Plumbers: we all need one eventually. And when we do, it’s often due to an unexpected and urgent issue. There’s nothing quite like waking up to a burst pipe flooding the basement to make us quickly realize how valuable and necessary plumbers are.

So, it’s no surprise that being an independent plumber in Canada can be a lucrative trade. But it can also be challenging, especially if you are starting out, to learn the ins and outs of the business side, how to gain new customers, how to differentiate, and even what kind of training and certification you need.

Skilled tradespeople like plumbers have always played a key role in Canada’s economy, but they’re becoming more critical than ever. Over the past couple of years, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted many training programs, putting a strain on labour markets. But even before that, Canada has been struggling to maintain a steady flow of skilled tradespeople, according to a report by RBC.

Plumber fixing a faucet

About 700,000 in Canada are expected to retire in the next few years, and there is still uncertainty over how many workers and apprentices will return to pre-pandemic programs and jobs. Suffice to say that plumbers will continue to be in demand.

Plumbing Jobs, Training, and Certification

Plumbers do a lot more than fix leaky pipes or install new fixtures. They also have other skills like interpreting blueprints and drawings, preparing cost estimates and supervising and apprenticing other workers.

Typically, what you will need for the job includes completing an apprenticeship program or a combination of over five years’ work experience and some industry courses to be eligible for trade certification. Depending on which province you live in, trade certification may be mandatory before you can legally work as a plumber. However, suppose you are starting and considering going into a skilled trade like plumbing as a career. In that case, the Government of Canada offers financial support and helpful information to assist with getting your certification.

Plumbers also have the training and opportunities to deal with many potential hazardous conditions such as confined spaces, waste products, asbestos, flammable materials, mould, etc. Therefore, they must have the right kind of plumber liability insurance and consider business interruption insurance for extra peace of mind, especially if you are an independent contractor.

How to Differentiate and Grow Your Plumbing Business

Because plumbing is a crucial component of any new construction project, the continued growth in the construction industry has also positively impacted the plumbing trade. Moreover, recent technological advances in plumbing are creating the need for an even higher set of skills. For example, computer-controlled equipment is being utilized more often on the job, and licensed plumbers who also hold a gas fitter’s certificate will have even better job prospects.

In addition to elevating your skillset, several things will help your business succeed. For one thing, you might consider partnering, outsourcing, or hiring people to help with taking on some of the jobs if you get too busy. That way, you can reply right away to more urgent needs and requests.

Building a Digital Footprint

One of the essential tools you have right now (besides a wrench or plunger) is the internet. Here are a few quick ways to make this work for you: 

  • Website

    It’s important to have a robust online presence, especially in this digital age. That means, at a minimum, a clear and mobile-friendly website where it’s easy to find and contact you. It’s estimated more than 90% of the global internet population use a mobile device to access the internet. But you also must be able to respond quickly. Work with someone to ensure your site has strong search engine optimization (SEO) so you’re more easily found online and consider paying for some online ads.

  • Social media

    A lot of folks don’t enjoy using social media networks. Still, they are necessary to build your reputation, grow an online community, post customer testimonials, as well as share tips and how-to videos. At a minimum, you should have profiles set up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. If you are too busy doing plumbing, consider hiring someone to help with your social media or writing your web content. It’s always good to offer your human side to the world to build trust with potential new clients. Reputation management and building your brand is one of the ways you will be able to differentiate your business from the competition.

  • Online directories

    Listing on Google My Business and other local directories will allow customers to find you much easier when they have an urgent plumbing need and have turned to their browser to see who might be available and nearby. You can also go old school and place flyers in local markets and other high-frequency neighbourhood spaces.

  • Testimonials and reviews

    Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to review your service and post them online, or you can do this on your website. Remember, customer reviews like those posted publicly on Google Reviews can often make or break your business.

  • Follow-ups

    Whether it’s an email with coupons, referral discounts, or following up with clients directly to see if they have any further plumbing needs, these touchpoints are good ways to keep them coming back to you or recommending you to their friends and family. Email marketing is a smart way to grow your customer base.

Ensure Your Plumbing Business Is Watertight: Get Insured

Once you are armed with all the new skills and strategies in your marketing toolkit, you will have what you need to grow your plumbing business. Additionally, see the resources offered on the Government of Canada’s website.

Lastly, don’t forget to protect your business with a customized plumbing insurance policy. A vital part of your risk management strategy, a tailored insurance policy can provide you with financial support if you’re held liable for a mistake or accident related to your services. Zensurance makes it easy for residential and commercial plumbers to get the coverage they need. Fill out an online application to get a free quote. Our licensed broker team will shop the market for you to find the policy you need at an affordable price.

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About the Author: Gail Balfour

Gail Balfour is a writer, editor, and senior content designer with more than 20 years of experience covering areas of business, finance, insurance, technology, and health care. A former editor of ComputerWorld Canada, she has worked with several organizations and publications, including Backbone Magazine, PwC Canada, and RBC Canada