Starting a Locksmith Business in the UK

By 13/08/2023 No Comments

Is it worth starting a locksmithing business in the UK? Are you already working as a locksmith or do you intend on pursuing locksmithing as a career path? Being the owner of a locksmithing business can be profitable and give you a sense of freedom, but there is a lot to consider before getting started.

This guide will outline the fundamentals of starting a locksmithing business as well as compare what it’s like to work as a locksmith for a local or national locksmithing business to what it’s like to operate your own business. Furthermore, we will outline the typical career progression and earnings possible as a locksmith as well as the general basics you’ll need to get started.

Start my own businessLocksmith career paths

Locksmithing is a skilled trade that offers a fair bit of multidisciplinary versatility and is (and will likely always be) in demand so long as property and vehicle security remain important. Generally, locksmiths in the UK end up either working for a local or national locksmithing company or alternatively open up their own locksmithing businesses.

Working for a locksmithing company

As is common with many skilled trades, locksmiths generally start their careers working as apprentices with local locksmith companies (e.g. one owned by a friend or family member) or with national franchises.

Working as an apprentice with these companies can yield much-needed experience to develop core skills as a locksmith, help to develop professional networks with colleagues, and teach younger and/or inexperienced locksmiths many of the ins and outs of the industry.

Again similar to many other trade professions, apprentice locksmiths tend to remain employed in these types of companies for a few years and often leave to start their own businesses, although some may choose to remain with the company for many more years.

Starting your own locksmithing business

A popular career path for experienced locksmiths is starting and operating their own locksmithing business. While there are always risks that come with starting a business (of any sort), there is also the possibility of great reward, the ability to choose your own service areas and trading hours, and many other benefits.

When starting a locksmithing business, there are many things to consider that you may not have had to worry about before as well as many tasks not directly involved with servicing customers such as lodging taxes, accounting, marketing and hiring employees, for example.

What’s the fastest way to get started as a new locksmith?

How long does it take to become a locksmith? Well, depending who you ask, the answer can vary by quite a bit. Locksmithing is not a regulated industry in the UK and anyone can call themselves a locksmith, qualified or not. Technically, you could simply call yourself a locksmith today without ever having cut a key, but this is obviously absurd.

Generally, most locksmiths undergo a 5-day training programme before applying for apprenticeships, but this is still not nearly enough to be considered a qualified locksmith. Usually, it takes about 2-3 years before a locksmith has developed enough knowledge and experience to become adequately qualified to really be a locksmith.

The exact amount of experience will vary from locksmith to locksmith, but it’s probably safe to say that you may want to have a reasonable amount of experience before considering starting your own locksmithing business.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to locksmithing in the UK that explores this topic and many other fundamentals, so give that a read if you’re serious about getting into the industry.

The importance of a good business plan

A business plan is a necessary requirement for any business, including locksmiths. It is worth the time spent to look into business plans online to see what sort of things they consider, how they intend to finance the business start-up costs, earn revenue, and what the timeline is, for example.

A good business plan may be required if you’re hoping to finance your business start-up costs with a loan, for example, and the bank or financial lender will want to ensure that your business idea is sound and reasonable. Your business plan also keeps you grounded and realistic, so don’t just make a business plan to satisfy lenders but instead try to let it guide your strategic decision-making in the early stages of your business.

In addition to your business plan, you should also carefully consider whether you intend to lodge taxes yourself or pay an accountant to do it for you. The same can be said for many other tasks, but one that many locksmiths often find challenging and resource-intensive to DIY is digital marketing. We’ve put together some helpful digital marketing tips for locksmiths that can help your business generate quality leads, so give that a read and – to cut to the chase – become a member of the Rated Locksmiths network.

How much money can a locksmith earn in the UK?

One of the big questions you should be asking yourself is how much you can expect to earn as a locksmith in the UK. While money isn’t everything and you certainly should enjoy or at least tolerate working as a locksmith (especially if you intend to operate a business doing just that!), money is nevertheless important and could influence your decision whether or not to enter the industry.

Locksmith employee earnings

For locksmiths that work for a local or national locksmithing company as an employee, the estimated potential earnings can vary from around £20,000-£30,000 per annum.

Below we’ve broken down the estimated earnings of locksmiths in the UK according to various sources:

Source Average Base Salary (per annum) Hourly Wage
National Careers Service £20,000-£30,000 N/A
Glassdoor £25,761 N/A
Check-a-Salary £27,436.73 £13.19
Indeed £26,185 £18.05

Keep in mind that apprentice locksmiths aged around 18-21 tend to make closer to £20,000 whilst more experienced locksmiths from ages around 30-50 tend to make around £30,000. There are many factors that can influence the expected salary, such as location, years of experience, and hours worked.

Self-employed locksmith earnings

The potential earnings for a self-employed locksmith are comprised in the above average salaries and generally fall within around £30,000 but with much greater variation. As a business owner, the potential could be £0 or it could be £50,000 or higher; such are the risks and rewards possible with starting your own business.

Most locksmith businesses in the UK are either sole traders or formed as LLCs. Sole traders do not receive a salary, so what you receive in revenue is essentially your salary. You’ll have to worry about taxes on your revenue during tax season.

LLCs are a little different. Even if you operate alone (no employees), you will be technically a sole employee and can pay yourself a salary of whatever you wish. Your salary could intentionally be £0 to increase the equity of your business, under £483/month to receive benefits with National Insurance contributions, or whatever you wish to deduct from your owner’s equity.

