How To Start a Pressure and Window Washing Business

How To Start a Pressure and Window Washing Business

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Posted by Brad Smith

November 11, 2019

How To Start a Pressure and Window Washing Business

Pressure washing is a growing industry. Compared to other home service trades, such as HVAC, plumbing, and electric, it requires significantly less training and other licensing requirements. Perhaps these are some of the reasons you were drawn to it, or maybe you simply saw a gap in the market in your area.

Whatever your reason, if you’re ready to start a pressure washing business, there’s a lot of moving parts to consider.

We’ve filled this guide with curated advice from successful business owners and industry experts about everything from startup costs to marketing strategy. We’ve also pulled the steps together you’ll need to take to get started into a printable check-off list.

I. Pressure Washing Business Start Up Costs (30/mo sv)

From Side Hustle to Full-Time Business

Starting with a Franchise

Why Write a Business Plan?

II. Pressure Washing Legal Requirements

Selecting Insurance

III.  The Technical Stuff

How The Shine Brite Co Increased Their Sales By 120%

IV. Pressure Washing Equipment

Pressure Washing vs. Soft Washing Equipment

Don’t Forget About the Uniforms

V. Positioning Yourself in the Market

Differentiating Yourself (Crafting your Message)

VI. Setting Your Pricing and Services

The Danger of Undercharging

Add Recurring Service Agreements

Additional Resources From Our Blog

VII. Marketing and Sales

Three Different Marketing Strategies in Action

Additional Resources From Our Blog

VIII. Hiring: Your Path to Growth

The Problem of Seasonality

IX. Where to Go From Here

Finding Support

I. Pressure Washing Business Start Up Costs (30/mo sv)

It’s pretty easy to find the cost of pressure washing equipment online. But those aren’t the only start up costs you should consider. Don’t forget to calculate in your overhead expenses, like the cost of a website and other tools, your gas, accounting fees, etc. You’ll also want to keep in mind what kind of salary you’ll need to cover your personal expenses. 

Steps

  1. Add up your business expenses

  2. Assess your personal expenses not covered by other income or savings

  3. Estimate your initial monthly revenue

  4. Calculate your break-even point

  5. Figure out your business credit score

  6. Compare financial options for your startup costs

  7. Write a business plan

From Side Hustle to Full-Time Business

When Mark Bechtold continued to see algae growing on the sides of homes, but couldn’t find anyone nearby marketing a solution, what he really saw was an opportunity. Mark was working at a car dealership full-time and decided to start a pressure washing business on the side for extra income. 

The startup costs were low enough that he was able to liquidate existing assets and purchase the equipment he needed without taking on any loans.

He founded Precision Pressure Services and was at it for about a year before he decided to move to the business full-time. “It just got to the point to where I was making more money in a day or two, than I was making at the dealership. So, I decided to pursue it.”

This doesn’t mean everything was hunky dory from then on. One thing to keep in mind when you’re calculating what it’ll take to get off the ground and pay yourself a salary is that — for anyone in living in a northern climate — exterior pressure washing tends to be a seasonal market.

“That first winter I was not in good shape,” Mark explained. “We scraped by, and it was a scary thing. I had to believe in myself, and I picked up some odd end jobs, and they kept me afloat. But it takes a few years to get established and people need to understand that you're going to have to build that reputation.”

The other takeaway here: when you’re calculating what you’ll need from month-to-month, add up what you’ll need to save for the winter when you have less consistent business.

Starting with a Franchise

Zach Ventresca had already bought and sold one business and had taken a few years off before deciding it was time to start a business again. He was also active military and looking for something he could run part-time.

“I was looking for something that I could run with a heavy part time commitment while still being profitable and providing a service or product that met customer had met or exceeded customer expectations.”

Zach spent a year-and-a-half scoping out the business scene in Austin, Texas to see what markets he thought could support a new business or if there were an existing business he could buy, including franchises.

“Austin is a very new company friendly and locally-owned friendly market. But it is also one of the most competitive markets in the U.S., so there were a lot of things working against me to start from scratch in Austin,” Zach explained.

After tons of research, Zach bought Window Gang Austin, part of the national Window Gang franchise, from its previous owners.

“I knew going into it that was going to have support from the franchise system, which was very important because I've never cleaned a window or a gutter in my life, and I've never owned or operated a pressure washer. That is what attracted me to the franchise model: I was able to get into an industry that I had absolutely no experience or technical knowledge of and be successful immediately because I did.”

