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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

of research.

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

sell that.

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 >