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How to start a plumbing business – A guide to becoming the boss plumber

Let’s cut right to the chase, you’re here to learn how to start a plumbing business, and there could be any number of reasons why. You might be freshly qualified and want to get a head start on founding a business you can call your own, or you might be a veteran tradie making the jump into something a bit bigger in scale.

Whatever your reason, this guide will show you the ins and outs of how to start a plumbing business and what you need to do before you throw open the doors and start operating.

Let’s start as broadly as possible with what you need to know about starting a plumbing business in Australia.

Starting a plumbing business in Australia – What you need to know about the industry

Starting a plumbing business in Australia is slightly different from anywhere else in the world. We have a strong culture of trade business, driven mainly by the fact that Australia is built on infrastructure, which means lots of demand for tradies. Spread across residential, commercial and industrial backgrounds, plumbers in Australia enjoy constant work but a competitive market with many businesses in the mix.

Starting a plumbing business in Australia means tapping into current industry trends and always having a good idea of what’s on the horizon. State and federal government policy changes, new technology, and shifting customer demands keep Australian plumbing business owners on their toes. However, being the best in the business in your area can bring incredible amounts of success, and many Australian plumbing businesses enjoy turnovers of six or seven figures once everything is set up and working correctly.

Overall, the thing to remember when starting a plumbing business in Australia is that our society is built around skilled trades. As long as you know your stuff, it’s easy to succeed.

Are plumbing businesses profitable?

Plumbers are always in demand, and if you have a good experience with a plumber, you tend to become a repeat customer. Factors like these make plumbing not only profitable but potentially one of the most profitable trade businesses around if you play your cards right.

How much does a plumber make per hour?

How much money a plumber makes an hour is dependent on their experience and the job they do. For an up-to-date listing of what you might expect to earn per hour as a plumber, check out this great resource, which includes averages on everything from an annual salary to hourly pay.

How much money do you need to start your business?

This question depends on whether you have anything outside of cash to invest in your new plumbing business. If you have a work vehicle, tools and your licences all sorted, then you can start a plumbing business for as little as $10,000. You can start for less, but the actual number you’ll land on when starting your plumbing business is based on your current circumstances. Just remember that you need to cover costs like rent, utilities, advertising, website hosting and many other necessities before you start turning a profit. We’ll cover these points later in this how to start a plumbing business guide, though, so no need to worry.

What plumbing business ideas do you have?

If you’re keen and excited to start a plumbing company, then you must have a few plumbing business ideas or a reasonably good idea about what you want your business to be. If you don’t, that’s completely fine; we’ve got three excellent plumbing business ideas that we know lead to success.

Specialise in your trade:

The rule of thumb in the plumbing game is that the more specialised your role is, the more money you can charge for your time and work. Specialising in your trade is a great plumbing business idea, as it lets you set yourself apart from the competition by providing a unique skill set.

Go night shift/emergency:

Another great plumbing business idea is to work the hours other plumbers typically don’t want to. Operating as an after-hours emergency plumber can be a great way to get a trade business off the ground. You don’t have to work nights forever, but if you like the work (or the profits), staying in after-hours plumbing work can be a great long-term business plan.

Tender government contracts:

This one is for the more experienced plumbers who already know the lay of the land and are starting a plumbing business to further their success. Chasing government contracts is a great plumbing business idea. It brings in consistent work backed by a government guarantee. You can also work contracts in the private sector, but it’s important to know what you’re doing before travelling down that path.

That’s just three examples, and you’re likely to come up with some great plumbing business ideas if you sit down and have a think before you start your business.

Now on to the nitty-gritty of getting your business past the idea stage and into the planning stage.

Creating a plumbing business plan

Every business needs a business plan. Whether it’s several neatly typed up word documents or a ring binder filled with a4 sheets, it’s essential to have one, and it’s even more important to understand why.

A business plan helps make everything about the business you’re going to create completely clear, from how it’s run, to how it’s paid for and everything in between. Your plumbing business plan will also act as a roadmap to success, and that’s why you must create achievable goals within your plan.