Zach warns that there are limitations to working within a franchise system, as well — the biggest being royalties. A portion of your gross revenue will always go back to the franchise. Another drawback is that it can be hard to leave the franchise once you’ve bought into one. “Now we’re in the system, and it’s a good and healthy system, so it makes sense to stay. But you end up signing non-compete agreements, so once you're in the system, you're kind of stuck in the system [if you want to stay in the industry’. So people need to realize that it needs to be a good fit,” Zach explained.

Some franchises have better amenities and support for their franchisees than others. If you’re looking into a franchise, make sure it has a good reputation with its business owners.

Why Write a Business Plan?

If you do decide to pursue getting a business loan, you’ll need a formal business plan. But working on a plan isn’t just for other people: writing out your goals and your strategy to get there can help you solidify them for yourself.

Even if you don’t write a traditional business plan, it’s extremely important to set goals and a strategy for achieving them. 

On a video for Grow My Cleaning Company, host Mike Campion explained. “If you don’t really have a system to follow and a plan, you don’t know how much to charge; you don’t know if you’re winning or losing money on a job; what to do about that.”

He goes on to explain you should start with a “clear picture of where you are now and where you want to be.” Check out the rest of the videofor more tips about creating a plan.

II. Pressure Washing Legal Requirements

To run your own business, you’ll 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.

Steps

  1. Incorporate and register your business 

  2. Apply for a tax ID

  3. Open business bank account

  4. Apply for insurance and bonding

Selecting Insurance

It’s inevitable that something will happen on the job to your equipment or your customer’s property. With the proper insurance, accidents become simple claims. Members of Power Washers of North America (PWNA) are eligible for special insurance rates. An article in Cleaner Times, PWNA’s trade magazine, suggests three endorsements pressure washing businesses should include in their general liability policy: Care Custody and Control, Including Broad Form Property Damage, Blanket Additional Insured Endorsement, and Blanket Waiver of Subrogation. Read more about these addendums .

III.  The Technical Stuff

One of the big dilemmas business owners face is freeing up time to work on their business instead of working in their business. And reducing the time it takes to do administrative tasks using better tech solutions is a big part of the solution. 

Steps

  1. Set up a website and social media profiles

  2. Shop for and invest in tech platforms (see chart)

  3. Create calls-to-action (CTAs) on your website and social media profiles

It can be helpful to chart out all of the administrative tasks you’ll need to do on a regular basis, and then see what kinds of tools and features can make these tasks easier. To get you started, take a look at the following table, which goes through what happens before, during, and after a job and matches up tools that can assist you throughout the process.

Customer LifecycleTech NeedsWork Order LifecycleOperations
Consumer searches for a service providerSocial media management
Email marketing/lead management
Website
Consumer is ready to bookOnline booking & schedulingNew job is created
Customer is notified and reminded of upcoming appointmentJob management and dispatchJob assigned to technician and added to schedule
Customer accepts estimateEstimate ManagementTech prepares quote
Customer paysInvoicing & Payment ProcessingJob is completed and payment is taken or invoice is sent, then receipt is sent
Customer reviews jobReview ManagerRequest for review is sent
Customer books another service or signs up for recurring services?Customer is sent a follow-up message
Bookkeeping Payroll

How The Shine Brite Co Increased Their Sales By 120%

In May of 2018, Patrick Goodman, owner of The Shine Brite Co, a pressure cleaning service in central Kentucky, started using Housecall Pro. And by May of 2019, he saw a 120% in sales without hiring any new employees.

The main difference was the visual layout of his crews’ day-to-day schedules. 

Patrick uses two teams to maintain a large service area and service multiple clients at the same time. It can be a lot to keep track of. But by being able to see all of the jobs scheduled throughout the day, he could understand how busy they actually were which, in turn, helped him manage their time better.

Use Technology to Create a Sense of Urgency

“We knew that if we ever got behind we could never catch up, so there was a sense of urgency. The number one tip I have today is that you have to have a schedule where you don't forget about that sense of urgency. You don't want to be calling a dozen people to reschedule. So we will figure out a way, whether it meant working at eight or nine o'clock at night, but we figure out a way to keep going forward. ”

Patrick also credits his crew leader who is able to also maintain this sense of urgency. He explained, “You can always have something mechanical putting a wrinkle in the supply chain. Something's going to happen, and we always improvise and make sure that what we need to get done, gets done.”

IV. Pressure Washing Equipment

Professional window washing, pressure and soft washing equipment isn’t cheap. In this section, Mark Bechtold explains the lessons he learned getting started and why understanding the types of services you want to offer is so important.

