There are so many reasons why individuals start their own businesses, whether the sound of being their own boss is too appealing to pass up or they simply want more time to pursue their passions (and make a living while they’re at it). It’s exactly why pros are drawn to the trades to begin with: freedom and flexibility to do more of what you love.
What many may not know is that the highest number of self-employed professionals (19.6%) work in skilled trades fields (FreshBooks). So why is it that when we, as a society, typically think of entrepreneurs, it’s reserved for the tech startups and Silicon Valley workers of the world?
Common misconceptions of the skilled trades are that you won’t earn a decent living, there’s no way to advance, or you won’t actively use problem-solving skills. Not only are these ultimately false and narrow in scope, but when you take a closer look at the industry, you discover that many of these talented pros are making a name for themselves and building a business from the ground up.
Empowered and Self- Employed
After the 2020 pandemic, more and more workers are leaning into the idea of having control over their careers. They’re looking for job stability, work life balance and real meaning behind their incomes. The next generation of small business owners will be younger, more educated and more diverse. And more likely than not, they’ll be in the skilled trades.
In their annual Self-Employment Report, FreshBooks found that:
- Among owners of businesses less than two years old, nearly two-thirds agree that self-employment remains the best career choice in uncertain times such as a pandemic.
- Two in five potential entrepreneurs already have an active ‘side hustle,’ with one-third already brand building via social media.
- More than half (54%) of people under age 35 plan to be self-employed in the next five years on a full-time basis.
- 72% of respondents shared that they are happy being self-employed, compared to 68% of traditionally employed.
For many that followed their passions into the trades, self-employment was a natural second step. Like in any other industry, skilled trade entrepreneurs have a unique set of skills to offer and question if there might be a better way to do things than the norm. But working with your hands does not mean you can’t be as savvy, motivated, knowledgeable, or passionate as any other small business owner.
“The skilled trades industry is like any other industry, in that there are people who take it seriously and care about the work they do, and people who don't. Those who do are incredibly talented, paid well, and in high demand. When compared to the people in the corporate world who take their work seriously and care about what they do, it's the same thing. I wish that the general perception of the skilled trades industry was judged similarly to other industries.” - Shauna Dinsart, Truewerk ambassador and owner of Dinsart Design
Building a business from the ground up comes with its own set of obstacles to overcome. Finding talented, qualified staff, acquiring new customers, and deciding on rates that are “just right” can all pose their own road bumps.
We asked our ambassadors, many of who own and run their own small businesses, what advice they would share with an up-and-coming trade entrepreneur. What they had to share was realistic, enlightening and inspiring:
- “Identify your best skills and passion. Find a niche market , exploit it, blow it up and give it your all!” - Phil Vision, Paysages Vision Landscapes
- “Your name means everything. If you make a good name for yourself, your business will always thrive.” - Colt Reeves, Reeves Carpentry
- “Find out what you're good at, and what you're not good at. Whatever you're not good at (and don't really need or want to be better at), find someone who is. I tried for a long time to be good at things I wasn't good at. It's been much more effective to let myself own the things I am good at, and give space for others to do the same in a way that is complementary. We don't need a ton of people good at the same thing, but we do need enough people good at all of the things collectively.” - Shauna Dinsart, Dinsart Design
- “Never settle. You will hear doubt and negativity from all sides. Stick to what you know and improve it on a daily basis… you will see the results if you never settle.” - Tony McKlem, Hollywood Decks
- “Don’t confuse what you want to do with what you feel like doing. Give yourself room to be human and take care of your mental health, but stay focused on what you want to do and achieve - not the whims of the day. Make sure you don’t get so wrapped up with working in your business, that you neglect working on the business itself. The two most valuable people to align yourself with when you’re getting started is a mentor and a CPA. A good CPA will save you more money and stress than they cost, no business ‘isn’t big enough yet.’” - Caleb Harris, YouCanMakeThisToo and The Custom Furniture Guy
- “Go after whatever your heart desires. You want to be a business owner? DO IT. You want to do a job that goes against norms or stereotypes? DO IT. You want to change your career entirely? DO IT. Follow your heart and things will always work out for you, and you can even fall in love with your work.” - Kirsten Locke, Koala Tree Service
- “Know your worth. Don’t ever sell yourself short or settle for less. Don’t listen to the doubters, there will be plenty, prove them wrong. Never stop learning. Once you think you know it all you've gone stagnant, your growth will stop. Remain green, keep an open ear, learn new/better ways to do something, and never be afraid to ask questions. The only dumb questions are the ones not asked.” - Garrett Davis, G.W. Davis Co.
- “Whatever you put into the trade is what you will get out of it. It’s up to you and you alone. If you put in 50% effort you will get back 50% results. Just like if you put 100% effort you’ll get back 100% results. The choice is yours. And also make connections, network with others in your trade and other trades as well. There is power in word of mouth, if people like you and like what you do then they will always promote you. Never know where you will get the next lead for a job.” - Omar Harris
By definition, entrepreneurship can be risky and uncertain. Yet the rewards of self-employment, both personal and financial, make the leap a worthwhile one. If you’re looking to get your business off the ground, here are some tips to consider when getting started:
1. Be Prepared to Try and Try Again
No one finds success overnight, no matter how much you excel at what you do. Get your mindset right and focus on your journey instead of comparing your success to someone else’s. Create habits that help you follow through when motivation wanes, and write out all of the necessary steps it will take to achieve your goal. When you’re feeling lost, revisit your list.
2. Know Your Competitors and Market
If your service is saturated in your area, figure out what sets you apart. Determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You can always use surveys or interviews to find out what needs aren’t being met among your target clients.
3. Take Care of Paperwork
Choose your business name and register with your state, apply for the necessary licenses and permits, and open up a separate bank account. For a great checklist for getting started, check out this one by Forbes.
4. Build Your Network
Never underestimate the power of a great reputation. If you’ve got a network of favorite clients, see if they’ll contribute a positive review or two. Ask around about local jobs that need completing and start getting your name out there, then keep building. Sometimes a simple referral can land the next great gig.
5. Spread the Word
Marketing your business doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Set up a Facebook page where previous clients can leave reviews and you can post updates on projects. Launch an Instagram business page where you share your favorite job site tips. Encourage your friends and family to share your pages and drum up excitement.
We all have to start somewhere. For life in the trades, the sky is the limit. Happy Small Business Month.