How To Become an Electrical Contractor

By: | October 26th, 2021

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Electricians are the highest-paid trade workers in the UK, with an average salary of around £36,000. However, there are even more benefits to a career in electricals than a hefty pay packet. Other perks to consider include being able to train as an apprentice, meaning you can start earning straight away. Granted, it won’t be much at first, but your bank balance will gradually grow.

Electricians also get involved in a wide variety of work, especially once they’re qualified and are beginning to progress in their careers. There’s also the opportunity to specialise as a commercial electrician, which can mean even higher salaries and opportunities to move forward in a particular field that interests you. Here, we explore how to become an electrical contractor.

Electrical Contractors VS Sole-Trading Electricians

While on paper the two may sound identical, there are a few subtle differences between electrical contractors and sole-trading electricians.

Contracting firms are built within a limited company and are typically managed by more than one person, usually the directors of the business. They are VAT registered, as they surpass an annual turnover of £85,000, which is the maximum amount a business can bring in before VAT registration becomes compulsory.

Sole-trading electricians generally work alone and will not need to register for VAT (unless they surpass the £85,000 threshold). They will need to register as self-employed with HMRC in the first three months of trading, though.

Contracting firms have many employees, from contract managers to admin and HR teams. Due to the size of the business and the scale of work they carry out, contracting companies tend to have significant capital investment in property, work vehicles, tools and equipment.

Sole-trading electricians typically have at most just a few staff to support their business. They may not own business premises, but they will likely need to invest in a van for travelling to clients and the necessary tools and equipment to carry out their services.

Getting Qualified

There are two routes to choose from to become a qualified electrician in the UK. You can do a diploma and technical certificate (NVQ and AM2) over two to three years or complete an electrical apprenticeship over three to four years.

Each combines the same elements of training, hands-on experience and a final assessment, but they are structured differently. There are benefits to each route, so weigh up the pros and cons and decide which is best suited to you.

Find a Contractor to Work For

Once you’re qualified, it’s time to look for a job. Ensure your CV is up to date and you have people you can call on to be references if you’re offered a role.

Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn. Many business owners scout out new talent online before turning to recruitment consultants or other expensive options. Make sure your profile is tidy, professional and includes your latest experience and qualifications.

When you receive an offer, don’t accept it immediately. Take some time to think about whether it’s the right decision for you and do your research on the company first. Check their customer testimonials and, if possible, find out what their past employees have said about them. Glassdoor is a useful resource for finding this information.  

Obtain Insurance

As with any job, sometimes accidents happen or things don’t go to plan, so it’s important to protect yourself with electrician insurance. If you work for a contracting firm, your employer will likely arrange this on your behalf, but ensure you confirm this with them before beginning your role.

You will need to obtain your own insurance if you decide to start your own business or become a sole trader. Shop around and compare prices as premiums often change and providers will compete to stay ahead of the market.


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