How to start a pest control business

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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.

What do you need to start a pest control business?

  • 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

Consider start-up costs

To start your pest control business, you’ll need some initial investment to get going.

How to start setting up your pest control business

  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. Set revenue and profit margin goals
  6. Figure out your business credit score
  7. Compare financial options for your startup costs
  8. Write a business plan

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.”

Know the legal requirements for your pest control business

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.

How to register your pest control business

  1. Make sure you have all the licenses you need 
  2. Incorporate and register your business 
  3. Apply for a tax ID
  4. Open business bank account
  5. Apply for insurance and bonding

Give yourself some time to get set up

Jake Goodwin, owner of Bug Masterstalked 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.”

Get business insurance

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?”

Consider owning a pest control franchise company

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.

Advantages

  • 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

Disadvantages

  • 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.

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Download this free checklist on how to start your pest control business

Get this free checklist and more advice about how to manage and grow your plumbing business. From hiring to payroll, Housecall Pro is designed to support the unique needs of a plumbing business.

Start marketing your pest control company

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.

How to set up marketing for your pest control company

  1. Set up website and social media profiles
  2. Shop for and invest in tech platforms (see chart)
  3. Create calls-to-action (CTAs) on website and social media profiles

What software will you need to run your pest control business?

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 LifecycleTech NeedsWork Order Lifecycle
Consumer searches for a service providerSocial media management
Online booking & schedulingNew job is created
Job management and dispatchJob assigned to technician and added to schedule
Customer is notified and reminded of upcoming appointmentEstimate ManagementTech prepares quote
Customer accepts estimateInvoicing & Payment ProcessingJob is completed and payment is taken or invoice is sent, then receipt is sent
Customer paysReview ManagerRequest for review is sent
Customer books another service or signs up for recurring servicesEmail marketingCustomer is sent a follow-up message

Streamline your business operations

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.) Many pest control companies use Housecall Pro to manage their end-to-end business needs. 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!

Get the right supplies for your business

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.

How to manage your pest control supply inventory

  1. Assess and fill out tool inventory
  2. Rent office front and/or warehouse space (if needed)
  3. Invest in a service van or truck

Comparing equipment for pest control businesses

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:

  • The Pest Posse YouTube series and the Pest Geek Podcast review products and equipment.
  • 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. 

How to set your pest control business rates

  1. Create a list of services you’re able or interested in offering
  2. Choose a pricing structure and create a pricing list for all of your services
  3. Create a contract template
  4. Write up a terms and conditions document

Tips for pricing your pest control 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. 

Raise the value of your existing customers

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:

  1. Tailor the plan to the individual client’s requirements
  2. Protect you and your customer by guaranteeing the quality of your service 
  3. Outline your clients’ financial obligations

Offer multiple pricing 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.

russel's pest control

Source:  Russel’s Pest Control

Position your pest control business 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.

How to find the target market for your pest control business

  1. Outline your target market and ideal customer
  2. Decide if you want to specialize
  3. Update your brand messaging and service offerings accordingly

Identify the types of customers you want

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.

Housecall pro Logo

Download this free checklist on how to start your pest control business

Get this free checklist and more advice about how to manage and grow your plumbing business. From hiring to payroll, Housecall Pro is designed to support the unique needs of a plumbing business.

Create your marketing 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.

Start marketing your pest control business

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. 

How to advertise and market your pest control business

  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

Free ways to advertise your pest control business

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.

Hire employees for your company

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.

How to create a job listing for a pest control technician

  1. Assess the numbers (what can you afford?)
  2. Research the legal requirements (federal, state, and local) of hiring someone
  3. Outline hiring and onboarding processes
  4. Set up functions to handle salary and benefits
  5. Create job listing ad

Retain top-performing technicians

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

What to do with your pest control business next

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 to network and learn from other service businesses.

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.

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