Tips for Starting a Mobile Welding Business and Tackling Common Challenges | MillerWelds

Tips for Starting a Mobile Welding Business and Tackling Common Challenges

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From finding customers to managing time, get tips from field fabrication professionals about starting a mobile welding business.
Field fabrication welding truck rig on a jobsite

Preparing a welding business plan

A day in the life of a mobile welding business might involve repairing an excavator bucket, building a steel fence or fixing a wastewater system. The variety of the work — and the ability to apply problem-solving skills — is what many welders love about it.

It’s often a winding path that leads operators into field fabrication and mobile welding. Whether your background involves welding in oil fields, heavy equipment repair or building race car chassis, these experiences can provide a good foundation for a field fabrication business.

What are the most important things to consider when starting a mobile welding business, and what types of tools and equipment will you need most? Get some tips from three field fabrication professionals.

Varied backgrounds in welding 

  • Mike McAllister is a fabricator for a fisheries and wildlife agency in West Virginia. For many years, he’s had a side business taking on welding and field fabrication projects, mostly working on heavy and compact equipment. As a teen, he taught himself welding and mechanic skills to work on bikes and other projects.
  • David DeMoise owns DeMoise Welding and Fabrication in Dallas. He took up welding in high school to work on his truck suspension. He later earned his associate degree and spent time welding stainless steel pipe in paper mills, working in structural construction and welding race car chassis. He got more into maintenance and repair when he worked at a crane company.
  • Isaac Carrion owns Welding Repair Services in Austin, Texas. He started welding in high school FFA and then attended Texas State Technical College to study welding. He spent about a decade working in various welding shops before launching his business. 

The range of work in mobile welding

Demand is often so high for mobile welding services that word of mouth is all that’s needed. McAllister, DeMoise and Carrion say they work with a lot of repeat customers.

“I work for probably five contractors, and I call them up or they call me up if they need work,” McAllister says.

DeMoise estimates he splits his time equally between shop and field work. He often repairs and modifies excavator buckets — putting on new ears or larger bushings so they can be used on different sized machines. He tries to book only one critical project per day to give himself flexibility.

Some jobs take a few hours, while others can last a week or more. That can be tough on scheduling, so it’s important to have flexibility in your schedule and good customer relationships when jobs need to be adjusted.

“Heavy equipment repair keeps me really busy. I work on bulldozers, large trenching machines, excavator booms, backhoes. I’d say 90% or more of my work is in the field,” Carrion says. “But I also do small repairs or fabrication on aluminum or stainless steel in my shop.”

How to start a mobile welding business

Whether you ease into a field fabrication business while still working another job or you go all-in immediately, it’s important to start with a plan. It may involve purchasing a truck as well as equipment and tools, setting up a business plan and budget, and deciding what kind of work you want to focus on.

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Pick a focus area. It helps to know your region and your potential customer base to understand what welding needs there are and what will be in high demand. Many regions have a need for heavy equipment or compact equipment repair. Structural jobs, such as fences or handrails, can also provide steady work. Once you know the area and type of work you’ll do, you can determine the tools you’ll need and your hourly rate.
  • Reach out to contacts. People starting a field fabrication business likely have experience in welding or as mechanics. Reach out to any industry contacts you have or companies and rental houses to let them know your services are available. “I actually printed out brochures with photos and a list of my capabilities and went door to door to construction companies to hand them out,” Carrion says. “If you’re starting your own business, you’ve got to hustle.”
  • Learn to politely say no. It may seem counterintuitive when you’re trying to build a new business, but taking on too much work can overload you — and your work quality or customer relationships could suffer. It may seem like feast or famine with the workload, but it’s OK to turn down jobs you have limited time for or small projects that won’t pay off for your business. It’s all about establishing a balance of building and maintaining customer relationships without overextending yourself.
  • Manage your time carefully and plan for projects to take longer than expected. Missing your projected quote can be a quick lesson on how to estimate jobs. It’s often a good practice to build in more time than you think a job will take. Sometimes the repair is more involved than you realize, or you don’t have all the details from the customer before the project starts. “Typically, it’s always going to take longer than you think,” McAllister says. “Once you've missed your projected quote, it's a learning lesson and you try to adjust for it and learn how to reliably estimate jobs. Time management and customer expectations: you learn that fast.”
  • Figure out your budget. For many field fabricators, the welding comes easy. It’s running a small business that takes practice. Learning to budget is a critical part of launching a successful mobile welding business. Seek online resources or take a course if needed. Figure out your comfort zone regarding how much you’re willing to extend financially to purchase equipment and tools. It’s natural to want to purchase all the necessary equipment right away, but it might be better to pace your equipment and tool purchases as you build the business.
  • Set aside time for office work. Schedule the same time every day or every week to go through bills and receipts and send out invoices. Establishing a routine helps you stay on top of the office work that keeps your business running.

“As a beginner you want to do it all, and that drive is great, but you have to learn balance above all else,” Carrion says. “Just like any business, my business opens and closes at a certain time and customers have learned to appreciate that.”

Jumping into field fabrication

Each day can bring different challenges in mobile welding and field fabrication. It’s important to be prepared with the right tools and equipment for the types of jobs you plan to do. The work can be tough but also very rewarding.

“Starting a welding business can be tough initially. You’re trying to build your customer base and you weld anything — you’re doing lawnmower decks and your neighbor’s fence,” Carrion says. “It’s very similar to jumping off a high diving board. You’re scared to do it, but once you do it you realize the water’s not that bad.”

Thinking about starting your own field fabrication business? Get some tips for building out your welding truck.