How to become a carpenter

A carpenter fits timber boards onto a wooden deck outside a client’s property.

Carpentry is a highly skilled trade that has a long history and is key to the building industry. Without the skills of carpenters, many essential parts of a building wouldn’t exist. If you have an eye for details and like to work with your hands, then it might be worth considering becoming a carpenter yourself.

What qualifications do I need to be a carpenter?

There are no specific qualifications you need to work as a carpenter. However, a trade such as carpentry is best learned through experience, and there are a range of apprenticeships available that are nationally recognised. Some apprenticeships offer jobs at the end, which can be a great way to gain experience and financial stability before starting your own carpentry business.

How to become a carpenter without an apprenticeship

If apprenticeships aren’t for you, don’t worry. There’s more than one way to get into carpentry. Many universities and colleges offer courses in woodworking and carpentry that can get you started with the skills you need to make a career of it. The certificates or qualifications these courses provide can also make it easier for you to get your first carpenter job.

Moreover, if you want to skip the studying stage and go straight into full-time employment, there are options for that, too. You could become a carpenter’s assistant or mate and learn the trade while on the job. This isn’t the easiest option, as many jobs prefer you to have experience beforehand, but for those who already have some woodworking skills, it could be the quickest way to start earning as a carpenter.

How to become a self-employed carpenter

If you’re looking to start your own carpentry business, you’ll need more than just your woodworking expertise. Running your own business requires hard work and dedication, but it can also allow you to reap the financial rewards of being your own boss.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the most important steps of becoming a successful self-employed carpenter.

1. Setting up your business

Some of the most important decisions you’ll make when becoming self-employed concern the nature of your business. You’ll need to decide whether to register yourself as a sole trader or a limited company. You should research the two types of business carefully before making your choice.

A sole trader gets to reap all the profits of their business, but they also hold responsibility for any debts they incur, which could have impactful financial consequences. On the other hand, setting up as a limited company means you’ll be less liable, but involves much more annual paperwork than sole trading.

Once you’ve decided what type of business you’re going to register, consider making a business plan. Business plans aren’t a mandatory part of setting up a business unless you need to get a bank loan, but they can be very helpful when it comes to making decisions. The aim of such a plan is to lay out all the important information about your business, and creating one can be a useful exercise when you’re still figuring out how your business will work.

A business plan for a carpenter could include:

  • A description of services offered, operating area and who you are
  • A market and competition analysis to determine your target customers and biggest competitors
  • A financial projection outlining your expected costs and income for the first few years (and, if you need a loan, an explanation of how much you need and what you need it for)
  • A marketing plan detailing how you intend to spread the word about your business

2. What tools do carpenters need?

As a carpenter, there are a range of tools you’ll need to get the job done. While there are specialist tools that might be more useful for certain jobs than others, here is some of the basic equipment you should have if you’re going to work as a carpenter:

  • Spirit levels
  • Hammers
  • Nails, screws and fixings
  • Tape measure
  • A battery operated drill (or a regular drill and an extension lead)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Plane
  • Sander and/or sandpaper

You’ll also need to provide your own safety equipment, such as steel or composite toe cap boots, a hard hat, safety goggles and gloves.

3. Insurance for self-employed carpenters

Insurance is the best way to protect your company against the financial consequences of mistakes, accidents and misfortune. It can be especially important for new businesses, as any payouts you face may have a significant impact on your personal finances.

Carpenters can benefit from several different types of insurance, including:

This will protect you if a client makes a claim against you for injury, damage or loss of property. For example, if you were fitting a door in a client’s home and they tripped over  your equipment, breaking their wrist and made a claim against you, public liability insurance can cover legal costs and potential compensation payouts. There is no legal obligation to take out this form of insurance, but clients may require it as part of your contract of work.

This covers you if an employee of yours becomes sick or gets injured while working for you. An example of this could include an employee falling off a ladder and hitting their head, resulting in them being unable to work for several weeks. Employers’ liability insurance can cover the costs of providing compensation to the employee. It is legally required for all employers in the UK to take out employers’ liability insurance.

In the event that your tools are lost, stolen or damaged, for example if your workshop was broken into and your tools stolen, this insurance covers the cost of replacing or repairing them, allowing you to get back to work as soon as possible. As well as the traditional tools of your trade, this can also cover things such as work laptops.

Here at Markel Direct, we offer a specialised carpenters insurance package. This allows you to combine a number of covers together into a single policy.

Business insurance from £5 a month