It is probable that you found this post because you’ve already decided that you want to run your own company. You like being in charge, aspire for more freedom and independence and hope for more financial gain. If you’re not afraid of enormous responsibility and liability, and you’ve already acquired a skill set in welding, then starting a mobile welding business may be the right route for you to pursue. As this is an undertaking that I’ve gathered some experience in over the last couple of years, I’d like to share some pointers on how to prepare and what to expect.
Is Mobile Welding For You?
First off, it should be said that starting your own mobile welding company is not a decision to be taken lightly. If you make a mistake while working for an employer and your weld ends up breaking in service, the worst that can happen is you get fired. But if a weld breaks with your company name backing it, in some situations you can be bankrupted by the damages that you’ll be liable to pay. On top of that, other perils in this industry include long delays in getting paid and complicated regulatory policies on providing welding services. To help manage these obstacles, I made sure to both create a long-term game plan for my business’ financials, and thoroughly research the various markets to understand their unique demands.
The Financials of a Mobile Welding Business
The most important thing to focus on when starting a business is planning your finances, and this will take time to get in order. This is one of the things I actually got right the first time, and it involved two parts. Firstly, take as much time as it is necessary to save up about 2–3 times the amount of money you think you’ll need. Unforeseen expenses are the reality of starting a business, and if you need to take out loans to cover them then you likely won’t make it when work slows down. Secondly, I would advise against quitting your full-time job until you’ve already developed a steady stream of customers. Starting the business gradually this way will allow you to get a feel for the demand for welding in your area. It’ll also prevent you from falling behind on your bills while you’re still figuring things out. Follow these two pieces of advice, and when you’re ready to set out full-time with your mobile welding company, you’ll have no debt and a better idea of what to expect.
During this phase, you’ll slowly be exposed to the different markets in the industry. It’s worth paying close attention to their differences so that you can plan to prepare your company for the type of jobs that you would like to eventually get.
Some Various Markets in the Mobile Welding Industry
You’ll need to first study the markets in your area and then decide on which ones you would like to focus on. That’s because various mobile welding companies can vary greatly from one another in terms of the customers that they target, the liability that they’re exposed to, and the regulations that they follow.
For instance, one market you could potentially target is residential. You’ll often be asked to work on small projects such as personal vehicles, fix broken gates and repair shelving units. The liability for this market is very low, though these customers are often not prepared to spend hundreds of dollars or more for a service visit, and for that, you will have to deal with more haggling in this market than any other. To read about pricing for mobile welders, click here. For someone new to welding and looking for a side job, residential customers could be the perfect learning experience.
For mobile welding specifically, most other markets will be commercial/industrial. They can be boiled down into three general markets: equipment/large size vehicle repairs and maintenance, structural welding and erections, and pipe welding. Apart from these, there will be several other niche markets that require specialized skill sets and training.
Starting out, equipment maintenance is one of the easiest markets to get into that pays well. Many clients will not require you to purchase insurance, and in Ontario, there are no regulations under the building code that you have to follow. That said, this is not a market for an inexperienced welder. You will often be asked to repair huge equipment like excavators or larger balers, and if the repairs break under load then you will be expected to fix the repair for free.
Structural welding can be one of the most lucrative markets to get into, but it is highly bordered with red tape. In Ontario, you will need to certify your company with the CWB in order to weld anything structural. On top of that, most companies hiring you as a structural welder will require that you have liability business insurance, WSIB, and any relevant equipment training if you will be using aerial lifts such as scissor or boom lifts.
Pipe welding is another very lucrative market, and a bit easier to get into than structural work. This is because the regulatory authority for pipe welding is the TSSA, and their fee structure and requirements for regulation are quite a bit tamer. Of the three major markets, pipe welding is the one I haven’t yet gotten into yet. The skillset required is night and day from the requirements of heavy equipment repairs or anything structural. It’s really not a market I would jump into without a good experience, and right now, I don’t.
Plan Your Route
The path I followed when starting my business, involved a mix of residential work and heavy equipment repairs. After about a year and a half of business experience, I began the long and painful process for getting my company CWB certified to weld structural projects. Once certified, the big differences I noticed right away with structural jobs was their larger size, long delays in getting paid, and a jump in the number of people you had to deal with for just one project. The much larger demand for structural welding jobs is a big part of why I ended up quitting my job shortly after becoming certified.
Overall, there are going to be many routes you can take that will lead you to success in the business world. Above is my game plan for getting started, and hopefully, there’s something there that you can take away from it to help set you off in your own direction.