How To Start a Pest Control Business
As a pest control business owner, you'll be entering a recession-proof market with flexibility, freedom, and high income potential. But even if you know the trade well, running a business might be new to you.
That's why we've put together a comprehensive guide to help you understand how to start a successful pest control business. We'll go through all the basics and guide you through the tools that successful pest control business owners use to streamline their business.
We’ve also included a downloadable checklist of all the steps you’ll need to take to get started!
This guide will also work for wildlife and animal control and lawncare management businesses, related industries.
Pest Control Business Start-Up Costs and Financial Planning
To start your pest control business, you'll need some initial investment to get going.
Add up your business expenses
Assess your personal expenses not covered by other income or savings
Estimate your initial monthly revenue
Calculate your break-even point
Set revenue and profit margin goals
Figure out your business credit score
Compare financial options for your startup costs
Write a business plan
What Do You Need to Get Started?
Start by figuring out all your startup costs, including licensing and registration fees, your supplies, marketing and branding expenses.
Now consider your personal expenses: does your new business need to cover these as well?
What additional income or savings is available?
Adding all of this together will help you know what you need to get started and make informed decisions about what kind of numbers you’ll need to save or borrow to get started.
Pro Tip: Look For Federal or State-level Small Business Grants
There are many ways you can leverage assistance from external organizations and the government. Look to see if your state and local municipalities offer assistance to small businesses. Many offer local grants, tax deductions, and free coaching opportunities.
In addition, certain business owners who qualify as socially or economically challenged can apply for their business to be certified as women-owned or minority-owned — a status that comes with various benefits.
Set Revenue Goals Early On
The earlier you set revenue goals and begin to track your financials, the better. They may very well shift over time, but it will get you in the habit of being data-driven and in-tune with your finances.
In an episode of Joshua Latimer’s Quick Talk Podcast, he leads home service businesses through a step-by-step process of setting revenue goals. He explains that “by and large, you’re going to hit or miss your goal based on the strategic planning you do in advance.”
Here’s an overview of the steps covered in his podcast:
You need to understand your target or goal
You need to know your base: “The amount of revenue you think you’re going to do this year without really trying.”
From there, you can figure out the gap in between.
Set plans to close the gap and start with the low hanging fruit
Don’t Expect the Same Growth Patterns Year After Year
As you begin to see monthly growth patterns, Josh warns new businesses to expect a shift as they get more established: “Brand new businesses, oftentimes with home services, they’ll grow really quickly the first few years, and they get a little bit of swag, but the real reason many of them grow … is just supply and demand in the market that they’re in.”
The Legal Stuff: Pest Control Business Requirements
Pest control is a highly regulated activity with local and federal regulations when it comes to pest control chemicals. Make sure you’ve got all the necessary licenses and certifications covered. You’ll also need to register your business on the federal, state and local levels, including registering for a tax ID. You’ll need this ID to open a business banking account and get insured. If you’re not sure how to register, you can work with a registered agent.
Make sure you have all the licenses you need
Incorporate and register your business
Apply for a tax ID
Open business bank account
Apply for insurance and bonding
Give Yourself a Few Months
Jake Goodwin, owner of Bug Masters, talked to The Pest Posse about how he got started. Jake got a loan from the Small Business Administration for some of his startup costs and warns others that it takes at least a couple of months to work through the loan process.
“Also the operators process to get your operator’s license is simple but also takes time … and it takes multiple applications to get your operator’s license, not just one. So anybody out there that is interested in doing this, do not just quit your job and say we’ll have a company up and running in 30 days. It’s not going to quite work like that.”
We recommend investing in more than just general liability insurance. Talk to a pro about customizable insurance programs that include things like pet mortality, worker’s compensation, and auto insurance.
And simply having insurance isn’t the only step to preventing legal issues in the future. Andy McGinty from LIPCA Insurance explains why educating customers is so important: “Explaining what can happen in the event of a potential loss, infestation or damage is more important than you might think. Take, for example, two Formosan termite customers. Customer A has been told about possible secondary colonies and swarms down the road; Customer B was not informed in any way. Which customer is going to be easier to deal with should a claim occur?”
