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Skills To Be a Successful Locksmith – Tips from Trading Locksmiths

Skills needed to become a locksmith
If you are looking to become a locksmith chances are you’re curious about the skills required to become the best & most successful locksmith you can be.

Our mini guide includes tips from trading locksmiths letting you know exactly what skills and knowledge is required to succeed as a locksmith.

” A good locksmith is highly adaptable and doesn’t necessarily need expensive tools “
– Chris Drake ( Basingstoke Locksmiths )

Rather than cover the obvious skills such as dexterity and attention to detail, we’re going to tell you skills that working locksmiths use every day in their job, with answers from some of our Approved Company Locksmiths.

For a guide on becoming a locksmith please click here.

The first skill you will need as a locksmith is:

1. Patience – Not every lock is the same

Patience is the number one and the most common response we hear from our vetted locksmiths.

As a locksmith, you will be picking locks open.

Different manufacturers tolerances mean that the tension used on one lock may not work on the next.

You must have bucket loads of patience to practice, fail, practice again, succeed, and deal with challenges customers present

Scenario: You may have a customer urgently wanting you to open their house door in an emergency, if you can’t open the lock on first attempt you’ll need patience.

Pro Tip from John Mutch Locksmith Services 

2. Forward Planning Saves Time

As a locksmith you be required to forward plan, always make sure you have identified what you are working on and when fitting anything always double check the measurements.

Eyan opening a safe

A example of this of when Eyan from Rapid-Locksmiths was called out open a Milner safe,  Eyan had the measurements for a Milner Lock, but when he opened the lock there was a very rare triple control lock that uses 3 different keys.

Eyan Opened Safe

Luckily for Eyan the safe was only controlled by the last key or he would have still been there today.

3. Wide range of Locksmith Skills

Some locksmiths will have large a skill set to seperate them from the competition, some can open safes, cut key by hand ( helpful for antique keys ), open locked cars and fit security grilles and gates.

We recommend learning a wide range of locksmithing and not just focusing on certain areas as it will separate you from competitors and give you more confidence on a broader scale when jobs are coming in.

Key cutting by hand

Learning how to cut keys = Good understanding of locks

Also taking time to learn about key cutting and the different key blanks will give you a much better understanding of the various locks that you will encounter.

Pro Tip from Mark of LockStar Lock & Key Company

4. Think Outside the box ( with examples )

This was a very popular answer from our working locksmiths.

To be successful you’ll need to be a mechanically minded person that can ‘think outside the box’ on their feet. There is always more than one answer to a problem.

” MLA tutors even teach locksmiths how to make their own lock opening tools “

Every time you go to a lock out/failed lock there is always more than one way to solve that problem.

Examples of Thinking outside the box as a locksmith

Instance 1 –  If the front door has a failed gearbox why keep everyone stuck outside? If it’s possible try and get the client back in their home by gaining access though a backdoor.

This way the client is back in there home, and you are free to work on both sides of the door, which is far more useful and you don’t have the pressure of the client hanging over you while you work your magic.

Instance 2 – If a key is snapped in a lock, you don’t need to panic.

If you can’t remove the broken key straight away maybe you can get the door open another way? Once the door is open you can then disassemble the lock and possibly get the key out.

Saving the lock & keeping the customer happy.

Pro Tip from Shanes Hales of HalesLocks
Other Locksmiths mentioning this tip: Nick Crossman from DES LocksmithsSimon Griffiths from Holdfast Security

5. Make Your Own Tools

A good locksmith is highly adaptable and doesn’t necessarily need expensive tools to carry out their chosen trade but can adapt.

MLA tutors even teach locksmiths how to make their own lock opening tools on our level 1 opening course.

Pro Tip from Chris Drake of Basingstoke Locksmiths

6. Accurate Advice ( on Lock Standards )

Giving the correct advice to secure a business or family’s home also needs responsibility from you to make sure that advice is right.

Kitemark logo image

British Kitemark on Locks

Keeping yourself up-to date with the latest standards is essential in the locksmith industry.

Things change all the time.

Pro Tip from Shane Hales of HalesLocks

7. Can you set up your own Business?

Locksmithing is not just a skill thats requires you to open doors.

If you go the self-employed route as a locksmith which many do, you will need the skills and knowledge to set up a small business.

