Become self-employed as a materials tester


We rely on materials to last every day: Anyone who gets on their motorcycle assumes that all parts will last. The same applies to passionate skaters who like to perform daring maneuvers with their board that place high loads on the material. The list of examples of everyday objects could be continued indefinitely. If you want to derive a business idea from the necessary resilience of materials , you can do so here in a practice-oriented way: become self-employed as a materials tester.

What do material testers actually do?

By analyzing mainly steel and various processes for heat treatment, material testers ensure that the materials used hold up and meet specific requirements. A large part of the work as a materials tester therefore takes place in the laboratory. Materials used in production must be tested for strength, hardness, ductility and toughness using various test methods. External influences such as cold or heat must also be analyzed. This is the only way to ensure long-lasting quality that is reliable in the truest sense of the word. In the state-recognized vocational training, materials testers learn to analyze metallic materials independently and to achieve targeted changes in the desired direction using specific processes.In the training, topics such as heat treatment (including chemical and physical basics), materials technology and metallography are on the curriculum. Material testers usually work in metal construction companies or in so-called (contract) hardening shops. That will be the professional environment to which the start-up as a materials tester should be oriented. The following article aims to provide inspiring assistance with selected topics and shed light on central framework conditions and requirements.

Setting up a business as a materials tester: becoming self-employed in the hardening shop

  • Analysis of the initial situation
  • Success can be planned: setting up a business with a mature business plan
  • Gaining customers as an independent materials tester
  • Requirements to become self-employed as a materials tester
  • Merit as an independent materials tester

Analysis of the initial situation

Experience has shown that when starting a business there is the question of career alternatives. If you decide to go self-employed, you may not find good conditions for employment in your job. However, this initial situation does not apply to material testers, because they are highly sought-after specialists. Due to the shortage of skilled workers, there should be no problems finding an attractive job, especially since it is a fairly well-paid job (for details see the section on earning opportunities). Anyone who wants to become self-employed as a materials tester should do so out of inner conviction with the desire to take all fate and decision into their own hands.Holistic planning, for which important topics are to be listed below, can ensure professional success as an independent materials tester.

Brief analysis of the relevant competitive environment

Basically, the business start-up as a materials tester will be located in the metalworking and processing industry. These are highly specialized companies that focus on materials technology and heat treatment. A typical company for materials testing is a hardening shop. Expertise is also in demand in metal construction companies. Since materials with a certain consistency are made for final products, it is a supplier industry. As a buyer, the automotive industry plays a major role in this country. However, depending on the location , other manufacturing companies can also come into focus. There are currently almost 170 hardening shops in Germany. Almost 7,000 employees generated sales of well over 1 billion euros in this industry in 2017. Many hardening shops can be assigned to the industrial medium-sized class and are mostly owner-managed, which roughly outlines the business structures. The average number of employees is a little over 30. As far as the locations and competitive situation are concerned, it should be pointed out that 40% of the hardening shops are in North Rhine-Westphalia. 25% have settled in Baden-Württemberg, 10% in Bavaria and 15% in the new federal states. This shows very clearly where the greatest demand (but also competition) can be expected and where new business areas can be opened up by setting up a company as a materials tester.

Future prospects: become self-employed as a materials tester?  

Experts estimate that a value chain with a turnover of around 10 billion euros is interposed from raw part production to the finished product. Contract hardening shops as a possible form of operation for material testers account for around 7 to 8% of this value chain. In other countries, this proportion is sometimes well over 10%, so that there is a certain amount of catching-up potential in heat treatment in this country. This will result in new growth prospects in the coming years, for which the company must be very economically positioned. Ultimately, international competition creates high cost pressure, which will prove to be a success factor for starting a business as a materials tester.

Innovations are a strategic means of maintaining or expanding your own market position and opening up new areas of business. Anyone who wants to set up a company as a materials tester will have to position it well in international competition. Otherwise there is the compulsion to only have to do business with German customers, which can be a complex challenge depending on the location. Given this, anyone who wants to become self-employed as a materials tester should analyze the international environment carefully and derive opportunities from it. A SWOT analysis is a goal-oriented framework for identifying opportunities and risks for a business model in the target market.

Plan long-term success with vocational training

Vocational training and relevant work experience are the best prerequisites for starting a new business. Many young people wonder what to do after completing their training. Anyone who knows that they want to be their own boss at some point can lay the foundations with the deepening during their training. When choosing a specialization as a specialization, current and future opportunities on the market should be highlighted. Material testers can delve into this area: metal technology, semiconductor technology and heat treatment technology. The range of services for future customers grows from the deepening and the opportunity arises to occupy a profitable niche in the market.

Ensuring success with the business plan: fields of action

The decision to become self-employed as a materials tester has been made. Now this path must take concrete forms in the business plan. In view of the framework conditions outlined, the dimensions of the business idea must become clear, as the planning and financial scope essentially depend on this. In principle, it is possible to work as a freelancer on a project basis with companies in the target industry. This option should be checked for a specific radius of action: How many companies are there and how many of them work with experts on a project basis? In this industry, most companies will want to retain skilled workers due to the shortage, so project work can prove to be very tedious and uncertain.