Pest Control Franchise Opportunities
Many wannabe business owners find the initial steps to be the most challenging, which is a big reason why they look into franchises. With a franchise, you're starting with an established brand and business model, and you also receive training, marketing material, a national support network, and discounts on equipment.
But before you jump in, you need to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of being a franchisee.
Higher success rate compared to businesses that start from scratch
Proven business model
Quick and easy to launch
Receive discounts on equipment
Can leverage brand image and recognition
Existing branding helps with customer acquisition
Gain training and support from headquarters
Higher upfront investment fee
Potential ongoing royalties
Less control and creativity
Allocation to a specific geographic territory
Difficult to grow and expand
Less independence and freedom
If you're considering going down the franchise route, make sure you assess the different franchises available. Talk to existing and previous franchisees to understand what it's like to be a franchisee yourself.
The Technical Stuff: Pest Control Scheduling, Invoicing, Payment & Quickbooks
Administrative tasks can take up a lot of your time. To help you out, we'll give you an overview of all the technical aspects you need to have ready, and which tools can help streamline your everyday activities.
Set up website and social media profiles
Shop for and invest in tech platforms (see chart)
Create calls-to-action (CTAs) on website and social media profiles
What Tech Platforms Will You Need?
The following diagram can help you understand what happens before, during, and after clients schedule a job, and how you can streamline these business activities with online tools.
|Customer Lifecycle||Tech Needs||Work Order Lifecycle||Operations|
|Consumer searches for a service provider||Social media management|
|Online booking & scheduling||New job is created|
|Job management and dispatch||Job assigned to technician and added to schedule|
|Customer is notified and reminded of upcoming appointment||Estimate Management||Tech prepares quote|
|Customer accepts estimate||Invoicing & Payment Processing||Job is completed and payment is taken or invoice is sent, then receipt is sent|
|Customer pays||Review Manager||Request for review is sent|
|Customer books another service or signs up for recurring services||Email marketing||Customer is sent a follow-up message|
Streamline Your Business As Much As Possible
When you're a one-person team, you might not feel the need to streamline your business. There's a good chance that once you understand the business basics you might even be on top of your everyday tasks.
While that may be true, if you're keen to grow your pest control business, you'll need to make sure you have systems and procedures ready. The smallest inefficiencies can quickly snowball into significant problems.
That's why we recommend pest control business owners begin streamlining their systems from the very start.
Create standard operating procedures for routine tasks (hiring, training, actual pest control work, etc.) If you need assistance, look to Housecall Pro. Its online software can help you automate a lot of your everyday tasks like scheduling online bookings, sending invoices, and email marketing activities.
This way, you can work on your business, instead of always working in it!
Additional Resources From Our Blog
You likely have most of the professional tools and equipment you need to get started. Below, we've listed the steps and other items (like uniforms) that are useful for every HVAC business.
Assess and fill tool inventory
Rent office front and/or warehouse space (if needed)
Invest in a service van or truck
Especially if you’re just starting out in this industry, you’re about to make a very large investment in equipment that needs to last and do a good job. So how do you know what’s the best brand?
Ask other experts:
Search industry Facebook groups for discussions about supplies and brands. (We’ve listed a bunch of groups to join in the “Where To Go From Here” section of this guide.)
Setting Your Services and Rates
Finding the right price point can be tricky. While your previous experience and industry standards can be a helpful guide, you need to factor into account your overheads and additional expenses you might not have considered as a tech.
Create a list of services you’re able or interested in offering
Choose a pricing structure and create a pricing list for all of your services
Create a contract template
Write up a terms and conditions document
How to Price Your Services
You’ve probably already researched your competitors’ rates, which is a good starting point. And if you haven’t, Homeguide.com maintains statistics on national and regional prices for pest control services.
