Welding is a practical, hands-on career for people who enjoy building useful stuff. Most welding professionals work in construction, manufacturing, pipe working, and infrastructure development. Projects can come from private homeowners, SMEs, corporations, or government organizations.
New welders often struggle with the question of how to price welding jobs? Projects are not fixed in stone after all and vary based on a lot of factors.
The short answer is that your pricing should cover two elements. First, it must cover all the basic costs you will incur on the project such as fuel, material, equipment wear and tear, and transportation, etc. On top of that, add the hourly rate that you expect to earn for your services.
Hourly rates for new welders are in the range of $15 to $20. If you are just starting out and need to get experience, that pay isn’t bad. Once you have a couple of years of experience, you can charge $20 to $30 per hour. The rate tends to go up as you progress in years of experience.
Factors to Consider for Pricing Welding Jobs
When you receive an order for a welding project or quote prices to a potential client, you should take some important things about the project into consideration. This will help you quote the right prices and work on fairly priced projects that keep you competitive and happy with the work you do.
Size and Scope of the Project
As a professional welder, you should be able to do pretty much any job regardless of its size. Keep in mind though, when projects get larger, it becomes difficult to assess the exact number of hours, and you will need to calculate your price in days.
For example, if you take up work with a building construction company, it could take you weeks to get everything finished. It would be better to charge a lump sum for the project and divide the work into several days where you get paid at the end of each shift.
Bigger, on-site projects tend to pay good money. They provide several days of guaranteed income and keep you occupied. This is why you should aim to get them and there is some room for negotiation in lowering your total estimate of the cost.
The kind of materials and quantity of supplies required for the job will also affect your price calculation for a welding project. Materials are generally the biggest cost in welding projects, running higher than the cost of labor itself.
Most customers prefer to leave it to the experts when it comes to the material purchase. They rely on you, as an expert welder, to buy enough material that gets the job done, but not so much that it ends up as waste.
A popular practice for welding supplies is to bill the cost directly to the customer for payment. It saves you the trouble of paying for anything while it also keeps everything transparent for the client’s benefit. If you agree to bear the cost of the materials for the project, add them to your total bill.
The most common metals used for welding include stainless steel, cast iron, and aluminum. Stainless steel is usually the most affordable option that allows you to build good quality, rust-free structures. Cast iron and aluminum are more expensive and can increase the overall cost of the project, so make sure you prepare a budget based on what will be ideal for the project.
Other materials that you’ll need are wires and electrodes for the arc. Depending on the size of the project, you may need more or less of these supplies. Lastly, you will also need tanks of shielding gas for the weld and arc. They can really add up welding costs, so make sure you include them in your price.
Fixed Overhead Costs
Fixed costs are consumed regardless of the nature of your project. Many new welders tend to neglect fixed costs in their calculations. This gives inaccurate pricing for different jobs.
Let’s understand overhead costs first. If you are operating as an independent welding contractor, you may have rented out a building as a workshop. You must have acquired an annual license to work as a welder and taken out insurance for liability and health as well. You probably have utilities and pay for a security system on your premises. The welding equipment you have purchased gets used in the process, which causes wear and tear.
All these costs including rent, licensing, insurance, utilities, security and equipment depreciation, etc are overhead costs. You will need to pay them whether you have a single project each month or one hundred.
Most new welders tend to ignore these costs and don’t consider them in their pricing calculation. Overheads are simply paid out of the total earning of the operation.
Apportioning overhead costs to each project is time-consuming and a bit complicated. It requires a moderate understanding of accounting principles and activity-based costing.
However, if you apply the method, your projects will absorb part of your overhead costs, making you pricing strategies more reflective of your actual expenses.
Your Experience and Productivity
New welders are in the process of getting experience and learning the profession. For them, it is more about regularly working to improve skills with different kinds of projects and welding techniques. They also tend to be slower and lack finesse which comes with time. This is why most new welders are willing to work for a lower hourly rate.
If you are just starting out in the welding business, your hourly rate and annual income will be lower than the market average. Don’t let this put you off, however. If you keep going and get the experience you need, your earnings will rise with time.
In comparison, experienced welders can get more work done at the same time as new professional welders. Since they are more productive and complete welds with more precision, they charge a higher rate for their services.
If you are an experienced welder, you can charge more than twice what new welders get paid in the market. Do remember, though, if you are getting paid more, your clients expect you to be more productive as well. You need to complete projects faster with a higher grade finish.
Your location in the country also affects the price you can charge for your welding services. Generally, regions undergoing rapid development and new construction tend to have a higher demand for welders, and you can get paid more compared to areas where development has stopped.
A welding survey at Indeed.com shows that welders tend to get paid more in the Westerns states than Central and Eastern US States. This finding is in line with the generally observed experience of welders in the market.
Workshop vs. Portable Welding
Another major factor for calculating your welding price is based on whether you will be working in a workshop or on-site for a project.
Welding at the workshop is relatively quicker and easier. Basically, you have the setup already in place with cutting, welding, and fabricating equipment. Tables are set in place for holding metal legs and frame together. You are more familiar with the environment and don’t have to worry about shielding or wind condition.
