Nine Steps to Starting a Plumbing Business

If all you think of is outdated jokes about ill-fitting pants when the plumbing profession comes up, it’s time to refresh your thinking of the vocation. Plumbing can be a well-paying career, and demand for plumbers will remain high well into the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for plumbers will grow 5% between 2020 and 2030 and also puts median annual pay at $59,880 annually. The economic outlook can make starting a plumbing outfit an attractive option for anyone looking to get into the trades.

However, as anyone who has had to work under a cramped kitchen sink can attest, the profession isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be—and can be far from glamorous. Still, plumbers in Hawaii, Washington, and Rhode Island can make $80k a year or more—not bad money to fit pipes.

Those wanting to know what starting their plumbing business experience could entail should refer to the following nine steps as a reference on how to do so quickly and correctly.

Choose a Specialization

The first step is to choose a specialty. Not all plumbers are created equal. There are several specialties that a plumber can choose from when starting out in the industry. These roles are as varied as plumbing technicians, pipelayers, fitters, steamfitters, and gas piping specialists.

While each niche will have its own particulars, by and large, the technical skills learned for one specialty are largely transferable to another—given that you take the time to ascertain what separates them. However, the economic outlook for each can vary significantly based on local conditions, so be sure to research which is most in demand in your area. For example, those with plumbing experience may be able to command much higher wages working in the energy sector as gas piping specialists.

Figure Out Your Fixed Costs

One of the first things any business will need to do is get a handle on its cyclical expenses. This can include everything from the gasoline for a vehicle, rent for your storefront, fees and licenses, and other charges such as plumbers insurance. Knowing what your costs are will be essential to creating a good business plan.

And while it may seem like a trivial overall expense, don’t discount the cost of plumber insurance. Quality coverage will surely come at a price, but various factors impact that cost. These factors include things such as how many employees a business has, where the operation is, what limits the coverage has, the specific type of plumbing undertaken, and more. What kind of coverage is required can also vary greatly. An experienced insurance agent will be able to help guide your plumbing business through this critical process.

Create a Business Plan

A good business plan is invaluable for any new business, regardless of industry. When executed correctly, a business plan will allow for an executive summary (or easily digestible summary) that can be used to help secure financing from banks or other lenders. In addition, you’ll want to be sure to take the time to understand your business’s target audience and client base. A good business plan should include a marketing plan with verifiable results to help the company draw new clients. 

Look into Apprenticing

Don’t fret if you have no plumbing experience. There are many ways to get into plumping. For those without experience, this is primarily by joining up with a local plumber union or organization. Many trade organizations and unions have job training programs that allow candidates with little to no experience in their desired field.

The only requirement in most locales is a high school diploma (or equivalent), having a clean criminal record, passing a drug screening, and the desire to learn. The best part about apprenticing? Unlike most corporate or non-profit internships, you’ll actually get paid for your labor. So, you’ll not only get to learn on the job, but you’ll also be able to enjoy some of the fruits of your labor. Some states, such as Texas, will make plumbing apprentices register and limit the scope of work they can handle.

Prepare for Licensing Requirements

After an apprenticeship, there will likely be a number of licensing and certification requirements that you will need to operate as a plumber fully. This will also be true for plumbers who move their businesses from one state to another. (In some instances, even intrastate travel can require new licenses per local requirements.)

Depending on your location, you will need to pass a written exam and prove certain practical skills. Most states will also require renewal. In Illinois’s regulatory example, plumbers must do so on an annual basis. In almost every case, you will also be required to be insured and bonded. (We will touch on this in more detail next.)

Gather Necessary Supplies, Personnel, and Equipment

This step is where the rubber starts to meet the road. It is also when expenses can really start adding up. This is why it is always smart to be judicious about what purchases you need and what are nice to have—especially in terms of supplies and more advanced equipment. For most plumbers, a solid array of wrenches and other hand tools will allow them to service the vast majority of their jobs. Wait for more advanced equipment to be required before making expensive outlays for ultimately unnecessary equipment.

Market What Sets Your Business Apart

Remember the marketing plan that was put together as part of the business plan? This step is when it should start to be put into action. Any business owner can take simple steps to buy targeted ads through search engines or social media to ensure that consumers looking for services you provide find your company’s info. Of course, this is where a top-notch website is also invaluable as a professional face of your business.

If you don’t feel comfortable or able to undertake such steps, try partnering with a marketing professional who will be able to help your firm come up with a good advertising strategy.

Don’t Overlook Important Administrative Tasks

One thing to remember when you’re the boss is that even the dullest aspects can be vital to your business. And everything will ultimately fall to the proprietor. This includes everything from setting up bank accounts and ensuring taxes are paid to getting the right insurance coverage and style of a corporation for your business. While these tasks may seem like a chore, they are important to running any business. After all, an audit is no fun. So, partner with a professional if you don’t feel capable of carrying out these tasks yourself.

See What’s Working and Consider Expansion

Finally, the fun has just begun once your business is up and running. Study what is working from week to week and what is bringing customers in? Also, what services are making the business the most money? If possible, consider expanding into related service categories to meet further demand. Physical expansion into additional communities can also be possible, though if quality may suffer, consider franchising out to other entrepreneurs rather than spreading your own operation too thin.