Plumbing, like many skilled trade professions, is currently in high demand. In fact, a recent report by the Federation of Master Builders revealed that the demand for skilled plumbers is exceeding supply – boosting wages. While this has put pressure on large construction companies, it could be good for anyone considering starting their own plumbing business.

How to get qualified

Having the right qualifications can improve your prospects of winning new clients and setting higher rates.

According to the National Careers Service, you’ll normally need GCSE Maths, English and Science at Grades A* – C, and an industry-approved qualification such as a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating.

Once you’re qualified

You could start earning up to £20,000 a year, and this could increase to around £30,000 once you have enough experience and a large client base. However, earnings can vary significantly depending on where you work and how much experience you have. Newly qualified plumbers in northeast England may earn less than £20,000, while highly experienced plumbers in London may earn up to £50,000.

Register your business with HMRC

Visit HMRC’s website to register as a sole trader, limited company or partnership, depending on the structure of your business. If you become a limited company, you’ll also need to register with Companies House, and this could affect the type of plumbers’ insurance you may require.

Join a trade body

Becoming a member of The Construction Health and Safety Scheme (CHAS), the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), or other relevant trade organisations will show prospective customers that you meet industry standards.

Choose your rates carefully

As a business owner, you can set your own rates and charge whatever you think is appropriate. Make sure this enough to cover the costs of running your business, your wages (and contractors’ wages, if applicable), your tax liabilities and any other business costs. It’s a good idea to find out what other plumbers charge in your area so you don’t inadvertently set your rates far below – or well above – the local ‘going rate’.

Choose your hours

Being self-employed also means you’ll have the freedom to manage your schedule and choose your hours so you can enjoy a better work-life balance.

Record all your tax-deductible expenses

You’re allowed to offset all work-related expenses from your next tax bill. For example, the cost of purchasing new tools, advertising, vehicle leasing, accountancy fees and plumbers’ insurance are just some examples of the type of expenses you may claim.

Create a website

To reach local customers, you need to have a website so people can find you online. A basic website template is quick and inexpensive to set up, and you can select one that’s tailored to plumbing businesses.

Add relevant keywords to your content so that search engines will understand what your website is about. For example, if you’re a plumber based in Surrey, include keywords like ‘plumber in Surrey’ and other keywords for the services you specialise in, such as ‘heating installation in Surrey’. Provide a detailed breakdown of your services, contact details and business address, and consider listing your callout fees/standard charges if you wish.

Make a name for yourself

Get great reviews and build a reputation in your area. Google and Facebook reviews are important, but so is getting recommendations via word-of-mouth marketing.

From time to time, you may get negative feedback. When this happens, stay professional and try to find a resolution if possible.

Consider hiring a contractor during busy periods

As your plumbing business grows, you may need to hire contractors to meet demand. This can help you manage your workload and ensure you complete your projects on time and to a high standard.

If you employ one or more people, your plumbers’ insurance must include employers’ liability insurance, otherwise you will be subject to a hefty fine.

Get your business listed

Register your company on Google so people can see that you’re a legitimate business. It’s also worth registering and advertising on sites like Yell, Thomson Local and Yelp to improve your online visibility. Just remember to submit the same information for every directory – otherwise Google may not rank your business for relevant search terms correctly.

Consider hiring a qualified accountant to do your tax return

Every self-employed professional will know that the self-assessment tax return deadline in January can be a very stressful time. That’s why many hire a qualified accountant to complete their return to save time and make sure there are no mistakes.

And last – but not least – get the right insurance for your business

We offer a full plumbers’ insurance package to help you minimise your risks and safeguard your business. This includes professional indemnity cover to protect you from expensive compensation costs if a client claims there was a problem with your plumbing work. As with any small business providing a professional service that can be challenged, plumbers are vulnerable to such claims of negligence. More information on the kind of businesses which should prioritise professional indemnity can be found in our FAQ hub. See Who Needs Indemnity Insurance?