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land surveying

How to Run a Land Surveying Business

Learn the essential skills for operating in this highly-technical field.

Land surveying has existed for nearly as long as construction. For thousands of years, builders and surveyors have worked in harmony to engineer the structures that propel society forward. Modern construction as we know it is built on land surveying, so it’s no surprise that so many people want to throw their entrepreneurial hat into this market.  

Running a land surveying business can be personally rewarding, financially profitable, and culturally impactful. But only if done right. Consider the following factors to help you land a successful surveying business.

Logistic considerations

As the owner of a land surveying business, there are a few industry-specific logistics to consider in order to successfully operate within the industry. A few key factors that will affect how your business is operated include:

  • Rate : You can charge by the hour or by the job. The model you adopt will depend entirely on your business. If you need help determining the ideal operating model, consider working with an accountant.
  • Area of operation : Land surveying businesses that operate in populated areas tend to be more successful. It’s fairly intuitive — areas which are growing in population also grow in terms of infrastructure. That’s where your business will thrive. Consider how you will balance the cost of operation with the amount of revenue you can expect from doing business in your particular area. Look for the best business to buy in your area.
  • Client demographics : Consider who you expect to do business with your company. Will you serve mostly homeowners? What about businesses? Will government projects be a major target? Now is the time to decide if you will cater your services to a particular demographic, or if you will take on the one-stop, everything-to-everyone approach. Either way, try to get familiar with who is engaging with your brand (and why), so you can better serve your target customer demographic.

Of course, these considerations won’t be worth much if your business ultimately never turns a profit. Operating within the world of land surveying isn’t cheap, and there are a few key things to keep in mind when evaluating how much it will cost to run a land surveying business.

Cost of operation

Landing right side up in any entrepreneurial endeavor comes down to one simple equation: How much you spend vs. how much money you bring in?

Several factors will play into your overall operating cost. As with any business, labor and rent will be your primary expenses. Rent is pretty self explanatory — this expense will vary depending on your location. If you’re like most land surveyors and you’re looking to operate in a metropolitan area where your services are most needed, you can expect rent to account for a significant portion of the budget. As for labor, land surveying is a highly technical field, so labor will come at a cost premium. Consider how employing skilled workers might affect the budget because this is one cost driver where you absolutely cannot skimp. 

In addition to these common expenses, you will see some trade-specific costs that are unique to land surveying. These might include land surveying software and hardware, licensures, safety equipment, etc.  Even minor expenses, such as routine equipment maintenance or software upgrades can drive costs, so be aware of the industry-specific expenses that might reduce your bottom line.

Legal considerations

Certain state permits will need to be obtained, and upheld, in order to operate a land surveying business. Requirements will vary from state to state, so check the U.S. Small Business Administration for more information on what you need to operate within your particular state.

Determining how to protect your personal assets is another important legal consideration. As you embark on small business ownership, you might be tempted to finance from your personal bank account. We have a little advice on the subject: Don’t do it!  

When personal and professional accounts are mixed you put your personal assets in the way of unnecessary risk. In the event your LLC is sued, your family’s money, car, and even house could be in danger — when worse comes to worst, the last thing you want to do is jeopardize your personal assets. It’s best to keep these accounts separate by opening a business bank account or using a business credit card. As an added bonus, this demarcation of finances can make filing taxes significantly easier when it comes time to do so.  

Like the physical nature of the work itself, owning a land surveying business can be challenging, but ultimately rewarding. If you like working with your hands, solving problems, engaging with technology, or you simply want to participate in the growth of a community, owning a land surveying business might be the right fit for you.

Bruce Hakutizwi

About the author

USA and International Manager for, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small medium size businesses. The website has over 60,000 business listings and attracts over 1.5 million buyers to the site every month.


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