If you type the word ‘Locksmith’ in to google the no 1 predicted next word is training. And if you are searching for ‘Locksmith Training’ then this is probably how you have found this article.
With high unemployment in the UK there are thousands of people out of work desperate to find a job and willing to re-train and switch careers. While Locksmithing has always been a steady job in the past, there is not as much work out there compared with some of the traditional construction trades like building, plumbing, carpentry and electrics.
Most Locksmith jobs are normally one offs, so there is not much chance at getting repeat business. If someone has lost their keys or been locked out, it is unlikely that they will do it repeatedly and if a locksmith installs the correct locks and advises their customer on the appropriate additional security measures, there should be no need for them to return. If locks are correctly installed and properly maintained they can last a life time.
I have noticed over the years that the Locksmith Industry especially where I am (London) has become saturated with new start-up locksmith companies, one man bands fresh from the latest 3 day locksmith training course, of which there are many, and more and more of the well established locksmith companies are getting less work and in some cases going out of business.
I do welcome competition as I think it’s healthy and not actually a bad thing, as it has got rid of a lot of the big call centres and maintenance firms with their army of sub contractors who used to dominate publications such as Yellow Pages with their advertising. They have now mostly been priced out of the market and customers are paying a much fairer price as a result, and are mainly dealing directly with a locksmith now.
A lot of people thinking of a new career or business opportunity are attracted to locksmith training courses as in theory you can go on a 3 day course, buy some tools and away you go. The trouble is, as with most services there is only a certain amount of work in the first place, its difficult to create more work because as a mobile locksmith, you are not really selling a product that you can convince people to buy, its more of a service. Generally as a mobile locksmith, most of the time you are relying on people’s misfortune, and luck that they pick your company over the hundreds of other locksmith companies out there.
Due to the growing number of newly trained locksmiths, work is slowly drying up for many Locksmiths old and new, I’ve talked to a couple of people new to locksmithing looking for work who have forked out thousands of pounds on a course, new van and tools and are yet to have a customer call. As for the established locksmiths, many ironically are turning to making money from locksmith training courses. Try searching for ‘Locksmith Training’ on any of the big search engines and you will see exactly what I mean.
Here is an example:
There are dozens of 1-4 day locksmith training courses advertised on the internet, claiming you can ‘learn to be a locksmith in 3 days’ This is simply not true. I myself started off as a carpenter and joiner, taking an NVQ course at my local college and working for 5 years on building sites and in a workshop as a carpenter. Carpentry is a great place to start as a lot of jobs as a locksmith will require carpentry skills. I have seen quite a few jobs finished by other locksmiths and it was obvious that their carpentry skills weren’t up to scratch. Basic carpentry skills is a must, and on a 1-4 day course it is unlikely that you will gain the required skills and experience fitting all the different types of locking products to a good standard.
After being made redundant I was looking for work and a friend suggested that I get in contact with a local locksmith they knew as he was busy at the time (has recently gone out of business) and could do with an extra pair of hands. This meant going back to an apprentice wage for 6 months while I was training but it was worth it as he was passing on valuable knowledge and I was getting real ‘on the job training’ which is the only real way to learn how to be a locksmith. He would always remind me of that saying ‘they’ll never teach you this on any course’ and he was right.
So after a year or so I started to do the odd job for friends and family and got recommended by them, leading to my own jobs. This is the best way to start, rather than jumping straight in. You get to practice your customer skills and learn simple things like invoicing, banking and basic book-keeping.
Now on to the other side to Locksmithing (the bit I hate) which you probably will not get told about on courses is advertising and marketing. As I mentioned earlier Locksmithing does not often provide repeat business, so getting your name out there is essential. You can be the best Locksmith in the world, but if nobody has your number you’ll be sitting at home all day. The reason locksmith training companies fail to tell people about this is because it can be off-putting. Advertising and marketing can be as much as 40% of your turnover!
As a locksmith working for yourself you will need to know your market. How much actual work is out there? How are people going to find you? How much are you willing to spend on advertising? You may have to take out a bank loan and be prepared to make a loss at first. Be prepared for a lot of researching and late nights in front of the computer. You need to study what works and what doesn’t, and find out about your competition, how many locksmiths are in your area? who are they? where are they? what are they doing? This all takes time, many months not days, and if you are sensible enough to do this first, you’d be mad to even contemplate it. There are more Locksmiths than there is work. Fact.
When I started out 15 years ago it was all about getting seen in publications like Yellow Pages, Thomson and BT Phonebook and it was usually pot luck if you were at the front of the locksmith category or the back. What was a 4 page section quickly grew to a 20 page section. As the internet grew this soon changed, if you look at a Yellow Pages now and are old enough to remember you will notice that it has got a lot smaller. This is because more and more people are getting their information from the internet, and since the introduction of smart phones and mobile internet connections, people who are locked out of there house looking for a locksmith will now use their mobile phones to find you. So as many other locksmiths have had to do, I have had to pay thousands of pounds to internet marketing companies.
So in summary, my advice to anyone thinking of becoming a locksmith would be to consider all these facts before parting with any cash. Someone who is trying to sell you a locksmith training course is obviously not going to be interested if your business is a success or not. An apprenticeship is the only real way of learning the job, and these are few and far between because if truth be known, there isn’t enough work to warrant anyone taking on an apprentice in the forseeable future, this should tell you something. As far as training, if you told a plumber you’ve been on a 3 day course and you are looking for a job they would laugh at you, the same applies for locksmiths, don’t be fooled by what you are told.
by Mark Grainger (owner of Abbey Locksmiths)
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