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How to Start a Pressure Washing Business

Updated on April 18, 2022

How to Start a Pressure Washing Business

How to Start a Pressure Washing Business

Starting an online business is all the rage these days, and you may want to join the fun as quickly as possible. But it may not be a bad idea to consider more traditional options. As more and more entrepreneurs jump online, competition in the e-commerce space is getting intense.

That’s why starting a pressure washing business could be a smart alternative. Margins are high, so profits can be considerable. And by starting a local business you can build stronger community ties and become the go-to option in your area.

But as with any worthwhile endeavor, starting a pressure washing business takes a lot of hard work and know-how. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the development and launch process and provide all the answers you need to start making real money!

Step 1: Understand the Industry

Pressure washing, which is also known as power washing, refers to the use of a high-pressure water stream to remove loose paint, mold, grime, mud, and other unwanted substances from buildings, vehicles, and hard surfaces.

But before you can start washing those surfaces, it’s important to get a feel for the industry. In this section, we’ll touch on the different types of pressure washing businesses, their pros and cons, industry trends, and more.

Let’s get started!

Types of pressure washing businesses

A pressure washing business might seem like a niche in itself but there are three sub-niches within it. 

Domestic

With a domestic pressure washing business, you can specialize in car, garden, or home exterior washing. Your customers will mostly be owners of single-family homes.

Commercial and Industrial

On the other hand, you could target commercial and/or industrial businesses, such as a mall, residential towers or factories. For this niche, you will need to present yourself professionally and may need to hire employees.

Now that you know who your potential customers could be, let’s breakdown the pros and cons of the business.

Pros and cons

Whenever you start a business, it’s important to have a balanced view of the positives and negatives associated with it

Here are the pros and cons we believe are important:

Pros

  • Start-up costs are relatively low
  • Relevant technical skills can be learned on the job
  • Simple and straightforward business model
  • Many niche options for specialization
  • Demand is steady as surfaces will always need cleaning
  • Profit margins are high

Cons

  • Local competition can be high
  • Managing staff can be difficult
  • Physically demanding work
  • Gaining recognition can take time

Pressure washing industry trends

The US pressure washing industry is expected to continue to expand in the coming years, as market analyst Grandview Research predicts annual growth of 3.4% through 2025, pushing industry revenue to $2.3 billion.[1]https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/pressure-washer-market

A key factor driving this growth is broader interest in pressure washing, as opposed to traditional methods, for car washing, pool cleaning, and floor cleaning.

Consumers are also showing their demand via internet searches, with Google Trends showing a growing number of relevant searches for local pressure washing services since 2019.[2]https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&geo=US&q=pressure%20washing%20services%20near%20me You can leverage this by marketing yourself as a local pressure washing business.

How much does it cost to start a pressure washing business?

Depending on your vision, your startup costs can be relatively low. But for certain niches such as industrial washing, you may need pricier specialized equipment. Here is a breakdown of expected startup costs:

  • Power washing equipment – $1,000 – $1,500
  • Premium pressure washers – $6,000+
  • Truck or van (New) -$20,000 – $40,000
  • Truck or van (Used) – $5,000
  • Custom vehicle graphics – $500
  • Insurance, license, and permits – $500 up-front + $60 per month (up to $2,000 depending on state)
  • Advertising and marketing – $250

Starting a pressure washing business could cost as little as $7,500 if you are bootstrapping, or over $40,000 if you invest in a new vehicle for your business.

How much can you earn from a pressure washing business?

With a full customer base and consistent work year-round, you can expect to earn $30,000 – $60,000 a year. Your income can vary greatly depending on your contract and the niche you choose.

Once you’ve got some experience, you’ll be able to see where you generate the most money. From this, you’ll be able to focus on gaining more higher-paying clients and boost your bottom line.

Another way to increase profits is to hire a team. Although your margins will be lower, you’ll be able to generate significantly more revenue.

What insurance, licenses, and permits are required?

Like any line of work, a pressure washing business needs to have the right insurance, as well as licenses and permits. This article examines the relevant requirements for your business in Step 8, below.

What does running a pressure washing business involve?

If you’re the sole worker in your business, you’ll need to handle all the duties involved with the business. These include marketing, administration, transportation, inventory management, and the actual cleaning.

You’ll be doing things like talking to clients, accounting, and sending invoices. Once you start to generate some revenue though, you can look to outsource some of these tasks to employees or freelancers.

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you understand a bit more about the industry, it’s time to start researching your particular market. This will include choosing your niche, the location of your business, and getting to know your competition.

First, let’s decide on your niche.

Choose your niche

Which of the 5 niches will best fit you?

Here they are again in case you’ve forgotten:

  • Car washing
  • Garden washing
  • Home exterior washing
  • Commercial
  • Industrial

Knowing your niche will help you plan on who to target. Each of these niches also come with their pros and cons so you need to understand them before you choose one. For example, targeting industrial clients will mean that you need specialized equipment and to hire a team since factories are usually large.

