To earn big dollars these days you don't have to spend years at uni.
Tradies are pulling in huge amounts of cash, but the riches aren't spread evenly among them.
Not only do they have to work hard, they have to be smart about building their business, reports news.com.au.
When Adrian Fadini started his plumbing business 25 years ago, he was full of youthful vigour and enthusiasm. 'Plumber to the Rescue' had plenty of clients, but Fadini was admittedly "clueless" about what rates he should be charging.
As an apprentice, his boss had been charging $90 an hour, so Fadini charged $80 an hour.
But he admits "there was no logic behind that rate.
"I think 99 per cent of tradies doing an apprenticeship for a boss are in the same position I was. They've never worked out what their fixed costs are, they've never worked what their labour rates are for their tradespeople and inherently the sums are stuffed up from day one," Mr Fadini told news.com.au.
"No matter how hard you work, you dig yourself into a hole where your tax isn't paid, debts aren't paid and all of a sudden you don't have enough money to pay anyone and your world comes crashing down."
Mr Fadini's world did come crashing down. At the time his wife was pregnant, and he was absolutely devastated when he had to sell the family home just to pay his debts.
He saw some business coaches, but realised they knew nothing about trades. So he did the research himself, talking to other successful tradies.
Mr Fadini started over, and now he's on a mission to ensure tradies steer clear of financial and family hardship, and become more business savvy than ever.
"Six years after I sold my house I was able to sell my business to one of my biggest competitors who has now rebranded to my brand, Plumber to the Rescue. I don't want anyone to go through what I went through."
Mr Fadini's latest venture with fellow tradie Matt Jones is Tradiematepro — a digital toolbox that gives tradies the support and resources they need.
"The first thing we do with a client is pull out a profit maximiser worksheet and we start to work out the basics; your expenses, your overheads, what you need to be charging," Mr Fadini said.
"If they say, 'My clients won't pay that, it's too high,' I tell them they need to work out what their niche is — you can't be just an average plumber if you're going to charge 30 per cent higher."
It sounds like something a successful sales person would attend: a conference in the Maldives to a learn a little more about their business.
But this is exactly where a group of tradies headed to lately — tradies who want to run a successful business.
"Most tradies hate school so why would you have lessons in a classroom? We're outdoor guys, we love the ocean and the great outdoors, and that's also when children tend to learn the most — so there's no reason tradies can't go on a luxury trip just like other high flying business people do," Mr Fadini said, after Tradiematepro organised the trip.
"I see ourselves as being pioneers for tradies, replacing the classroom with a boat in the Maldives."
PULLING IN THE CASH
News.com.au contacted the ABS to see if tradies really are earning more than doctors. And we were shocked to find that in many cases, they are.
When we asked the (very helpful) people at the ABS about how much the average Australian GP earns we were taken to the detailed depths of the site.
After navigating our way through a labyrinth of figures, the ABS led us to a chart with great details about the earnings of a variety of professions. The statistics show that an Aussie GP at the top of his/her game and working full time can earn as much as $156k.
Great money, no doubt. But it's still less than a lot of tradies make.
A removalist, who does not need to spend seven or more years at uni, can earn $93 an hour. If he (in most cases it is a he) works an average 40 hour week, that's $193k per year. Not bad for lifting boxes.
In most parts of Australia there's a huge trade shortage, so they are in big demand. It's not uncommon for starting salaries to be $140k. And more experienced and specialised tradespeople can charge more.
The recent 'tradie rich list' has removalists at the top of the game. But other tradies are also doing well. In second place were plumbers, earning $83.04 per hour, followed by electricians, handymen and carpenters.
Matt Jones started out as a plumber, but now spends his days building websites and marketing solutions for tradies. He helped coach the guys who took the Maldives trip.
"Everyone was taught about the importance of organisational chart structure, how to structure your business, and how to use tech to follow up on proposals. There's a lot of money to be made as a tradie, but if you don't have all the business tools in place from the beginning, you can get yourself into financial trouble without the right support," Jones told news.com.au.
"These days there's definitely a shift from people wanting to go to uni and get a degree, to learning a trade.
The myths about being a tradie and that you can't make serious money are slowly being dispelled."
Cable locator Ben Minutoli is just one success story and he's one of the most tech savvy tradies around; he even had a Youtube channel (and employs a video editor) to show people exactly what his job involves.
His office is paperless, everything is via phone and cloud computing. His staff are based in Geelong, but he has admin in Philippines, a 'web guy' in India and a video editor in Canada.
"I took over the business from my father, who couldn't even turn a computer on, so we've come a long way. Today much of the success of tradies is thanks to the internet — we can all learn from each other how to build a successful business," Minutoli said.
"I want up and coming tradies to know that you can make good money. In the past, tradies would try to keep everything secret and didn't want to share their knowledge. These days you're happy to help out your fellow tradie."
Mr Minutoli urges other tradies to see the bigger picture and also get more involved on social media.
"Get on Instagram — I deal with a huge amount of clients on there. Jump on Facebook and Linkedin forums and learn from your peers, especially tradies from interstate and overseas — they're not your competition and they want to help you succeed. If we all succeed it's going to be a better industry for everyone."