How to Start a Plumbing Business

The plumbing industry is more profitable than people may think. According to the Burea of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a plumber is $56,330 a year, and in some areas like Chicago and San Francisco plumbers make an average salary of nearly $90,000

Location does play a factor in how much you can make as a plumber, but so does how well you build your plumbing business. 

Plumbing is becoming more and more in demand as many people currently in the industry are getting closer to retirement age. This provides more opportunities for new plumbing businesses to join the scene. 

However, there are some steps you need to take before you jump right into becoming a plumber. 

Read on to find out the easy parts, the hard parts, and the steps required to get this business off the ground and into success.

The Easy Parts of Starting a Plumbing Business

Starting a business can be a complicated process, but the good news is that not all of it is hard.

There are some easy parts to starting a plumbing business that won’t make your head spin. These are the types of things you may want to get out of the way in the beginning in order to make space for the parts of the business that will require more time. 

Here are the parts of getting your plumbing business off the ground that should be smooth sailing. 

Create a business entity

One of the first things you must do for your plumbing business is to start a legal business entity. This helps to protect you and establish you as a legitimate business recognized by state and local government. 

You have a few options when it comes to choosing the right business entity for your plumbing business. 

  • Sole proprietorship. This type of entity gives you complete control of your business. In sole proprietorships, your business assets and your personal assets are treated as one, which means you can personally be held liable in the case of any issues with your business.
  • Partnership. This type of entity is for two or more people going into business together. You can opt for either a limited partnership (LP) or a limited liability partnership (LLP). Limited partnerships have one partner who has unlimited liability and other partners have limited liability. Whereas with an LLP, every owner has limited liability.
  • Limited liability. This type of entity is a combination of corporation and partnership business entities. This means that with an LLC, your personal assets are protected because they are considered separate from business assets. Business profits and losses are done via your personal income taxes which means you avoid corporate taxes.
  • Corporation. This type of entity is separate from its owners. Corporations are taxed separately from the owners and can be held liable. This level of entity is the most protected, but also costs much more than the others. 

Implement plumbing software

In modern times, there is no need to struggle with doing everything for your plumbing business by hand. Tools have been created and perfected over the years to make running your business much easier so that you can focus on other parts of your work. 

One such tool that will simplify your life is Service Fusion

This cloud-based field service management software offers all sorts of tools including VoIP phone solutions, GPS fleet tracking, payment processing, customer management, scheduling, inventory management, and invoicing.

Packages for Service Fusion vary depending on your specific business needs, but they start at $125 per month and go up from there.

We will go into more detail about this tool and how you can benefit from it below. 

The Difficult Parts of Starting a Plumbing Business

Now it’s time to get to the dark and dirty parts of the plumbing business: the stuff that makes this type of business a bit more difficult.

However, these things shouldn’t keep you from starting your business. We are here to let you know the hard parts to watch out for so that you can properly navigate them to success.

Plumbing is not one of those things that you can learn as you go. In order to start your own plumbing business, you need to have experience and potentially even a certification. 

Most plumbers gain their experience by working as an apprentice under another plumber. This is the best way to get that hands-on experience that shows you know the industry to branch out on your own. You should aim to spend at least a year as an apprentice to get to know the business. 

You can also opt to get a certification. Some people do this in addition to their apprenticeship, while others do it in lieu of an apprenticeship. You don’t need a college degree to become a plumber, but you may want to go to a trade school or into a certification program to help you gain the skills you need to not only get the job done but to show potential customers that you are trustworthy and know what you’re doing. 

The only reason we consider experience and certifications difficult is that they take time. These things are not gained overnight, but rather require planning ahead and working your way through.

Step 1: Create a business plan

This should be one of the first steps of any type of business that is created. It ensures that you have a roadmap of your business and hopefully cover your bases before any issues arise. 

Below are some of the different parts of creating a business plan for your plumbing business that you want to think about.

Startup Costs

Though it may seem like you need a lot of money to start a plumbing business, the reality is that the startup costs are not as much as many other businesses.

The key things you need for business are: 

  • Service van or truck
  • Certificate
  • Equipment 

You can either get a used van or truck to use as your company vehicle or buy a new one. Which way you opt to go depends on how much money you have to pour into your business. 

The equipment is the other big cost of starting your plumbing business, but you can also opt to go with used equipment if you’re able to find some that is in good shape that you can refurbish to make usable. 

The certificate can cost up to $10,000 depending on what your state’s requirements are and what the state’s costs are for those requirements.

Ongoing Costs

The startup costs will be the bulk of your spending, but there are some ongoing costs for a plumbing business. 

The most common ones are: 

  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Tool maintenance/replacement
  • Office expenses (such as rent, phone service, utilities, etc.)

Pricing Structure

With a plumbing business, you can either opt to charge your customers per hour or simply a flat rate for the work performed. 

You may end up trying out of these pricing models to determine which one works best for you. If you feel that you and your staff can complete jobs very quickly, then charging a flat rate may end up making you more money than charging hourly. However, if you find that you or your employees take longer to do plumbing jobs, then hourly may be better. 

You also want to add into your pricing structure additional fees for emergencies, rush jobs, and jobs that are outside of regular business operating hours.

