What I think is a good way to find a good honest contractor is simply to keep your yellow pages phone books for the past several years.
Every day of every year in every city in the US and Canada, experienced and knowledgeable people quit their jobs working for someone else and start their own companies in the same line of work. Now, NO ONE is as stupid as people are portrayed to be on TV. No one will do that if they're still learning and screwing up and making mistakes on their employer's work. They'll keep learning and making mistakes on their boss's reputation until they feel they've learned all their likely to, have been able to fix that last mistake they made years ago, and feel they could run their company if they had to. It's only then that they start thinking...
And, making that move can be scary because they're giving up their seniority and rung on the company ladder to start their own business. So, they're going to play their cards conservatively. They're going to give each potential customer honest advice about what needs to be done to solve the problem once and for all, and charge a reasonable rate for doing that work, and hope that if they do their job the best they can, the rest will fall into place and their new company will be a success. They'd have to be stupid to try ripping off their customers for all they can get and leaving behind a trail of bad word-of-mouth advertising. That way if times turn tough, theirs will be one of the first businesses out-of-business.
Obviously, anyone who's planning to do that is gonna make sure that they get their name in the yellow pages otherwise their company doesn't stand a chance of getting it's fair share of the business that's being done.
So, the easiest way to find those new upstart companies is to simply keep the yellow pages phone books that you get every year, and by comparing names and numbers in the yellow pages for several years in a row on a spread sheet, you can find out who's gone or folded or retired, who's simply changed their name, and who's new.
I've found that the new guys actually do better work than the well established companies because the president and owner of the well established company isn't coming out to redo your roof, build your fence or pour your driveway himself. He's sending out a bunch of kids along with one or two of his experienced guys (and calling that a "crew"). When you hire one of the new companies in the phone book, the guy that's doing your roof, fence or driveway probably was the most experienced guy in his company before he started working for you. And now, it's in his own best interest to do the best job he can for you, cuz it's his company and reputation that benefits for each job well done.
And, if you want to confirm it's not a fly by night outfit, simply check the company registration at your local government offices. In Manitoba, that's called the Companies Office. You can find out the names, addresses and phone numbers of the principal shareholders of any corporation or that of the owner(s) of a sole proprietorship for $5. Then, just mosey on down to your local Property Tax Office and find out who pays the property tax on the address your newbie self employed contractor is living at. If the right name shows up, that means your contractor OWNS the house he's living in, and not just renting it, and that means he's not going to "take off" on you. He's got a $200,000 worth of house keeping him rooted in your town, and selling it for half of nothing real fast so he can take off to Bolivia with your $5,000 won't make sense to him either. (I'm making the assumption here that no one pays the property tax on someone else's house.)
This is all just common sense. If you were to start your own company, how would you run it? To fleece every customer unlucky enough to come your way, or to do the best job you can for every customer that comes your way and leave the rest to providence because you understand that's about all you CAN do to help your new company succeed in life.
Exactly. I'd play it safe too.