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How to become a builder: a step-by-step guide

4-minute read

How to become a builder: a step-by-step guide
Josh Hall

Josh Hall

3 April 2018

Want to work for yourself? Becoming a self-employed builder is a great way to earn a living while being your own boss.

There’s a great need for construction workers in the UK, and the government has recently announced ambitious building targets that will require an even larger workforce.

So how do you become a self-employed builder? We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to get you started.

  • How tradespeople are fighting back against rising tool theft
  • 1. How much do self-employed builders earn? First, find out how much you can earn as a self-employed builder in the UK.
  • 2. What training do I need? Starting out for the first time? Check to see what training you need.
  • 3. Choosing a legal structure. Legal structure is important when starting your business – be sure to make the right choice.
  • 4. Tax for self-employed builders. It’s crucial that you get your tax affairs in order before you begin.
  • 5. Get insured. You need to protect yourself with builders’ insurance. Find out what cover you need.
  • 6. Getting builder clients. Now that you’re set up, it’s time to start winning clients!

Becoming a self-employed builder step-by-step

Self-employed builder salary UK

Not sure how much self-employed builders earn in the UK? The average hourly wage in 2017 for a self-employed builder was between £120 and £200, depending on experience and specialism. This compares favourably with other tradesman jobs, putting it in the same bracket as specialists such as electricians and plumbers.

You’ll generally be working outdoors, but there may be some internal work too. You’re likely to work in a variety of settings, both residential and commercial, including dwellings, hospitals, or even roads.

According to City and Guilds, the average builder works a 37 hour week, generally starting at either 7:30 or 8am. There may also be the opportunity to take weekend overtime.

Self-employed builder training

If you’re becoming a builder for the first time, you’ll need some training. Many builders learn on the job or through apprenticeships, but there are other options available if this isn’t possible.

You’ll need to look for construction qualifications at your local training provider. City and Guilds offer construction courses around the UK, in which you’ll learn a bit of everything, from plumbing to bricklaying. There’s also a range of specialist builder training programs, some of which are operated by training centres certified by City and Guilds.

Your choice of training will likely depend on location, but you should also consider whether or not you intend to specialise further down the line, and choose your course accordingly.

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Setting up a self-employer builder business

You have two main choices with regard to legal structure when starting out as a self-employed builder – operating as a sole trader, or running a limited company.

Operating as a sole trader is likely to be the simplest option. You’ll still need to register for tax, and complete an annual Self Assessment tax return. However, depending on your earnings and other factors, there may be an advantage in setting up a limited company and paying yourself through that.

Read more about the differences between sole traders and limited companies.

Self-employed builder tax

It’s important that you understand your tax responsibilities as a self-employed builder. You’ll need to register with HMRC as soon as you start trading, and you’ll need to complete and file an annual Self Assessment tax return.

But what can self-employed builders claim for? Self-employed builder tax expenses include things like motor vehicle costs such as fuel, insurance, and vehicle tax, along with professional clothing, tools, and equipment. If you’re working from a temporary workplace, you can also claim for travel and subsistence costs.

However, it’s important to understand that if you’re operating through PAYE, the expenses you can claim are significantly reduced. For example, you won’t be considered to have any expensable admin costs, and you won’t be able to claim for any capital expenditure.

Builders’ insurance

It’s important that builders properly consider insurance. You’ll need a tailored builders’ insurance policy that suits your needs. These can be different depending on the nature of your work – for example, you might need specialist cover if you’re working at height.

You should start by considering public liability insurance, which can protect you against claims arising from loss or injury suffered by a member of the public. You’ll also want to think about professional indemnity insurance, which can cover you if you make a mistake in your work. If you employ anyone, you’re legally obliged to take out employers’ liability insurance. You’ll also want to think about tool cover to protect your tools against loss or theft.

With Simply Business, you can combine the covers you need into a single, tailored insurance policy. Click to compare builders insurance quotes.

Winning clients as a self-employed builder

Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to start winning business. When you’re starting out, it pays to stay local. You might consider putting up cards in local businesses, or approaching firms directly. You should make sure that you have a simple but attractive web presence that shows off some of your work to potential clients, and acts as a portfolio.

You should also consider using some of the many online directories for tradespeople. Sites like RatedPeople allow you to list yourself, and then bid on jobs from members of the public.

As your business grows, you might want to consider approaching construction or architecture firms directly. These can also be a great source of repeat business, and can ultimately give you scope to expand from a self-employed builder into a fully-fledged construction business.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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