Male worker cleaning outdoor pool with underwater vacuum

How To Start a Pool Cleaning Business

When the weather’s warm, many people take a dip in a swimming pool to cool off, have some fun, and get exercise. Keeping swimming pools clean and safely operational is big business, as there are nearly 11 million swimming pools in the US. The pool cleaning industry has grown 6% over the past five years, reaching $5 billion in 2018. Over the same timeframe, the number of businesses has increased 3.4%, while the number of employees has grown 3.5%. It’s the perfect time to start your own pool cleaning business, but doing so successfully means proper planning before you begin.

Making a Business Plan

All good businesses start with a business plan that defines the business mission, examines the target market, competition, startup costs, revenue projections, marketing plan, business structure, and more. The more time and effort you put into your pool service business plan, the better prepared you’ll be when it’s time to open to customers. There are a number of templates available to make it easier for you, and are absolutely necessary if you plan to seek investors to help you get up and running.

In this phase, you’ll want to focus on market research. How many pools are in the area? How many pool cleaning businesses are in the area? How can you make yours different to appeal to more customers? You’ll want to use a tool like KWFinder for some local keyword research to help you find the competition and start working on your digital marketing strategy.

It is  also critical to consider the legal formation of your business. Sole proprietorships are the simplest form and easiest to start, but leave you legally liable for any business debts. LLCs are an affordable way to provide asset protection, but it’s best to consult with a lawyer to see what’s ideal for your situation. There’s also local, state, and federal legal requirements to make sure you are in compliance with, such as obtaining a business license, before you begin taking clients.

While working on your business plan, you will also want to think about business accounting. You’ll need a bank account to handle all the income so you can easily pay any employees, cover your expenses, and prepare for taxes. It’s also a good time to figure your income, so you can use this with your competitive analysis as the basis for setting your rates.

Be prepared to handle the extra seasonal business if you’re operating in an area where it’s not swim-ready weather all the time. It may mean hiring seasonal help to cover the increased demand.  In the off season, focus on servicing indoor pools and spas to keep business running.

Backyard pool for a suburban home

Startup Costs

When dealing with all the financial aspects of starting your new small business, you’ll need to factor in all business expenses. The good news is, there’s a low barrier to entry, especially if you already have a truck or trailer. Your initial startup costs shouldn’t run more than about $2,000, not including any fees paid to setup your legal business structure. You’ll need:

    • A vehicle large enough to transport your equipment
    • A trailer for the equipment if your current vehicle isn’t large enough
    • Business insurance
    • Water-testing kits
    • Pool-cleaning chemicals
    • Skimmers and brushes
    • Leaf rakes
    • Company branded T-shirts or hats
    • Advertising flyers
    • Service agreement to use with customers
  • Pro tip: Leave door hangers to verify service with contact information.

How to Build Skills and Get Certified

As a pool service professional, you’ll obviously need to know how to clean and service swimming pools. One of the best programs available is the Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certification Program by the National Swimming Pool Foundation. You can also look into Certified Service Professional (CSP) certification from the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals. In certain states, such as Florida, the health department requires open-book testing to become certified to clean public and health-club pools, spas, and hot tubs.

Investing in your professional growth and education helps to keep your pool cleaning service growing, but also allows you to offer additional services, such as pool maintenance, to increase your income. Continually make investments in your education to give yourself an edge against the competition.

Because many of the pool cleaning chemicals on the market today are hazardous to your health, it’s worth learning about environmentally-friendly alternatives. Some customers may not want to rely on the harshness of chlorine, and having something that’s just as effective available for them can set your business apart from others in the area.

How To Make Your Pool Business Look Professional

Most pool owners have had bad experiences with fly-by-night pool cleaners, and pool cleaning is a business that requires a certain amount of trust. To project a professional appearance even when you’re brand new, set up a business website with information about your company and your services, and get a business email with your URL (example: JoeZ@OrlandoSparklingPools.com). There will be times when you cannot answer the phone, so you’ll also need a professional voicemail.

Signage on your vehicle and a neat appearance – including a company logo shirt if possible – adds an air of professionalism and can ease neighbor’s concerns.

Young boy swimming underwater and giving two thumbs up for the camera

How to Make More Money

The goal of almost every small business owner is to increase revenue, and that can be challenging. Here are four cost-effective strategies for a small local business to build reputation, make sales, and establish an online presence without breaking the bank.

1. Increase Sales

Invest resources into building an online presence that includes a website and social media channels. Use your website to chat with potential customers and use social media to draw in leads. Post photos of pools before and after you’ve finished with them, and share customer stories.

Broaden your skill set so you can do more than clean the pool and offer maintenance and minor repair. A quick and easy way to increase your earning potential is to sell supplies to pool owners who want to clean the pool themselves between professional cleanings.

