One of the best pathways to financial independence is starting your own small business based on a skill or craft, such as plumbing, air conditioning or electrical work. Welding is one of those crafts.
As long as companies are manufacturing things, roads and bridges are being built, and buildings are going up, welders will be in demand. Here's how you can become an independent welding contractor to participate in that demand and build a future for yourself and your family.
Whether you learned to weld in a trade school or apprenticed with another welder, the first step toward starting your own welding contractor business is to seek certification that shows you are a professional and verifies that you have passed welding qualification exams. The American Welding Society offers the Certified Welder designation for the different levels of certification.
Certifications cover such welding skills as being able to weld in various positions: horizontal, vertical and overhead. The certifications you need depend on the type of welding jobs and customers you are targeting.
Create a Business Plan
When you start a welder contractor business, you have to identify the market you want to target. Welding is a diverse craft that involves a wide range of skills, and in the beginning, you can't be all things to all types of customers. You must narrow your target market. You can approach your target market in two ways:
Become a one-person mobile welder: This is the easiest and least expensive way to start; you don't have to pay for rental space. All you need is a mobile welding vehicle and supplies. With this approach, you travel to your customers and do the work at their locations. Welding steelwork at building construction sites is a good example of attractive mobile work. Responding to emergency breakdowns is another market.
Set up a fabrication shop: Study your local market to find potential work that you can do in your shop. What types of projects are competitive welders overlooking? Maybe specializing in aluminum welding could be a niche market for you or looking for subcontractor welding jobs.
Obtain Insurance and Licenses
As with other types of businesses, you need to be licensed and insured.
- You need liability insurance. Contact several insurance agencies for quotes.
- Apply for your welder's license. States have different requirements, and some certification tests require on-the-job experience.
Obtaining a welder's exam and license usually cost between $300 and $400. Check the licensing board for your state to find the exact requirements.
Stock Up on Welding Supplies
To start, these are the items you mjst have:
- Welding machines
- Oxy/acetylene system
- Exhaust systems
- Safety gear, such as gloves and masks
- Welding blankets
- Band and chop saws
- Welding table
If money is tight, look at buying used equipment.
Buy a Welding Truck
You need a vehicle that is dedicated to your work. If you don't have the funds to buy a new truck, a used one does just as well. Put the name of your company and telephone number on the truck for advertising.
Find a Location
If you're setting up a fabrication shop, you need to rent space in an industrial area. Give some thought to the amount of space you need for work and storage. Because welding business doesn't often require foot traffic, B- or C-level rental space should be good enough. However, if you're welding specialty is in ornate household objects, you may be better off getting a prime rental (A) that is in a shopping district.
Promote Your Welder Contractor Business
Start by contacting general contractors, electricians and plumbers to let them know you are open and available for work. Tell everyone you know that you've opened a welding shop. Get business cards printed and hand them out.
Don't ignore social media and the internet. It's the way potential customers do their research, so get an IT person to build a website for you. It doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars, but you need to have an online presence. Marketing is a continuing process. You should always be promoting yourself.
The objective is to start a welding contractor business, not become a one-person show. The idea is to grow the business, add new customers, and hire other welders that you manage. That is the pathway to financial independence.
- American Welding Society: Certification
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Welder, Cutter, Solderer, or Brazer
- USA Today: Tired of the Corporate Grind? A Welder's Torch May Be Your Ticket
- WeldMyWorld: Tips for Starting a Welding Contractor Business
- Lotus Technology: Want to Be Your Own Boss? Start Your Own Welding Contractor Business
- Make friends with managers at Home Depot, Lowe's or local supply stores. See about getting deals or a preferred member card that offers discounts. While ordering online may be cheaper, if you need a piece immediately, you will need to frequent local shops.
- Consider drawing up a business plan where you lay out your goals, finances and costs. Doing this will give your business direction.
- Advertise in local directories, Google Maps, Craigslist.com and on grocery store bulletin boards.
- Detail all costs and cash flow in and out each month in a spreadsheet.
- Familiarize yourself with your tax responsibilities ASAP. As an independent contractor, you may be required to submit quarterly estimated tax payments.
James Woodruff has been a management consultant to more than 1,000 small businesses. As a senior management consultant and owner, he used his technical expertise to conduct an analysis of a company's operational, financial and business management issues. James has been writing business and finance related topics for National Funding, bizfluent.com, FastCapital360, Kapitus, Smallbusiness.chron.com and e-commerce websites since 2007. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and received an MBA from Columbia University.