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.
If you’re looking for a career that won’t take years of apprenticeship and has relatively low startup costs in comparison to other trades, pressure washing could be a perfect choice. Not sure where to start? No worries, we’re here to help.
We've done the research on what it takes to start a pressure washing business to help lead the way. Read on for a step-by-step look at how to start a pressure washing business.
First, look at the market. Will it be easy to find new customers? 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?
When you're thinking of how to start a pressure washing business, you can choose to focus on residential accounts – washing the siding of a house, for example – or commercial clients – say, cleaning parking lots for businesses. Are commercial clients much more plentiful than residential, or vice-versa?
You can also search surrounding areas to see if there is a good opportunity to explore pressure washing in surrounding towns nearby. Knowing what opportunities exist is the first step in starting your own successful pressure washing business.
Once you decide that there's an opportunity to begin a pressure washing business, you want to get started. But first, it’s important to understand the local requirements for doing business as a pressure washer.
You may need a business license, depending on which state you live in. And even then, if your state doesn't require you to have a license, your county or town may require it to do business. Before getting started, check your state and local government requirements for working as a pressure washer.
If either your state or local municipality requires you to have a license, it's important to apply for one and cover your bases. Firstly, it covers you legally and you want to be on the right side of the law. But there are other advantages, too.
Having a business license in place can be a big draw to potential customers. It helps establish trust and shows that you mean business. It can also help you fulfill different requirements of other parties you work with, like if a vendor wants to see your license before they agree to do business with you.
Note that a business registration and a business license aren't always considered the same thing, depending on where you live. When you check if you need your business license, be sure to see if you may need to register your business in a separate application. You should also look into applying for any specific permits required by the local government.
Starting a business is an exciting time, so it's understandable that you may not want to think of what could go wrong, but it's important to consider. Even the most careful precautions could result in an accident.
And honestly--pressure washing is the type of work that comes with greater risk than others. You're at higher risk for accidents that cause property damage, for example, and so it's a good idea to carry business insurance.
If you do happen to experience an accident and don't have business insurance coverage, it could end up costing you money you would've rather spent somewhere else.
Let's take a couple examples.
Say you're pressure washing a public square for a city before a big festival. You have all the permits you need and you have the area roped off so you can perform your job without anyone in the way.
You're washing one corner and when you turn around to walk towards the other corner of the square, you see that the stream is directed at a teenage boy and hits him. You're able to turn off the pressure washer but not before the boy's leg was cut. He was wearing basketball shorts, so the water breaks the skin and he gets a nasty cut.
The boy has to go to the emergency room and because of how deep the cut was, needs stitches and some other medication to prevent infection.
Or maybe you're doing a residential project, and while pressure washing a deck for a customer, you accidentally break a window on the side of the house.
Both of these instances could cost you a lot of money out of pocket--and definitely enough to make an impact on a small business early on. But with business insurance, the medical bills and any associated legal bills could be covered.
That means that your business could survive to take on the next job. And hopefully having coverage could help to repair your relationship with your customers moving forward, because at least they wouldn't have to pay financially for the accident and its consequences.
Having business insurance won't only come in handy with existing clients in case an accident occurs, but also be a positive for new potential clients, who may 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.
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Many of these tips involve a ton of administrative tasks. They’re not fun, and they may take some time to complete, but they’re an essential part of being a strategic and responsible business owner.
Depending on where you decide to operate 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 (SBA) website. If you've already registered and applied for your business license, then you're most likely familiar with what your county or city requires of you locally.
But once you get your registration, license, and any necessary permits--what do you do with them? Sure, it's a great idea to display them in your storefront or on your website or any marketing materials, but you'll also need an organized way to store and document it all.
We recommend having a filing system that is electronic and backed up, even if you do have a paper filing system, so that there will always be a record of important documents for things like: 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. I'll be honest, you could wait, but the longer you put it off, the longer it may take to put in place down the road.
Thinking of how to start a pressure washing business includes taking some administrative steps as you open your business:
Odds are that you already have a personal bank account, but if you haven't already, it's time to open a separate account just for your pressure washing business. Having a separate bank account can help you stay organized come tax season.
And there are other perks, too. Many banks offer incentives and discounts for business owners opening small business bank accounts, so be sure to do your research about what may be the best bank for you.
Once you open the account, be sure to create a space to store important emails, letters, and any other correspondence you may have to reference or use again.
Similar to having your own personal bank account, you may feel comfortable keeping track of the money that will come in and go out of your business once you're up and running--and that may be possible for you to make time for, at first.
