Do I need a contractor licence in NSW?

Technically speaking you don’t actually need a NSW contractor licence to work as a builder or tradesperson in NSW – with one major proviso. You don’t need a NSW contractor licence – so long as you don’t do any individual jobs for which the total cost of labour and materials totals more than $5,000 (including GST).

But exclusively accepting smaller jobs is not the most efficient way to grow a business – which at end of the day is what you’re in this for, right? Also, holding and clearly displaying a NSW contractor licence will only give you more credibility in the eyes of your clients. In fact, it could be the difference between winning a job and being overlooked for a job. So holding a valid NSW contractor licence can indeed be a key step in establishing your name in the industry.

There are numerous reasons why your business should apply for a contractor licence, most of which are related to the type of work your business is doing and the costs involved.

Can contractors work without a licence?

Can contractors get by without a current and valid contractor licence? The short and sharp answer is ‘no’. If you accept and complete contract work without holding the required contractor licence, you could find yourself in hot water in the form of a sizeable fine for not adhering to the Home Building Act 1989.

So, if you’re an ambitious and business-minded tradie or builder intent on establishing yourself in NSW and securing repeat business from clients, for all intents and purposes you’re going to need a NSW contractor licence, which is sometimes also referred to in conversation as an independent contractor business licence.

How to get contractor licence in NSW?

So, what’s involved in obtaining your contractor licence in NSW, whether it be a builder licence, independent contractor business licence, subcontractor licence, or a tradie licence?

Before applying for your NSW builder licence, or contractor licence, you need to decide if an individual licence or a company licence best suits your circumstances. Sole traders typically choose an individual licence to start out, then obtain a contractor licence once their business expands to include more tradespeople.

Contractor licences (also casually referred to as a ‘tradie licence’ or ‘builder licence in NSW) are grouped into three overarching categories: building, trade, and specialist work. You’ll find the full list on the Service NSW website, but to summarise here are where some of the most commonly sought NSW contractor licences sit.


  • General building
  • Pre-fabricated metal-framed home additions and structures
  • Kitchen/bathroom/laundry renovation
  • Structural landscaping
  • Swimming pool building


  • Bricklaying
  • Carpentry
  • Excavating
  • Fencing
  • General concreting
  • Glazing
  • Joinery
  • Metal fabrication
  • Painting
  • Plastering
  • Roof tiling
  • Water plumbing

Specialist work

  • Advanced LP gasfitting
  • Air conditioning
  • Draining.
  • Electrical wiring
  • Gasfitting
  • Plumbing
  • Plumbing
  • Refrigeration

What do you need for your contractor licence application?

To apply for your NSW independent contractor business licence you will need to complete and submit the following to Service NSW as part of your tradie licence application:

  • Checklist for Individuals form (based on your nominated category of work).
  • Application Form – Individual.
  • Additional Details Form/s (if it applies to you).
  • Proof of identity.
  • A passport size photograph.
  • Certificates and documentation confirming that you are qualified to legally do the work (certificates and transcripts from your registered training organisation).
  • Payment for your licence.

If applicable, you will also need to include a statement from a referee, and a certificate of eligibility to obtain insurance to go with your independent contractor business licence.

A NSW contractor licence can cover a one year, three-year, or five-year term. To save the hassle of having to reapply, be sure to renew your contractor licence before it expires. If you don’t, you may need to reapply for your contractor licence.

What to do after you’ve got your contractor licence in NSW?

Once you have obtained your NSW contractor licence you are required by law to display it legibly and clearly on all advertising, stationery and signage used to promote your business and the contractor services you offer. This is a mandatory requirement – but more than that, it’s an opportunity to put your best foot forward and show clients your qualifications and your commitment to your craft.

Why not go digital with your NSW contractor licence?

While you will still be legally required to carry your individual contractor licence NSW card on you while on job sites, did you know that you can easily obtain a digital version of your individual contractor licence via the Service NSW app. Having your NSW contractor licence in digital form on your smartphone could really come in handy in the event that you’ve misplaced or forgot your physical contractor licence.

Are you licensed, but not in NSW?

Some qualified tradies from interstate, or perhaps residing in New Zealand, may be interested in working jobs in NSW, or relocating to NSW permanently. If that sounds like you, you can use your contractor licence from New Zealand or from a different Australian state to apply to be recognised as a licensed tradesperson in NSW. See the NSW Fair Trading website for the full details.

Likewise, if you hold a valid NSW contractor licence and would like to work interstate or in New Zealand, there are four routes to doing so that will simplify the process.

So, if you are a talented and ambitious licenced contractor in NSW looking to ply your craft in the state, it might be worth your while applying for and obtaining your NSW contractor licence.

Independent contractors may operate a little differently than other professionals. But they also have a lot in common, including the need for business insurance*. We know independent contractors are flat out, which is why we’ve created a truly simple and convenient way to get your business insurance online. Give us a call 1300 920 864 to see how we can help protect your sole trading business.

*This information is general only and does not consider your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording.
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