Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon
A Young Surveyor’s Testimonial
Marketing: I paid for a website and email hosting. It’s
very simple, cheap, and in the technology age where
people will likely find you by Googling “land surveyor
Portland Oregon,” it’s important to have a web
presence and professional email. Business cards are
not expensive, and you’ll need something to hand
out to people, so they know how to reach you. I have
just my personal cell phone and can’t afford a land
line or an additional phone. I have a free Google
voice number that also rings my cell phone.
Field equipment: Start with as little as you can
get by with and grow as needed. You can rent
until business picks up. The most important field
equipment you should own is the data collector.
The rest can wait.
Insurance: There are apparently plenty of folks out
there who do not insure themselves with business
or professional liability. If you’re a member of
PLSO, you are also a member of NSPS. NSPS has
an insurance company they recommend and who
offers discounts to members. I come from a military
family, so I went through USAA who subs to The
Hartford. Business insurance isn’t that expensive
for me- just a couple of hundred a year, but
professional liability will cost thousands. Business
insurance x 10. Prioritize this. Health insurance is
another big expense. If you can be on your spouse’s
that can save you money, but not always. Do your
research, but don’t skip out on this either.
2. Choosing a name is challenging for a few reasons.
Nobody else can already have it or something close
to it in at least the few surrounding states. Do lots
It should be relatively easy to say and to understand
over the phone.
It should make sense for your business. Picking a
cutesy name or an overly modern one for a land
surveying business will only confuse your potential
clients about what it is you are offering.
Deciding whether or not to include your name. I
opted against this at the advice of my accountant
who clarified that should I end up deciding to sell
the business at some point in the future, it would be
more difficult if it were my name because you can’t
3. It’s important to register yourself as a legal
business in the state even if you are just going to stay
a one-person company.
The company name will be protected and registered,
and you get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)
which is a social security number for your company.
You’ll want this to set up a business checking account,
get a credit card, register online to look at government
contracting options and to have on a W-9 form to
provide when subcontracting. It essentially does two
things: (1) Tells everyone you’re legit; (2) Separates your
personal identity from your business one (though not
always). If you don’t have one, you’ll be using your SSN.
4. Watch out for scams.
If you want to sign up for government contracts,
there’s about twenty different sites you’ll find
yourself registering on. One of the first will be Dun
and Bradstreet. They give you a number that the
government will always request. At some point, not too
far along in the process, D&B will call you and tell you
that there have been inquires on your credit and that
you should pay them money to have this remedied.
Politely and quickly get off the phone with them. Long
story short, if you pay them money then instantly your
credit will improve. This is essentially the same thing
as paying Equifax money to have them improve your
credit score overnight. D&B has very little oversight.
5. Find mentors and ask them questions!
When you own a business, you work extra hard and
generally more or odd hours. There are a lot of benefits
like independence, setting the schedule, not feeling
guilty about twiddling my thumbs when I’ve completed
a task, not having to ask for something to do, and
getting to use my time to fiddle with the processes and
research. I don’t get paid sick time or vacation, but I can
take those days when I need without having to ask for
permission. I have the choice of taking my dog to the
office or in the field, dying my hair purple, dressing up
or dressing down, and working from home or going to
the office. However, these types of rewards will depend
a lot on your personality and lifestyle.
One of the biggest rewards is meeting and getting to
know the surveying community here and getting to
pick their brains in unofficial “masters classes” about
my projects. As I come up against hurdles, I’ve been
able to turn to the survey community and have learned
more about land surveying in the last five months
than the last five years. There is a tremendous amount
of knowledge and wisdom to be passed on, and our
community seems more than willing to help.
My first few projects have been bumpy and taken
longer than I anticipated because I am learning how
to do surveys I’ve never done before, while simultane-
ously learning to run a business. When I was working
for someone else, I wasn’t always in a position to
make decisions. It came down to someone a step or
two above me about how to handle an issue, whether
or not I agreed with their decision. In a way, this
continues on page 18 >