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Throughout history, people have always needed to know the precise measurement of a particular piece of land or the height of an object. Whether the information is necessary for the creation of a topographical map of an area or for determining the exact location of property lines prior to a sale, the field of land surveying is important. A land surveying company helps to increase economic growth by being an essential part of the land development industry.
Who is this business right for?
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.
What 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.
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.
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 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 steps to start a land surveying business?
Once you're ready to start your land surveying business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the initial costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2. Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your security guard company is sued.
STEP 3. Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
STEP 4. Open a business bank account
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 5. Set up business accounting
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.
STEP 7. Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
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.
STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I 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.
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 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.
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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.
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.
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.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.