If you’ve gotten into welding as a hobby or a home repair technique and you’re looking to go professional with your skills, becoming an independent welding contractor is the next step. Welding is the type of skill set that applies to all kinds of industries, from small home repairs or furniture-making to pressure vessels, ships and robotics. In order to start, you’ll first have to decide whether you want to work mostly in a home shop, or whether you’re willing to travel for bigger work. This will help you figure out what kind of professional kit you’ll need to put together before going to look for work.

Welding Project Shopping Checklist

Any DIY, contractor or small business welder is going to want to have the most important gear:

  • A good-quality welding helmet. Safety is always the first priority.
  • Additional protective equipment, such as safety glasses, welding gloves, steel-toed shoes and a proper fire-resistant welding outfit or apron.
  • A welder you know well.
  • A properly placed and ventilated welding table, with a welding curtain if needed, if working from a home shop.
  • Power tools: an angle grinder, metal band saw and anything else for specialized work.
  • Hand tools: pliers, a steel wire brush, a metal file.
  • Clamps, magnets and jigs related to the type of work you expect. 
  • Consumables: welding wire, steel, shielding gas, as it pertains to the setup.

Skills and Certifications Needed

You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper certification for work in your field. Requirements are different in each state, but having the training and a license to perform your craft is the first step to becoming a professional.

For sites bidding out jobs, this is the first thing they will look for. For a home shop where the goal is to produce items, certification may not be necessary. Be sure to obtain insurance for yourself as well; again, most sites bidding out jobs will expect you to be professionally insured.

Small Business Welding Bids

When entering into this field, it’s important to decide what kind of work you want to do. There are full-time options, part-time contracts and freelance self-employment. Is this a hobby or a true business startup? A more serious and long-term commitment means you’ll have to construct a business plan to make sure you stay focused.

Field welders, or independent contractors who move from job to job, need to have most of this in a portable setting, packaged to be easily taken wherever the work is. When looking for local jobs, you can advertise with business cards and handouts to get your name into the field. Most local businesses will post welding work on job sites like Craigslist, Freelancer.com and Indeed, which contractors are free to apply for and bid on.

Welding Contracts for Bid

To successfully win a job, you’ll need to submit a proper bid package. Examine the job substantially until you’re sure you know what the poster is looking for. Your bid package should include materials and labor with a contingency of around 10 percent.

You’ll need to determine what’s a fair hourly wage for welding job bids at your skill level: too high and another contractor may be more affordable; too low and you won’t make a profit. Be as specific as possible within the bid estimate; if you can’t predict most of the materials cost, you may need to ask for more information. Within the bid package, you’ll want to include some information about yourself as a contractor, including certifications, experience and previous jobs the customer could use as references.

Moving any skill from a hobby into a successful business takes time and effort, but can be worth doing if you’re talented, dedicated and prepared. A skilled welder should be able to find a good number of job opportunities doing something different every day.