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Getting into the plumbing business can potentially make you a lot of money. Charlie Mullins, for instance, became famous for becoming Britain’s first plumber millionaire, even though he had no formal education. 

Business leaders and government officials are also encouraging regular people like you to become plumbers (or members of other skilled trades) to avoid the ever-increasing costs of a college education. Those who build successful businesses in the sector can often make a lot of money from the outset and avoid the burden of student debt. 

Starting a successful plumbing business requires guile and cunning. It is not easy. But despite the challenges, it provides substantial rewards. You don’t have to build a £70 million fortune and turn over £18 million per year like Mullins to make a success of it. Even a relatively small operation can provide you with stable employment and an impressive income that far outshines what you could make in the traditional graduate professions. 

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the specifics of starting a plumbing business so that you can enjoy a level of success approaching that of Mullins in your own life. Here you’ll learn how to get your business off the ground, take it to the next stage, and what it takes to build a world-beating plumbing brand. 

From humble beginnings, you can grow an enterprise that delivers financial rewards beyond your wildest dreams. 

Step One  Become A Self-Employed Plumber

Before you can do any form of plumbing work, you must become a certified plumber. 

In general, you have three routes you can take: 

  • Complete a traditional plumbing apprenticeship course.
  • Work as a plumber’s mate.
  • Take a fast-track plumbing course.

Once you become qualified, you are then free to set yourself up as a self-employed plumber, working with your clients according to a schedule you create. 

plumber checking the underground pipelines

Step Two Build Your Skills

The next step is to build your skills and become a true master of your trade. While this might sound a little daunting, you’ll be amazed just how much you can learn from a couple of years on the job. As you go through your work, you encounter new and exciting challenges that allow you to hone your talents and build up a significant repertoire. Tasks can be tricky at first. But once you deal with an issue, it becomes easier to solve in the future.

The skills you need to become a competent plumber, however, are quite different from those you need to set up a plumbing business. The former relies on having excellent technical skills and decent customer service. The latter relies on having people skills and business acumen. 

Being a master of your trade can help. Taking advanced courses, for instance, allows you to become an example to the people you bring into your firm. But you also need other skills, such as the ability to hire quality staff, market your plumbing services, and manage your finances. 

Unfortunately, there’s a big difference between learning these skills and doing them. You can read all the books you like, but there is no substitute for getting stuck in and doing the hard work, just as Mullins did back in the 1980s building Pimlico Plumbers. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until you hire people to practice many of these skills. Nothing is stopping you from marketing your services through your website or on social media right now. Similarly, you can become an expert in managing your finances if you want, ensuring that you’re accounting for costs and minimizing tax take. 

Step 3 Set Up A Private Limited Company

Once you feel you’ve built up the requisite skills, you’re ready to take the next step and set up a private limited company. 

A private limited company is essentially a legal entity that limits your liability if things go wrong. So, if your plumbing business loses a lot of money and goes under, creditors can’t repossess your assets, like your home. 

Private limited companies are also an excellent structure to adopt if you want to take on employees. Remember, if you remain a sole trader, you limit the amount of money you can make. If, however, you start employing other licensed and accredited plumbers, you can complete more work and generate additional revenue. 

Setting up a private limited company in the UK requires registering your name with Companies House and submitting regular financial statements and returns to HMRC. It sounds like a lot of work, but you don’t need to do any of this yourself – accounting firms can take care of the process for you. 

To set up your business with Companies House, however, you’ll need to do the following: 

  • Choose a name for your company.
  • Designate a company secretary and name the directors.
  • Prepare documents stating how you agree to run the company.
  • Identify people with significant control over the business.
  • Name the shareholders and guarantors.

You can register your new business here. Once you’ve done that, HMRC will send you letters requesting accounting details and information annually. 

Step 4 Market Your Plumbing Company

Once you have the administrative details out of the way and you complete your training, the next stage is to market your company. If you’ve worked as a sole trader for a few years, you will already have some experience reaching out to customers. Marketing a limited liability firm is similar in some respects, but it requires you to think more broadly. 

Search Engine Optimisation

If you want to start a plumbing business, having a visible website is critical. You want people to be able to find you when they type relevant terms into the search box, such as “plumbers near me” or “leaky pipe in London.” Search engine optimization or SEO is a bundle of techniques that you can use to help your website rank higher in Google search results for specific keywords. 

You can attempt to carry out this work yourself, but you do better working with a digital marketing agency. These guys already have all the knowledge, tools, and connections you need to promote your business and improve your ranking. Typically, you pay them a monthly fee, and then they get on with the work of building links and creating written content. Over time, your position in the ranking should improve. And, if you choose the right agency, you’ll start outranking competitors in your local market, grabbing business from them. 

