The Full Guide to Becoming Self Employed: Plumber

There’s more to becoming an officially recognised plumber than completing plumbing courses. Here you can find the other important requirements in order for you to start working as a licensed plumber.

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Gaining experience

When starting a trade, experience is key. It will give you the greatest understanding of how the industry works, and what will be required of you.


In order to start training as a plumber, you have a few options.

You could work as a plumbers mate; someone who helps a plumber whilst they’re on the job. After doing this for a length of time, you can take the exam and find your own work.

Another way to gain experience is through an apprenticeship. This would give you first-hand training on the job and access to necessary exams. It’s important to remember that anyone aged 16 or above can complete an apprenticeship, not just those between 16-25.

You could also take a training course in order to learn further skills. You can earn these from colleges, as a paid course or offered by the same companies that provide exams.


In order to become a licensed plumber, you are going to need the relevant qualifications. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Diploma in plumbing foundation
  • NVQ in plumbing and heating (level 3 environmental technology)
  • An NVQ in plumbing and heating(Level 3 gas-fired water and central heating appliances)
  • NVQ in domestic heating (level 2)
  • Qualifications in gas safety (various)

You can find more information on the City & Guilds website.

Without these, you won’t be properly accredited as a plumber. It is both dangerous and, in some cases, illegal for you to start the job without them. Bear in mind that the rules change between Wales and England. In Wales, you need at least NVQ level 2 plumbing and heating, England requires level 3.

Setting up your business

Once you earn £1000+ as a self-employed business, you are legally required to submit a self-assessment tax return. When doing this you have the option to stay a sole-trader, or to register as a limited company. 

As a sole trader, you have complete ownership and responsibility of your business, its accounts, and any decisions are yours to make. You do not answer to a board of shareholders. This kind of business is suitable for little or no employees.

As a limited company, you are an employee under your own business. You pay yourself through a salary and dividends, as the accounts are separate from your own. The decisions are made by a board of shareholders, including the business owner. This type of business accommodates for larger and faster expansion.

I recommend anybody with a level 2 or lower qualification to stay a sole-trader. You might not have the experience to run a cleaning business with so many people involved.

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