You’ve finished your welding program. What’s next?
There are many welding career paths to choose from: shipbuilding and repair, motor sports or pipeline installation—to name a few.
But if you’re an entrepreneur at heart, you might want to consider becoming a mobile welder.
What Is a Mobile Welder?
A mobile welder is essentially a small business owner. This is typically a one-person operation.
Similar to other traveling welding jobs, mobile welders take their expertise and equipment wherever they’re needed. Distance is the main difference.
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While a shipbuilding welder might work in several port cities and a road tech might work in multiple states, a mobile welder usually stays within one city, town or county.
Customers can include:
- Commercial businesses
- Small- and medium-sized farms
What Is a Day in the Life of a Mobile Welder Like?
After 30 years of working as a metal fabricator, Jerry Hubert decided to start his own mobile welding business in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. One reason he decided to go into business for himself was that he’d spotted an opening in the local market for his services: two older mobile welders were retiring.
He bought equipment from one of them and was fortunate enough to take many of the man’s customers, too.
On a typical day, Hubert drives up to 60 miles from his home to make welding repairs on dairy farms. He mends free-stall partitions and repairs farm machinery and equipment.
It’s not all repair work, either. Many farmers need new gates and other structures built. Making custom brackets and even equipment, such as feed pushers, are common tasks for this mobile welder.
As for business, it tends to fluctuate with milk prices. When they’re low, farmers can afford to repair only the bare minimum. One time, Hubert traded his services for a side of beef. During the busy planting and harvesting seasons, the pace picks up, and he can work around the clock.
Overall, mobile welding is a labor of love for Hubert, and he’s glad to see that young men and women in the state are being encouraged to pick up welding torches. “In my years of welding, I’ve trained a lot of young men in this trade who are out there today making a good living for their families,” he said.
Unfortunately, not enough new welders are being trained to replace those who are retiring.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Mobile Welder?
As with any line of work, there are advantages and disadvantages of owning a mobile welding business. Considering how both align with your personal preferences, skills and working style can help you decide if this career path could be a good fit.
+ Less Expensive Startup
Setting up a portable welding operation can be less expensive than opening a brick-and-mortar welding shop. Since the scale is smaller, it could be a good entry point into owning a small business.
+ Freedom and Flexibility
When you’re your own boss, you can work when and how you want. Even better, you don’t have to stay glued to a desk all day. This job will keep you moving from location to location throughout the week.
+ Higher Pay
Self-employed welders can earn more than those who are employees of a company. Several factors can impact how much small business owners make:
Typically, more experience and skills equate to higher income. David Zielinkski, author of The Welding Business Owner’s Handbook, says the freedom and profit potential of owning a small business can be an addictive combination.
− Startup Costs
Even though a mobile welding business is typically less expensive to start than a shop, you’ll still need a substantial sum of money to set it up.
Basic expenses include:
- A truck
- Welding equipment
- A welding license
Beyond those, there are standard costs to owning a small business, such as marketing and advertising.
− Reserve Capital
It will likely take some time for you to start seeing a return on your initial investment. You’ll need enough reserve capital to keep the business afloat until you start seeing a profit. This is usually about six months for a mobile welding business.
With greater freedom comes more responsibility.
Unlike an employee, you’ll need to purchase your own insurance, create your own retirement plan and keep track of business-related expenses for the IRS.
While you can work whenever you want, you still need to make sure you’re completing enough jobs every week to pay your operating costs and yourself.
How to Become a Mobile Welder
While, of course, starting a small business is a complex process, the six steps below can give you a general idea of what’s required.
Step 1: The first step to owning your own welding business is learning to weld. More and more young men and women are learning the trade in formal welding training programs because employers typically prefer to hire applicants with this credential.
Pipe welding, shielded metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding can all be helpful to learn. When you’re the only welder traveling from one work site to the next, the more processes and positions you know, the more jobs you’ll be able to handle.
Step 2: Earn the necessary welding licenses and certifications.
Step 3: Since customers are looking for expertise, you may also want to work for a shop first to hone your skills. This could give you a firsthand look at how a business is run.
Step 4: Create a business plan and budget.
Step 5: Purchase the vehicle, equipment and appropriate business licenses and insurance. Invest in marketing and advertising.
Step 6: Contact businesses in your areas that may need your services. Contractors, HVAC companies and farms are a few places to start.
Take Your Welding Skills on the Road
Mobile welders enjoy a lot of freedom and flexibility, but they also take on much more responsibility than a welder employed at a shop. If you’re up for the challenge, then this could be just the career for you.
Mobile welding is only one type of career in this industry. There are other types of welding jobs that welders could also find rewarding.