When you’re at school, do you ever remember a teacher or careers advisor coming to you and asking you what you want to do when you grow up or leave school? And whether that did or didn’t happen to you, do you recall any adult suggesting that becoming a plumber might be a promising career? The chances are nobody ever raised the idea with you when you were young, so is it worth becoming a plumber today?
If you have the inclination and the aptitude, it’s definitely worth becoming a plumber. Plumbing is a much sought-after trade these days in countries all across the globe. Self-employed plumbers have the opportunity to earn a substantial living, and the cost of training is minuscule compared to the mountain of debt you’d build up going to college to get a degree.
How do you train to become a plumber?
There are two main routes you can go down to become a trained and licensed plumber who can start their own plumbing business. The first way is to work for a plumbing company as an apprentice, and the other is to take a course.
Taking a course is the easier of the two ways to gain the knowledge and skills you need, but working as an apprentice will give you valuable on-the-job experience that money can’t buy.
You don’t need formal academic qualifications to train as a plumber, but it would be good to have a high school diploma or GED if you are in the US. Any plumber needs a foundation in math, science, and probably computing. Understanding drafting and blueprint reading would also be valuable if that opportunity ever comes your way.
Even if you manage to get an apprenticeship, the training you need should always lead to a formal qualification. There are plenty of trade schools that offer training that results in a formal qualification, and as I said, the cost of that training will look like nothing compared to a college education that could still end with you flipping burgers for a living.
The licensing demands for a plumbing business will depend on where you are. In the US, most states require you to attain a plumbing license. Check with your local authority for the latest details if you’re outside the US because it could be the case that no formal license is required.
Although licensing standards are not uniform across the US states, most will require at least some working experience and an exam pass in the plumbing trades and local codes.
Is starting a plumbing business profitable?
Starting a plumbing business can be highly profitable. The tools and other expenses associated with a one-person plumbing business are relatively minimal, which means profit margins can be impressive.
Plumbing is a very scalable business, which means you can grow your operation from a one-person business to be as big as you want with as many employees as you could wish for. However, I’d like to add a warning here.
I have a very good friend from school who is a plumber, and we use him whenever we need plumbing work carried out. He currently operates with him and his son, and they run two vans so they can operate on two jobs simultaneously.
He told me he used to have about eight vans and 25 employees. The business turnover was obviously much higher than today with just the two of them, but the business wasn’t more profitable.
Having all those extra people and vehicles to manage created a lot of extra work, worry, and expense. Although it might massage your ego to have a larger business providing a living for several families and individuals, you have to ask yourself if the extra hassle is worth it.
When considering growing any business, you should keep in mind a saying: “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity.” It might be cool to tell people your business turns over a million dollars per year, but why have all that extra stress, hassle, expense, and responsibility if the profit you have left for yourself is no greater?
How much can a plumber earn?
According to US News, a plumber in the US in 2020 could expect to earn an average of $56,330 per year. I’d suggest the market has moved considerably since then, and a competent plumber should be able to earn more than that.
The problem with that figure is it will include those salaried workers who are not self-employed, but at least it gives us something of a benchmark. If you are new and just set up as a freelance plumber working from home, you will likely earn less than that in your first year.
However, once you start to get a good reputation, your earnings will increase, and eventually, you could easily have more work than you can handle. Once you have all the work you can physically get through yourself, you have two options.
The first is increasing your rates and earning more for the same amount of work. The other option is to expand and take on someone else, but I’ve already touched on the pitfalls.
Good, reliable, and competent plumbers are, and will always be, in high demand. It has to be one of the safest and most reliable self-employed businesses you can start, but only once you know what you’re doing.
Can a freelance plumber earn $100,000 per year or more? If you’re not earning that kind of money after a year or two, you must be doing something wrong.
Like most trades, it’s hard to overstate the importance of a good reputation, and you can only build that up over time. While advertising and an online presence are crucial at the start, your reputation will eventually overtake all that as the primary source of new and repeat clients.
Starting your own plumbing business
Let’s assume you’ve got the relevant training, experience, and licenses, and you want to set up as a self-employed plumber. How do you get your new venture off the ground?
Once you are at this point, you’ve done the hard work, and setting the business up should be relatively straightforward. Promoting yourself and your business is the same as if you were starting up as a landscaper, window cleaner, website designer, or anything else.
You’ll need to advertise and get listed in local directories, but you’ll also need a website. You could spend a load of money getting someone else to set one up for you, but building a one-page website shouldn’t be beyond you if you can install a gas boiler or plumb-in a kitchen.
If you’d like the most cost-effective way of building a website yourself, I suggest you click the banner below to check out what Web.com can do for you.
However, if you want someone to do it for you at a reasonable price, Fiverr is the best place to find freelancers who you can do pretty much anything you need, from logos and websites to promotional videos and merchandise.
Is it worth becoming a plumber?
Is it worth becoming a plumber then? If it’s of interest to you, and you think you have what it takes to be a good one, it’s definitely worth becoming one. Even if you eventually decide that running your own plumbing business isn’t for you, there will always be loads of well-paid job opportunities working for other companies.
Along with trades such as bricklaying, roofing, carpentry, and being an electrician, it’s hard to see a downside to becoming one. If a day arrives in our society where these and other trades are no longer in demand, we’ll likely have much bigger problems than a leaking pipe or a faulty boiler.