2. Increase Word of Mouth

Make providing great customer service a priority, since people will share their experience with friends and family. Remind your customers your business relies on reviews. Use reputation management to your advantage. Always be friendly and cooperative with your customer’s neighbors. Hand out flyers or business cards. Connect with pool builders and ask them to recommend your company to their customers. Most importantly, pay attention to customer feedback and use it to adjust your operations accordingly.

3. Cheap Online Marketing

Make sure your website information is complete and detailed, and claim your Google My Business listing. It may not seem logical for a mobile service like pool cleaning, but add your business to Google Maps. Remember, some people will search “pool cleaning near me,” and you want that business.

Start a Facebook Business Page, and a linked Instagram account, and fill them with enticing pool pictures, fun-in-the-sun stories, and helpful tips.

4. Decrease Expenses

Research costs periodically. Look for ways to save money by buying in bulk, whether it’s through a dedicated pool supply store in your local area or a wholesale club like Costco. Remember, just because you’re getting the best deal you can find right now doesn’t mean that a better one won’t show up in the future. When you grow, you may find even greater savings with larger purposes.

Planning for the Future

As your business grows, you’ll want to have a plan in place for scaling without sacrificing service quality. Develop a training system for new crew members that includes how to behave with customers and passing neighbors. Add an incentive bonus for generating new sales so your crew is also your sales team. Add new trucks and equipment so you can expand your service area.

Dip Your Toes in the Water

If you’re not quite ready to dive into pool cleaning full-time, this is a great business to work part-time and scale up as you’re able. Even if you don’t live in a tropical climate like Florida or California, you can still be successful in the industry.

 

HVAC-Technician

How to Market an HVAC Business

To build a profitable HVAC business, you’ll need to have new customers coming into the business consistently to ensure you’re booking enough jobs. Because the HVAC industry is on-demand, repeat clients aren’t likely. To keep the momentum going, focus efforts on online lead generation tactics.

1. Building Trust with Customers

Customer trust is essential for convincing people to let you into their home. In the early days of your company, it can be difficult to establish that you’re a trustworthy business, so that’s why it’s important to have a high-quality website design. There, you can provide information about your experience and the services you provide, your service area, and contact information so people can get in touch with you. Your website is a major part of your online reputation, and is your first impression with customers – so make it a good one.

Your website needs to be mobile-friendly because most people use their phones to conduct searches. Making the user experience as simple as possible regardless of whether they visit your site from a computer or mobile device will go a long way toward conversion – whether you’re asking them to call you for more information, to fill out a form on your site, or send an email.

2. Make Quick Response Times Easy

Your HVAC website should make it easy for potential customers to contact you. You can add a web chat option on your website, and if you have a mobile app, give people the ability to download it. Your website should at least feature contact information somewhere prominent. It’s also important to make it easy for customers to review your business since reviews play a crucial role in your search engine optimization (SEO).

Once your site is generating HVAC leads, a quick response time is essential. Customers won’t necessarily go with the first company they contact, but the first one that responds to their inquiry, especially in emergency situations. A study revealed companies who contact their leads within an hour are seven times more likely to qualify that lead than companies who waited just an hour later, and 60 times more likely than companies who wait a full 24 hours. The odds of contacting a lead in 30 minutes drop 100 times compared to contacting the lead within five minutes.

Local SEO Marketing

When a potential customer needs a new installation, maintenance, or repair on their heater, air conditioner, or refrigerator, they’ll turn to a search engine to find local options. They’ll start with who they see first, so the higher your business ranks in those local listings, the more business you’ll draw. As you build your HVAC marketing strategy, make ranking on the first page in local search on the web and mobile your first priority. Here are steps you can take to improve your local search rankings:

3. Rank Your HVAC Services in Google Maps

Begin by adding your business to Google Maps. Include a main keyword in your business name. Though it can have a negative effect on your NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency, the rank boost you can get is often worth it. Updating all other NAP listings with the keyword-focused business name can also improve ranking and keep consistency intact.

When you claim your business listing in Google, you’ll be awarded verified status, and have more control over what people see when they click your listing.

HVAC Technician repairing a home digital thermostat

 

4. Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Answer all questions completely, because the more information you give Google, the better. All of the following information should be present and complete:

  • Phone number
  • Business address
  • Website address (URL)
  • Business hours
  • Business categories
  • Details of your business
  • Profile images
  • Business description
  • Reviews
  • Questions and answers

Good category choices in this industry are HVAC Contractor, Heating Contractor, Heating Equipment Supplier, Air Conditioning Repair Service, Air Compressor Repair Service, Air Compressor Supplier, and, Air Conditioning Contractor. Whichever ones you choose, make sure to max them out.

