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How to become a self-employed glazier: get set up today

4-minute read

How to become a self-employed glazier: get set up today
Jessie Day

Jessie Day

4 December 2019

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What does a glazier do? And how do you get started? Here's what you need to know about becoming a glazier, from NVQs and training to skills and salaries.

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One in five 16 to 21 year olds expect to be self-employed at some point, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently found. Construction workers make up a big chunk of this figure, and glazing is a highly skilled area with lots of room for growth and side steps across the industry.

Glazier in the making? Here’s how to get your own small glazing business off the ground today.

What do glaziers do?

A glazier fits, installs and repairs glass in windows, doors and all sorts of buildings and structures. You might also be trained in manufacturing glazed units.

The bread and butter work for lots of small glazier companies is glass replacement. For example, a shop on your local high street might have a broken window at the front, or any inner pane in the doorway might be faulty.

As a local glazier, you’d be paid to choose the right replacement glass, remove any old or broken pieces, prepare the frames, fit the new glass and make it watertight.

Specialist glazier careers

Aside from refitting panes and emergency call-outs, you could build part of your business around specific clients (hotels, for example, or the car industry).

You might even want to go into restoration work for listed buildings, churches, and historical structures.

Training as a glazier

There are a few main routes into setting up as a glazier. Formal qualifications aren’t required, but you’ll definitely need to learn or train before you can set up your business and build up a client list. This can be through some on-site experience, so look into:

Glazing apprenticeship

You’d probably be applying for an intermediate apprenticeship in glazing, construction or fenestration installation (fenestration is all about the ‘openings’ in a building, and how they’re arranged).

gov.uk gives clear advice around this, and you’ll need some GCSEs (including English and maths) or equivalent to get started.

Working on-site 

This is good old training on-the-job, and you’ll need to speak to a few experienced labourers – ask if they’d be willing to take on an assistant and train you up. It could be on-site with them, through day release to college, or using the On site Assessment and Training route (OSAT).

Local directories and word-of-mouth are good for this, and you may have someone in mind already. Stop and speak to any glaziers you see working, note down websites and contact details from vans and building sites and ask around.

Glazier qualifications

You won’t need any formal qualifications to become a glazier. But construction training definitely helps, and there are lots of options available, including an NVQ.

Window fitting course

If you do feel like you need separate training, head to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) for guidance, and the Glass Qualifications Authority (GQA) and Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) for ‘back to glazier school’ advice.

GCSEs or equivalent in English and maths at 9-4 (A*-C) also pop up in the guidance from these trade bodies (you’ll need the maths for working out proportions on-site, and doing your own accounting, if it comes to it).

How much does a glazier make an hour? 

There are a few different estimates for this so we’ve rounded up the annual glazier salary figures from gov.uk and the CITB-funded website, Go Construct:

gov.uk gives an average annual salary of £12,000 (starter) to £27,000 (experienced)

Go Construct pins salaries at £17,000 to £20,000 (starter), £20,000 to £35,000 (experienced) and £35,000 to £50,000 (senior, technician and master glaziers)

These figures are for employed glaziers – as a self-employed glazier, you'll be setting your own rates. It's a good idea to research what other glaziers in your area are charging.

Is it for you?

Only you can answer this question, but here are a few things to bear in mind when thinking about setting up as a glazier:

You’ll probably need: 

  • customer service skills
  • maths and numeracy ability
  • to be physically fit
  • attention to detail

You could be working: 

  • at heights (from ladders and scaffolding, or suspended structures)
  • 43 to 45 hours a week (depending on your situation, and whether you’ve set up your own business yet)

Making your glazier business stand out

You’ve got the experience and skills, and you’re ready to start your own glazier business. Just one problem – there are lots of them, especially in your local area. What can you do to stand out?

Emergency work 

Quite often, people will call glaziers because of a problem. A break in or accident can result in a broken window or glass pane, and an emergency situation for the person involved. Glazier businesses who offer an emergency service, with a super-fast response time, will get great word-of-mouth referrals and are easy to market.

Work through the pointers in our quick-start guide to branding your tradesman business.

Go green

Jeremy Corbyn has just announced the Labour party’s intentions for ‘climate apprenticeships’ as part of the party’s 2019 election ‘green economy’ bid, which would be designed to create training for future engineers, technicians and construction workers.

Whether these come into effect or not, green credentials are something to have your eye on. Clients may want (or be required) to work with greener construction methods in the near future, so keeping on top of it and specialising could mark you out.

Specialise

We’ve covered restoration work and historical buildings, but you could also fix your focus on residential/buy-to-let, commercial (think offices), shops, hotels or simple repair and replace work. You don’t want to cut out any promising work, but getting known within a specific area could help you stand out amongst the competition.

Glazier insurance

If you’re running your own glazier business, glaziers insurance will be a top priority.

Most professional glaziers will go for a policy that includes public liability insurance, for accidents and injuries, and possibly employers’ liability cover, for anyone they’ve taken on board.

There are lots of other cover types to consider too, including tools cover, plant and machinery insurance and contract works protection.

The exact insurance you need will depend on your type of business.

Glazier career help and resources

The beauty of this job is that you’re never alone. There are some tried and trusted resources out there to help you get started, and to point you in the direction if your business hits a snag, or needs to develop.

Tap into these sites and resources:

  • gov.uk (general guidance and up-to-date information)
  • UCAS (qualifications and training)
  • Go Construct (qualifications and training) (industry expertise)
  • CITB (training)

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