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How to Start a Pest Control Business

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Published on May 21, 2021

Updated on September 23, 2022

How to Start a Pest Control Business

Disclaimer: Step by Step Business’ content is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional legal or tax advice. All of our articles are thoroughly reviewed and fact-checked by our editorial team. Read our editorial guidelines for more details.

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Fast Facts

Investment range

$8,550 - $15,100

Revenue potential

$100,000 - $200,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 - 3 months

Profit potential

$60,000 - $80,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

How to Start a Pest Control Business

Like most people, you probably don’t like rodents and insects, which is precisely why pest control is big business. 

The US pest control market has grown steadily in recent years and is now worth $17 billion. As long as people have homes and backyards, pests will continue to be a nuisance — and homeowners will be in need of exterminators. This presents an excellent opportunity for the entrepreneur, particularly with new home construction rising steadily. 

Of course, starting a pest control business is not easy, and requires hard work as well as knowledge. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place, as this step-by-step guide will provide all the information you need to start eliminating pests and making good money!

Step 1: Decide if the Business is Right for You

Before you take any big steps, you’ll want to know the dynamics of the pest control market to help you establish a solid foundation for your business. Start by analyzing the pros and cons of a pest control business.

Pros and cons

It’s a good idea to know both the good and bad of a potential business opportunity before you dive into it.

Pros

  • Little startup capital required
  • Highly profitable
  • Build a customer base quickly, typically 6-7 months

Cons

  • Highly competitive
  • Shallow learning curve
  • On-call around the clock

Pest control industry trends

Two of the top trends are bundling and an embrace of technology. This uptake of the latest innovations is sure to continue as the industry finds the most efficient ways to deal with pests.

Industry size and growth

  • Industry size and past growth – The US pest control market is worth $18 billion after growing more than 4% annually over the past five years.[1]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/pest-control-united-states/  
  • Growth forecast – The global pest control industry is expected to grow 6% annually and estimated to be worth just under $32 billion by 2027.[2]https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/pest-control-market-102854 
  • Number of businesses – The US is home to more than 28,000 pest control businesses.[3]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/pest-control-united-states/
  • Number of people employed – The industry employs more than 140,000 people.[4]https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/employment/pest-control-united-states/
pest control industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

The latest trends shaping the industry include:

  • Use of image recognition tools powered by artificial intelligence to detect and kill many types of pests  
  • Bundled all-in-one packages, which might involve quarterly services to bait rodents and exterminate termites, ants, and mosquitos 

Challenges faced by the industry include:

  • Seasonality of pest control business 
  • Strong demand for eco-friendly solutions
pest control industry Trends and Challenges

What kind of people work in pest control?

  • Gender – 93% of exterminators are male, while 7% are female.[5]https://www.zippia.com/exterminator-jobs/demographics/#gender-statistics
  • Average level of education – 52% of exterminators finished high school.[6]https://www.zippia.com/exterminator-jobs/education/
  • Average age – The average age of an exterminator is 40 years old.[7]https://www.zippia.com/exterminator-jobs/demographics/#age-statistics
pest control industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a pest control business?

If you work from home and already have a vehicle, you could launch a pest control business for as little as $8,000, though you should probably expect to spend $10,000 or more to get your business up and running. 

If you’re looking to start big, with an office and staff, expect to spend $50,000 or more. 

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300250
Used truck$2,000 - $5,0003500
Equipment and supplies$5,000 - $6,000$5,500
Insurance $100 - $300200
Website setup$1,000 - $3,0002000
Total$8,550 - $15,100$11,825

How much can you earn from a pest control business?

The profit margin for a pest control service is around 60%, with labor generally being the biggest cost, of about 25% of revenue. 

In your first year or two, you could work from home and earn $100,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $60,000 in profit, assuming that 60% margin. As your brand gains recognition, annual revenue could double to $200,000. At this stage, you’d rent a commercial space and hire additional staff, reducing your profit margin to around 40%. You’d still make a tidy profit of $80,000.

Expanding regionally could increase those totals significantly. 

pest control business earnings forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

Barriers to entry for the pest control business are relatively few. Some of the challenges you’re likely to encounter include:

  • Stiff competition from established firms
  • Technical know-how and training 
  • Building a reputation and brand 

You can overcome these barriers to entry by conducting in-depth market research to help you prepare for unexpected challenges.

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

You now have a bird’s eye view of the pest control market. The next step is to narrow your focus to help package your services in a way that meets the market demand. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to do.

