How to run a successful trade business

What does it really mean being successful as a tradie? Working 60 hours a week for $60k a year - making a bit over $20 per hour? Enjoying five minute lunches in the car and doing paperwork at 10pm? Skimping on details in a desperate push not to loose money on the job? Unfortunately, the number of tradies with solid skills are ultimately not running successful businesses. Here are few tips how to to stand out from the crowd, have more satisfied customers, make more money and ultimately live a better life:

1. If you hate it, stop

Do you hate your work or some particular aspects of your work? Simply stop doing it. You might have bills to pay (so you might not be able to stop straight away) but do try to figure out how to do something else instead - something you can feel good about. As a skilled tradie, there are choices, and if you hate something, chances are you are not doing it well and won't be successful.

2. Get covered


No insurance? A cheap cover that doesn't fully cover your risks? Many have done that mistake and paid dearly. Insurance is expensive, but smart tradies get a good cover.
Be careful when buying online because it's easy to get a wrong cover. Spend the time and get a few quotes and advice about what you need. Consider getting public and product liability, general property, fire and defined events, and personal accidents and illness.
Using an insurance broker rather than getting insurance directly is the safest option. Brokers work for you, should give you a good advice and will help you with a claim. They buy insurance at wholesale prices which offsets their fees so you don't necesarily pay more.
Look for a insurance broker with specialisation in trade insurance packs. We have good experience with Intertrade Insurance Services - or see your trade association for tips.

Contract terms & Conditions

A lawyer can help you to establish the terms and conditions which should be formally accepted and clearly written including payments terms. But lawyers are expensive, right? Yes, but that doesn't mean you should risk a law suit that could make you bankrupt. See if your trade association for general T&C's or, as a last resort, use something generic - but do get T&C's.

3. Advertise efficiently

Think about returns

Some advertising is too expensive and should be avoided - for example, at the time of writing, the approximate cost for a front page Ad on Google Adwords for "Plumber Manly" is a whooping $29.67 per click (see Google Keywords Planner). If every 4th click leads to a job, that's $118.68 to acquire a customer - not exactly cheap. That's not to say that Google Adwords are evil - they can work well when you are in a niche market.

Generally, it's easy to get caught out when being charged per lead (or per quote) because you cannot be sure how many of those leads will convert. It's a lot easier to calculate your lead cost when you get charged only when you get paid, like with HERO.WORK App.

Have a Website

An online presence helps build your credibility and get more clients. A basic website covering your background, project photos and references can help you to gain your potential client's trust and it doesn't have to be expensive at all. It's been proven over and over as one of the most efficient ways to advertise & sell yourself - and it's becoming more important every year. Check the current HERO.WORK offer.

4. Excellent customer service

When you finally do get a customer, make sure they come back or recommend you.

Maintaining professional attitude and good work ethic is essential. Providing exceptional service is only part of the story:

  • Customers like when you make a confirmation call or send a text message approx. 30 minutes before your arrival.
  • Show up on time.
  • Make a great first impression (wear a clean attire, be polite, smile).
  • Always clean up after your job is done.
  • Deliver quotes within 24 hours.

5. Analyse your progress

Measure your success and track what is working for you and what is not.

Set yourself goals - like improving quote success rate. Maybe you won 2 jobs from 5 last week. Write that down and try to do better. If you are unsuccessful with a quote, always ask for feedback and try to use it to improve and win next job.

6. Operate efficiently

Minimise time spent on non-billable tasks

Get organised. Spend some time setting up your processes to save time in the long run. A online Job Management system, such as HERO.WORK App, can help you minimise the paperwork. Papers fade and get misplaced - information in the computer lasts forever and is easier to find. Copy & paste - don't retype.

Become a local hero

Instead of trying to reach clients anytime and everywhere consider become a local "go-to". Less time spent in the traffic jams. Less travel cost incurred. Select your key market areas and focus your marketing budget and effort in those neighbourhoods.

7. Know your price

Don't try to beat the cheapest competitor no matter what. You are providing a great service and it has it's value. Most customers appreciate an overall excellent service and are happy to pay extra for it - just look at the cars people are driving! Stay tuned for more articles about how to charge a fair price, make a fair profit and excite your customers.

8. Keep learning

Try to learn something new & useful for your job every week. Read trade news. Go to trade shows. Read articles on the internet - for example, Trained to Sell has plenty of free advice on how to sell that's specifically tailored for tradies along with their excelent paid courses.

And, really listen when people are trying to give you some feedback. People have their agendas, and often try to sell you this or that, but you will find a good free advice among all that noise. And, a small improvement every week amounts to a big improvement in few years.


Did you find anything useful in this article? If yes, take action now, before the next phone call drags you back to your daily routine.