But there’s more to keep in mind when pricing your services, such as your costs and revenue goals. Simply put, making data-driven decisions about your prices can help you meet your goals and grow your business.
Set one-time services high enough that you can reward customers who sign up for ongoing services while still maintaining a good profit margin.
Make sure your prices are high enough to maintain your profit margin on large properties or properties at the far edges of your coverage area, or build in surcharges for jobs out-of-the ordinary. For instance, according to pestcontrolreviews.com, some pest control professionals charge an extra $25 for every 1,000 square feet over 1,500.
Should You Charge for an Inspection?
While you can charge for a pest control inspection (pest inspections average around $100), many pest control companies offer them for free every year. There are, however, conditions attached to the free service. Free inspections tend to be for all current customers or those with regular service agreements. Some businesses, however, use the free inspection as a generous lead magnet to on-sell ongoing pest control packages.
Focus on Raising the Average Value of Each Customer
Instead of searching for new customers, your goal should be to increase what you earn from your existing customers.
Reward Repeat Customers
Encourage recurring services is the best way to boost your average revenue per customer. Even in off-peak seasons, your business can be thriving, and you can expect consistent cash flow with recurring service plans.
If you're keen on adopting recurring service plans, make sure you:
Tailor the plan to the individual client's requirements
Protect you and your customer by guaranteeing the quality of your service
Outline your clients' financial obligations
Offer Multiple Options
A customer may have called you to take a look at a spider infestation, but when you offer a package deal that covers spiders along with other general pests, you can increase the amount you make off of that one service call.
Better yet, maintain multiple levels of services so that customers can decide which package is right for them.
Source: Russel’s Pest Control
Additional Resources From Our Blog
Positioning Yourself in the Market
Successful businesses build their brand around their ideal customers. We’ll look at how to know who your ideal customer is and how to attract them.
Outline your target market and ideal customer
Decide if you want to specialize
Update your brand messaging and service offerings accordingly
Who Do You Want to Attract?
A target market is a particular group of people that you’re aiming to attract and your ideal customer is particular segment of that group of people you most want to work with. For instance, perhaps you want to work with homeowners in a specific neighborhood or town (your target market), and you specifically want to work with homeowners of a certain income bracket, or homeowners with large properties (your ideal customer).
Choosing a target market and ideal client does not have to mean only marketing to or servicing them. Most pest control or wildlife management businesses work with both residential and commercial customers. Similarly, most businesses also offer a variety of services to those customers.
So how does choosing and understanding your target market and ideal customer help you?
When you figure out what group of people is the most likely to grow your business, you can prioritize them in your branding.
Do you serve more homeowners than businesses? Is one particular neighborhood more likely to pay higher prices for services? Is bedbug treatment your top selling service? Then you know where to invest your time and money.
Crafting Your Message
Highlight the services with the biggest profit margin on your homepage and other marketing materials.
Speak directly to the market that brings you the most revenue and target them in promotions.
Create specific sections and run special ads for markets you’d like to attract (such commercial services).
Figuring all of this out might take time. Keeping track of as many details as you can about your customers and services will help.
Pest Control Marketing and Advertising
There are so many approaches to marketing your business, how do you choose? We’ll share with you a few surprising places you can find lifelong customers.
Create a marketing plan
Design business cards, van wrap, and other marketing materials
Sign up for Google My Business
Claim your business on other lead generation platforms
Optimize your website for search engines (SEO)
Join digital and in-person networking groups
Start With the Free Options
On a follow-up episode of The Pest Posse, Jake told XX that most of his initial customers came from “friends, networking, and referrals.” He wisely explained that he didn’t want to spend money he wasn’t yet making. In-person networking and word-of-mouth marketing are some of the easiest and cheapest ways to start building out your brand.
1. Chamber of Commerce: It's a business network like a local organization of businesses. We highly encourage you to network with other small business owners. Many pest control professionals received work by engaging with other service professionals in their area
2. Facebook Groups: You can network and join Facebook Groups, engage and add value to the groups, and offer promotional discounts for group members.
