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How to Choose the Right Coverage for Your CNY Contracting Business

February 9th, 2024 | 7 min read

By Daniel J. Middleton

You built your contracting business from the ground up. Sweat, skill, and maybe a little duct tape turned dreams of hammer swings and sawdust smells into a thriving reality. But lately, that dream feels shadowed by a new concern: insurance. 

It can be a maze of confusing policies and unfamiliar terms, a never-ending worry gnawing at the back of your mind.

“What if something goes wrong?” you ask yourself, the question echoing in every toolbox thump and creak of the ladder. What if your crew member twists an ankle on a slippery roof? The potential liabilities loom large, casting a dark cloud over the future you’ve so carefully crafted.

Here at Horan, we get it. We’ve heard of the sleepless nights and witnessed the growing anxiety in local contractors. The fear that a single misstep could unravel your hard-earned success is real. 

That’s why we built our agency around one simple mission: empowering Central New York contractors like you with insurance that doesn’t just protect your business but fuels its growth.

This isn't your average insurance article. Forget the jargon, the legalese, and the endless fine print. This is a roadmap, a clear-eyed look at the insurance landscape with you, the small CNY contractor, at the wheel. We’ll break down the essentials, tackle the tough questions, and help you choose the coverage that fits your business like a perfectly-seamed roof.

Choosing the Right Business Insurance Starts with Knowing Who You Are as a Contractor

First things first: figuring out who you are as a contractor is crucial. 

  1. What kind of work do you do now? 
  2. What kind of work do you see yourself doing in the future? 
  3. Are you a one-person show, or do you plan to expand your team?

Figuring out who you are as a contractor is crucial.

Many contractors start out like scattered seeds, unsure of their niche. They take any job that comes their way, regardless of fit, because they don’t have a clear focus yet. They might not even know if they’ll need one or five employees down the line. This lack of structure makes choosing the right insurance a total guessing game.

It’s like baking a delectable cookie and everyone telling you to open a shop. You jump in without a plan, just because you’re good at one thing. That’s not how insurance works.

Contractors are often the same way. You’re skilled in a particular area, and maybe you’ve done side jobs or helped friends out. Then, someone says, “Wow, you’re amazing at laying tile! You should do this for a living!” So, you decide to become a “flooring guy,” but—

Hold on, flooring guy! What kind of flooring exactly? 

  1. Tile
  2. Wood
  3. Carpet

Each one requires different skills, tools, and experience. And guess what? Your insurance needs change with every type of flooring you add to your repertoire.

Let’s talk specifics. Say someone asks you to tell them about your last five jobs. Were they all tile? Fantastic! You seem like a tile pro. But what about wood flooring? Refinishing? Installation? What’s your experience level there? And carpet? Have you ever stretched a rug in your life?

This is where things get messy. To add to our already brimming contracting pot, our “flooring guy” might also build decks, creating another layer of complexity to the business insurance puzzle.

Know that your insurance requirements are unique to your business. Don’t just grab any policy off the shelf. Take the time to understand yourself as a contractor, then tailor your coverage accordingly. 

Choosing the right business insurance starts with knowing who you are as a contractor.

Your Online History Can Lead to Insurance Denial, So Fix Your Online Presence

Remember Joe the Handyman? The guy who started with a Facebook page showcasing his odd jobs and side gigs? Spectacular! Now he’s ready to level up, become a certified flooring pro, and grab that perfect insurance policy. But wait—

Joe’s Facebook page, that three-year digital scrapbook, might just throw a wrench in his plans. Underwriters are like internet sleuths, and that innocent page becomes a treasure trove of potential red flags.

Here’s how it can unravel:

  • Risky Photos: Remember those photos of Joe tackling projects outside his new “flooring only” scope? Maybe some roof repairs, a dab of wallpapering, or even a crew helping out. Suddenly, the underwriter’s mind races: “He said one-man-show, but who are these mystery helpers? Is this a hidden operation?”
  • Past Projects Backfire: Did Joe boast about past painting jobs or deck builds? Each post becomes a potential loophole, casting doubt on his present focus. Underwriters think long-term, and that “one-time drywall fix” three years ago can suddenly become a recurring risk.
  • Social Media Savvy Underwriters: Don’t underestimate their digital prowess. These folks were browsing Facebook before Joe even knew what an algorithm was. They’ll scour your online presence, from LinkedIn to Yelp, piecing together your professional puzzle. Inconsistencies will stick out like sore thumbs.

Dont let your past projects haunt online. Clean up your social mediaSo, what’s Joe to do?

  • Clean House: Declutter your online footprint. Scrub those social media pages, websites, and any online forum where past projects lurk. Less is more when it comes to underwriter scrutiny.
  • Honesty is the Best Policy: Be upfront with your agent about your past work. Explain your evolution, your transition from jack-of-all-trades to flooring specialist. Transparency can go a long way in building trust with the underwriter.
  • Focus on the Future: Highlight your present and future plans. Showcase your flooring expertise, emphasize your commitment to specialization. Show them the clear path you’re on, and they’ll be more likely to join you for the ride.

Your online footprint is your professional story. Make it a compelling narrative, one that aligns with your insurance goals. And if past projects don’t fit the plot, hit delete and write a new chapter focused on your flooring future.

By cleaning up your digital act, you’ll present a clear picture to the underwriter, one that screams “reliable, focused, and insurable!” 

