You’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit – and you know you don’t want to sit at a desk all day.
You’re ready to go into business for yourself. Have you considered starting your own pressure washing business?
If you’re looking for a career that won’t take years of apprenticeship and has relatively low startup costs, pressure washing could be a perfect choice. Not sure where to start? No worries, we’re here to help. Read on for a step-by-step look at how to start a pressure washing business.
Research, research, research.
First, look at the market. Will it be easy to find new clients? Start with some online searches to see how many pressure washing businesses are in your area already.
If there are very few, keep in mind there might not be much demand for this work – or, it could be a golden opportunity. You’ll have to dig a little deeper.
If you know of a successful pressure washer in your area, see if you can trade a cup of coffee for their insight. Are they busy? Is there more work than they can take on? Pressure washing businesses can focus on residential accounts – washing the siding on a house, for example – or commercial clients – say, cleaning parking lots for businesses. Are commercial clients much more plentiful than residential, or vice-versa?
Knowing what opportunities exist is the first step in starting your own successful pressure washing business.
Build your skills.
Pressure washing is a physically demanding job. You’re on your feet, using power equipment – and it can be quite a workout. But it’s a great business if you enjoy being outside and setting your own schedule.
There’s more to it, of course, than just buying a pressure washer and getting some business cards. Make sure you have the skills to operate a pressure washer safely and efficiently; you don’t want to accidentally damage a client’s landscaping, for instance, while pressure washing their siding.
The best way to learn pressure washing is simple: practice! Before you make any big investments, rent a pressure washer and test it out. Look for online tutorials, and ask friends if you can practice on their patios or driveways. Learn what works and what doesn’t on different surfaces.
By getting some hands-on experience, you’ll also learn exactly what you need when you’re ready to invest in equipment.
Remember, there’s a big difference between pressure washing for a few friends and launching your own business. Which brings us to our third tip…
Keep your mind on your money.
Ok, you’ve researched the market and gotten some experience under your belt. Now, let’s talk about finances.
When it comes to money, there are really two big questions:
There’s no magic number in either case, unfortunately. But we can give you a rundown of costs you can expect to incur during the early stages of your pressure washing business.
To start your business, you’ll need:
Commercial pressure washer, hoses, and attachments. A solid commercial pressure washer will likely cost between $1,000 and $6,000. Generally speaking, commercial washers go up to around 4,000 psi – enough water pressure to scour the heck out of a driveway – though on many projects you’ll be working at closer to 800 psi – “soft washing” the siding on a house, for instance. Your washer will come with some hoses and nozzles, but you might want to invest in a longer hose (from $15 to $25) or attachments like a telescoping lance (around $100).
Detergent and cleaning chemicals, such as concrete cleaner. Costs will vary widely, depending on ingredients, but it’s safe to budget $50 to $100 on cleaning agents to start.
Truck or cargo van. If you don’t already have a truck or van that can get your equipment to the job site, it’s time to invest. While a new cargo van checks in at around $30,000, a used vehicle can be a lifesaver for your budget. Shop around – and remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty, so long as it’s dependable. If you finance a vehicle, make sure your monthly payments are within your budget. And don’t forget to plan for gas and maintenance costs once you’re working!
Your business license, permits, and insurance. This is a tough one to ballpark because costs vary by city, county, and state, but a safe bet is somewhere between $50 and $400.
Marketing materials. For things like brochures, business cards, ads, and a website, you have quite a bit of control over costs and can start small. A basic website and some business cards can be had for less than $200. Add a bit more cash for brochures or flyers to drum up new business, and you can recoup those expenses after your first couple of jobs.
To price your services:
So now you’ve spent money before you’ve made money. Let’s change that. Your prices will reflect your local economy, of course, so check around in your local market.
In general, pressure washers in the U.S. charge between $50 and $100 an hour, or $0.20 to $0.40 per square foot, depending on how you decide to price your jobs.
As the owner of a new pressure washing business, you’ll probably want to start on the lower end of the spectrum while you try to win new clients. You might even consider offering a special, one-time discounted rate – and follow up by asking clients to recommend you on social media or your website!
No matter what you decide, keep in mind that your hourly rate isn’t written in stone. Test out what hourly rate gets you the most projects, or try bumping it up every year to reflect your expertise.
Prepare for paperwork.
Those first few months will involve a ton of administrative tasks. They’re not fun, but they’re an essential part of being an entrepreneur.
Depending on the location of your business, you’ll have state and local regulations to comply with. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Small Business Administration website. Your town office or city hall also should be able to help you register as a business and get any necessary permits. Check their online resources, or plan an in-person visit and bring a list of questions with you.
You’ll need to plan for taxes, invoicing, and a few other things, too. These all involve admin work, but tackling them thoughtfully, in the beginning, means you’ve made life a whole lot easier for yourself down the road. “Future you” will appreciate it.
As you get ready to launch, you’ll need to spend time on the following administrative tasks:
Last but not least, don’t forget about business insurance. As a new business owner, you might be tempted to put off this important step. That can be a painfully expensive mistake – because accidents happen to all of us sooner or later, and without business insurance, the cost of “making things right” will come straight out of your pocket.
Plus, a lot of clients will expect you to have liability coverage. Not only does business insurance protect you, it shows prospective clients that you’re a professional who takes your work – and their satisfaction – seriously.
The good news is, insurance can be a fast, easy experience. The peace of mind it gives you will help you focus on the most important thing – your new pressure washing business!
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I'm a freelance writer and editor with a passion for entrepreneurship, adventure, and my two rescue dogs. For more than two decades, I've created content for businesses of all sizes, from a small, daily newspaper to a Fortune 100 global giant. I landed my first writing gig at 21, and can't imagine doing anything else.
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