  • Step 1. Let HMRC know you’re becoming self-employed
  • Step 2. Sort out Public Liability Insurance Cover
  • Step 3 Choose a company name and logo
  • Step 4 Build a website and include your social media & SEO of your website
  • Step 5. Set-up a business bank account
  • Step 6. Get compliant i.e. health & safety, licensing, data protection
  • Step 7. Book-keeping system. Keep records of all sales and costs.

Pro Tip from Bill McFadyen of Lockmaster1
Other Locksmiths mentioning this tip:  Mark Doyle from Paladin Locksmiths

8. Adapt Your Lifestyle to suit business

Locksmithing becomes a lifestyle not a job. As you will have to adapt your life to suit your business.

If you operate 24hr emergency service means you will have to be prepared to go out at all hours, so you will need to be prepared to work unsociable hours,in all weathers and be prepared to change your plans.

Pro Tip from Paul Horton of Locks In The City

9. Invest Time in Learning

Be prepared to invest time into practice to learn new skills and be prepared to spend money on training, stock, advertising, fuel, insurances and all other business operating costs.

locksmith training at Regional meeting

Attending Regional Meetings run by the MLA are a great way to get access to free training seminars run by members.

There are also free training courses run by manufacturers aimed at trading locksmiths.

Pro Tip from Paul Horton of Locks In The City

10. Good Communication – Are you good with people?

The other complaint from customers about workmen, in general, is the lack of communication.

It seems to much trouble to explain what you are doing and why, so ability to communicate at all levels is very advantageous in getting work.

Good communication also helps defuse highly strung customers who believe the world is ending because they can’t get into their house when they get home from work.

Pro Tip from Dave Fletcher of Keyed in Security Services

11. Problem Solving

When operating a 24 hour Locksmith service you will be faced with many issues with locks and keys and in general.

You will probably not always have the answer to a problem or situation but will need to be able to think on your feet and improvise or adapt quickly to find a solution or fix.

UPVC door with Mul T Lock Anti Snap Lock image

Scenario Example

A real life locksmith job would be if a uPVC door lock breaks after door was fitted two years ago, this has broken probably prematurely.

You can fix the mechanism that the customer is asking you to fix, but you also need to adjust the door to sort the original problem that caused the locking mechanism to break.

Pro Tip from Craig Andres of AA Lock & Key

12. A Thick Skin

As a locksmith, you meet all sort of customers. Meeting lots of interesting, friendly people can be a really rewarding part of the job. Much of the time people show genuine appreciation on completion of a job.

Martin Slane from IKS Locksmiths - covering Barnet

On the flip side, there are always those customers who want to squeeze you on price (Often these customers live in large properties!). Some customers can be very difficult and sometimes rude. It is important to be able to keep your cool and take the rough with the smooth.

” My Husband Doesn’t Even Get Paid That Much “
– Customer

Running a locksmith company is not a job for the oversensitive or someone with a short fuse!

Martin Slane from IKS Locksmiths is a keen locksmith blogger who writes about his experiences as a locksmith in his Diary of a Locksmith. 

Check out his post about customers feeling they should pay less for a locksmith job 

In the post he recalls a lady saying, “My Husband Doesn’t Even Get Paid That Much!” It is important not to let these kinds of situations get to you. It can come from a lack of understanding on the part of the customer.

The post attempts to tackle that lack of understanding by explaining the situation from the locksmith’s perspective.

It is important to calmly and respectfully explain your standpoint.

Martin says that from experience he has found it is best to stick to you guns on price. If you allow yourself to be pressurised into dropping the price to secure a job, there is a likelihood you could ending up regretting taking the job.  Low profit and an unreasonable customer don’t make for job satisfaction.

A thick skin and calm, respectful temperament is a must when running a locksmith business.

You can read Martin Slane’s blog post on Becoming a Locksmith, Is it the Job for You? here.  

Pro Tip from Martin Slane of IKS Locksmiths

13. Final Pro Tip – Ability to Drive

It may seem like an obvious answer but if your a self-employed locksmith you will have to drive to get to and from customers homes.

It’s rare you see a locksmith arriving on their bicycle!

Onto Training Courses

Now you have read about all the skills required to be a locksmith you can see which locksmith training courses we run, many of which our approved companies mention on this page have attended.

Related Questions

On the topic of becoming a locksmith the below pages should cover any questions you have about the following topics:


Please see our qualification guide here we cover what qualifications are required to become a locksmith.


The topic of earnings and salary is covered on our page here we even tell you about start up costs.

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