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Trades Industry 101: your guide to the sector

The trades industry is a rich source of jobs and makes up a hefty slice of the European economy, and if you know a trade you’re always in demand. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, work slowed down. Since most skilled trades require working in other people’s homes, work opportunities plummeted once everyone started barricading themselves inside. 

Now that things are improving, skilled trades work is possible again, and that high level of demand is still there. To help guide you through this industry, we’ve put together an article to explain all you need to know about skilled trades. 

What is the trades industry? 

The trades industry is made up of a collection of fields relying on skilled craftspeople, including construction workers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and mechanics. These are all very service-oriented industries, where you often need to go above and beyond to make an impression on your customers. 

Why are trades important? 


The trades industry has always been in high demand. There’s been a shortage of skilled workers for a while but the demand for the goods and homes constructed by the industry has remained high. From installing smart technology to making houses carbon-neutral, the nature of the industry is evolving.

Economic Growth

In 2016, the construction sector amounted to 8.6% of the European Union’s total GDP. Yet demand is still eclipsing supply, both in terms of workers and materials, and that is hampering hopes for a post-pandemic economic boom. An increase in the number of trades industries would be a perfect step towards fixing the economy, since much of the unemployment in Europe is due to a shortage of tradespeople, from construction work to plumbing to carpentry. These are perfect conditions to start and find enough work to grow your business. 

Government Programmes

The European Union has a strong interest in the skilled trades industry. They regularly support large construction and infrastructure projects in member states; between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission approved 370 such projects

Construction of new residential and non-residential buildings accounts for around 78% of total construction in the EU, which means lots of jobs for plumbers, carpenters, electricians, contractors, and many other skilled trades. As part of the EU’s commitment to fighting climate change, the Energy Efficiency Plan 2011 stated that 3% of all public buildings had to be renovated per year until 2020; and after that, all new buildings must be carbon-neutral. 

The EU has a clear interest in supporting anyone who wants to enter the trades industry, particularly (in light of its fight against climate change) those offering more modern services like green energy or smart technology integration. 

Succeeding in the trades industry

Success in the trades industry is about being responsive to customers, addressing their needs, and building your brand around that. Yes, the physical work of a trade business could involve manufacturing or repair, but it’s also an industry very dependent on addressing an individual’s specific needs, since tradespeople deal with all sorts of differing requests.

Of course, not all trades are the same; there are nuances and skills required for some that aren’t true of others, and vice-versa. Here’s a brief rundown of how you can put the specifics of the trades industry at work for you. 

Establish good relationships

When you work in a trade and are self-employed, a large proportion of new business will be based on how well you’re perceived. Present your business professionally; respond promptly to inquiries, put some thought into a logo and branding, and get your name out there. 

Good relationships aren’t just important for customers; oftentimes people in the trades industry will have to work with each other. This is more relevant for some trades than others, for example, contractors work alongside plumbers, while electricians usually work independently, but a good reputation in the community is invaluable.

Hire skilled workers

Assuming it’s not just you working for your business, it’s important that everyone you employ knows their stuff. As the saying goes, people’s homes are their castles, and the last thing you want is for a customer to complain because one of your employees turned the wrong valve and now their bathroom is flooded. 

Your employees need to be punctual, reliable, and as personable with the customers as you would be. Think of them as versions of you that you send when you can’t go yourself.

Be prepared to offer more

When you work a trade, the lines can get blurred between your specialty and things that are just similar enough to your specialty that customers will ask you for them too. For example, plumbers may have to deal with fitting kitchens or bathrooms, and it’s a massive bonus for electricians to be able to install smart technology as it’s still a fairly new trend. 

Not only is it worth putting the time in to learn how to apply your skillset in different ways, it also sets you apart if you can offer services that others in your field don’t. That will help you enormously with marketing and building an audience. 

Know your business model

Working in the trades industry means you’ll do a lot of business in people’s homes. That means you’re on the move a lot and often pressed for time getting places, so it’s important to cut down on unnecessary hassle where possible. 

The easiest way to streamline the business side of working in a trade is with SumUp. Primarily, using SumUp means you’ll be able to start accepting different types of payments for your work which is vital for many reasons.

From the customer’s perspective, paying by card is simply easier than rooting around in their pockets for just the right amount of change. And accepting card payments makes you appear more flexible to customers, which is always a good thing. 

If you use the SumUp app, you can even create QR codes and payment links to send your customers so that they can pay you remotely. That way, you can cut down even more on time spent between jobs, and remote payments are safer for everyone, especially given the current situation caused by COVID-19. 

Max Elias

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