Establish a company as an independent materials tester

In this respect, the business idea of ​​’self-employed as a materials tester' will make it necessary, depending on the detailed location analysis, to found a company in the field of materials technology (e.g. a hardening shop or contract hardening shop). If you want to set up a company in the field of materials testing, ideally, apart from your professional qualifications, you have relevant professional experience. Establishing a business is associated with high costs. Apart from personnel and establishment costs (costs for notary, etc.), costs for premises and the entire facility must be calculated. In view of the shortage of skilled workers, recruiting can be difficult, so this critical task should be started at an early stage.

Topics and questions to be answered in the business plan

In the business plan, all business areas must be planned holistically and aligned in a target-oriented manner:

  • What are the opportunities at the location?
  • Which target group should be addressed with which range of services?
  • How are offers calculated?
  • Which strategic position should the company occupy in the supplier industry?
  • How can financing be secured and what costs and income can be expected in the first few financial years?

When it comes to finances in particular, business start-ups should do their homework very carefully, because many ambitious self-employed people have already failed because of unrealistic figures and scenarios. Anyone who also wants to cover the high capital requirement will have to convince external financiers and / or investors with the business plan. This is the only way to use enough outside capital to position the company on the market in the long term. Since finances are naturally critical to the success of any business start-up, all funding opportunities should be consistently exhausted. Here on this portal, founders can find targeted information on this topic. With a template for a business plan in the industrial sector, inexperienced founders can use a professional framework to get to the heart of their business idea in a holistic and potential-oriented way.

Winning customers as materials tester: Marketing

In order to be able to win customers at all, the demand for the defined radius of action must be resilient and open up long-term growth prospects. Ideally, founders already have a certain level of awareness and a good network in the industry, so that the start-up phase can be easier due to numerous business relationships. Since material testers mostly work in the supplier industry, cooperations and any contracts must be checked. With which companies can a long-term strategic partnership be entered into in order to ensure high capacity utilization? It goes without saying that the terms of a cooperation should be as advantageous as possible for your own company.Unilateral cooperation should be avoided in order not to become dependent on only one large customer. Rather, business activities should be aligned in such a way that risks can be spread.

Awareness as a customer magnet …

Anyone who wants to win customers over as a materials tester with his company must gain awareness. It is important to be findable on the Internet and to increase your own reach. For an international business orientation, the Internet is an ideal multifunctional marketing weapon. At the beginning, you shouldn’t skimp on a modern, search engine-optimized homepage, especially since small and medium-sized enterprises in particular have some catching up to do in this area. In this respect, it is important for new companies to be one decisive step ahead of the competition in this area right from the start.

Requirements to become self-employed as a materials tester

In general, completed vocational training can be considered a prerequisite, because this complex business idea cannot be implemented without the necessary specialist knowledge. For a successful business start-up, of course, commercial knowledge must not be missing. Apart from all accounting-related duties, it is important to ensure economic and cost-oriented structures. The activity of material tester is not listed in Annexes A and B of the Craftsmen’s Code, so that from this point of view there are generally no significant hurdles to be expected. However, the metalworker is listed as a very related occupation in Appendix A of the trades requiring authorization and requiring a master craftsman.

Requirements must be found out in each individual case

Depending on the range of services and a possible manual orientation, it may well be that a master’s degree for the specific business idea is to be presented. The prerequisites for starting a business cannot be generalized. The qualification background of the founder and the performance profile of professional independence are decisive. Thanks to the holistic range of services, the boundaries between individual areas are increasingly merging, so that the individual prerequisites for setting up a business as a materials tester have to be found out in the initial planning phase. However, the business registration will be a formality to be completed regardless of the specific business orientation.

Merit as a materials tester after starting a business?

An average gross monthly salary of just under 3,000 euros is given for employed material testers. Depending on the position, experience and special qualifications, this salary can be significantly higher. With this in mind, the goal of an independent materials tester must be to achieve a significantly higher salary, especially since the cost structure is different. The self-employed have to pay all the costs for social security and pension provision themselves, there is no 50% employer subsidy. With the establishment of a business, material testers essentially have the amount of earnings in their own hands:The better the order situation and the more economical and cost-oriented the management, the higher the earnings as an independent materials tester. Sustainable business people think not only of the level of earnings but also of the company’s development. Therefore, in the start-up phase after setting up a business, it is not uncommon to forego wages and invest the financial resources gained back into the business directly.


Brief summary for the business idea 'become self-employed as a materials tester'

  1. Materials testers treat metals and other materials after a technical analysis so that they last and are functional
  2. It is a future-oriented industry with stable growth, which is distributed differently in the federal states and is predominantly medium-sized
  3. A company is set up in a highly competitive international environment
  4. In view of the good chances on the job market, the question arises at the beginning of the motivation for starting a business as a materials tester
  5. Good networking in the industry, long-term partnerships and high-reach internet marketing are important prerequisites for winning customers
  6. Vocational training can be an essential prerequisite for successfully becoming a self-employed materials tester
  7. The specific range of services offered and the qualification background of the founder are decisive for any hurdles and requirements
  8. The business registration and the tax registration of the self-employed activity at the tax office are important formalities that should be done before starting business operations.