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Plumbing know-how

Last updated: 10 May 2022

Burst pipe, broken boiler, leaking radiator… at this time of year especially, everyone needs a plumber however, as we all know, a trusted one is hard to come by. Could you bring warmth to homes that are freezing and water to those that are dry? Well, if you’re not trained, then the answer would be no, so the first thing you need to do is look into your options.

For those of you out there who left school a number of years ago the length of time to train as an apprentice and the consequent drop in wages will not be an option but you could get some experience by either finding a job with a working plumber or by completing an intensive course. Once you have the practical experience you are in a position to work towards a City & Guilds Level 2 & 3 NVQ/SVQ in plumbing from home. Legally, if you plan to be self-employed and working in occupied houses, you do not need to have your NVQ, but it is a good idea to plan to work towards it at some point as not only will it give you and your customers more confidence, it will also enable you to work for big plumbing firms and building sites, in all weather conditions. Throughout your training you will be informed about the legal and safety issues you face and the need to take out liability insurance. If you’re not covered you could find yourself in hot water, literally.

Paul Griffin, owner of Jupiter Plumbing in Sherborne said: “As an adult it wasn’t really an option for me to spend a great deal of time training. I had a lot of first hand experience in the plumbing world and I simply did a short intensive course to brush up my skills so that I could go into business on my own. Now I am in a position to work towards my NVQ through distance learning.”

The most important thing to consider before you even embark on training options is whether you have a natural aptitude for this kind of work. If you are more comfortable in a shirt and tie sat behind a desk in the same place every day then this kind of rugged ‘get down and dirty’ varied trade will certainly not be fore you. The best thing to do is take a good look at yourself and assess whether you have certain characteristics that go with the job:

  • are you good with your hands?
  • do you have the ability to think creatively and be flexible in your approach?
  • can you understand technical drawings and plans?
  • do you feel comfortable in confined or precarious places?

If you answer yes to all of these then you could be looking at the right profession – if not, think again because all these things will undoubtedly come with the job. As a plumber you will be faced with puzzling scenarios every day so you need to be calm and methodical in your approach.

Politeness and honesty are what customers’ value in a plumber. Nowadays people are wary of rogue tradesmen so having a cheery, friendly and sincere disposition will ensure that they feel comfortable. Paul said: “If customers feel they can trust you and count on you to offer genuine advice and do a good job then they will almost certainly recommend you to their friends… and word-of-mouth can get you a great deal more work!”

When it comes to the marketing of your services you have to make sure you are where people can see you when they need you. The most recognised way to achieve this is to get yourself a small ad in the Yellow Pages as even in the age of the internet, there are still a great deal of people who will consult this ‘Bible’ when in need of a tradesman. With the age of the Internet in mind, though, it is important that you don’t limit yourself by not dipping in. A simple website with contact details and a brief synopsis of what you offer will be good for people who don’t think twice about doing everything online. It will also give you the opportunity to showcase your work through photographs therefore instilling confidence in potential clients. The other thing to consider is taking your services direct to peoples’ door. Every house in your street has the potential to suffer a plumbing disaster at any given time so invest in a jazzy flyer or business card, push them through as many doors as possible and you can guarantee that a percentage will be pinned to notice boards ready for the time when an emergency happens.

If money is an issue then think about joining forces with other tradesmen. You don’t have to be a partnership, simply market your skills together on flyers and this way you will cut the design and print costs in half.

So, if you feel like playing God to homes in your area, especially over winter months, you love the freedom that being your own boss brings, you don’t mind getting dirty and you thrive on working out complex situations and seeing new places on a daily basis, then plumbing could be the right trade for you. Good luck!

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