the client needs. The average cost for a land survey of a residential property on ImproveNet is $463.
How much profit can a land surveying business make?
According to the BLS, the median income for a land surveyor is $59,390 per year. The income can vary greatly depending on the type of land surveying.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Increasing the type of land surveying services a business offers is a great way to secure more work and higher profits. Land surveying business owners may also consider earning a license to fly drones so they can offer their clients aerial photography to help market a property.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Land Surveying Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your land surveying business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a land surveyor business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a land surveyor business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your land surveyor business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Land surveying businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a land surveying business
A good place to start looking for clients is by networking with local contractors and land developers. While some homeowners may look for land surveyor, and it is useful to have a website, acquiring larger clients usually means direct selling. Joining and being an active member of a national land surveying organization, like the National Society of Professional Surveyors, or a local association is a good way to locate opportunities in the industry.
How to keep customers coming back
Providing stellar customer service and delivering on time, every time is the best way to make your clients happy and to develop a good name for your company. Remember that the surveying industry is small enough that people talk with each other. It is likely your business will quickly develop a reputation, so it is important to always do the best job possible.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Land Surveying Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Owning a land surveying company is not a suitable part-time business for a person who is looking to earn a little extra money. The long road to becoming a licensed land surveyor demands someone who is dedicated and passionate about the field. Land surveyors need to have a high level of skill in mathematics and CAD. The job is very physical and requires the ability to spend long days outside in a variety of weather. Travel is an essential aspect of the job. What happens on a typical day at a land surveying business?After a client hires a land surveying company, the job usually begins with research on the area where the land surveyor will measure. This can include searching for and examining old surveying reports, or looking at aerial photography of the land. Once preliminary research is done, a land surveyor needs to go into the field to take a new survey. After gathering all the information, the land surveyor uses a computer program to create a map and then writes a report of his findings.
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What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful land surveying business?
People who want to own and operate a land surveying business need to obtain a license at the state level. Each individual state sets its own requirements for earning the license a land surveyor needs to practice. Most states require at least a bachelor's degree in surveying, geomatics or mapping and the ability to pass an exam from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). In addition to gaining the license to practice, land surveying company owners need to have experience with running a professional business.
What is the growth potential for a land surveying business?
The job outlook for land surveyors is mixed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that between 2014 and 2024, the total number of land surveyors will fall by around 2 percent. The cause of this decline is most likely the advancement in land surveying technology which allows surveyors to work quicker, and not less clients. On the upside, the average age of current land surveyors is 55 years old. In many areas of the country, around 10 percent of current surveyors are retiring each year. This means that people who start a new land surveying now will be facing much less competition in the future.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a land surveying business?
Potential owners of a land surveying business need to understand what they are getting into before spending their time and money entering the industry. It is a good idea to speak with current land surveyors to gain more knowledge about the field. Owners of new land surveying businesses continuously need to learn by maintaining strong relationships with others in their field. Land surveying companies can increase their number of client by offering diverse services.
How and when to build a team
Employees are critical for a land surveying company. Support individuals, like a secretary and office manager can help free up time for surveying. Companies which are just starting out may want to outsource to an answering service if they are operating from a home office. Hiring assistants or interns to help with the physical aspects of the business makes surveying much easier and increases the number of jobs a business can accept.