If you expand your plumbing business and hire staff, your business plan will also help provide structure to their roles and help you operate as an effective people manager.

We could go on, but you get the idea. A business plan is one of the essential parts of starting a plumbing business, and here is what yours should include as a minimum:

Write an industry overview

Everything you want to know about the plumbing industry and many things you probably don’t care about are what you’ll discover when you create an industry overview. As for what ends up on paper, it’s important to take note of your major competitors, current industry trends and financial data like sector profitability and average business revenue. You can also write down where you believe your plumbing business will find its home in the industry and what kinds of competition you expect to find there, as every little bit of information helps.

Drafting a financial projection

A financial projection is also known as a financial plan. It details how you’re going to finance your plumbing business and where you need to land to break even revenue-wise. Financial projections can be tricky for a plumbing business as the industry is constantly changing, so we recommend seeking out an accountant, bookkeeper, or financial expert if you need some help along the way.

Create a list of your products & services

What services you plan on providing or products you plan on selling is relatively straightforward but having it on paper is important for ensuring your plumbing business has proper administration practices.

Here’s a quick 5-point guide to writing one out if you aren’t sure what to do:

1. Write down every product or service you offer.

2. Compare your list to your inventory list for mistakes

3. Provide a price for each product or service

4. Arrange your products or services into categories

5. Check your list for any mistakes and make necessary changes.

You can create a service and price listing easily in Microsoft Excel. Here is a nice clean template you can download to make formatting your list more manageable.

Vision statement

You’ve probably heard the term ‘vision statement’ in passing while you searched the internet for tips on how to start a plumbing business. We’ll cut to the chase here and say that a vision statement is nothing more than an outline of what you want to achieve with your business and what purpose your business fills.

This is very straightforward in a plumbing business; you want to operate as a plumber, and (hopefully) you want to achieve business success. Make sure to write this down, though, as it’s a helpful document to refer to if you aren’t sure whether your business is on the right track to achieving its ultimate goal.

Market analysis

Like an industry overview, a market analysis focuses specifically on local plumbing trends and competition. How you approach a market analysis is determined mainly by what you need to know about the market before opening your business. Our advice is to make sure you’ve read up on all your local competition, including what they do well and could be doing better. Then make sure you know everything about the local area you plan to operate in, including what types of customers are around and what they need from a plumbing business.

Information is king when analysing your market, and it’s important to take note of anything interesting that comes up in your research; who knows when it might be helpful down the track.

Sales strategy

Almost as important as what you sell is how you sell it. Products and services each require unique selling strategies, so you’ll need to adapt your plan to fit your role as a vendor or a service provider (or both if you’ve decided to run a shopfront and a plumbing business).

Broadly speaking, a sales strategy needs three components to work effectively:

  1. A set of goals – Your goals include anything from meeting a set number of sales to retaining a set number of repeat customers. What’s important is that your sales strategy goals align with your overall plumbing business goals. This helps your business run smoothly when everything contributes to the overall vision for success.

  2. A set of actions – To reach your sales strategy goals, you need to rough out the steps you’ll take to get there. The key here is to keep your actions achievable, straightforward, and, most importantly, clear. You may have to hand your sales strategy off to an employee down the track, and the clearer it is, the less you’ll have to explain.

  3. A set of decisions – In between turning your goals into actions, you’ll need to adjust on the fly, and the best way to stay flexible is to map out a rough idea of the decisions you’ll have to make in the lead up to opening your plumbing business. Try to match a couple of decisions to each goal, you might not end up making them, but it’s important to be ready just in case.

Getting certified

This one is for our aspirational tradies who are currently undertaking or are close to finishing their training but still want to get a head start on founding their plumbing business. You’ll need to be a fully qualified plumber to own and operate a trade business, including certifications, licences, and any other documentation that proves you’ve got the experience to do the job.