Enable the messaging and booking feature so people can get in touch without having to leave Google. Use the questions and answers area to address some of the most frequently asked questions.

5. Getting Reviews as an HVAC Contractor

Customer reviews and word-of-mouth are what keeps many HVAC businesses running. Google Reviews, unlike Yelp, allows you to ask your customers for reviews as long as you do so ethically. Beyond Google, it’s a good idea to encourage customers to review your business on Facebook, Angie’s List, Porch, Yelp, and HomeAdvisor. Simply ask your customers in person to leave a review when you finish the job. Alternatively, you can hand them a card with the review URLs to make it easy for them, or follow up with an email with the links to leave reviews.

Always respond promptly to reviews. When a customer leaves a negative review, be sure to respond appropriately.

6. Create Useful Content for Your HVAC Website

Adding a blog to your website will give you more opportunities to capture search rankings. It will also allow you to add a bit of content marketing to your overall strategy. When you create content, focus on speaking to clients, rather than industry professionals. Focus your efforts on writing about what your audience is searching for. For example, you could create posts such as “How to Choose the Right HVAC System for Your Home” and “Why You Need Regular HVAC Maintenance.”

HVAC Business Facebook Page
Harry Clark Plumbing & Heating Inc., San Leandro, CA

7. Embrace Social Media for HVAC Professionals

Social signals are one of the ranking factors Google uses to determine where to place your website in search results for keywords. You’ll need to include social media as part of your online marketing efforts. Start with a Facebook Page. Share links to your blog content, photos and videos of projects you’ve completed, and mention the services you offer. All of this can help you promote your business on Facebook. Use the built-in analytics data to learn more about how people are engaging with you on social media, paying close attention to customer feedback.

8. Community Partnerships & Referral Marketing

As an HVAC professional, one of the best ways you can grow your business is to forge strategic partnerships with other local businesses in your community. Donate services to non-profits as silent auction items to get new business from the winner, and publicity throughout the community for your donation. Work with contractors in other industries who can recommend your services to their clients – and do the same for them. Join professional trade organizations such as Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA),  American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Radiant Professionals Alliance (RPA), and the International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR). Invest in email marketing to stay in touch with past customers and promote a referral program where they are rewarded for sending new customers to you.

9. Get a Boost with Paid Advertising

Using pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns with Google and Facebook can help you generate traffic and leads for your business. Your ad displays in relevant Google searches, and in the news feed or sidebar of Facebook accounts belonging to people you select as part of your target audience. Google Ads, when executed well, is estimated to yield 2 to 2.3x return on investment. You may also wish to invest in ads on the other home improvement sites where you’re trying to build up your online reviews, like the Yellow Pages, Porch, HomeAdvisor, and Angie’s List.

Conclusion

When it comes to marketing your HVAC company, you’ll use many of the same tactics all other businesses are out there using. It’s knowing how to use the methods to create an industry-specific HVAC marketing plan that makes the difference. As long as you have a strong, professional online presence and focus your efforts on showcasing your value proposition to your potential customers, your small business will be a success.

How Much Do Small Business Owners Really Make?

How Much Do Small Business Owners Make?

The United States is well known for its entrepreneurial spirit. With so many small business ideas to choose from, there’s something for everyone. In fact, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that 30.2 million small businesses make up 99.9% of all businesses in the country. But is owning a small business worth it?

How much do business owners make? Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer, since the earning potential varies depending on the industry, type of business, size of the business, and other factors. However, business owners are more in control of their salary than the average employee, since they can set their own.  Here’s how to figure out what you should make when starting a new business.

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How Much Small Business Owners Make

According to PayScale, the average small business owner earns $60,378 a year, with a salary range of $27,000 to $150,000. SBA data shows the median income for individuals self-employed at their own incorporated business was $50,347 in 2016, and for those self-employed at their own unincorporated businesses, the figure is $23,060.

Going beyond the business type and industry, your experience level and cost of living in your area are two of the major factors that dictate your salary. The longer you’ve been in business and the more experience you have doing the work, the more you’ll be able to charge. Opening a business in New York City or Los Angeles where the cost of living – and doing business – will cost far more than opening a business in Oklahoma City, where expenses are much lower.

The wage gap affects small business owners across most industries. On average, women earn 80 cents for every dollar men make, so women who own businesses earn an average salary of $47,200.

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An often overlooked factor is business expenses. While no business owner wants to struggle financially, it’s not possible to keep every dollar the business brings in. If there are employees, they must be paid before the owner can take their payment – or there won’t be people to keep the business running.

How to Figure Your Salary

How to Figure Your Salary as a small business owner

When it comes to how much you should pay yourself as a small business owner, first consider your bottom line. Calculate your living expenses per month, and multiply by 12. If you need $3,500/month to pay your rent or mortgage, car payment, utilities, insurance, and groceries, then you know you cannot take less than $42,000 a year as your annual income.

