I have to disagree with promower.
Building patios, walls, and walks is a living, and most likely you will not get rich. At one time, yes, it did make me rich. But the competition has grown by I'm guessing 900%. Thus proifit margins have diminished.
Most importantly you need a passion for the work. NOTE: there is a profound difference between "PASSION" vs "INTEREST".
Also, if you really wanna make it you need a very very very strong background and knowledge in business. It's all about numbers and managing the numbers. Like I said, hardscaping is competitive. You need to have a very sharp pencil, you need to be able to price work reasonably, do the job, and make the profit you were originally hoping for. Easier said than done. You will also need to know how to sell yourself. An example: many contractors swear showing up for an initial appointment with a prospective client wearing a nice dress shirt, driving a clean truck/car, etc. Well, I can show up wearing my worn out jeans, old shoes, and a dirty truck.....and I DO SELL WORK!! See, this is because I know how to talk to prospective customers, I know how to do a presentation, and I know how to look them in the eyes and smile. Everything I just wrote in this paragragh is a trait. And these traits derive from passion.
As far as mark up as you touched on in your initial post - I do NOT mark up hardscape materials. We are not in the retail biz, we are in the contracting biz. The only thing I mark up is plant material that I warranty. We make our money off of labor, we sell labor, that's the business we're in. This does not mean my prices are dirt cheap, infact my prices are typically 10 to 20 percent higher than other contractors in my area.
Most hardscape guys only last 3 to 5 years. They think using polysand is do or die, cause they weren't around 16 years ago when polysand was virtyally unheard of! They think using rusty spikes to retain edge restraint is a MUST, because they read it somewhere and haven't been around long enough to have experienced repairing patios and walks were galvanized spikes have been used. In the 17 yrs I've been in the hardscape contracting biz - I've never seen a galvanized spike come up through the ground. The reason why most only last 3-5 years is because they come to realize there are easier ways to make a living and to make more money.
Good luck to ya!
"It's You vs. You"
"People Throw Rocks At Things That Shine"
My Equipment Brag List:
-1 CAT hat
-16 pairs of Hanes socks (the Heavy Duty model), many with holes.
-12 pairs of underwear, ranging from Joe Boxers to Jockey, many are in need of replacement. (no more photo requests please)
-hundreds of t-shirts. Some w/ grease stains, some torn & tattered.
-7 pairs of jeans, ranging from Levis to Polo to GAP. 1/2 of them have holes in 'em.
-1 pair of old worn out Nike shoes.