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  1. secret squirrel

    secret squirrel Guest

    Hello All,

    I’ve been a plumber now for about 4 months. So, I thought I’d write a few things down about the industry that I’ve discovered so far. I am not advocating “fast track courses” over apprenticeships. This is purely how I have found things after doing a fast track course. I hope this will give “wannabe” plumbers or people going on courses a broader view.

    Being a plumber is difficult, I never expected it to be easy but there are many issues that I had not considered.

    Funding jobs is one, I have had to pay for the parts for jobs before being paid. This limits your cash flow, especially when customers pay by cheque, you then have to wait for it to clear but pay for the next job. To start, you must have copper tube, 22mm, 15mm, a selection of joints etc. This is all dead money whilst it is sitting on you van. If you add in the cost of a cwst or hot water cylinder, a job could owe you about £150-200 before you kick off.

    Tools, you always seem to need another tool. This again costs. You have little cash flow but you need another tool. Although the tool may only cost £15 that still affects that precious cash flow.

    Jobs, they are rarely what they seem, there is always (for me) something that I’ve not considered, takes longer than I thought or I can’t complete the task because some valve or isolator fails to work. Your then looking for another way to complete the task or need to charge more to sort the issue.

    Work, is sporadic, you can work really hard one week but nothing for the next week. I am sure this will improve but it is a little disheartening.

    Enjoyment, yes, it is enjoyable, leaving the customer with a good job and its working. However, it is quite lonely (not sure this is the correct term) if a job is going wrong you’ve no one to ask, no help to hand, your on your own, in a customers house and the things that can go wrong are endless.

    I don’t want to come across as being negative,thats not my intention because I enjoy it. However, these are issues that no one really laboured on for me. Yesterday, I started at 9.15 home by 1.30 and had been paid my days money. I was having a nice chat with my elderly customer and they also made me a bacon sandwich so there are positives.

    My biggest piece of advice is; ask questions this forum is superb for that. My local plumbers merchant are also excellent for little gems of advice, try not and become blinkered, try and look at the bigger picture. If there are difficulties, explain these to the customer asap. Don’t worry about taking on all the smaller jobs, changing taps, garden taps, new ball valves. Each small job I do my confidence grows a little.

    So, I hope this has helped someone...
    • Like Like x 6
  2. andyg0507

    andyg0507 Guest

    Thanks for that it just goes to show that with a lot of hard work and determenation you can become a plumber and not be blinded by the fact that some statements say that you can earn 50k a year, wich we all know is rubbish.

    well done to you
    • Like Like x 1
  3. the_ace

    the_ace Plumber GSR

    I'm just starting out as a Gas Engineer and i know what you're saying mate. Every time i go to a job i'm a bit nervous but then once i get in about it it all falls into place (usually!)

    Its all about building confidence i reckon!
    • Like Like x 1
  4. migoplumber

    migoplumber Guest

    good on you squirrel. well done.

  5. arran123

    arran123 Guest

    Nice one secret squirel a very usefull post

  6. traineedrip

    traineedrip Guest

    "Enjoyment, yes, it is enjoyable, leaving the customer with a good job and its working. However, it is quite lonely (not sure this is the correct term) if a job is going wrong you’ve no one to ask, no help to hand, your on your own, in a customers house and the things that can go wrong are endless"

    im gaining experience with a time served and he has said the same thing.
    It can be lonely at 7pm when its all gone wrong, no moral support or help.
    Im lucky in that i can call on him if im stuck, and will do the same for him.

    if you can befriend a few plumbers it can give you that bit of extra support when you need it.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. helpsy

    helpsy Plumber

    Great advice.
    I am about to finish my course and go out on my own,ideally I would have liked to have spent some time working with an experienced plumber,but current market thats not to be(was made redundant last week).So I have to take the plunge,it undoubtedly will be a very steep learning curve in the real world,away from the training course.
    I have been planning this for a while now,it hasn't been cheap,course £5600 ,tools £3500 and about to get a van for about £7000
    You have to be prepared to invest in YOUR future,I'll give it my best shot.
    I think if you're reliable,punctual,friendly,polite,honest and do a good job for a fair price,peopl will return.
    Anyway all the best to the people about to take the plunge and go it alone WELL DONE
    • Like Like x 2
  8. johnmcginty

    johnmcginty Guest

    Hi, Please ,please do not get a van for £7000 get one for £2000 and save the £5000 for when you are earning £100 a week for the first six months. Spend at least £1000 on advertising straight off! Unless you are allready loaded of course;) Good luck
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Avatar

    Avatar Active Member

    Van - earmark £800

    Tools - kick off on about £500, and get more as you need them

    You are fekkin mad to spend grands on equipment - who do you thinks you are?

    A glorified apprentice with top of the line kit, and not a spot of dust on you yet . . .

