This information comes from my own experience of running a PAT Testing Business over many years. Please feel free to use any of the information below, and if your experience is different to mine, by all means let me know! I've made many mistakes over the years - but the trick is to learn from them, and pass on the information to others so they don't make the same mistakes you did. Tim James
- Get a website – this is really important! Make sure your site talks about your service, and the fact that you test your customer's equipment properly! If you make it clear that you will charge a competitive price for a good service and focus on service rather than price, you will get some of your visitors turning into paying customers.
- Get your website registered in the search engines and directories. The top positions on Google go to the established companies who spend thousands on their search engine position – so focus on local directories who specialise in your area. You're unlikely to feature very high in the search engines for the phrase 'PAT Testing' but you might get a good position for 'PAT Testing Cheltenham' if that's where you're based, and you optimise your site for that particular area. Google are promoting their local search services at the moment, so get listed there too!
- Be prepared to do some leg-work. Walking into shops, hairdressers, B&B's etc with a simple brochure and a business card will generate some work – there are lots of people who are thinking about getting their stuff tested, but haven't got around to it yet. If you turn up and offer to do it for £50.00, they will probably say yes. They're less likely to respond if you simply phone them up - people hate getting sales calls.
- Use word of mouth – it's amazing how many people need to have something tested! We all know somebody who runs a mobile disco, bouncy castle hire, video business etc, and they all know loads of other people in the same industry. Make sure you give your business card to all of your existing customers – perhaps offer incentives if they pass them on to other people? Maybe you test a Band's equipment because they're performing at a wedding in a local hotel - who's testing the equipment for the DJ, the video guy and the photographer?
- Be wary of advertising in Yellow Pages and other paper based directories. I have tried this in the past, and it hasn't worked for me. It is my experience that people looking for a PAT testing service don't look in the Yellow Pages.
- Think carefully about telephone sales. I have known this work well in the PAT testing business, but it has to be done properly. Simply phoning people up and offering to PAT test for them doesn't usually work. It may be worth contacting a telesales agency and striking a deal with them where you pay for every lead they get for you, but be aware that your customers are probably snowed under with sales calls from PAT Testing companies at the moment.
- Forge relationships with other people in the industry. Find a fellow PAT tester 100 miles away from you – if you get a job in their area, pass it to them. Encourage them to do the same. You will both benefit from a bit of extra work, and you won't be travelling so much!
- Cooperate with other contractors – if you know a local electrician, it is likely that they get asked for PAT testing occasionally. If they're not set up to do PAT testing properly, they probably don't want to do it. Offer to do that work for them on their behalf. When you are PAT testing for your other customers, you will often find faults with the wiring (broken sockets etc) – you can recommend your electrician friend in exchange, and you both benefit!
- Investigate the private lettings market – whether you know someone who rents their house out, or a property company with hundreds of rented houses – this is a big growth area at the moment. All landlords need to provide safety certificates when they rent their houses – this includes the fixed wiring check (Periodic Inspection Report), the Gas Safety check, and the PAT testing. Usually, rented properties only have a few items in them, so the big PAT testing companies are not interested in the work. If you can forge an alliance with a plumber and an electrician (or perhaps you are one already) you can offer the PAT testing service as an 'add on' and make some money!
- Be honest with your customer. If you customer asks you if PAT testing is a legal requirement – don't pull the wool over their ears. Explain to them what PAT testing is all about, and explain why they need to do it. There are enough cowboys in this industry - if you give your customers good, honest and practical advice, you will build up trust, which lead to profits.
- Remember to offer a first rate service to your customers. If you do a good job this year, you will have no trouble getting them back a year later. But remember to get in touch with them – don't wait for them to contact you when their PAT testing runs out. This is the key to growing your business!
- From someone who has NOT done this, and been burnt – accept the following advice please! Remember to credit check your customers, and work hard at getting paid once you've done the job. Some organisations are shortening their payment terms to help small businesses (especially government departments) but others are increasing their terms. Some companies now expect to pay you 90 days after you invoice them – so you could be waiting 3 months (or longer) to get paid. If you agree to this, be sure the customer is not going to go bust in the meantime! You could do the most profitable job in history, but it means nothing until the cash is in the bank.
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