Steps

  1. Assess and fill tool inventory

  2. Rent office front and/or warehouse space (if needed)

  3. Invest in a service van or truck

Pressure Washing vs. Soft Washing Equipment

“I spent a lot of time not understanding that it's really based on chemical application, not pressure. So I sold a truck that I really liked and bought this big industrial trailer-mounted really expensive unit that would do high pressure. I was kind of naive. It just took so long. It was really hard for me to see the value in it. And then I learned about chemical application, soft wash application, that's really when it got set apart for me.

That that cut down an hour and a half or two hours per home. The same with saturating stonework: anything like that. It really comes down to just a chemical application, knowing the proper mixtures, and knowing what it takes to clean a certain substance.” — Mark Bechtold

When it comes to understanding the different types of services and their applications, Mark recommends looking at industry forums for advice. We’ve included a list of places to start at the end of this guide.

Don’t Forget About the Uniforms

Patrick Goodman offers premium services. His company on offering better services with a quality customer experience which is how he’s able to justify being priced higher than other companies in his area. According to Patrick, this starts with his crew’s appearance:

“We wear the same shoes, we wear the same shirts: we're all uniform. Yes they're super standard, but people just don't abide by them. I watch the competition and they’ll have guys out there in a Chicago Cubs t-shirt cleaning the house, and it just doesn’t look good.” 

V. Positioning Yourself in the Market

When you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one. When it comes to positioning yourself in the market, you need to know who your ideal customer is, and consider specializing.

Steps

  1. Outline your target market and ideal customer

  2. Decide if you want to specialize

  3. Update your brand messaging and service offerings accordingly

Differentiating Yourself (Crafting your Message)

Kevin Dubrosky started a franchised window cleaning business in 1999, then went out on his own four years later. He’s now the president and founder of the Dubrosky Group consulting firm. He spoke to Tommy Mello on the Home Service Expert podcast about what he learned running his own window cleaning business:

“The single most important thing I learned is that you must be different from your competition in terms of the value you bring to the market, and you must very definitively articulate the nature of that differentiation.”

These differentiators must come from an understanding of what your clients want. Dubrosky explained that you have to start by asking yourself who you want to serve and then ask yourself what they’re looking for. “If they had a magic wand, what would their version of my company look like? What’s driving them crazy right now about the available options?”

If you don’t know the answer to these questions … ask your potential clients. 

VI. Setting Your Pricing and Services

Steps

  1. Create a list of services you’re able or interested in offering

  2. Create a price list for all of your services

  3. Create a contract template

  4. Write up a terms and conditions document

The Danger of Undercharging

Mark explained that a lot of businesses go under quickly because they’re undercharging for their services. “Some of these guys are working two jobs to try and get started, and they're only making 100 bucks a house, and it's not even worth it at that point. Especially with your insurance. They're trying to make it, but they can’t make the money they need to fully sustain the business.”

When you undercharge, you can’t make a profit, and you can’t grow.

But undercharging has another issue: it lowers the average price in the market, which makes it more difficult for other companies to charge what they need to charge, as well. This hurts the local economy and the reputation of the industry. 

We strongly recommend not trying to be the cheapest in the area. Instead: set data-driven rates. Figure out what you’ll actually need to make per job in order to meet your revenue goals. Are they around you area’s average rates? Then you’re good to go.

How Window Gang Austin Is Able to Charge Top Rates

“We are a premium price service provider, and we are certainly in the upper 10 percent of the price range. We've been able to maintain that in a lot of different ways by providing things that no one else provides to our customers: the booking and scheduling experience, responsiveness of customer service to complaints. There’s a long list of things that we do better than almost anyone else in our area, in our industry. Um, and that is how we're able to justify our higher prices”

According to Zach, the key to their optimal booking and scheduling experience is that they communicate with the customer in their preferred method instead of forcing one method on everyone. For instance, Zach explained, “If somebody books online, that person probably doesn't want a phone call. So we don't call them; we send them a confirmation email or a confirmation text message if they put down text messaging as their preferred contact.”

Add Recurring Service Agreements

Increase the lifetime value of each client with recurring service plans, also known as service maintenance agreements. When you offer amenities such as discounted rates or upgraded services in exchange for an ongoing service agreement, both you and the customer wins.