You can still complete all the previous steps of our’ how to start a plumbing business’ guide, but to progress to the next section, you’ll need to finish your apprenticeship and hold a valid plumbing qualification.

Registering your plumbing business

If you’re fully qualified and ready to start your plumbing business dream, then it’s time to get the official paperwork squared away. You’ll need to do two things to get fully registered. The first is to get an Australian Business Number (ABN); just follow the link to learn more.

The second is to decide what structure you want your plumbing business to follow. Broadly speaking, there are three main business structures that the majority of plumbing businesses in Australia fall under, these are:

Sole trader

If working for yourself is your plan, you’ll want to register yourself as a sole trader. Being a sole trader makes you responsible for all aspects of your business. Still, on the plus side, it also means you’ll never have to manage employees and pay wages.

Advantages of being a sole trader:

– You get to be the boss

– All profits directly flow back to you

– Start-up costs are lower than other business structures

– It’s easy to upscale from being a sole trader to a partnership or company

Partnership

A partnership is formed when two or more tradespeople enter an official business agreement. Partnerships are helpful for plumbing businesses because they allow you to share resources, take on more work and split the risk of doing business between multiple people instead of one.

Advantages of a partnership:

– Responsibilities are shared between multiple people

– Start-up costs are shared

– Valuable employees can be brought on as partners over time

– More capital to invest in growth

Company

If growing your new plumbing business as much as possible is your goal, then skipping straight to starting a company might be the best play to make. Companies are legally separated from their owners and controlled by individuals with a stake in their success. Founding your plumbing business as a company also makes it easier to sell if you decide to move on to bigger and better things in future.

Advantages of a company:

– Decreased personal financial risk

– Access to tax benefits that sole traders and partnerships can’t access

– More opportunities to scale up and grow

– It’s easier to move off the tools and into a 24/7 ownership role

Investing in equipment and technology

On paper, it can sometimes be difficult to tell two plumbing businesses apart in terms of success. Revenue, job completion and business size are all good indicators, but it’s the infrastructure behind a plumbing business that tells you the most about how well it’s doing.

Investing in equipment and technology is one of the most effective ways of growing a plumbing business in Australia, and it’s changing the landscape of the sector with every year that goes by.

High-definition micro cameras, diagnostic computers, and digital job management platforms; if you can name a part of the job you hate, chances are there’s a piece of tech that can help.

When investing in technology or expensive equipment, it’s important to do your research and develop a plan for implementing new additions into your business without any issues.

Getting your plumbing business insurance sorted

The last thing you probably want to think about when you start a plumbing business is insurance. Still, it’s important to chase as much peace of mind as you can before you open your doors, knuckle down and focus on building a successful plumbing business. Plumbing business insurance is a safety net, and it helps you protect your capital against damage, loss or theft. Personal insurance for tradies is also highly recommended. Everything from income insurance to hospital cover can help make you feel more secure, letting you focus on running your business instead of worrying about the future.

Opening your plumbing business and doing it right

Opening a plumbing business sounds simple, but as you approach the big launch day, you’ll find a million little things that need to be done and limited time to do them. We recommend creating a priority list that orders every task in terms of urgency, it sounds overly simple, but it’s a great way of organising yourself ahead of opening a plumbing business.

Promoting & marketing a plumbing business

When you think about marketing and promotion, you probably think of advertising budgets, signage, and plumbing business cards. But the process of getting your business out into the wider public starts with settling on a name and brand for your plumbing business.

Defining your brand and business name

A plumbing business name is incredibly important. It needs to be something you like the sound of that’s easy to say and even easier to remember. A plumbing business name also needs to be unique in your area of operations and distinct enough to place you apart from your competition.

Consider these plumbing business names:

AB Plumbing Solutions

District Plumbing Services

The Plumbing King

Smith and Sons Plumbing

If you are anything like us, you probably glossed over every name in the list above except the third one. It’s short, sharp and the use of the word ‘king’ subtly implies that your business is a cut above the rest. This is just an example, but it shows how important a great plumbing business name can be when a potential customer is running through a list of multiple plumbers looking for the best of the bunch.

