How to start a plumbing business

Our homes, workplaces, and society as a whole depend on clean water and sanitation to function. This makes plumbing an exciting, meaningful career that’s always in high demand. 

Becoming your own boss and starting your own plumbing business can help make your career even more rewarding. But it takes more than strong plumbing skills to get your new company off the ground.

If you’re looking for actionable, useful steps to start your own plumbing business—you’ve come to the right place.

How much money do plumbers make?

Plumbers earn a mean salary of $29.37 USD an hour or $61,100 a year. Salaries range from $33,460 annual ($16.09 per hour) to $98,990 annual ($47.59 per hour).

How much money do you need to start a plumbing business?

At minimum, plumbers need around $10,000 to start their own plumbing business. But you can expect this number to almost double if you don’t yet have your plumbing license or a work truck. 

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to start your business and the costs (all prices are in USD).

Education and licensing $5,000 to $10,000
Work vehicle $3,000 to $30,000
Tools and inventory Around $5,000
Insurance $600 to $2,000 per month

How to start a plumbing business: a step-by-step checklist

Starting a new business is a challenge. To help you on your journey, here’s a 10-step checklist to get your plumbing company up and running.

1. Get your plumbing training, licensing, and certification

Plumbers provide an essential, skilled service to their clients. And because of that, it’s a highly regulated industry across the U.S. (and around the world). 

Whether it’s at a state or local level, you need to be licensed to run your own plumbing company in the U.S.

If you’re new to the industry, here’s how to become a licensed plumber:

Step 1 – Get the right education

After graduating from high school, attend a college or vocational school to learn the technical requirements of the trade. You’ll learn about plumbing math and design, building codes, installation methods, residential and commercial repair, and more.

Step 2 – Be an apprentice

A plumbing apprenticeship is paid on-the-job training under a master or licensed plumber. It helps you build your network, gain experience, and prepare for life on the job. Apprenticeships can last from two to five years and are a mandatory part of becoming a plumber.

Step 3 – Pass your license exam

After completing your apprenticeship, you can take your exam. Exam requirements will depend on your region, and some regions require you to renew your license periodically. After passing your exam, you can begin to work as a journeyperson plumber within a company, or on your own.

Step 4 – Become a Master Plumber (optional)

In some states, you’ll need your Master Plumber license before you can start your own business. Earning this credential can take up to five more years of on-the-job training and certifications. Becoming a Master Plumber can lead to more work opportunities and higher pay—additional credentials will help you look more trustworthy to customers.

2. Set up your business

Before you can start taking on your first customers, you’ll need to get your business set up.

Use this checklist to get started:

  • Choose your legal business structure

Choose between an LLC (limited liability company), sole proprietorship, or partnership.

Most small service businesses chose LLC as their business structure because there’s a limited liability if sued.

  • Register your company name

If you’re operating your business in the U.S., run a quick search to make sure no other business is already using your name, and then register your plumbing business name with your local government.

  • Apply for the required licenses and permits

Check with your local municipality to make sure you have the right local, state, and federal permits or licenses to operate your plumbing business.

  • Invest in accounting software

Starting your plumbing business on the right foot requires getting your bookkeeping and accounting in order. Use QuickBooks Online to keep your financial records organized, manage your inventory, and track your payroll.

  • Get insurance for your plumbing business

Plumbing insurance will protect you, your workers, your business, and your clients in the event of an accident, injuries, or damages.

Depending on the type of insurance, your business’s size, and claims history, you can expect to pay anywhere between $600 to $2,000 per month.

The types of insurance most plumbing businesses need include:

    • General Liability Insurance
    • Commercial Automobile Insurance
    • Inland Marine Insurance
    • Workers Compensation

3. Write a plumbing business plan

To get start-up capital and attract investors to your business, you’ll need to write a business plan. It’ll also help give you and your startup plumbing business focus.

Your plumbing business plan should include the following information:

  • Cover page – Include your business name, logo, and contact information
  • Executive summary – A one-page summary of your business plan that covers how much funding you need and what sets you apart from your competition
  • Business overview – A quick summary of your business structure, your company name, contact details, and when you registered the business
  • List of services – Full list of the services your plumbing business will provide
  • Market analysis – A description of your target market and the competition in your region
  • Business operations – A detailed overview of your pricing strategy and how profitable your business can be
  • Marketing and sales – A breakdown of your marketing strategy and sales goals. Outline how you will attract new clients to your plumbing business
  • Financial plan – A summary of the money coming into and going out of your business for the first year. It should include your sales forecast, budget for expenses and marketing, and any personnel costs

4. Get plumbing equipment and inventory

Stocking your plumbing van with a few essential plumbing tools will save you from running to the hardware store for every job or service.

But don’t throw all of your capital into shiny new equipment. Start with the basics, buy used if you can, and only purchase equipment for specialty jobs if you have the license, skills, and customer demand.

Here are some tools, inventory, and safety equipment you’ll want to keep handy in your plumbing tool bag.

Plumbing tools:

  • Hacksaws
  • Cordless battery toolset (drills, saw grinder, screwdriver, impact driver)
  • Pipe cutters
  • Grips
  • Crescents

Supplies and inventory:

  • Fittings
  • Pipes (both plastic and copper)
  • Inlet valves
  • Elements
  • Thermostats

Safety equipment:

  • Goggles
  • Plumbers gloves
  • Heat shields
  • Knee pads

READ MORE: A complete list of the best plumbing tools

5. Learn how to price your plumbing services and estimate jobs

Properly pricing your plumbing services will make sure your company stays competitive in the industry, and that you get paid fairly for your hard work.

