How to Get a South Carolina Contractor’s License

A contractor who owns a contractor’s license in South Carolina is working on a client’s deck

Have you been thinking about getting your South Carolina contractors license? Whether you’re a handyman now or new to the construction industry, you need to investigate licensing before starting work.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of information out there, especially online, and it can be pretty confusing. To help sort through all of the information, I put together this easy-to-follow guide on how to get your South Carolina contractor license. It explains why you should get a license—and how.

Ready to get started?

Do Contractors Have to be Licensed in South Carolina?

First, if you want to do contracting work in the Palmetto state, you need to have a South Carolina contractors license. That’s right, the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation requires you to go through the licensing process before doing construction work

Unlike other states, South Carolina makes the licensing process very simple. It’s also easy to find the application online. Although the process for filling out the application can be time-consuming, don’t put it off; it’s the right thing to do and can help you grow your business faster.

For example, a license will help you:

  • Get bigger projects and higher-paying work. Once you carry a license, you can take on bigger projects that pay more. Say goodbye to small, under-the-table handyman projects and get excited—there’s a lot of work available for general contractors in South Carolina.
  • Appear credible, reliable, and trustworthy. Not everyone can get a contractor’s license. After all, it takes time and dedication. But if you go through the process, your customers will trust you and feel peace of mind. They’ll probably refer you to other homeowners too.
  • Safeguard your business and its assets. Applying for a license is a great time to buy business insurance, including general liability insurance and workers’ compensation (if you have employees). A good business insurance plan will protect you and your employees in case there’s an unexpected accident, injury, or loss. In the construction industry, you never know what can happen, so you need to be prepared

Depending on the type of work you do, you may have to apply for one or more licenses.

  1. General and Mechanical Contractor: If you’re bidding on commercial, general, or mechanical work over $5000, you’ll need a general and/or mechanical contractors license.
  2. Residential and Manufactured Home Building: If you’re building, repairing, improving, or supervising home construction, you should apply for a residential home builder license. If you’re installing or repairing manufactured homes, you’ll need a manufactured housing contractor license.
  3. Residential Specialty Contractor: This type of license applies to specific types of work, such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC work.

Sold on getting your license yet? I hope so! Next, let’s talk about how you can get a license quickly so you can get back to work faster.

How do I Get a South Carolina Contractor’s License?

Throughout this process, you may want to bookmark the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s website. It’s your go-to resource for anything related to licensing, so if you have any follow-up questions or want to double-check something, that’s a great place to start.

According to the website, to apply for a license you’ll need:

  • A completed application form.
  • A license fee payable to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (the amount varies based on the time of year).
  • A notarized financial statement or surety bond.
  • Proof of registering your business with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
  • Proof of passing a technical exam and the South Carolina Business Management and Law for Commercial Contractor’s exam.

If your business is an LLC or corporation, you can register it with the state by calling 803-734-2158 or by visiting the South Carolina Secretary of State website. If you’re a sole proprietor or if your business is a partnership, you don’t have to register.

Once you send in your application, wait 10 business days. Then you can check the status of your application online.

Apply to take the license exam.

South Carolina makes it simple to search for a test site and sign up online. To schedule your exam, go to the PSI website or call 800-733-9267. You can check the PSI Candidate Information Bulletin to learn about the exam and help prepare. Remember, it’s important to pass your exam(s) before sending in your license application.

Get business insurance.

As you prepare for the exam and gather your application materials, we suggest looking into business insurance coverage that’s right for you.

“Nothing will happen,” you think. “After all, I’m ultra careful with everything you do.” I know the feeling, and it’s easy to think that we’re invincible because we’re responsible business owners. But the truth is, you never can predict what will happen in the future.

Taking the time to search for a general liability insurance plan and workers’ compensation (if you have employees) is one of the best things you can do for your business.

Insurance helps protect you, your employees, and your company’s assets if there’s an accident, injury, or unexpected loss. Just imagine if you were injured and unable to work—or if your tools and equipment got stolen. Or imagine if, in an unfortunate situation, your customer was the one to get hurt. Any accident, illness, or property damage could amount to an amount of money that is detrimental to your business’ financial health.

The average general liability claim is around $75,000. Just think of how much you could do with that money or in turn, what it would mean for you if you would have to pay it at short notice. I know—it’s not fun to imagine the worst-case scenario. But it’s important to be prepared.

Not only will having good coverage help to put your and your employees minds at ease, but it’s also a great indicator to current and potential customers that you take your work seriously and care about protecting your projects. Get insurance now so you don’t have to think about it later.

Applying for a SC contractor’s license?

You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.

That’s where we come in. Compare free insurance quotes for policies as low as $19.58/month.*

How Much Work Can You Do Without a South Carolina Contractor License?

As we’ve mentioned, there are a number of good reasons to consider getting your South Carolina contractors license. However, some work can be performed without a license, but there are restrictions.

  • You can work as a general contractor without a license on commercial construction projects with a value of less than $5,000.
  • You can work as a speciality contractor (HVAC, plumber, electrician) on projects with a value of less than $200.

You may also need a business license for your contractor business in South Carolina. We’ve got more information here.

Do I Need a South Carolina Contractor’s License to be a Handyman?

No, but you will need to register with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Keep in mind that you’ll still have to abide by the restrictions for unlicensed work we mention above.

Start Advertising Your South Carolina Contractor’s License Status

Once you get your license, take the time to celebrate! It took a lot of time and effort on your part.

Then start advertising your new credentials. You can feature your license number on your website, along with your Certificate of Insurance (COI). Your website is very important when it comes to potential customers finding your business. Even if you have a brick-and-mortar shop, 72% of folks will search for what they need online before stopping in.

A bit of time and money does go into building your website, so while you’re at it, you may as well capitalize on selling your services as best you can. Displaying the fact that you have your contractor’s license can help potential customers feel more secure in considering giving you their business.

But don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other opportunities to display that you have your license: business cards, contracts, and other marketing materials, for example. It’s a huge selling point for your business and makes you appear trustworthy and official.

While you’re at it, feature your new business insurance plan, too. It’ll give homeowners peace of mind and confidence as you kick off their projects.

Let’s Get to Work

Speaking of confidence, I hope that this article has helped boost yours! Looking into what it takes to get your South Carolina contractor’s license is a very smart step as it is, and the work that goes into the application process is no joke.

As any small business owner will tell you, there’s also a lot of work that goes into just running your business. We’ve worked with thousands of business owners for many years. They often have a wide range of questions, from what’s the best accounting software to how to apply for an SBA loan.

That’s where we can help you with more than just business insurance. Our small business resource center, Simply U, is jam-packed with helpful articles, free templates, and other useful tools and info. And it’s 100% free and open 24/7.

You probably have a lot on your plate (as a business owner myself, I get it!), but I hope you take some time to congratulate yourself on taking this crucial step in protecting your business.

Emily Thompson

I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.

Emily writes on a number of topics such as entrepreneurship, small business networking, and budgeting.