Your branding also influences the effectiveness of your plumbing business name, as a name without a logo is like a tradie without tools. You can hire an agency to design your branding or do it yourself, but make sure to do your research and understand how the use of colour, text and graphic design all combine to make a brand and plumbing business name that customers can’t help but remember.

How to brainstorm plumbing business names and ideas

If coming up with a plumbing business name has you scratching your head, we have a great little tip to help you decide on the perfect one for your new plumbing business.

As a rule of thumb, your plumbing business name should always include the word ‘plumbing’, ‘plumber’ or another word that will help your average customer understand who you are. You can also experiment with plumbing business names that are more specialised in the kind of work you do, such as ‘drainage’, ‘emergency plumbing’, ‘plumbing maintenance’, etc.

We also recommend adding a couple of solid nouns to really hammer down the fact that your business means business.

Designing a logo and business cards

As we covered earlier in this article, every business should have a logo, and what better place to put your plumbing business logo than on a plumbing business card. Contrary to popular belief, plumbing business cards are still very relevant in the digital age for one specific reason; people still keep them.

You’ve probably stashed away dozens of business cards in recent years, even when you could have just searched for the business online rather than holding onto their card. The fact is that most customers keep the contact details of tradespeople handy in physical form, and the best way to do this is by keeping a plumbing business card such as yours stashed away.

Your plumbing business logo is so important to the success of your plumbing business cards because you can’t guarantee that your card won’t be put in a pile with several other plumbers in your area. Customers like choice, and they like having a backup plan, so your plumbing business card will need to stand out from the rest in a big way. With a great plumbing business logo backing your card, you’ll be more likely to get picked from a pack meaning more business for you and a leg up over your competitors.

Claim your Google Business listing

Getting access to one of the most powerful free marketing and advertising tools on the internet is surprisingly easy; all you need is a google account, and you’re good to go. As Google is now such a huge part of our lives, it would be a serious failure, not to mention Google My Business (GMB) in our how to start a plumbing business guide.

Rather than hit you with lots of information about GMB, we’ll link you to our comprehensive guide on setting up your profile and turning it into a customer generating powerhouse.

Collect online reviews

Referrals are one of the best ways of generating consistent work. Within the context of the internet, the next best thing after a referral is a great online review. It can be difficult to get your foot in the door when nobody knows your name when you start a plumbing business, but online reviews can quickly help you bridge this gap.

Even a couple of glowing reviews featured on your website or Google My Business listing can completely change a potential customer’s perception of your brand and your business. The difficult part, however, is getting good quality reviews. Luckily, we have another guide that runs through everything you need to know about getting great reviews (and even how to get them with no budget or investment required).

Join networking groups

Nobody knows more about starting a plumbing business than fellow plumbers. Joining online networking groups lets you talk with other professionals (who aren’t your competitors) and leverage their knowledge to help you become a better plumber and business owner.

A couple of extra plumbing business tips

Finding a good lawyer

We don’t want to sound alarmist, but before you start a plumbing business, you should have a good lawyer check that everything you’ve done so far is above board and legally compliant with both state and federal laws.

You’ll also need legal help when dealing with contracts and workplace disputes (fingers crossed this never happens), so finding a trusted lawyer is necessary for any tradesperson currently getting a plumbing business off the ground.

Track and analyse business data, then use it to grow

Effective data analysis is one of the most important parts of running a successful and constantly growing plumbing business. After you open your plumbing business, you’ll immediately begin collecting valuable data about the jobs you do, the customers you help, and even the materials you use daily.

A job management software platform like AroFlo is perfect for the data-minded plumbing business owner. While our software handles your day-to-day by automating processes like invoicing, scheduling and timesheets, you can keep busy by using the detailed reports functionality to organise and action change in your business based on data, not approximations.

And there you have it. You’ve made it all the way through our ultimate how to start a plumbing business guide! Check out the summary below to navigate back to specific parts of our guide.

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