Becoming a self-employed electrician is a popular step for those with the right qualifications and experience. This brief guide will provide you with some of the key information you need before taking the big step, whether you’re yet to start your career or you’ve been on the payroll as an electrician for some time.
When it comes to deciding whether you’re ready, be aware that, as well as having the requisite skills, it also helps if you’re a good networker. Builders, for example, will often recommend or subcontract to other tradesmen they know and trust rather than doing so unseen. So it’s usually a good idea to develop a reputation in your area before going self-employed.
The benefits of becoming a self-employed electrician are numerous, and you’ll have your own reasons for thinking of going it alone. Amongst the most appealing advantages are:
Particularly if you work for a larger company, it’s likely that your role will be more specialised than if you work for yourself. As well as taking on a variety of jobs, you’ll handle quotes and/or estimates, marketing, advertising and dealing with administrative issues like tax and insurance. You could also find yourself subcontracting or hiring staff. If you feel you’ve stagnated in your job, self-employment could help you freshen things up.
Similarly, you’ll be able to work where and when it suits you. You can also decide how you approach each job, using processes and materials as you see fit. On the other hand, this shouldn’t be overstated: will you be able to afford to turn down work that comes in at inconvenient times? Will intense local competition pressure you to lower your quotes or work longer hours?
Once you enter self-employment, you’ll keep the lion’s share of the income you generate. This is one of the most important reasons behind most people’s decision to start a business. As you work harder, hopefully you’ll find that you earn more, which can be very motivating. Conversely, during leaner periods there’ll be no guaranteed salary to see you through, so you’ll need to make a judgement call as to whether it makes sense for you to go it alone.
Every year, training provider TradeSkills4U crunches the numbers provided by the Office of National Statistics regarding earnings amongst tradesmen. The news for electricians over the past four years has been very good: they now earn an average of £30,765 a year. That’s the highest amongst all trades, and a full £2,233 more than plumbers (in second place).
Note that earnings for self-electricians vary enormously around the UK as they do for all trades and professions, with wages generally highest in London and the south east.
Remember that this average covers electricians of every stage of their career. While you’re training, in your first full-time job after qualifying or just setting out in business, your earnings will probably be significantly below this figure.
The National Careers Service suggests these averages for electricians in full-time employment:
● Starter: £18,000 to £23,000
● Experienced: £25,000 to £35,000
● Highly experienced: up to £42,000
Overall, it’s fair to say that electrical work is well-paid compared to other trades, and analysts suggest that more good news is on the way. Demand for electrical expertise is expected to remain healthy due to the arrival of new ‘smart’ technologies in the home, the decentralisation of the national grid (which will increasingly involve property owners both supplying and accessing the network) and the general sustainability agenda. Add to this the government’s commitment to ‘get Britain building’ and it’s clear that there are many reasons to be optimistic. Find out more about how electricians see the future in this report by the NICEIC .
Just shy of 100,000 electricians are members of the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS). An ECS card displays your credentials and main electrical occupation, and shows that you have been assessed for health and safety competency. Another key role it plays is simply to act as proof of your identity on site. The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) involves issuing ID cards to certified professionals in related trades. For electricians, an ECS card acts as your official CSCS card.
It’s not a legal requirement, but these days you may struggle to find work on building sites without an ECS card. So an ECS card could be worth pursuing, especially as once you’re self-employed you’ll probably be looking for a variety of work.
There are several card types, broken down into the following:
● Apprentices and trainees
● Emergency and security systems
● Fire detection and alarm systems
● Related disciplines.
ECS also provides cards for partner organisations for specific roles. Find out how to get your card on the official ECS website .
To become an electrician, you’ll need a level 3 electrical or electro-technical qualification, which you’ll have to gain whilst working in a relevant job. The most common way to obtain this is through an apprenticeship. To get an apprenticeship or trainee position that would enable you to work towards a level 3 qualification (probably an NVQ), you could take a level 1 or 2 course in a classroom environment.
Get in touch with a local college to find out more.
In most cases, you’ll also need a level 3 qualification to secure an ECS card. However, procedures are in place to grant applications from senior electricians whose experience makes up for their lack of formal credentials.
As an electrician you are dealing with constant hazards, which involve significant risks to life and property. Our Public Liability Insurance for Electricians will cover you if a customer or other member of the public sues you following an accident you caused in the course of your business.
As well as providing you with important cover and valuable peace of mind, having this insurance could help you secure work with larger clients. Few public sector or larger organisations will open their doors to uninsured contractors. So don’t risk missing out on work - look into our Electricians’ Insurance today.