Set Up Your Google My Business Account

Google My Business is a service the search giant offers that allows you to display vital business information on Google Maps and in regular search results. All you do is apply for an account, and then Google sends you a code in the post, confirming your business address. You enter this code into the console, and then Google automatically registers your firm, giving local users critical information, such as location, opening times, and reviews.

As you might expect, Google My Business is a powerful SEO tool. It drums up substantial amounts of local traffic for your firm. You should notice a trickle of customer inquiries in the first few days following setting it up. As you combine it with other marketing techniques, a stream of customers can soon turn into a torrent. 

Create Memorable Signage

Of course, back in the 1980s, Mullins couldn’t market his services over the internet. Instead, his main tools were signage and paint jobs on his vehicles.

Even today, memorable signage remains invaluable. You want to create a brand image that people can instantly recognize and remember when in their hour of need. 

Plumbing companies, therefore, often choose bold names and even bolder brand design themes to complement their operations. Mild, classically professional schemes don’t usually generate results unless the firm is well-known in the local area for other reasons. 

Create A Website With A Conversion Funnel

Go on the average plumbing company website, and you’ll be treated to a menu of services and copy attempting to draw attention from search engines. 

This approach is standard in the industry, but it isn’t state-of-the-art. The best approach is to create a series of funnels that convert customers from passing interest to paying customers. 

A sales funnel is essentially a system of targeted, guided marketing. You attempt to capture prospects at various stages in the buying cycle and then use specific marketing techniques to push them further towards conversion. 

Let’s suppose, for instance, that you have a customer who thinks that they might have a leaky pipe, but they’re not sure. Typically, they will search around for helpful content that provides them with quick answers before taking the plunge. Here, therefore, you could help them with an educational article peppered with links to your services. 

Another scenario type of customer might be one experiencing a plumbing emergency right now. Here you can use your homepage as a funnel to direct customers to your contact hotline. It could be something as simple as a button that says “click here for immediate emergency assistance.” 

Hopefully, you get the picture. You want your content to act as a kind of conveyor belt. It should direct various customers at different stages in the buying cycle to your services, depending on their current needs. 

Make Your Brand Unassailable

Pimlico Plumbers is perhaps the best-known plumbing brand in London and a name that people trust. When customers order the company’s services, they know that they’re going to get a guaranteed, minimum standard associated with the name (and usually a lot more). 

Thus, brand capital is perhaps the critical ingredient in building a successful plumbing operation. You want your name to become known far and wide to build a client base. People should be confident that if they come to you, they’re getting the best. 

Unfortunately, there are no easy short-cuts here. Building an unassailable brand requires years of dedication to the cause. To pull it off, you’ll need to put in place robust, quality control processes and thoroughly vet your staff. Branding relies on a combination of effective marketing, backed up by genuine competence. 

Step 5 Create A Compelling Price Structure

Customers want to know that when they come to you, they’re getting great value for money. Setting up a transparent pricing formula, therefore, is vital. 

Here, you have two options. You can charge by the hour or a fixed fee for generic services. (Most plumbing companies do a mixture of both). 

Being consistent in your pricing helps to build trust. Customers know that when they come to you, you’re not going to slap them with unexpected fees. Instead, you explain to them at the outset what the work will cost, and stick with your quote (unless something unexpected comes up). 

Being consistent helps you to gain word-of-mouth business too. Commercial and residential clients tell their colleagues, contacts, associates, and friends about your services in regular conversation, helping to generate further interest. 

Step 6 Set Up Your Office

Finally, you’ll want to set up an office that isn’t just a room in your home. 

At the start, you may not be able to afford commercial premises. But once you move beyond a dozen or so employees, it is something you will need to consider from a practical perspective. 

Offices are a place where you can field calls and reach out to new customers. Eventually, they’ll become a place where you store your paperwork and even entertain clients. 

Whether you set up an office at home or a separate premises, you’ll need desks, chairs, telephones, computers, WiFi, cabinets, printers, and a supply of stationery. 

Concluding Remarks

Setting up a plumbing business is a way to transform a regular trade into a lucrative money-spinner. By building an enterprise, you’re no longer dependent on exchanging your time for money. Instead, you’re creating a brand and scaling it, allowing you to generate profits, even while you’re not working. 

Charlie Mullins made an enormous amount of money by going down this route. With the help offered in this article, you can too. 

Written By
Mark McShane is the Managing Director of Skills Training Group. They are an award-winning training group delivering courses for the electrical, plumbing, heating, and first aid sectors.

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