Another benefit of working in a store is that you can work on multiple projects at the same time. If a certain welding job takes three hours, you can finish it up and begin work on something new on the same day.
Working in a workshop maximizes productivity and you are not constrained by lighting conditions either. Some professional welders work for 10 – 12 hours in the workshop to get a lot more work done. This is why you can charge a lower, per hour rate for projects while you are working in your workshop.
On-site welding projects take more time. First, you have to travel to the client’s unfamiliar premises and spend time to set up the apparatus. If it is a single-day project, you would need to haul everything back to the workshop on the same day as well.
It isn’t practical to visit multiple sites for welding on the same day so you can be pretty sure that your whole day will be consumed on a single project. You need to take this into account to calculate your price.
On-site projects may require you to work in cramped spaces or areas that can become a safety hazard. For example, you may have to work at a certain height in building construction work. Similarly, pipefitters often have to work underground in confined areas at odd angles. Many newcomers don’t take on such projects because they cannot get the work done in such places.
Finally, if you are working outdoors on a client site, you may require extra weld shielding gases to protect against the environment. This is particularly important in windy conditions. The extra shielding cost requirements should be considered in your price calculations as well.
Welding can be a very rewarding career financially. The average pay of welding professionals in the US is between $38,000 and $80,000. It mainly varies depending on your experience in the industry, the quantity of work you can get, and your geographical location.
While most welders choose to join a union for more consistent work, there are plenty of welders who choose to do their own thing. If you are looking to join the profession but want to run your own service, you will need to have a good grasp of how to price your welding jobs so that you don’t end up in the red.
The biggest costs to consider are material and your labor rate. Your pricing should include these costs if you want to build a stable source of income. You should also keep track of your operational overheads. They are more difficult to apportion to each job, but certain costing methods can help.
Apart from the costs, your experience and location play a role in calculating the price. The more experienced you are and the greater the demand for welders in the market, the higher the price you can charge.
The last factor to consider is whether you will be working on client site or in a workshop. Welders tend to charge lower or at an hourly rate in workshops. When working on client premises, they charge more and in a lump sum or at a daily rate.
How Do You Price A Welding Job?
A lot of factors should be considered for pricing a welding job.
First, you need to consider the amount of time you will spend on a job. An average welding job can last between 4 to 6 hours. If you are spending more than 4 hours at a site, it is unlikely that you will be able to get any other work done for that day. So it is better to charge a full days’ price. Generally, it comes to about $120 – $150 per day.
The working location is another important factor. If you are working in your workshop, you can take additional projects as well. In such cases, it would be better to charge an hourly rate. Rates vary based on location, expertise, and difficulty of the job. The average hourly welding rates are between $25 and $40.
Last, the cost of materials, fuel, and welding equipment should be considered. You can get the materials for the client and bill them separately or include it in your total price. Generally, fuel and welding material costs are included in your labor cost while any component costs used for the project are billed separately.
How Much Do Independent Welders Make?
Welding pay scales vary based on location, work experience, and type of projects. The states with more construction projects like Texas, Alaska, and the Midwest tend to have more jobs with better pay.
Welders with less than 2 years of experience get paid the lowest while Journeyman welders with more than 5 years of apprenticeship see a boost in income.
On-site welding projects in pipework and building construction get paid higher compared to workshop-based projects.
Based on a 40 hours’ work week for 50 weeks in a year; most independent welders make around $38,000 to $90,000 each year.
Union welders tend to make more but independent welders have more freedom for the type of projects they want. They don’t have to pay union membership fee either.
How Many Inches Can A Welder Make An Hour?
Most welders’ welding speed varies based on the type of project, skill level and workspace. On average a welder can complete about 130 to 140 inches of welds, per hour.
As a welder, you need to know the inches of welds you can complete in an hour. It helps you determine how long it will take to complete a pipefitting or structure welding project.
Good quality welding equipment can help improve your welding speed. However, high-quality equipment is expensive and it raises the cost of welding for your projects. Choose the right balance between productivity and cost to offer a competitive welding service in the market.
How Much Do Portable Welders Make?
Portable welders work on-site locations and charge extra for their services. Working at a site means you won’t be able to work on another project for the day. On-site welders generally charge 150% of their normal going rate.
So for instance, if you charge $20 per hour for a workshop project, you are likely to charge $30 per hour working at the site. Generally, welders prefer to go on-site for a project where they will have to work at least 4 hours to make it worth their while.
Some on-site welders use a semi-automatic machine for welding. These machines help professional welders in completing safe and high-quality welding projects on time.
The portable welding machines make the job easier because the torch does not need to be handled by the welder. It is put on a stand that moves in a controlled manner along the welding structure.
This technique allows the welder to focus on welding parameters and bead creation on the surface without getting into uncomfortable or hard to reach positions. The machine reduces the welder’s exposure to heat and fumes. It helps keep the arc voltage consistent by maintaining uniform torch tip distance from the metal surface.
Portable welding helps improve productivity and job completion rate. It improves the quality of the finish while reducing over welding costs which can happen while welding in a workshop.