Make each customer count by asking them to leave a review and/or refer your services. Per one study, 70% of customers would leave a review if asked.
Additional Resources From Our Blog
Hiring: Your Path to Growth
You'll most likely start as a one-person pest control business. Many pest control businesses stay as a one or two-person team. But if you're keen to grow your business, you'll need to hire a few extra pairs of hands.
Assess the numbers (what can you afford?)
Research the legal requirements (federal, state, and local) of hiring someone
Outline hiring and onboarding processes
Set up functions to handle salary and benefits
Create job listing ad
Keep Quality Employees By Inspiring Them
On his podcast, Pest Geek Pest Control, Franklin Hernandez recommends having a vision in order to keep employees inspired and dedicated to growing with the company. “After you have a vision, you’ve got to write it down and make it plain so that anyone who sees that vision can run with it.”
He believes one of the biggest causes of turnover is business stagnation. Employees want to be a part of a business that is going somewhere. “Your vision and your plans have to be so great that they can feel that they’re never going to outgrow that and they’re always going to be challenged.”
Listen to the rest of the episode about how to develop an employee recruiting and hiring system.
Additional Resources From Our Blog
Where to Go From Here
Even if you know the industry well, it can take a few years to establish your company, develop best practices, build a reputation, and gain a consistent customer base. Just keep at it, and you can create a successful business that returns six figures.
But you don’t need to do this alone.
Also consider joining other trade organizations:
And these Facebook Groups:
For general business resources, we recommend:
And check out a longer list of small business associations.
Download the 'How to Start a Pest Control Business Checklist' now, if you're keen to get started!
How to Start a Pest Control Business Checklist
1. Where Can You Get Help?
Have you prepared a list of associations you can join?
Are there local small business networking events in your area?
Do you need to upskill on any industry-related training?
2. Pest Control Business Startup Costs
Do you know how to calculate overhead costs?
Do you know how to calculate your Break-Even Point?
Do you know how to calculate an average transaction value (ATV)?
Do you know how to calculate the average revenue per client (ARPC)?
Have you researched different grants online?
Do you know what your tax benefits and deductions are?
Have you signed up for a free small business mentor online?
3. The Legal Stuff
Have you registered your business yet?
Have you signed up for pest control insurance?
Do you have a business checking account?
Have you written your terms of service?
Have you signed up for a pest control license?
Are you interested in becoming a franchisee?
4. The Technical Stuff
Do you know how to keep track of sales?
Do you have an online invoicing software?
Do you have an email marketing software?
Do you have an online tool that can accept credit card payments?
Have you registered for Quickbooks online?
Have you added an online booking option?
Have you considered streamlining your business early on?
5. Equipment Needed
Have you considered purchasing wholesale or used models?
Do you have a uniform for your business yet?
Have you purchased a service truck or a used van?
6.Positioning Yourself in the Market
Have you selected a niche or specialization in your field?
Have you explored the pros and cons of residential and commercial pest control?
Will you offer guarantees to stand out from the competition?
7. Pest Control Pricing
Do you know how to set your rates?
Will you charge per job, per type of service, or offer both?
Have you factored into account all the costs and potential costs associated with a job?
Do you know the national and regional average price for a pest control job (within your niche)?
Do you know how to calculate your net earnings?
8. Your Offerings: Pest Control Services List
Have you put together pest control packages?
Do you know what is in each package?
Can you create recurring service plans?
9. How to Get Leads: Pest Control Marketing Services
Have you made a plan to prioritize reviews and referrals?
Have you joined a business network?
Have you joined online Facebook Groups?
Have you come up with several ways to retain customers?
10. Your Path to Growth: Hiring
Do you know when to hire?
Do you have all your company processes in order?
Have you made a plan to train and manage people?
Download the 'How to Start an Electrical Business Checklist' now, if you're keen to get started!
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