Easily one of the biggest growth industries that’s flown under the radar in recent years is the field of welding. By 2020, an additional 250,000 welders will be needed in the United States alone to meet market demand. Welding is so profitable that some new welders with nothing more than a two-year associate’s degree can make up to $140,000 a year under the right circumstances. Obviously, welding can be a serious cash cow if you have a solid business plan. Use the following guidelines to start your own welding business on the side.
Perform Some Market Research
Before buying tons of pricey gear and leasing commercial space, it’s important to identify welding services that are in demand. Pinpointing the right consumer demographics to target is equally vital. For instance, you might find that a large number of bicycle shops need help with frame construction or repair. Likewise, local farms and businesses that are especially hard on their vehicles and equipment are usually in need of MIG, TIG or acetylene torch welding expertise at a moment’s notice. You can never know too much about the state of the local and regional welding markets.
Finalize the Business Plan
Settling on an unexploited niche with low competition will give you pricing power and make profitability out of the gate more likely. For instance, some welders specialize in repairing shopping carts for grocery stores. Others construct custom metal frames out of a variety of materials for use in furniture. Determine whether you’ll do your work locally or travel around the region or nation to bring in revenue. The point is that you should have a clear picture of how your business will work before launching.
Get the Equipment Together
Naturally, you’ll need some welding equipment like shielded metal arc, MIG or TIG machines. A Millermatic 250 can be had for less than $1,000. You’ll also need tanks with mixtures of argon, helium and CO2. Obviously, having an assortment of electrodes and plenty of welding wire on hand is a must. Find a commercial space to do your welding that has the right ventilation and safety features. If you’re taking your show on the road, a van or a truck with a trailer can house all of the necessary gear.
Polish Your Skills and Hire Employees
In order to become a welder, the educational requirements vary widely depending on technique and jurisdiction. The American Welding Society is a great resource insofar as education and training is concerned. Get in a lot of practice with a variety of welding disciplines such as gas metal arc, acetylene and laser. If you plan on employing other welders, contact local trade organizations and unions to find qualified workers. Local community colleges and vocational schools are prime recruiting grounds for welders that’ll work cheap and have a decent level of training.
Get Your Certifications Filed
In some states, welders don’t need to be licensed or certified. Check the local laws to determine the certification requirements in your market. Even if it’s not required, participating in the Certified Welder program offered by the American Welding Society is a good idea. Potential clients will be more likely to purchase your services if you and your employees have professional credentials. You can also get a certification for any state from Certified Welding Technologies Inc., an organization that specializes in training and testing welders.
Structure Your Outfit Wisely
Prior to booking that first gig, you should register your business with the local authorities for tax purposes. Research whether an LLC, Subchapter S corporation or other corporate entity is best. While you’re at it, taking out public liability insurance is essentially a must if you’re going to be welding anything above the level of jewelry. Finally, establishing a line of credit with a local bank to cover unforeseen costs such as repairing or replacing equipment during the first year of operation is never a bad idea.
Start Out on the Right Foot
Launching a welding concern isn’t like opening a coffee shop. In other words, it’s a lot harder to get the word out about your business. Pass out physical and digital coupons well in advance to potential customers in your area. Use local hobbyist and small-business message boards on Google Groups to zero in on the right people. Offer a deep discount for anyone that hires you within the first month or so of operation to jump-start your cash flow and build name recognition.
Network with Your Niche Peers
It’s difficult if not impossible to be all things to all people when you’re running a welding business. That’s why it’s such a good idea to develop strong relationships with other welders and machinists both in your niche and in your local area. If you’re not able to complete a job for a potential customer, you can recommend a fellow welder who’s more suitable. Your professional acquaintances can refer customers to you when they’re not a good fit for a client.
Promote Yourself in a Unique Fashion
Anyone can purchase radio or TV ads to promote a new business. However, doing so is expensive and probably won’t accomplish much for a small welding business. Using a mixture of online and on-the-ground promotion is a better way to put yourself on the map. A content marketing campaign using viral YouTube videos and blog posts to target specific customers can work wonders. Putting on demonstrations of your skills at local fairs, community gatherings and trade shows will generate interest in your services like nothing else.
Future-Proofing Your New Operation
Like any industry, the welding business isn’t static and demand for different services will wax or wane over time. Keep an eye on local and national industry trends to anticipate those shifts before they occur. Branch out by teaching welding classes or producing informational videos that can be sold online. Using your clout to endorse certain welding products is a great way to profit from affiliate sales. Ultimately, welding will always be a lucrative field if you can change with the times and set yourself apart from the crowd.