Business Overview

Electrician businesses focus primarily on servicing electrical systems in homes and businesses. Because it is a trade business, it is highly specialized. Furthermore, local and state governments typically restrict non-tradesmen from working on electrical systems. Due to these factors, skilled electricians are typically in high demand.

Who is this business right for?

This business is right for individuals who are good with their hands, have good people skills, are good at solving complex conceptual and mechanical problems, and can work in a variety of different environments. To own and operate an electrician business, you must also be a skilled electrician. Most business owners are master electricians who have studied for many years as an apprentice.

What happens during a typical day at an electrician business?

Day-to-day activities of an electrician include repairing or replacing electrical systems, including main systems, fuse and breaker box panels, running electrical wiring, repairing and maintaining electrical wiring, transformers, and related systems. Electricians also spend a fair amount of their time on a job troubleshooting electrical problems.

Because wiring in a home or business is often hidden behind walls, electricians need to know how to diagnose what might be wrong with a system before fixing it. They may not have the luxury of taking down all the walls in a building to solve the problem, either.

What is the target market?

Electricians make money by charging customers for their services. They may charge on an hourly basis, or they may request a flat fee for services.

How does an electrician business make money?

Preferred client types for this business are commercial accounts. However, residential customers can also be an ongoing source of income, provided that the business can service a rotating base of clients. This could involve contracting with a Homeowners Association, or some other organized community, to service residential customers.

What is the growth potential for an electrician business?

Most electrician businesses are run as owner/operator businesses. However, you can take on an apprentice or work with many different partners and establish a higher-volume business. Some electrician businesses are also run as franchise operations. If you go this route, you should be prepared to pay a substantial amount of money upfront. However, franchises do offer several great benefits, such as an established brand name, protected service territories, and ongoing marketing support.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful electrician business?

Becoming an electrician is the first step in starting an electrician business. There are two paths to do this: apprenticeship and college.

An apprenticeship is a long-term training program, typically run by a professional organization or a business. There are three types:

  • Unionized apprenticeships, which are usually run by a group called the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
  • Non-unionized apprenticeships, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC).
  • Local apprenticeships, which are offered by the federal government.

During your apprenticeship, you will learn everything you need to know to become a professional electrician. This includes knowledge of electrician-specific tools, techniques, and methods. A further advantage of an apprenticeship is that it gives you the benefit of on-the-job training (OJT). You also get classroom instruction, and and the opportunity to study under a master electrician. In total, apprenticeship can last up to 5-6 years.

The major drawback on choosing the apprenticeship route is that competition is fierce. It’s very difficult to get an apprenticeship, which is why many people opt for formal schooling at a community college or university. All you need is a high school diploma or a GED to apply.

Either route you take, you start as a journeyman and progress to a master electrician.

General skills that are valuable to an electrician include strong problem-solving skills, strong conceptual skills, communication skills, the ability to work in harsh and unpredictable environments, and strong spacial and mathematical skills.

What are the costs involved in opening an electrician business?

The costs for starting an electrician business vary, but generally include licensing, insurance, fees for union dues, overhead and equipment costs, and rent for office space. In general, many startup companies spend at least $5,000 to get started. These costs do not include schooling or apprenticeship, which can range anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $20,000, depending on whether you choose to attend a community college, a technical school, or a private university.

What are some insider tips for jump starting an electrician business?

To get into this business quickly, consider buying into a franchise after completing formal schooling. This will cut down on the learning curve since you won’t have to worry about marketing, branding, and overhead. The downside, of course, is franchises tend to cost more money up front than if you were to start from scratch.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market an electrician business

If you buy into a franchise, a lot of the marketing is done for you. All you need to do is put up the capital. If you are starting your own brand, then you’ll want to focus on what works in this industry. Referral marketing will likely be the largest source of new clients. You can also hand out business cards and send direct mail promotions to develop a strong customer base.

How to keep customers coming back

Electricians who outperform their peers are ones who progress from journeyman to master-level. Specialization can help, as can joining a union, since you have more negotiating power when it comes to setting wages and fees. Buying into a franchise may also help, since you can leverage the existing infrastructure and brand recognition, charging clients more than if you had to first prove yourself with your own brand.

How and when to build a team

Many electrician businesses never outgrow the owner. However, there’s no reason to stay a small business. Hire more electricians as you can afford them. The theoretical upper limit in terms of revenue and size is unlimited.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Most states require electricians to pass an exam and receive certification before working as an electrical contractor or journeyman electrician. To find out more about specific licensing and examination requirements in your state, visit the National Electrical Contractors Association website.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:

Certificate of Occupancy

Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an electrical business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your electrical business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Electricians may charge a wide range of fees, depending on their level of skill, the average local rates, and the type of work involved. However, most will charge between $40 and $100 per hour, with master electricians charging $100 to $150 per hour or more.

What are the ongoing expenses for an electrician business?

Ongoing expenses of running an electrician business are minimal. Most businesses must cover the cost of rent, licensing, and insurance. License renewal can cost up to $200 - $300 per year, depending on your state. You should budget $1,500 - $2,000 for annual insurance premiums. Rent costs will vary dramatically depending on your location. Price per square foot of office space can range anywhere from $1.50 - $6.00 or more. The best way to cut down costs would be to work from home or share office space with other small business owners.

How much profit can an electrician business make?

Profit for an established electrician business ranges from between 1.5% to 2.0%, depending on the size of the company. Larger companies have lower margins, while smaller companies tend to have higher margins.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Expanding your team with some entry-level electrician helpers to take care of simpler jobs can help you increase your overall efficiency and take on more jobs. Adding additional, ancillary services, might also help. For example, consider partnering with a professional plumber and carpenter to take on larger jobs.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Tool.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

Sign up at the Business Center to access useful tools for your business.