Being self-employed in any profession has its benefits and drawbacks, but for some people this is far better than working as an employee. The path to becoming a self-employed contractor for plumbers involves being an apprentice first. We'll discuss this more and give 3 tips for the self-employed plumbing contractor.

The Plumber's Path

Becoming a qualified and licensed plumber takes a committed effort. According to online publication Chron in an article called: “Self-Employed Plumber's Pay Rate” written by Rick Suttle, we find the specifics on a plumber's path:

“Self-employed plumbers, as all plumbers, must complete four- or five-year apprentice programs to become journeyman plumbers, which are standard titles for experienced plumbers. During their apprenticeships, plumbers must complete 246 hours of technical training and accumulate 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training, according to the BLS. They also must have two to five years of experience to qualify for licensing through their state plumbing boards, which requires passing an exam.”

So, we can see that the path to becoming a self-employed plumber requires being an employee first; being a self-employed plumbing contractor is not something a person can do without meeting licensing requirements and qualifications. Yet, after becoming a licensed journeyman plumber, a person can begin their own business and make “...$55,000 as of 2014, according to the job site Simply Hired.”

Basically, self-employed plumbers make a couple thousand more per year than the average of all plumbers, which according to BLS in 2015 was: $50,620/year. This is one benefits of being a self-employed plumbing contractor.

3 Tips for  the Self-Employed Plumbing Contractor

    1. Grow to Your Comfort Level

    2. Be Honest to Customers

    3. Specialized Services 

1. Grow to Your Comfort Level

Bigger doesn't mean better when it comes to having your own business. The best part of being self-employed is not having the headache of working for difficult bosses and with annoying co-workers. So, take advantage of the peaceful work environment, and don't get over your head with work and have to hire desperately to keep up.

Yes, you want to make money, but growing at a comfortable pace and to a comfortable level is important. This steady growth model reduces burnout and helps you stay passionate about your business. Hire only trustworthy people you enjoy being around, and control the workload to a level your business can reasonably manage.

Maybe this means your business is only you, or maybe it means hiring a dozen people, either way: it's imperative your comfortable with the growth and can manage it without headaches. Working smarter and not harder is the goal here. It's very possible to enjoy your business and still make good money; take advantage of working for yourself by controlling the growth according to your comfort level.

2. Be Honest to Customers

Dealing with customers is the biggest difference from being an employee for a plumbing company and a self-employed plumbing contractor. Being able to foster good relationships with the community your serving, will ensure a good business reputation and steady referrals. Being honest with your customers is key to doing this.

Plumbers are in demand, yet under-appreciated often by customers. Many times when people call a plumber, they expect the cost to be lower than it is. Be honest with them about the estimated cost, and be selective about which customers you work for.

A customer who has money, yet is complaining vehemently about the cost, isn't someone you need to work for. These customers are different from those who simply don't have much money, but need plumbing work done.

Charge the amount you need to do a quality job and still make the desired hourly wage you deserve. Remember, an honest quality plumber is worth the cost, and if the customer doesn't realize this, then simply don't work for them. Being selective with who you work for is one of the biggest benefits of being self-employed. And being honest to customers is an age-old golden marketing strategy.

3. Specialized Services

This is how your self-employed plumbing contractor business will get to the top average of the pay scale. Specialize in certain services, which are high paying and you enjoy doing. These specialized services can be anything you want, for example: tiny house and yurt plumbing, luxury fixtures, or “green” energy-saving plumbing.

Specialized services may not be as common, so it may take time to generate a full work load from them. Through reputation, referrals, and expertise in a more rare specialty, your services will be sought out and people will pay top dollar for them. So, at first your plumbing business would have to take more common jobs to make due, but eventually these specialized jobs would increase. This could even lead to long distant travel, trade shows, and industry innovation.


Out of the 340,370 employed plumbers in the U.S., nearly 11 percent are self-employed, according to the Chron article quoted above. Working as a self-employed plumbing contractor takes a certain level of dedication and commitment, but there are many benefits that come with it. Having more control over who you work for and with, and controlling the direction of the business, are some of these benefits.

These three tips for self-employed plumbing contractors will help business owners foster good customer relations, have peace-of-mind at work, and enjoy a higher than average wage. Self-employed plumbers need to take advantage of the control they have and use it to create a specialized quality service, which people will be willing to pay more for.

CPI Products offers innovative plumbing equipment that self-employed contractors would find useful in their efforts to specialize their business's services. Our Universal Roller Skid is our premier product, which anyone doing pipeline inspections would find very useful. CPI Products is located in Pittsfield, MA, and all our products are manufactured direct and made in the United States. To learn more about our specialized products, please contact us today.