Key considerations for locksmith business owners

Starting your own business comes with many challenges and there is a lot to consider; so much that it can feel overwhelming at times. While it is important to list out these challenges yourself in as great as detail as you can, it’s also important to prioritise the main considerations into categories such as:

Location, location, location

Where do you intend to establish your business? Do you intend to have a shop open to the public or will you provide mobile-only locksmithing services? Retail space can be very expensive in urban areas such as London or Brighton, for example, but you may attract a lot more customers off the street if located on or near a high street with high footfall.

Your choice of location will play a very important role in cost, but it can also attract a lot more revenue as well. There are many tradeoffs to consider in terms of location.

If you provide mobile-only services, how far would you be willing to drive for a customer? Keeping your service radius small can help cut down on your time and labour and reduce your petrol expenses, but it could be limiting your potential revenue.

Analyse your target audience

Think about who your customers will be. This may sound obvious but it is worth scratching beneath the surface a little. Naturally, you should be open to attracting customers in need of key and lock services that you’re qualified to provide.

Now consider the types of people that require these services. If you operate in cities with high-crime neighbourhoods, for example, your services may be in great demand for securing properties. This may also mean you’d do better providing 24/7 emergency services.

If you operate in more affluent towns and cities, your customers may be looking for high-quality (and expensive) home security upgrades. You could forego 24/7 service if most of your customers want non-urgent services such as these.

Knowing more about your target audience and the types of customer demographics in your service area can help direct the types of services you wish to offer.

Scope out the competition

There are an estimated 30,000 locksmiths operating in the UK, but this figure is a shot in the dark at best since locksmithing is unregulated and the number could be significantly higher. What are your competitors doing that you could be doing better? Is your service area too saturated already or are most of the competitors lacking in quality, possibly giving you a competitive advantage on price?

Keep in mind that one of the most common reasons for homeowners and business owners to call a locksmith is for emergency lockout assistance, so customers usually search for locksmiths in a hurry and contact the first result they find online. Nowadays, you must have competitive digital marketing to be found on search engines which is why we encourage you to become a Rated Locksmiths member.

Which services should a locksmithing business offer?

Locksmiths in the UK perform a wide variety of generalist and/or specialist tasks for customers. Consider which services you intend to offer and make sure that you are sufficiently qualified to provide them according to industry standards and best practices.

The most common service requested by customers tends to be emergency lockout assistance and most locksmiths would do well to provide this service, so long as they operate 24/7 and can respond to emergency callouts reliably.

In terms of specific services, most locksmiths specialise in one or more of the below disciplines:

Residential locksmithing

A residential locksmith serves homeowners or tenants of private dwellings either directly or indirectly, i.e. through a letting agency or property management company. As a residential locksmith, you should be willing to provide some or all of the below services:

  • Key cutting & duplication
  • Door locks
  • Deadbolts & night latches
  • UPVC window locks
  • Home safes
  • Burglar alarm & CCTV camera installation
  • Keyless remote entry systems

Commercial locksmithing

For commercial properties such as retail shops, as well as for offices, schools, warehouses, and entertainment venues, a commercial locksmith provides a wide range of security solutions for customers. Quite often, commercial locksmiths also provide residential locksmithing services. Specific commercial locksmith services include:

  • Key cutting & duplication
  • Door locks
  • Deadbolts
  • Security gates, shutters, and grilles
  • Security system installation
  • CCTV camera installation
  • Master key systems
  • Fire doors & door openers/closers
  • Safe & cash vault installation & relocation
  • Electronic access control
  • Keyless remote entry systems

Automotive locksmithing

Similar to residential and commercial locksmiths, vehicle locksmiths most commonly provide emergency vehicle lockout assistance. Other than this similarity, the field of automotive locksmithing is very different and tends to require far more specialisation and a significantly higher start-up investment into tools and supplies given the electronic nature of modern vehicle lock and key systems such as key fob programming and transponder keys.

Automotive locksmiths operating in the United States should consider joining our sister site Auto Locksmiths for all manner of automotive locksmithing for American customers.

What sorts of training and qualifications are needed to work as a locksmith in the UK?

No formal training or qualifications are required to work as a locksmith in the UK. This lowers the entry barrier and reduces a lot of bureaucracy, which can help new locksmiths get started as apprentices with less friction.

Nevertheless, training and qualifications are important for building trust and credibility with customers as well as for gaining valuable industry expertise and networking with like-minded, honest and genuine locksmiths in the UK.

Most locksmiths begin by taking a 5-day training course at a reputable school for skilled trades. No previous knowledge is required, although manual dexterity, numeracy skills, and communication skills are helpful. Previous experience in other skilled trades such as carpentry or instrumentation can be valuable and accelerate learning.

While a locksmith license is not required in the UK, qualifications add distinction and credibility. Two of the most important and widely recognised qualifications are the Level 3 Diploma for Commercial Locksmiths and Property Security and the MLA (formerly BLI) exam from the Master Locksmiths Association.

Is it worth starting a locksmithing business in the UK?

Whether or not you should start a locksmithing business in the UK is a personal decision and one that can carry great rewards but can also come with great risks. Owning and operating a locksmithing business can give you far more freedom than working for someone else since you can choose your own customers, service areas, trading hours, and much more.

Locksmithing is a skilled trade that requires specialised knowledge and customer service skills that are likely difficult to automate, making the career relatively safe from AI and automation. Moreover, property crimes are increasing in many urban areas of England and elsewhere in the UK, which in turn stimulates demand for robust and trustworthy home and business security solutions that a qualified locksmith can provide.

If you’re a locksmith in the UK, join Rated Locksmiths today.