A.Les Deal, a remodeler in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, responds: You've identified your problem: The word that's killing you is "competition." I work from the premise that competition is not relevant.

The reality is, if you want to be a contractor, you must make a profit. Therefore, the first part of the answer is simple: Raise your prices to create a decent company profit. So now you say, "Thanks a lot -- how do I get work?" I'll offer another simple answer: Make an active decision to specialize in the work you love, based on the...

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