Top tips for installers that can’t be learnt in the training centre

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Ten top tips for electrical contractors learnt on the job and not in the training centre, by Trade Skills 4U.

1. Payment: It takes a lot longer to get paid when you work for yourself than for someone else
When you work for yourself, you are responsible for chasing your customers for payment.  When you work for a firm, you will get paid no matter what. If you are setting up your own business, do not assume that everyone will pay.  Be business like and treat all customers the same way.  Get some terms and conditions in place at the start so your customer is clear about payment.

2. Expectations: Never lie to a customer
If you say you are going to do a job, you should make sure you have the time to do it.  Never be afraid of telling your customer you cannot fit their job in for a while. Failed promises of turning up, or putting customers back a week here and there is the quickest way to lose them.  Always be honest from the start.

3. Rates: Being the lowest priced company around is a bad idea
You may have a full diary of work, but you are also likely to find yourself running around busy all day but not making any money for yourself.  Price realistically, an experienced electrician tells you how it should be done: “Get your day rate by taking your overheads for the year and how much you want to earn to that total and divide by 240 (That’s 48 weeks, taking into account holidays and time off.)  The result is the minimum day rate you can charge assuming that each day is booked.  In your first year, you may want to knock the days working down by another 40 as that will give you some contingency for the days you don’t have work and those days will happen”

4. Advertising: Be aware that wherever you advertise, your phone will ring with people selling things you haven’t asked for as well as for work enquiries
It is worth looking into effective advertising rather than jumping on board with the first advertising caller.  Many electricians find that longer term advertising in a local publication such as a parish magazine is effective.  Customers are more likely to use an advertiser whom they have grown familiar in seeing for a while.

5. Training: Teaches you the general way of doing most things (conduit, tray, SWA, wiring etc)
Gaining experience with another electrician or electrical contractor is the best way of gaining essential experience as an electrician yourself.  It is worth nothing though that the firm you are working for is normally specific in one aspect of electrical installation (domestic, commercial industrial) you won’t become an expert in all of it.  So don’t put yourself under pressure to learn about other areas you are not familiar with.  Our tip is to gain experience with the area in which you want to work (i.e. domestic).

6. Regulations: Keeping up with the Regulations can be tough.  There are always ‘reg rumours’ on site
You will find that some electricians do things differently than others and you may find yourself being challenged about the way you do something.  If you work in accordance to the regulation guidelines you won’t go far wrong.  However the guidelines are open to interpretation so it is expected that electricians will interpret the regulations differently.  However, never be tempted to cut corners, if you are told a quicker way of doing something and you know it is wrong, always steer clear.

7. Registration: Get registered with a governing body
It will be immensely difficult finding work if you are not registered with one of the main governing bodies such as NICEIC, NAPIT or ELECSA. Most customers nowadays will only consider qualified and registered electricians to carry out electrical work in their home.  If you hold the correct qualifications, it will be a straight forward process to become registered.

8. Quotations: Be cautious when discussing possible costs with a customer
It is better to wait and work out a final price rather than give an initial ‘guess’.  Once you mention a cost, the figure tends to stick like glue! It is almost impossible to price accurately on the spot and you could easily find yourself out of pocket or loosing a customer by making a simple error.

9. Networking Groups: Ensure it has a strong representation from other trades
If you join a networking group (such as the BNI) ensure it has a strong representation from other trades such as kitchen fitters, builders, plumbers etc.  These are the people who are in a position to be talking to your potential customers.  In addition, ensure you join a group that meets at least once a fortnight so you can get to know and trust the other trades that you are recommending.

10. Work wear: Look after yourself in the workplace
If you are crawling around in lofts all day or on your knees fitting accessories, it is a wise idea to wear knee pads to avoid health problems later on in your working life.  It is also a good idea to wear a hard hat to avoid bumps to the head.