Business Name

As part of the business plan, you also want to create a name for your plumbing business. You can use a family name, come up with something witty, or use a business name generator online to help you come up with something. 

Once you’ve come up with some names that you’re potentially interested in, you want to research to ensure that your state’s business records do not show someone else with that business name. If there is, then you aren’t able to use that name as there can be no duplicates.

Step 2: Create the business entity

As covered above, the beginning phases of your plumbing business include deciding which business entity structure works best for where you are currently at with your business. 

A sole proprietorship is best if you are low-risk and are looking to test your plumbing business idea before really establishing something more formal. 

A partnership is best for businesses who have multiple owers and who are also looking to test their business idea. 

An LLC is the best option for medium- to high-risk businesses who want to pay a lower tax rate. 

A corporation is best for those businesses that are medium- to high-risk and that plan to someday down the line go public or be sold.

Step 3: Introduce plumbing software

Want to make running your business easier? That’s a question that we assume everyone answers with “yes,” so that’s why we are dedicating this step to implementing a tool that will help you do just that: Service Fusion

This software has your back on all aspects of your plumbing business so that you can simplify some of the complex processes and ensure that everything runs smoothly. 

Some of the key features of Service Fusion include: 

  • Scheduling and dispatching. This helps you to easily change times and dates for customers and make sure that you aren’t double-booking time slots. It also allows your team to send you updates.
  • Connected team. This helps to keep everyone aware of what’s going on including estimates, job status, payments, and more.
  • Different pricing levels. This ensures that no matter where you are with your plumbing business, you have the option for a package that has your interests and needs at heart.
  • Estimates. Create estimates within the software easily with pre-populated products and services.
  • Integration capabilities. You can integrate Service Fusion with QuickBooks so that you can easily keep all your accounting accurate.
  • Credit card processing. Handle credit card payments via secure software.
  • You have options when it comes to deciding which Service Fusion package is best for your plumbing business. Here they are.

Starter

This option is best for those who are just starting their plumbing business endeavors. 

It is priced at $125 per month for unlimited users and includes features such as: 

  • Customer management
  • Estimates and jobs
  • Scheduling and dispatching
  • QuickBooks integration
  • Invoicing
  • Payment processing
  • Project management
  • Reporting
  • Text messaging alerts
  • Estimate option

Plus

This package is best for those who need additional features. 

It is priced at $186 per month for unlimited users and will provide you access to features such as: 

  • Everything included in the Starter package
  • Job photo uploads
  • Inventory management
  • Job costing
  • Integrated voice and text

Pro

This package is intended for those who have built up their plumbing business and are taking things to the next level. 

It is priced at $339 per month and offers features including: 

  • Everything included in the Plus package
  • Open API integration
  • Custom documents
  • E-sign documents
  • Customer web portal
  • Progress billing and recurring invoice

Step 4: Choose a specialty

If you are new to the plumbing industry, you may be surprised to find that there are several different options when it comes to choosing a specialty for your plumbing business. 

Some of the most common ones include: 

  • Pipefitting. This type of plumber specializes in pipe installations and pipe systems.
  • Gas service. This business handles gas leaks and other gas-related issues.
  • Plumbing technician. This is the most common type of plumber and the one that you’ve likely dealt with in your home. This specialty involves the type of plumber that goes into homes and commercial buildings to handle standard plumbing problems.
  • Pipelayers. This type of plumber installs pipes to connect to water, gas, and sewage tanks.
  • Steamfitting. This is similar to pipefitting but deals specifically with pipes that carry high-pressure gas.

Market needs

To choose the specialization that you want to go into, you want to consider the needs in your area. If there are already a lot of gas service plumbing businesses in your area, then you may not want to focus your attention on this type of plumbing business. 

However, if you feel that you are offering something in your plumbing specialization that others aren’t, then that may be a great thing to set you apart from the other plumbers in the area.

Step 5: Establish your brand

Now that you’ve got the basics of your plumbing business taken care of, it’s time to get into the branding of it. 

There are a few different parts of branding that you want to jump into, covered below.

Logo

You want a simple logo that is recognizable to your customers so that even if they don’t see your business name written, they will know who it represents.

Website

A website is an absolute must in the modern world of business. You don’t need anything complex, but you need something that gives people a place to go for more information and to learn how to contact you.

Mission

Part of a business is a mission statement, so it is important to come up with one that reflects your core values.

Social Media

You want to take the time to consider whether a social media presence is what your plumbing business needs. You can test the waters and try to create social content for potential customers to engage with, and see how it helps your business grow.

Step 6: Market

You can do all of the above steps perfectly and have your business ready to go, but unless you properly market it, all your hard work may never be seen. 

As a plumber, the best way of marketing is via referrals. It is common for friends and family to ask for plumbers that they trust, and that is where you will get the majority of your business. Plus, this is an important area of marketing to focus on because it costs you zero dollars. 

However, if you want to build a referral program for your customers, you can create a bonus system where they get a kickback or a discount if they refer a new customer to you. This bit of extra spending is likely worth it in the long run. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also an important marketing tool to use. This allows search engines to boost your business so that when people search for plumbers in your area, your business shows up near the top of the list.

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