Okay, let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. Before starting any job, make sure it is one that you have the knowledge, equipment, manpower and time, to finish safely for both you and the homeowner.
Assuming all qualifications, licensing and insurance are in order, what’s left? For contractors, whether it’s in construction, landscaping, roofing or general home improvement, one common thing they all agree on is that work should never begin before enough information has been obtained from the homeowner. Things should be as clearly defined as possible before any tools leave their holsters. All these steps are necessary before even preparing the contract for the customer to sign. Make sure the homeowner is aware of your basic requirements (such as schedule/availability, cost) and whether or not they can be met. To make sure your contract is as fair as possible for both yourself and the homeowner; consider what questions to ask in order to make things crystal clear. It’s important to hammer out certain details like “add-ons” and how they are handled, or to provide a detailed list of cost and materials. Make sure the payment terms are clearly defined in the contract (usually 30% down at the beginning).
It’s also important to clearly spell out who is responsible for what. This means what the contractor pays for and what the homeowner pays for. This could also mean such things as who has access to the house, what times during the day access is needed and the expectations of jobsite cleanup.