    Some people want everything dont they?!

    Start off with basics for Gods sake!!!!!
    • Like Like x 2
  10. secret squirrel

    secret squirrel Guest

    I was lucky and had a van when I started, in all fairness before I started plumbing it never had a tool in it, just scuba diving gear.

    Tools are basic and quite cheap they get thrown about bashed etc. Everytime I buy a tool I search for the lowest price on the web (unless I need it urgently).

    My advice, watch very carefully what you spend you need to earn it back and pay to live.... unless (as John said) your rich...
    • Like Like x 1
  11. pipebender

    pipebender Guest

    I had been plumbing for years and then turned my hand (after a bit of training) to tiling, carpentry etc that allowed me to widen the type of jobs and clientelle I could take on. I agree that the cost of some of the specialist tools is a burden, but I found the results rewarding.

    As sad as it sounds I placed adverts in the local Co-ops and post offices etc and the jobs for basic maintenance work came rolling in.

    I also agree with Avatar, dont go over the top on the tools !!
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Dave

    Dave Guest

    Excellent post secret squirrel..;)
  13. Avatar

    Avatar Active Member

    Good topic for the new starters !

    A few points I have discovered:

    Sometimes cheap tools are good - like when you need them, but only once a month/week. Work out what tools can be cheap - like the £15 jigsaw i have got, and used twice. I would be ****ed if it cost £200!!

    Essential tools to spend a few quid on:
    Hammer drill (£70 2kg SDS plus is a good un)
    10v cordless Screwdriver (use mine all day long!) - best when small tho
    (Bosch 10.8v £90)
    4kg SDS with chisel (mine is an erbauer £70 - I core cut, chisel, punch though walls and it keeps going!)

    Dont even think about cordless hammer drills - waste of money unless you have £300 for the bestest. Corded are better, but a light SDS even so.

    Start with the basics, even cheap tools if they get you going.

    You can always replace them in a year or two when they die off, with the best you can afford.

    I have upgraded my DIYish tools now to Makita, Bosch and Dewalt. I am also considering the Millwakee M12 12v kit, but cannot quite justify the spend alas!!

    I am a bit of a 'tool junkie'!!


    M12 12V Lithium-Ion 4pce Kit
  14. Bernie2

    Bernie2 Guest

    Yes I suppose squirrels right. It is lonely being a Plumber, I've mostly worked for companies and its the same there.

    The van man goes out by himself and may only speak to the customers not other employees. Even on site its the same. You go in a house by yourself and usually stay by yourself all day, unless another trade comes in.

    Working on sites was mad, you usually found your where inside during Summer and outside in Winter, then somebody says to you "It must be lovely working on the building in this fine weather?" You haven't seen much of it.

    In reality of course. somebody in work is supposed to check your at least alive each day, but they don't.

    The worst is that horrible "pager" I had a job hearing one at one company and so I put it on to "vibrate" so I could at least feel it if I could not hear it. Then I put it into my breast pocket on my boiler suite. I was bending down all crushed up trying to get to a pipe when it went off.

    Yeee! Ow! It was like having palpitations or what I thought palpitations may feel like.
    It nearly knocked me out.

    Then they go off every couple of minutes while your working and you have to stop, then run and find a phone usually to be asked something daft by boss or office staff.
    My usually "nowty" mood then goes to ballistic and I start shouting at people for no real reason. I don't mean it of course and then go back and try to apologise, its just stress.

    No they don't tell you any of that about Plumbing, nor about some times being out longer giving free estimates than you are doing paid work.

    Its probably better to link with the likes of B and Q and do jobs on estimates rather than call outs.
    • Like Like x 1
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2009
  15. Seb.Pickering

    Seb.Pickering Guest

    £7000 :eek: for your first van.
    I brought a realy tidy 2000 wreg transit for a bargain £700 tax and mot'd. Plenty good enough to start with.

    I agree on the tools par to, whilst going through my training last year i brought the odd tool hear and there so i didnt need to spend loads when i desided to go self employed. Even now, and believe me my vans loaded with tools, i still get to a job and think, hmm 'such and such' would have been usefull here i must get one.
    Cheap tools do have there disadvantages, they only last 2 minutes!

    Had my first stop cock change last week, and that was soooo nerve raking lol, i find all new jobs like this at the moment, But when you say to the customer all well, and they are pleased, thats what counts for a good job.

    Hat off to you squirrel, and best of luck to you fella and all us other newbies :D
    • Like Like x 1
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2009
  16. david williams

    david williams Guest

    secret squirrel where do you dive
  17. Flanners

    Flanners Guest

    Secret squirrel, this is my advice.

    Dont by a cheap old van for £200 you will look like you have just started out or are an untidy worker. (1st impressions) Get one with a nice paint job and good quality sign writting.

