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How to become a groundworker and set up your own business

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

Sam Bromley

21 May 2021

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A groundworker is a construction professional who prepares the ground before (and after) building.

This usually involves clearing the site, digging trenches for foundations, laying drainage pipes, and returning at the end to lay footpaths and driveways.

  • How to start a business

Groundworkers can be self-employed – many people in the construction industry work as subcontractors, which means they’re hired to do part of a job that’s been agreed in a separate contract.

If you’re thinking about being a groundworker, read on for more about the job and how to set up your own business.

What does a groundworker do?

As mentioned, a groundworker might take on a number of tasks on site, both before and after construction.

These include clearing the site, digging trenches for foundations, removing sewage and pipework systems, and getting the ground ready for construction.

Groundworker job description

In terms of day-to-day duties, a groundworker might:

  • set up a site, solving any logistical problems (putting up huts, barriers, safety signs, etc)
  • install drainage and lay drainage pipes
  • lay foundations
  • redirect waterways and connect pipes with existing pipework
  • come back after the build to lay pavements, kerbs, and driveways (e.g. block paving)

So a groundworker needs these attributes to be successful:

  • strong communication skills (to liaise with other workers on site)
  • strength and stamina (to keep up with the physical demands of the role)
  • reliability, enthusiasm, and adaptability
  • basic numeracy ability
  • the ability to read and interpret architectural drawings
  • the ability to read bar bending schedules (a list of the total steel needed for construction)
  • problem solving

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Groundworker qualifications: what training do I need?

As with many roles in the trades, if you want to be a groundworker but don’t have experience, you could start as an apprentice.

If a company takes you on as an apprentice, you’ll gain experience on the job while studying an accompanying course.

You could also join a company as a trainee, building experience as you go. Groundworkers with some experience already can choose to take an NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Groundworking.

This course requires you to be active in the construction industry, so it might be useful if a company has taken you on as a trainee and you want to develop your existing knowledge.

There are also City & Guilds courses available at local learning centres, including Construction Operations – General Construction (6709).

You’ll also need:

Groundworkers should also have references from previous jobs to start new ones, so it’s important that you’re reliable and diligent.

Groundworker salary: how much can a groundworker earn?

A groundworker salary depends on which career stage you’re at, as well as whether you’re employed or self-employed.

According to, the average groundworker salary is £31,200 a year, with entry level positions starting at £29,250 a year and experienced workers making £33,150 a year.

This is based on 19,663 salaries submitted to its site. Roles are advertised at between £14-£20 per hour, depending on experience.

As this is an average and only based on salaries submitted to one website, it might be best to do your own research. What do self-employed groundworkers in your area charge? Ask your contacts in construction to work out what self-employed groundworkers earn in your local town or city.

Keep in mind that if you’re self-employed, you won’t be on Pay As You Earn (PAYE), so you’ll have tax obligations – although some roles pay your Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) payments through an umbrella company (read more about the CIS below).

How to become a groundworker and set up your own business

Are you an experienced groundworker who’s looking to go self-employed? Do you want to build your own groundworking business, or become a subcontractor? Either way, here are our top tips:

1. Build your groundworker business plan

Everybody who’s going self-employed for the first time needs to think about their goals and ambitions. Your business plan helps you put these onto paper and work out what you need to do to get your groundworking business started.

It doesn’t have to be too long or formal – but answering questions about your business before you go self-employed (for example funding, financials, and what tools and equipment you need) should help you avoid any surprises along the way.

Find out how to write a business plan and download a free business plan template.

2. Figure out tax

Self-employed people deal with their own taxes, rather than pay tax automatically through PAYE.

This means you should tick these off your checklist:

3. Keep up to date with health and safety

It’s important to manage your site safely, so be sure to keep up with the latest health and safety regulations.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has detailed guidance for construction, plus you can read our guide on completing a risk assessment.

4. Get the right equipment and tools

If you’re experienced, you should know what you need already, but here’s a list of some essentials for groundworkers:

  • safety boots
  • high visibility vest
  • safety hat
  • shovels
  • lump hammers
  • basic hand tools to lay the foundation and for other tasks
Groundworker using wheelbarrow

5. Look for groundworker insurance

Tools and equipment for tradespeople are expensive, so a comprehensive business insurance policy can protect you if they get lost, stolen or damaged.

At Simply Business, you can build a policy that suits the specifics of your business. Your groundworkers insurance policy can include:

  • tools insurance – insure your hand tools, power tools and plant equipment against loss, damage or theft
  • public liability insurance – covers legal expenses or compensation claims if clients, suppliers, or members of the public get injured or lose out financially because of your business
  • personal accident insurance – a cash payout in case of bodily injury or death following an accident
  • self-employed health insurance – a health plan that gives you 24/7 access to a GP, plus the option of accessing healthcare through a network of private hospitals

6. Organise your accounting and record keeping

As you’re running your own business, it’s important you know your financial responsibilities.

Many self-employed people hire a professional adviser or accountant to help with their taxes and finances.

Having a business bank account will help you keep your personal and business finances separate, making record keeping (and claiming tax-deductible expenses) easier.

You can also monitor your business’s health by keeping your cash flow forecast up-to-date, as well as using a budget calculator to know how much you can afford.

7. Find work

With the UK government committed to ‘levelling up’ infrastructure in cities and towns across the country, self-employed people in construction could soon be in high demand.

Self-employed groundworkers can find work on job boards like Indeed and Totaljobs, as well as sign up with recruitment agencies like Hays and Randstad.

As mentioned earlier though, references are important in the construction industry – so existing contacts, as well as referrals from people you’ve worked with successfully in the past, should come in handy when you’re looking for work.

What’s your experience of becoming a self-employed groundworker? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sam Bromley

Written by

Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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