Building Your Insurance Base with General Liability

So, back to the beginning: how do you find the best insurance coverage for your CNY contracting business? As we established, knowing yourself and your future goals is crucial. But beyond that, there are some essential building blocks to consider:

  1. General Liability with Height Exposure: This is non-negotiable. No matter your specific niche, if your work involves even occasional ladder-climbing or any height exposure (think hanging blinds, painting high ceilings, gutter work, roofing—you get the idea), you need general liability with height coverage. This protects you from third-party claims arising from accidents or injuries related to your work at heights.
  2. Beware of “Height-Hesitant” Carriers: While some carriers cater to high-risk contractors, they’re not exactly plentiful. Many insurers are wary of the potential liabilities associated with work done at heights. This means you might face higher premiums or stricter policy limitations.
  3. Be Prepared to Shop Around: Don’t settle for the first policy you find. Compare quotes from different insurers, focusing on those with experience covering contractors with height exposure. Ask detailed questions about coverage limits, exclusions, and claims processes. Remember, the cheapest option might not be the best in the long run.

Finding the right insurance is a crucial step in building a successful CNY contracting business. By understanding your requirements, researching your options, and being transparent, you can navigate the insurance maze and secure the coverage that gives you composure and properly protects your livelihood.

Insurance Should Grow with Your Business

So, you’ve got the green thumb and the ambition to turn your landscaping dreams into reality. Terrific! But before you unleash your inner lawn maestro, let’s talk about the insurance that will help your business bloom.

You’re not just a landscaper. You’re a master of specific skills. Mowing, mulching, and maybe some light hedge trimming, that’s your bread and butter. Sticking to your niche is not just good business, it’s the key to choosing the right insurance as a landscaper.

Going Beyond General Liability

Your general liability policy is the foundation. It’s your shield against third-party claims if, say, your enthusiastic mulching sends a rogue stone flying through a window. (Hey, accidents happen!)

Now, let’s add some landscaping-specific endorsements to make your coverage even more robust:

  • Voluntary Property Damage: This covers accidental damage you cause to someone else’s property while moving it. For example, while working at an exclusive residence in Sharon Springs, New York, an ornate ceramic garden sculpture slips from your hand and shatters to pieces.
  • Additional Insured: This adds your clients and property owners as extra insured parties on your policy, but only for the risks that arise from your work or operations on their turf. This means they’re partially covered if something goes awry and they are sued because of your negligence or actions.

Learn about other beneficial and necessary endorsements that will aid you as your landscaping business grows.

Adding Workers Comp

If your crew expands beyond yourself, workers compensation is a must. It protects your employees if they get injured on the job, saving you from potential financial headaches. Remember, happy and healthy employees grow happy and healthy businesses! 

Learn more about how a workers comp policy functions, particularly in New York State.

Obtaining Workers Comp Insurance When You’re a Height Risk

Even if you stick to ground-level projects, your “carpenter” classification might still land you in the “height-exposed” risk category for some insurers. But don’t worry! You can still get coverage through the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF)

It's a quick and easy online process, and it ensures you have the coverage you need to protect your employees and your business.

With the right insurance in place, you can focus on what you do best. 

Business Auto Insurance

If you use your vehicle for business purposes, you need a commercial auto policy. Your personal auto policy is not meant to cover commercial risks. For example, if you hit a kid on a bike or another car while backing out of a customer’s driveway, your personal policy may not cover the damages or injuries. 

You may also face a non-renewal or cancellation of your personal policy.

To avoid this, you should consult your personal auto carrier and see if you can add business use to your policy. You should also get a confirmation that your policy is endorsed to protect you in case of a business-related accident. If not, you should get a separate commercial auto policy. 

We explain when you need to switch policies in a related article.

How Much Will a Commercial Auto Policy Cost Me?

A commercial auto policy may cost you more than a personal auto policy, but it’s worth it. You may lose the multi-car discount if you have two vehicles at home, but you may get a discount if you use the same carrier for both policies. 

A commercial auto policy typically offers higher coverage limits and more options than a personal policy. For example, a single pickup truck on a commercial policy with Erie Insurance may cost around $1,200 a year with $1,000,000 in liability, comp and collision, and a $500 deductible.

You should also add any vehicle that you use for business purposes to your commercial policy, along with any drivers who may use them. This includes your employees, if you have any.

Get the Right Coverage for Your CNY Contracting Business

Imagine the crunch of fresh lumber, the rhythmic thud of a hammer, the satisfied sigh of a client after a job well done. Imagine that feeling, unburdened by the weight of “what ifs.” Imagine the confidence to climb any ladder, knowing your business is anchored in the right insurance.

That’s the future you deserve. It’s not a pipe dream, it’s a blueprint waiting to be built. With the right insurance, you won’t be winging it anymore. You’ll be soaring, fueled by the security that lets you focus on what you do best: building dreams, one nail, one board, one painted wall, and one satisfied smile at a time.

But remember, the alternative is a tightrope walk without a net. One misstep, one unforeseen accident, and your hard-earned success could come crashing down. Don’t gamble with your livelihood. Take control by investing in insurance that gives you composure and security.

Because in the world of contracting, it’s not just about building things up. It’s about knowing how to stand strong against the unexpected. 

We’re here to help. We’ll be here every step of the way, guiding you through the insurance maze and making sure your dreams have a foundation as solid as your work ethic.

Click the Get a Quote button below to being the journey to the proper business coverage.

And read our related article on the Top 5 Reasons Subcontractors Need Their Own Insurance.

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Daniel J. Middleton

Daniel is an accomplished content creator. He has been working in publishing for almost two decades. Horan Companies hired Daniel as its content manager in November 2022. The agency entrusted its messaging to him. Since then, Daniel has written insurance articles, service and pillar pages, and more. All in an effort to educate CNY readers. He's helping them understand the world of insurance so they can make informed decisions.