    Wear a nice clean and tidy uniform to come across as a professional. Just because we do an manual job doesnt mean we have to be covered in dirt and look a mess.

    I would invest in good quality tools that will last you. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a job when your tools let you down.

    I have been in this job for 11 years and find it very rewarding and far from lonley.

    Take from this post what you will, but many of the plumbers / heating engineers i speak with earn in excess of 50k per year and a few are millionaires but are still on the tools (BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD AT THERE JOB!)

    Your local barber would shave your head for £5.00, vidal sasoon would charge you £500 for the same job, whats the difference? One is better than the other...simple.

    Its no different....know your self worth but be honest.

    Hope this has helped a little.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. HTB

    HTB Guest

    Nice post squirrel,,re: the lonely comment I know what you mean.

    I liken it to being in solitary confinement (not that I know what thats like of course!!!) but it can be a bit depressing being cooped up in a bathroom all day, much better working with a colleague.

    Good luck with your networking.
  19. helpsy

    helpsy Plumber

    I bet you'd be happier to work on your own rather than have some annoying customer there every 2 seconds over your shoulder and getting in your way.
  20. dino25060

    dino25060 Guest

    Great post i'd just like to make people aware of my situation. I carried out a course with OLCI appx 2 years ago and gained my level 2 NVQ. I have a very well paid job doing skilled electrical work on the railway and the 10 years ive been doing it been very busy. 2 reasons i went and done the level 2, 1st was im a hands on man and the endless hours doing paperwork in my van left me needing more as i was only 28 at the time. 2nd is the railway hours are obviously unsociable and nobody ever gets used to a night shift especially at weekends.
    Anyway i passed the course and contacted every single plumbing company i could find basically saying to them that i had a job and would take the smallest amount of money they could pay me to give them a hand and if they didnt need to use me for months its not a problem but the odd shift would help with an experienced man if you get my drift. I was also very good with maintenance problems so could perhaps make them a few quid for minimal return...
    Out of 40 ish applications i had 10 replys basically saying,not at the minute.
    I saw the situation as a win win situation so what am i missing. I understand that perhaps they want to train up someone permanent but one or 2 days a month surely would be beneficial. Anyway ill keep looking and continue to carry out small jobs in my spare time as i enjoy the work.
    Thanks for readind sorry its long winded its taken bloody ages to write
  21. mick@acorn

    [email protected] Guest

    Good bit of info guys thanx for these great posts, i am looking to start a course with olci when i get made redundant sumtime in the new year and will get a good redundancy payment to start up with, ive also got my uncle who is a plumber to gain valuable experience off before i go it alone..
  22. stevetheplumber

    stevetheplumber Plumber GSR

    i to am finding it lonley at the moment im back working alone after 20 years with partners not something id thought about when i parted company dont even seem to get many builders jobs anymore
  23. kwakerdude911

    kwakerdude911 Guest

    most plumbers charge for labour and the parts
    that gets added on
    so how can u say u areout of pocket
    dont get it
  24. Jamie Banks

    Jamie Banks Guest

    Great info in this thread guys - think there is a lot of info for the beginners in us. I also have the luxuory/disadvantage of holding down a full time job so can only do work outside normal hours or weekends, so again hope this improves after this recession ends.

    Think the main point is do not run before you can walk as if you spend £'000 on tools they do indeed cost you when not in use. Think if you use your college/tutor or this foruum you will get the tools fit for purpose at a decent price

  25. Bernie2

    Bernie2 Guest

    The problem at the moment is not so much getting to be a Plumber/Gas Engineer but the cost of labour. The market at the moment seems terribly crowded and with what seems a recession on the way, it would appear work would be set to become scarce indeed.

    The thing is of course this will probably affect wages and prices. I read an article that BG said they advertised 500 apprenticeships and got 65,000 applications. People still seem to be wanting to pile into the industry as they have been doing for a few years now.

    But if we are not careful prices and wage rates will drop so low it will hardly be worth going into the industry from an earnings point of view.

    Another reason people seem to be piling in, is that lets be honest there are not all that many alternatives trades available, we no long have many skilled shipyard or factory jobs on the scale we once had. So to get out of the National Minimum Wage trap, and at least earn a living wage whether working self employed or employed, people are going for the trades they can get into, such as electrician, carpenter, plumber, bricklayer, which of course is helped by the trainers wanting to sell courses so they can survive. Lets be honest you can easily get on a course to be any of the construction trades.

    It wasn't helped by somebody saying you can earn as much as perhaps 3 or 4 times the minimum wage working in this area either. If you where stuck on the minimum wage, wouldn't you have a go?

    The problem is we don't seem to have many other skilled jobs at this level left in the UK, so its only natural people will pile into it the few we do have. The other area skilled work we do have, seems to require a minimum of a university degree, so I suppose unless we can go to uni for a couple of years we can't apply for them. And if you have house to pay for and kids to keep how are you going to finance a uni course?