Why? Identify an opportunity

The pest control industry is highly competitive. Your immediate competition will be other pest control businesses in your area and national brands. You can conduct a quick Google search to find out who these competitors are, then review their service offerings and prices.

Even with strong competition, you can carve out a niche by identifying a services gap or under-served market segment.

Maybe your competitors are slow to respond, too expensive for working-class residents, or fail to adequately deal with termite infestations. Ask around, talk to locals and see what’s in need. 

Are your competitors using outdated technology? Introduce innovative pest control strategies. What’s the user experience on their website? Introduce live chat. Do your best to stand out from the crowd.

What? Determine your products or services

A pest control service hires licensed professionals to help property owners remove, manage, and exterminate pests and vermin from inside and outside of their living space.

As a pest control business owner it is also your job to implement various extermination and control methods including, traps, physical removals, or sprays.

How much should you charge for pest control services?

The average rate for a pest control visit ranges from $180 to $550, depending on the type of pest and level of infestation, as well as the area. 

Most exterminators charge $300-$500 for one-time visits and about $180 for an initial visit in an ongoing contract. 

While pricing structures may vary from one pest control business to another, be sure to know the average rate in your area to help guide your pricing. Ideally, you want to stay within standard rates in your location. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Picking a target market allows you to focus on clients likely to purchase your services. It also ensures that you direct your marketing efforts toward the right customer. Moreover, determining your target audience enables you to craft specific messages that appeal to potential customers.

Ideal customers that your pest control company can target include:

  • Landlords and homeowners
  • People with pets 
  • Hospitals, schools, restaurants
  • Office buildings

The more accurately you can describe your potential customer, the easier it is to determine who to target.

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
pest control business rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • The name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “pest control”, boosts SEO
  • Choose a name that allows for expansion: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step business name generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that set your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your pest control services in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to pest control. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your pest control business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just needs to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method, but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Offer potential investors an ownership stake in exchange for funds, keeping in mind that you would be sacrificing some control over your business.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best options, other than friends and family, for funding a pest control business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a pest control business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You can visit the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials to learn more about your state licensing requirements. But you’ll need the following to run a pest control company:

  • Occupational licensing – Acquire from your state’s department of agriculture or pesticide regulation.
  • Pesticide applicator certification – Contact your state’s certifying agency for the procedure.

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your pest control business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as GorillaDesk, ServiceTitan, and Housecall Pro to schedule jobs, manage your team, and collect payments.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Marketing

Some of your business will come from online visitors, but still, you should invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Call Us Now”. This can sharply increase your clientele.
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence, and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include: 

  • Competitions and giveaways – Generate interest by offering prizes for customers who complete a certain action, such as the first customer of the week gets half off. 
  • Signage – Put up eye-catching signage at your store and website. 
  • Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events. 
  • In-Person Sales – Offer your products/services at local markets, trade shows.
  • Post a video – Post a video about your pest control business. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
  • Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients.
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Create infographics – Post infographics and include them in your content.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your pest control business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your pest control business could be:

  • The most advanced and efficient pest control technology
  • Same-day response guaranteed! 
  • Reliable pest control for less 
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a pest control business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in pest control for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in pest control. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small from home, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a pest control business include:

  • Exterminators
  • General Manager
  • Marketing Lead

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Start Making Money!

You’re now ready to start controlling pests, especially if you embrace technology! Industry leaders like Rentokil are using image recognition tools powered by artificial intelligence to detect and kill many types of pests. This uptake of the latest innovations is sure to continue as the industry finds more efficient ways to deal with pests.

In most cases, pest control is an 8 am to 6 pm job, but since an infestation can emerge at any time, you need to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice. This sometimes means working weekends and odd hours. Good luck!

Pest Control Business FAQs

Is it hard to start a pest control business?

The outright answer is no. However, it is essential to mention that pest control is a little bit different than most businesses. For starters, you must have an operator’s license to be allowed to run your company.

The training equips you with skills such as how to handle harmful chemicals and various pest control methods. Of course, you also need to know a thing or two about business management.

What skills do you need to become a pest controller?

You must have the necessary training to become an effective pest control technician. A trained pest controller has an in-depth knowledge of pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals. The person also knows how to bait and identify pests based on their nest, damage caused to property, and droppings.

Other skills include interpersonal and communication skills

How do you get leads for pest control?

You can generate leads for your company by optimizing your website for search. Further, you may want to join social media groups and pages where your target customers are likely to hang out. Other lead generation tactics for pest control business include email marketing and Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.