Becoming your own boss is a dream for a lot of people. Starting their own plumbing business is the way many people in the UK choose to make that dream come true.

Plumbers who are surveyed regularly rate themselves as very happy with their work, however that’s not to say that going into business as a plumber on your own is easy:

You need to have the training, experience and practical plumbing skills. Yet you also need to be the face of your company – professional manner and eagerness when you talk to your customers face-to-face are a must – and having the skills to market yourself and what you can do to boot.

If you’ve been wondering how to start your own plumbing business, here’s everything you need to know. Plus, a few ideas about how you could make things easier for yourself.

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How do I become a plumber?

If you’re starting your plumbing career with no qualifications or experience, getting these is the place to start.

In recent years, new plumbers have started to come from a much wider array of backgrounds and educational histories than was once the case. But you will still need at least a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating to begin your career.

These diplomas are recognised by the industry. You will find a large number of organisations which offer short, cheap courses that claim to give you all the knowledge you need to become a professional plumber. However, these don’t tend to be industry recognised.

The classic route to becoming a plumber is to gain your industry qualification and then become an apprentice for several years to gain the experience you need.

How much do plumbers earn in the UK?

The upside to the qualifications and experience required is that even a starting plumber earns £20 000 per year and this can quickly rise to £30 000. Depending, of course, on the part of the country you live and work in.

Self-employed plumbers tend to earn more. Typically up to £40 000 per year. It’s not uncommon for self-employed professionals to charge £90 per hour in some areas.

The downside of this, of course, is that if you’re in business on your own you need to manage all of the different aspects – finances, marketing and gaining and retaining customers – on top of your regular work.

How much does it cost to start a plumbing business?

Going into business on your own means you will need to set aside money to cover the major costs. This will include:

  • Cost of training
  • Registration and accreditation costs
  • Tool and vehicle costs
  • Insurance costs
  • Marketing costs

Starting a plumbing business – tips

After you’ve made sure you’re properly trained (perhaps you are already), it’s time to think about what you need to do to set up your business.

If you’re planning to start your new plumbing business alone rather than as part of a franchise, you will need to:

1) Make a business plan

Creating a business plan might seem like something you don’t need to bother with. But if you want to take your new business – and yourself – seriously, it’s worth putting the effort in.

At the very least, you will want to create the part of a business plan where you choose the type of clients you’ll be going for – residential homes, commercial properties, specialising in water recycling, ventilation systems or green renewables, for example.

Without any larger enterprise to support you, you will likely need to present your plan to the bank if you need to seek out some financial support. This is one of the reasons why so many new plumbing entrepreneurs decide to go with a franchise opportunity instead. With a major brand behind you, banks look far more favourably on your loan requests.

Explore Our Plumbing Franchise Opportunities

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2) Join a trade body (so your clients know to trust you)

A major part of your job as a solo plumber is to make it easy for potential clients to trust you.

Joining a trade body will be a major part of that. Show that you meet industry standards by joining a trade organisation such as:

  • The Construction Health and Safety Scheme (CHAS)
  • The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE)

Be aware that these organisations do usually require you to have certain minimum qualifications before they’ll let you join.

Again, becoming part of a franchise means that you have a well-known and trusted name behind you. Finding clients is much easier when you have a big brand name at your disposal.

3) Buy your tools and vehicle

If you made a decent business plan, you’ll have laid out all of your equipment costs already.

Chief among these will be your vehicle. Make sure you choose something reliable above all else. Breaking down on your way to a job is not a good way to win repeat business.

You’ll also need drills, cable detectors, disk cutters and numerous other tools, depending on your speciality. Don’t forget that you need to get these PAT tested every few years.

4) Set up your accounting

Whether you choose to be self-employed or start your business as a limited company or some other business model, you will almost certainly need either a qualified accountant or a whole lot of planning to make sure you’re all set up to handle your books.

Put the planning in or you’ll be cursing yourself come the January self-assessment tax return deadline. It’s the bane of many self-employed people’s lives.

5) Price your services

Working out what the range of standard local rates offered by your competitors is can give you an idea where you want to price your services.

Don’t forget to work out your business costs, tax costs and other running costs to make sure you’re going to be able to pay yourself a fair wage too.

If you’ve chosen to become a franchisee, this sort of calculation will usually be handled by your franchisor. They will almost certainly already have worked out the optimum rates you will be able to charge.

6) Get insurance

Some types of insurance are a requirement. Others are simply a good idea. As a plumber, you will almost certainly want to look into:

  • Public liability insurance to cover general injury or property damage.
  • Personal accident insurance covering your health.
  • Tool insurance or something similar to cover your expensive equipment.
  • Employers liability insurance if you use contractors or have staff.

7) Start marketing

Finally, it’s time to get out there and get noticed. If you already have several years of experience as an apprentice or contractor, you should have had time to build up a small list of clients. Otherwise, you’re starting from scratch.

Again, this is one of the major reasons prospective new plumbing business owners decide that buying a franchise is a better idea. For example, with a Fantastic Services franchise, you would have a steady supply of customers found for you via our marketing efforts and on-demand booking app.

If you’re doing things for yourself, you will need to:

  1. Create your name and brand – choosing a business name, logo and colour scheme is an important step. You need to present yourself professionally.
  2. Build your website – get tech-savvy, or find someone who is. Every business these days needs a website.
  3. Make social media business accounts – Facebook is the place to start, but there are other platforms where you should have a presence and might be able to find work.
  4. Begin online marketing – good SEO can be comparatively affordable and is definitely worth your time. It might be worth considering paid ads too if you have the knowledge not to waste your money.
  5. Start real-world advertising – most customers these days may find you online. But you should still consider leaflet drops, newspaper advertising, posters and other tried and tested techniques.
  6. Reach out to local businesses – are there other tradesmen operating in your area? People like painters and decorators, builders or cleaners? It might be worth reaching out to them to see if you could provide mutual recommendations of each other’s work.

It’s worth remembering that, if you find a good franchise network, most of this work should be handled by your franchisor. If you do consider a franchise, be sure to investigate exactly what they’ll be doing to find you customers.

Do plumbers need to be licensed in the UK?

Technically, you don’t need a license to perform most plumbing jobs in the UK. You do need to be Gas Safe Registered (formerly CORGI registered) for boilers, cookers and gas heaters. There are also some other exceptions.

In general, you will also need a good knowledge of building and water regulations. Not to mention having proper industry-recognised qualifications if you want to start gaining a reputation as a plumber who can be trusted.

Explore Our Plumbing Franchise Opportunities

Learn more

How to start your own plumbing business – with proper support

What if you could start your own business, be your own boss – but also get support, be a trusted brand and the marketing done on your behalf?

Dozens of new business owners have already chosen a Fantastic plumbing franchise, because they know they get the supporting expertise they need to make their new business a success.

Talk to us about it today. You’re not committing yourself to anything. We’ll just chat about whether a franchise might be something which works for you.

  • Last update: May 26, 2021

Posted in Advice Hub