    What we really need are more skilled jobs, such as metal workers, mechanics, engineers, welders and so on. We will probably only get that though, when the cash people realise you can earn just as much investing in industry than you can in stocks and shares and banks. Lets be honest stocks and shares and bank cash can vanish overnight as seems to have been adequately demonstrated by the financial crisis.

    I remember vast industrial estates full of working factories, with all kinds of jobs. They seem to have mostly all gone and the factory and skilled jobs they had paying a living wage with them.

    I doubt though, the system is going to change that quick, so I suppose we had better get accustomed to much lower wages and prices as competition for work gets hotter and hotter.

    And don't forget governments perhaps like it like that, and so do the public, it keeps inflation down and its the way markets work.

    But lets hope it keeps wages and prices fair, and doesn't lead to wholesale company closures and job losses in the industry.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2010
  26. fuzzy

    fuzzy Guest

    good post, i dont think there will be wholesale redundnacies but there are alot of newly qualified cannot get work unless for their selves. look at other posts, people working for free bathrooms fitted and supplied for less than £300. thats the current situation for alot of plumbers. not much work and the work thats there is at a cut price and posters having to work for nothing just to get experience!!!!!!!!!!1
  27. newbie1

    newbie1 Guest

    i wish people would wake up are they all zombies or what
    no body does a search and then post
    i want to be a plumber/i want to be a gas engineer how long after my 12 weeks training will i be on 30000 a year
    whats the quickest way to get my acs with minimal amount of hands on experience i need to earn 30000 quickly to pay my mortgage
    i cant get a job with any companies and cant afford to be self employed
    i have paid thousands and now ime broke
    i thought i would be minted by now
    why didnt anyone sit me down and explain i thought i only needed to do a 12 week course and i would be snowed under with work:confused::confused:
    • Like Like x 1
  28. julesverne

    julesverne Guest

    great post squirrel i thought i would add my experience.

    i became a plumber because i like the hands on side and also it is very technical. firstly i think if you go into a career hearing there's loads of money to be earned isn't it a case if it sounds to good to be true it generally is. that said it is possible to earn £40,000 a year but you can't do it from day one, also you will never earn this changing taps and the odd leaking washer etc(only from my experience).
    To earn good money these days it is simply not enough to be a good plumber you have to be a good business man and be very good in the art of customer service. you won't won't earn a lot when you first start because no one knows you exist, you have to advertise i would say a good colour add in the yellow pages is a must and start from there( i incidentally spend over £7,000 a year advertising)even though i do get a lot repeat custom. there are loads of other things you can do which don't cost the earth. learn other skills too i can tile and plaster to an excellent standard and because of that i get loads of bathroom jobs because customers don't have to get multiple tradesmen in. yes it does get lonely my answer buy a DAB radio/ cd player. tune into something like radio 5 and give your opinion to the numpties who phone in and radio 1/2 for a good sing song , it works for me. after 3 1/2 years i have finally got gas safe registered and life as a plumber is good i have plenty of work even in these hard times but it's not because i've been lucky it's because like any other business you have to work at it all the time.

    hope this helps
    • Like Like x 1
  29. fuzzy

    fuzzy Guest

    earning potential can be 100k a year if you work the hours. what is the profit though?? people dont realise there can be quite a difference
  30. Grovesy1000

    Grovesy1000 Guest

    Evening all,

    Some terrific advice and comments here which I'm soaking up, being currently a 46 year old civil servant staring redundancy in the face next month. I've done a few small bits and piece around my own home and haven't flooded it out so far! Keen on getting into the renewable side of things and am looking to start training in November, doing the necessary C&G and then the NVQ. Is it realistic does anyone think for a bloke my age to effectively be start again? I'm not naive enough to think this time next year I'll be raking in £50K+ but I'd like to think I could make a go of plumbing
    Grateful for any more advice anyone may be able to send my way.
    Many thanks.

  31. dontknowitall

    dontknowitall Guest

    Trouble with renewables for the self employed is the MSC creditation scheme or whatever it is. It's a fairly major obstacle. There's another post on this floating about somewhere round here.
  32. REDSAW

    REDSAW Guest

    doubt you will be able to achieve the nvq without employment as it is due to be phased out. check forums.
  33. fuzzy

    fuzzy Guest

    not possible to get an nvq or new version without employment
  34. bateman1

    bateman1 Guest

    i have a few question.

    did you go working on your own straight after completing the fast track course?
    how long was the fast track course?
    did you get much work after completing it?
    would you advice doing the fasttrack course?

    thanks alot ryan
  35. fuzzy

    fuzzy Guest

    i didnt do a fastrack mate, maybe somebody can help you here, plenty of posts on the same thing
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