But once things pick up with your business, there may be less and less time to track the financial knitty-gritty, which despite not being fun, is important. If even one specific number is detailed incorrectly, that could impact the balance of your entire account.
That's why it's smart to set up systems from the get-go. You may think of them as the same thing, but accounting and bookkeeping are two different tasks, and each plays an important role in your business.
You could begin by using an accounting software or you could try to hire a professional accountant or bookkeeper to help you keep track of your hard earned money. Either way, find a system that works for you sooner rather than later.
Starting a website is actually a pretty exciting way to tell your potential customers more about you. Many business owners may choose to work on their websites at the beginning of their business owner journeys, and for good reason.
Your website is the digital face of your business and there's a great chance that potential customers will look there to learn more about your business. 72% of consumers visit a business's website before they reach out to a company to talk about doing business with them.
In other words, your website is your first impression. And we all know how important those are! before going to the storefront.
We've talked a lot about how to start a pressure washing business, but what about the actual pressure washing itself? It's 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.
Of course, there's more to it than just buying a pressure washer, deciding what to charge, 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.
Some local home and garden stores may offer pressure washer rentals; Home Depot offers pressure washing rentals at some of its locations, for example. (Tip: when you're ready to upgrade your equipment, you can rent a different model at Home Depot to try it out before buying.)
Once you've got your rental, you'll need a place and reason to practice. Ask friends and family if they'd let you practice on their house, patios, or driveways. If you're new to pressure washing, you can look for online tutorials.
There are online classes available specifically for people looking to learn how to pressure wash. Learn what works and what doesn’t on different surfaces, using different tools.
By getting some hands-on experience when you're learning how to start a pressure washing business, you’ll also learn exactly what you need when you’re ready to invest in equipment. If you decide to rent equipment for a bit until buying, you can build the cost of the rental into your monthly business costs--we'll get to this in the next step.
Once you've practiced, you'll likely feel a bit better about your abilities. But remember, there’s a big difference between pressure washing for a few friends and launching your own business. And that difference is the money you'll earn as a business owner.
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 are all items you'll have to consider buying. A solid commercial pressure washer will likely cost between $1,000 and $6,000, but that price depends on whether or not you invest in a cold or heated machine.
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.
You'll also want a machine that has a good gallons per minute (GPM) output; a pump is considered good if it can put 4-5 gallons of water a minute. Your washer will come with some hoses and nozzles (like a turbo nozzle if you plan to be cleaning concrete), but you might want to invest in a longer hose (from $15 to $25) or attachments like a telescoping lance (around $100).
The types of cleaning supplies you'll need will vary based on the types of jobs you accept. On average though, it's a good rule of thumb to keep gutter cleaner, house wash, and concrete cleaner on hand.
If you're taking up jobs that require removing graffiti or restoring a commercial building, you may need to purchase different chemicals. Costs for materials will vary widely, depending on ingredients, but it’s safe to budget $50 to $100 on cleaning agents to start.
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!
We reviewed licenses, insurance, and permits above. The cost of your license and permits will depend on where you live and what the local requirements are, as well as the type of pressure washing you plan to do.
This is a tough one to ballpark because of all the different variables, but a safe bet is somewhere between $50 and $400.
This is a cost that some pressure washing business owners tend to overlook, because it's not included in doing the actual job. But remember, marketing is one of the ways you'll find and attract potential customers, so it's something you should factor into your budget.
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.
You may notice that the price of these materials adds up fast. And you may have heard that phrase about spending money before you can make money, but everyone starting a business is in a different spot financially.
If you're worried about the impact starting a pressure washing business may have on your personal finances, you can work to apply for a small business loan or work with an investor. There are many loans out there available and a good place to start looking for one that's right for you is with the Small Business Administration in your region.
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 to see what others (who may end up being your competitors) are charging.
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.
Once you settle on a rate that you feel works for you, though, be firm and don't allow yourself to adjust it too much, as that could have an impact on your business's cash flow and how much you could potentially make.
Phew! We know that's a lot to take in. But think about your business years from now--you'll likely be glad that you carefully considered all of the steps to starting a pressure washing business.
From market research and getting insurance to pricing your services and getting your equipment, we hope that you feel more confident about moving forward as a business owner.
It may seem like a lot of work upfront, but the peace of mind it gives you will help you focus on the most important thing – your new pressure washing business!
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on Q1 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
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.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
28 November 2018 • 6-minute read
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*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated reinsurance carrier by A.M. Best. Harborway Insurance is a trade name of Simply Business, Inc., which is a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.