Additional Resources From Our Blog

How to sell recurring service agreements

VII. Marketing and Sales

Steps

  1. Create a marketing plan

  2. Design business cards, van wrap, and other marketing materials

  3. Sign up for Google My Business

  4. Claim your business on other lead generation platforms

  5. Optimize your website for search engines (SEO)

  6. Join digital and in-person networking groups

Three Different Marketing Strategies in Action

Google Adwords and Reviews

When Mark started Precision Pressure Service, he used his background as a marketing manager to run his own AdWord campaigns. This helped get his name out there and led to initial customers. Word also began to spread by word-of-mouth as his customers recommended him to others. Mark asked every customer to leave a review on Google and now he gets the majority of his clients from his reviews.

Why It Works

Google Reviews build on themselves. The more reviews you have, the more likely it is that you will rank highly on searches and that potential customers will trust your services over others.

“I try to be personable to people and that's highly reflected by reviews. People seem to appreciate somebody that takes the extra time to speak with them and explain things in a fast-paced world.”

Mark’s Advice

Companies that help run AdWord campaigns are often too expensive for small companies, but they can also be difficult to manage on your own. Mark explained that a lot of people use the wrong keywords and lose money that way advertising for searches that have nothing to do with their business.

“If people aren’t afraid to ask for help, then Google will sit down with you and go over the account. Now I find that sometimes they don’t really understand the keywording either and can set you up for failure because they want you to spend more money. But if you're cautious enough but willing to take the risk, I think there's a lot of good advice that they can give you over the phone: an in-depth look at AdWords.”

Use Google’s help to learn how to set up the right keywords and budgets. Use your understanding of the industry to choose the right keywords.

The Catch-All Approach

Like many new businesses, initially The Shine Brite Co’s customers came mostly from word-of-mouth advertising, but Patrick explained that that tactic only took his business so far. He now relies on several tools that each bring in new customers. Online, he relies on Facebook and Google AdWords. He also continues to list his business in the yellow pages, and is the only pressure washing company in his area. Because of that, he’s accumulated a large number of Amish customers that wouldn’t have found him online. 

Why It Works

You always want to maintain multiple marketing tactics since potential clients will look for businesses in different ways. Even if only 5% of your business comes from one source, that’s still 5% of your revenue. As you grow, you can figure out the return on investment (ROI) of different strategies and see which makes the most sense to continue putting time, energy, and dollars in.

How to Win at Facebook

The Shine Brite Co’s Facebook profile is a mix of shoutouts to long-time customers, videos featuring the crew, featured reviews, giveaways, and other content. His younger team-members love taking videos which creates likeable, shareable posts. Consistency is key, because it shows you’re an active company. Patrick has had customers tell him they’ve been following him on Facebook for a while before booking. Maintain a mix of content to keep it interesting and attract different types of customers.

The SEO Approach

Zach Ventreska relies almost entirely on organic traffic to his company’s website. Since Zach runs his own SEO agency, he knows search engine optimization (SEO) well. Window Gang Austin ranks high in most or all relevant searches for the services he offers in his area.

Why It Works

“If you look at the demographics that we're trying to service, which is generally under 45, high net worth individuals, they know what the difference between an ad and an organic search result is, and  they don't click on ads. So we are almost entirely SEO driven,” Zach said.

What to Know About SEO

SEO is a long-term strategy. It takes months to build an organic presence and start seeing a return on your investment. In the long-run, SEO can be much cheaper than other types of digital advertising, but if you need leads right away, it’s not going to work well.

Additional Resources From Our Blog

VIII. Hiring: Your Path to Growth

Steps

  1. Assess the numbers (what can you afford?)

  2. Research the legal requirements (federal, state, and local) of hiring someone

  3. Outline the hiring and onboarding processes

  4. Set up functions to handle salary and benefits

  5. Create job listing ad

The Problem of Seasonality

One of the difficulties of pressure and window washing is that it’s often a seasonal business. Many business owners need full-time help throughout the spring and summer, but when it starts to get cold, they can’t afford full-time help. 

On his podcast, service business consultant Josh Latimer proposes that you turn this into one of the benefits of the job. His own business was seasonal and he would position his three month break as a positive. “This job is perfect for you if you like to work really hard and make a lot of money and then have some time to play.” He’d market his job listings to those who wanted a three month break and found it worked well for folks who love to travel, for instance.

Additional Resources From Our Blog

IX. Where to Go From Here

Finding Support

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. 

Check out our local meetups and full day Mastermind events to network and learn from other service businesses.

Also consider joining these trade organizations:

And these Facebook Groups:

For general business resources, we recommend:

And check out a longer list of small business associations.

Finally, don’t forget to download the ‘How to Start a Pressure Washing Business Checklist’ — a summary of all of the steps we went over in this guide.

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