Next, consider your compensation options. While a flat salary is ideal for accounting purposes since your payments are clear on the books, you also have the option to take a salary plus commission, so you can make a little extra money when business is going well, or pay yourself with stock options.

Once you have that bottom dollar, it’s time to figure out if your business can afford to pay you that much. If your business isn’t earning enough to cover your salary, then you can’t take it. If you’re not turning a profit, you may not be able to afford to pay yourself much, if anything at all.

Now, think about what a similar job would pay you, factoring in your skills and experience. How much money could you earn working for another company in the same industry? Trade magazines and organizations can be helpful to determine the salaries of competing business owners.

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You can use the bottom dollar salary to help you determine the hourly rate you should be charging clients – or the prices you should charge for packages or services.

Taking that $42,000 annual salary, and adding $20,000 for business expenses, taxes, and profit, to put back into the business, you’ll need $62,000 a year in gross income, or $1192.30 a week. If you want to work a standard 40-hour week and take two weeks off a year for vacation, you’ll need to earn $31/hr to pay your salary and have enough money for your expenses. You’ll need to charge more than that to ensure you’re earning a net profit. It’s up to you whether to take the company’s profits and reinvest into the business.

It may be tempting not to pay yourself because you’d rather invest the money back in your business, but that’s not a good idea. If you’re paying your bills from savings, the money will eventually run out. If you never draw a paycheck from your business, you won’t get an accurate picture of what it costs to run your business, and because you’ll eventually want to be paid, it may be hard to start paying yourself and keep the business going.

Tax & Legal Information For Small Business Owners

Tax & Legal Information For Small Business Owners

All that said, the requirements for paying yourself as a business owner vary based on your business’ legal structure.

If you’re operating as a sole proprietor, then you won’t be an employee, and you won’t receive a paycheck or be subject to automatic withholding. You’ll be responsible for paying self-employed taxes and will take your pay from a distribution of your business profit. Everything is handled on your personal income tax filing with an additional form, known as a Schedule C, that addresses business revenue.

If you’re in a partnership, your yearly salary comes from the business profits, but the amount of money and how it is distributed is determined by the language in the partnership or LLC operating agreement. LLC owners, or members, are not employees and will not receive a salary. They are treated as sole proprietors for tax purposes unless the LLC elects to be taxed like a corporation. Multiple-member LLCs are treated as partners in a partnership.

If you own a C-corporation or an S-corporation, you are a shareholder, and if you work as a corporate office, you are entitled to your own salary, with the necessary employment tax deductions.

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Regardless of business structure, you’ll still pay taxes on the income you earn – and the income the business earns. The difference lies in the forms used to report it and how the taxes are calculated.

It’s worth noting the IRS requires business owners pay themselves a “reasonable salary” which means you’ll pay yourself what you would be paid working in a similar role for another business. Paying yourself an unusually high salary for your industry or overall business revenue could trigger an IRS audit.

You’ll be able to deduct business expenses, such as hourly wages paid to employees or independent contractors, car expenses if used for business purposes, capital equipment expenses, and more.

More than likely, you’ll be required to make estimated quarterly tax payments. At the end of the year when you file your return you report your actual income. If you overpaid your quarterly taxes, then you’ll get a refund.

How To Grow Your Salary By Being More Profitable

How To Grow Your Salary By Being More Profitable

Maximizing your profits requires strategies that include minimizing costs and pricing that is both profitable and competitive. Small businesses often have trouble competing with bigger businesses on price, and rely on other strategies to grow their business. Here are three ways to up profits – and increase your salary:

1. Increase in Sales

Small businesses often have an advantage over big chains. They can offer fast, personal response big businesses can’t match, and follow-up every lead. Lightning fast response is often the key to a sale. A website with a chat feature enabled allows you to offer help at the exact moment customers need it – and gives you the advantage of instant, personal response.

2. Generate Word-of-Mouth (WOM)

For small businesses, reputation is everything. You can grow your brand and ensure your reviews remain positive by:

3. Decrease Expenses

The less you spend, the more you profit. While you may not be able to take full advantage of volume discounts, you can shop around, buy smart, and understand data, so you stock only what customers want to buy.

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Conclusion

Small business owners often struggle to figure out how much they should pay themselves. If you pay yourself what you’re really worth, you may stifle business growth.  It’s important to find balance and pay yourself a living wage your business can support, without cheating customers, product, or employees.

After you’ve determined your salary, you’ll want to examine it again from time to time, to make sure you’re on track to earn what you need. As your business grows, you will naturally make adjustments; increasing rates for customers, amping up marketing to grow your customer base, looking for ways to reduce business expenses or a combination of those actions. Increasing revenue for the business means increasing your own income!