If you choose car washing, it may not be as lucrative as some vehicle owners wash their own cars to save money, which means less demand. You’ll need to decide which niche works best for you.

Identify your target market

Identifying your target market is crucial for your marketing efforts. If you don’t know who you’re targeting, you’ll never get the results that you want. But how can you identify your target market?

Let’s use an example focused on a residential niche. If you offer home exterior cleaning, it’s a good idea to target customers with lots of disposable income. To do this you can target wealthy suburbs or focus on larger houses and double-story homes.

Once you’ve chosen your niche, brainstorm who your perfect customer would be and make that your target market.

Where will your business be based?

Will your business have a fixed location such as a car wash or an office? Or will you start your business from home and travel to your customers?

These days, it’s easier than ever to advertise your business online, making a storefront necessary. So in the beginning, you can easily keep your startup costs low by using a home office.

You’ll need to figure this out before you apply for any licenses and permits or register your business, as you’ll need to include your address on these applications.

Who will be your competition?

Being aware of competitors will increase your chance of success because you’ll be able to analyze their services, prices and strategy. Once you’ve done your research, you should be able to differentiate yourself by offering an alternative service, targeting different customers, or providing better value.

Don’t worry too much about having competitors though, this means that the business is profitable — otherwise they would’ve shut down!

How much should you charge?

To figure this out you can look at what competitors are charging for a similar service. But if you don’t have any local competitors you can always do a quick Google search to see what businesses outside your area are charging.

Once you have an idea of market prices you should then work out your break-even point. To do this, first figure out how much it costs you to provide your service, including expenses for transport, equipment, and labor.

Once you know your costs, add your margin and find your final price using this Step By Step profit margin calculator.

Step 3: 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 washing 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, assessing 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 yourself before, it can be an intimidating task. Consider hiring an experienced business plan writer on Fiverr to create a professional business plan for you.

People working on business plan

Step 4: Choose 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 “washing” or “pressure”, 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

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 at a web cataloging site such as NameChk. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.

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 might offer real advantages when it comes to pressure washing. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business!

Choose your business structure

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

Here are the four main options:

  • Sole proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner: you get to keep all the profits, but you’re personally liable for all debts.
  • Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses.
  • Corporation – 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.
  • 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.

We recommend that most new business owners form an LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can quickly and cheaply form an LLC using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service (it can take as little as 5 minutes). They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your Articles of Organization and be on hand to answer any questions you have about the company formation process.

Business structure comparison infographic

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.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund an entrepreneur’s vision.

Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings, the sale of property or other assets, and support from family and friends.

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a pressuring washing 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, health license and permit 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 licenses 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 could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements. 

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.

For peace of mind and to save time, 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 you to make sure you’re fully compliant.

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 pressure washing 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 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.

Man looking at business bank account documents

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: Set Up Marketing, Tools, and Accounting

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

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, Webflow, 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.

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. We examine several of them below. Software tools that can help you run your pressure washing business include Vonigo, Service Monster, and Smart Service.

Marketing

Some of your business will come from the casual passerby or online visitors [make sure this sentence works for relevant line of work] , but still you should invest in marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. Here are some ideas:

  • Print flyers and post them where your target market will see them or in mailboxes
  • Create an ad for your business, on job sites and in print
  • Ask existing customers for referrals and give them an incentive for helping you
  • Join a trade association such as the Power Washers of North America
  • Target customers that have viewed your website or searched a particular phrase—this is one of the most effective marketing strategies today.

Once your website is up and running, make sure you link to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a particularly good way of 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. 

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.
Project management software on tablet

Step 12: Build Your Team

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

  • Pressure washers — Washing surfaces, maintaining equipment
  • Office Manager — Scheduling, staffing, customer service
  • Marketing Lead — SEO optimization, social media strategy

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 or Facebook.  You can also use free classified sites like Jobs and AngelList. 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!

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the unique characteristics of a product or service that sets 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 pressure washing 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, stimulating buyer desire. 

Some signature USPs for your business could be:

  • Fastest, most efficient pressure washing in the area
  • The most advanced equipment and technicians
  • Best prices in town!
  • Added services such as gutter cleaning, car waxing

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 [fit this bullet point to your article]. 
  • Optimize calls to action – Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now”. This can sharply increase purchases. [fit to your article]
  • 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 

Build Affiliate Relationships

Affiliate marketing is advertising in which you compensate third parties (i.e. your affiliates) in order to generate traffic to your website. You can develop long-term relationships with these affiliates and generate traffic for each other on an ongoing basis.

And that’s the complete Step-By-Step guide to starting a pressure washing business. If you’ve made it this far you know exactly what you need to do to get started. To get the most out of this guide, bookmark it and return later, so you always know which step is next.