How To Start Your Own Trade Business in NZ

Working in the skilled trades is a popular option in New Zealand. Tradies use their hands and heads to fix problems for others. It can be incredibly satisfying to help busy homeowners or see a building you worked on go from a vacant lot to a finished structure.

When you start your own trade business, you can also enjoy more freedom. You can pick and choose who you work with, the projects you take on, and when you want to work. There’s also great earning potential if you’re a skilled hand with good business sense and customer service instincts!

There are several steps to starting a trade business in NZ. This can be overwhelming if you are new to owning a business. To help you get started, here are some common steps you may need to take when setting up a trade business in NZ:


Get your qualification

Before you can start a skilled trade business, you’ll need to become qualified in a trade. This not only ensures that you have the skills necessary to get the job done, but it also helps you build trust and credibility with potential customers.

The education and work experience you’ll need will depend on the trade you plan to work in. For example, NZ carpenters must complete an apprenticeship and earn a Certificate of Carpentry (Level 4). Many customers prefer to hire a carpenter who has a qualification. Knowing that you learned your skill under a qualified tradesperson and completed an education program shows that you have real-world experience and discipline.


Choose a business name

Building a brand is important for any business, even those in the skilled trades! Your business name should ideally be memorable, unique, and tell people what you do. Brainstorming ideas with a family member or friend could help you land on a name that works.

The NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s ONECheck tool can help you check that your business name ideas are available. The site checks existing business names registered with the Companies Office or NZ Business Number. It also verifies if the name is trademarked, as well as which web domains and social media accounts may be available under it.

Once you’ve chosen a business name, you can register and trademark it to help prevent other businesses from using it.


Choose a business structure

There are different ways to structure a business in NZ. The most common are sole trader, partnership, or company. Each option has its own legal and tax obligations. You may want to learn more about each business structure on the Ministry of Business website or get advice from a legal or tax professional.


Get a New Zealand Business Number

A New Zealand Business Number (NZBN) uniquely identifies your business and can help you work more efficiently. Your NZBN is linked to information you will likely be asked for a lot, such as your trading name and contact details. Instead of repeating this info over and over, you can simply give out your NZBN instead!

All companies are automatically given an NZBN when they are registered. Sole traders, self-employed tradespeople and contractors, and partnerships can register for one online.


Understand industry regulations

Depending on what type of work you’ll be doing, you may need to follow construction or other industry regulations. There are also laws around workplace health and safety and fair trading that you may also need to follow. The Compliance Matters site is a good place to start for central government regulations, but you should also research your local government’s rules as well.


Register for GST

Trades businesses earning more than NZ$60,000 per year must register for GST. This can be done at the same time you register your company. If you are a sole trader or partnership, you can register online with Inland Revenue. It’s free to register for GST and only takes a few minutes.


Consider insurance

If you’ve put the work into building and registering a business, you probably want to protect it. Business insurance policies help shield your business’ finances against common claims that tradespeople face on the job.

Different policies, such as Public Liability and Business Insurance, cover tradespeople against a wide range of events. This could include accidentally damaging a customer’s property, unintentionally causing a physical injury to another contractor, or having your tools stolen. No matter what your trade—painter, electrician, plumber, handyman, carpenter—insurance is one way to help protect your business and bank accounts.


Starting a Trade Business Checklist

If you are starting your own trade business in NZ, you may need to take all of some of the below steps before you can start applying your skills:

  • Become qualified in your skilled trade (which may include an apprenticeship and certificate)
  • Choose a business name
  • Register and/or trademark your business name
  • Purchase a web domain and create social media profiles using your business name
  • Choose a business structure
  • Get an NZBN
  • Register for GST (if required)
  • Research central and local government regulations
  • Consider different types of business insurance

Owning a trade business is a big responsibility. But with hard work and a bit of luck, you could create a successful future in the skilled trades!

BizCover makes it easy to compare insurance for carpenters, electricians, builders, and other trades! Get your free online quote and see how you could be protecting your trade business.


This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. 

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