Before you can perfect your pricing strategy, you need to know what services you’ll be providing. Your plumbing service list may include:

  • Drain cleaning and repair
  • Emergency plumbing services
  • Leak detection and repair
  • Sump pump services
  • Valve installation
  • Toilet, faucet, or shower repairs

Once you’ve compiled your list, you’ll want to write down the materials required to complete the job, determine your hourly rate and calculate your profit margin.

Pro Tip: Learn from others in your industry by looking at what your competitors are charging for their plumbing services. You can check out their website or even call their office if their prices aren’t listed online.

Build an estimate template

Handwritten estimates or quotes take forever to make, they look unprofessional, and they’re impossible to track. Creating a digital estimate template you can use time and time again can speed up your estimate process and impress potential clients.

Your plumbing estimate template should include:

  • Your business’s contact information
  • An estimate number 
  • A breakdown of the plumbing services you’ll be providing
  • The approximate cost of the services
  • Any optional line items that will enhance the work
  • Terms and conditions
  • Space for the client’s signature to approve the work

    6. Market your plumbing business and get your first customers

    With your business and pricing set up, you’re ready to offer plumbing services to your target market But how do you attract customers to your new business?

    Since you’re in the early stages of your plumbing business, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on advertising or marketing agencies. Try focusing on a few easy plumbing marketing strategies instead.

    Create your branding

    Good branding can make your plumbing company look more professional and help you stand out from the competition. 

    To create branding for your business:

    • Choose your company colors and choose a clean, easy-to-read font to use on all your marketing materials
    • Use an online logo generator like Looka to design your company logo
    • Describe what you do differently with a plumbing business slogan and include it on your website and business cards 
    • Invest in a uniform (e.g., a t-shirt with your logo) so you can better represent your company when you’re on the job 
    • Build a professional plumbing website with website builders like GoDaddy or Wix

    Advertise your services

    Since the majority of your customers will be looking for your services online, make it easier for them to find you with a few digital marketing strategies:

    READ MORE: 9 Marketing strategies to grow your plumbing business

    Provide stellar customer service

    With the right plumbing sales techniques and great customer service marketing your business doesn’t have to cost you a dime. 

    Happy customers can turn into repeat business and refer friends and family to your services.

    READ MORE: How to start a referral program for your business

    7. Invoice plumbing jobs and manage your cash flow

    Creating a steady cash flow ensures you have money in the bank to keep your business running smoothly. The best way to do this is by getting paid for your hard work.

    Use these three steps to invoice your clients and collect payments faster:

    • Step 1 – Choose what types of payment you will accept, like cash, check, credit card, or e-transfer. Then select a payment provider to collect client payments.

    READ MORE: What to include on an invoice

    • Step 3 – Follow up on overdue invoices with automatic payment reminders to help you get paid for your services.

    8. Learn how to manage your plumbing business and client relationships

    How you manage your business will determine your success. If it’s messy and inefficient, you’ll end up losing more money than you’re making. On the flip side, a smooth operation will start your business off strong, impress customers, and have you cash flow positive in no time.

    The right plumbing software can help.

    Investing in field service software can help to better manage your business and improve communication with your customers.

    “Jobber helps to reflect our level of professionalism. When somebody sees an automated text when you’re on the way, it looks like you’re running a serious operation, even if you’re running out of our home. The more professional you appear, the more people will want to use your service and refer you.”

    – Kiya, Valor Plumbing

    Here’s what plumbing software can do for your new business:

    ✔ Let new customers request work through your website with online booking

    ✔ Keep customer details at your fingertips and deliver personalized customer service with a field service CRM

    ✔ Create and send professional-looking quotes that are easy to approve

    ✔ Schedule work and dispatch crews with just a few clicks

    ✔ Efficiently route your plumbing jobs with GPS tracking

    ✔ Improve your customer communication with appointment reminders and on-my-way text messages

    ✔ Use job forms and checklist to provide a perfect service every visit

    ✔ Get paid faster with automated invoicing and credit card processing

    ✔ Run your business from anywhere with a field service mobile app

    ✔ Let your customers request plumbing work, approve quotes, and pay invoices through an online portal

    9. Hire and train plumbing technicians so you can grow your business

    Growing your business may mean taking on more work, adding new services, or even expanding your service area. This can be hard to do without the help of additional skilled plumbing technicians.

    When should I hire more plumbers?

    There’s no one-time-fits-all solution for when you should bring on more plumbers—but there are a few indicators that your business is growing faster than you can keep up.

    Here are a few signs it may be time to hire a plumber:

    • You can’t keep up with quotes and are turning down work
    • You fall behind on your paperwork, bookkeeping, and accounts receivable
    • You’re expanding your service list and need a plumber with a specific skill set
    • You’re overwhelmed, burnt out, and are in desperate need of a vacation
    • There’s enough demand for your services to keep a second plumber busy

    How do I write a job posting?

    To find skilled plumbers to join your company, you need to write a descriptive job posting that advertises the open position.

    Every job posting should include a job title, position summary, responsibilities, and qualifications. 

    READ MORE: How to write the perfect job posting (with free template)

    What questions should I ask in a job interview?

    Asking the right plumbing interview questions can help you find a candidate who’s both qualified for the position and a strong addition to your team.

    A good interview will include a variety of questions that test the candidate’s plumbing knowledge and how they would handle specific situations. This will give you a better look at their skills, experience, and values.

     READ MORE: 10 Questions to ask a new employee before you hire them

    10. Stay up to date in your industry

    Staying on top of industry trends will help you keep up with the competition when it comes to pricing, marketing, and more.

    Start your plumbing business with Jobber

    Starting a plumbing business is no easy task. With the right tools and resources available at your fingertips, your new company will be set up for success and your future as a plumbing business owner will be bright

    Jobber has the features you need to manage your work orders and get paid faster.

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