How to become a self-employed joiner in the UK

Working with wood, using your hands to create beautifully precise wooden furniture and fixtures is all in a day’s work for a joiner.

If you’re considering a career as a self-employed joiner and need some pointers, our article lays down five steps on how to get started.

What does a joiner do?

Joiners work with wood on lots of different tasks and projects. They make everything from timber floorboards and skirting boards, to doors, window frames, and staircases, right up to roof timbers.

As a joiner, you could be creating wooden features for every type of interior, from shop displays to kitchen units in people’s homes. Some even get involved in set building for TV, film, or theatre productions.

What skills does a joiner need?

If you like the idea of doing a job that involves precise manual work with wood, a career in joinery could well be for you.

You’ll need to be physically fit and have a head for heights. Being a joiner can be a very active job, and your work may involve climbing ladders onto roofs or scaffolding.

You should develop your practical problem-solving skills – and your attention to detail. You’ll also need to be able to work out measurements, with good basic maths skills.

It’s important to be self-aware to keep yourself and others safe while working on site, too. The job often involves working with other joiners and different types of contractor, so you’ll need to be able to communicate clearly.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that you’ll probably need to travel between building sites for work, and maybe work away from home.

What’s the difference between joiners and carpenters?

There’s a lot of crossover between joinery and carpentry, and certainly some blurring of definitions.

According to some traditionalists, the one simple thing that sets these similar but different trades apart is that joiners work only with wood, creating fixtures and fittings, such as doors, furniture, and bookcases.

Carpenters, on the other hand, are also seen as working with metal fixings, such as screws and nails, to fit the wooden features into place on site.

How much can I earn as a joiner?

On average, employed joiners earn a salary of £24,000 to £30,000 a year, according to the National Careers Service.

If you decide to start your own joinery business, however, you’ll be free to set your own rates for the work you do. The going daily rate for joiners tends to be in the region of £130 to £170 (according to the listing for ‘carpenter’ on job-prices.co.uk). The exact price you charge will depend on factors like:

  • Whether you live in a city, town, village, or rural location
  • How much competition there is in your area
  • How much demand there is for your skills
  • How experienced and well known you are as a joiner

What’s the career path for a joiner?

It depends on the way you train to become a joiner. It’s common to start off as a joiner’s mate, and if you do an apprenticeship, you’ll be working on the job from day one.

Once you’re up to speed, you could work as an employee or a self-employed contractor for a construction firm before making the leap to become a self-employed joiner.

Starting off your career in a firm will give you the chance to build your reputation for delivering quality craftsmanship – and your network. This means you won’t have to worry so much about how to find customers as a joiner when you do start your own business.

Steps to becoming a self-employed joiner

1. Qualifications needed to become a joiner

There are no formal qualifications needed to become a joiner. Before becoming a self-employed joiner and starting your own business, though, it’s likely you’ll need some on-the-job experience.

If you look for experience through an employer, most will ask for some qualifications when hiring. Some may accept a high level of experience as qualification enough.

Many employers offer intermediate and advanced apprenticeships that let you work towards a level 2 or 3 diploma in carpentry and joinery.

Registering with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is a good way to find an apprenticeship.

Alternatively, you can study a practical joinery course at college to get you started.

To work as a joiner on a building site, you’ll need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card.

2. Get the right equipment

If you’re thinking about how to become a self-employed joiner, arming yourself with the right tools will be one of your top priorities. Joiners typically work with a range of hand tools and power tools.

The contents of your individual toolbox will largely depend on the type of jobs you do, but there are some basic pieces of equipment you should have to hand.

To mark out and measure precise lines for cutting into wood, you’ll need awls (marking tools), a tape measure, squares (L-shaped and triangular), a spirit level or laser level, and joiners pencils. The power tools you’ll need include a circular saw and a power drill.

3. Register to pay tax as a joiner

If you’re going self-employed in your career as a joiner, you might set up as a sole trader first. In this case you’ll need to register as a sole trader with HMRC. You’ll also need to file tax returns and pay your bills according to the UK tax deadlines.

It’s a good idea to think about the legal structure of your business carefully, because setting up a limited company is also an option. You can read about the differences between the two choices here.

Some joiners choose to hire an accountant to take care of this side of things, but you can save money by doing it yourself.

4. Make sure your business is insured

While precision will be at the heart of everything you do as a joiner, mistakes do happen. So it’s important to make sure you’re covered with the right level of joiner insurance for your business.

  • Public liability insurance can cover you in case of loss or injury suffered by a member of the public as a result of your work
  • Personal accident insurance can cover costs like medical bills and lost income if you have an accident that stops you from working for a while
  • Tools insurance can protect you and reduce the worry of having your tools lost, stolen, or damaged

If your joinery business grows to the point that you take on staff to help, don’t forget that employers’ liability insurance is likely to be a legal requirement.

5. Advertise your joiner business

Deciding to go it alone as a self-employed joiner means marketing yourself effectively will be important when growing your business.

Promote your skills by showcasing your best work on a clean and simple website – read about how to build a website for your business. Consider which social media platforms your customers are most likely to use before setting up any business accounts.

It’s also worth promoting your services in the local press, at least while you’re building your network and reputation.

Let us know how you get on with setting up your business in the comments below.

Do you need joiners’ insurance?

We’re one of the UK’s biggest business insurance providers. You can protect your livelihood with public liability insurance, tools insurance, and personal accident insurance. Why not build a quick, tailored joiners’ insurance quote today?

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