Diving into the entrepreneurial waters with a pool cleaning business can be a promising opportunity. Swimming pools provide hours of recreation and exercise for homeowners across the country. But keeping a pool properly maintained requires regular cleaning and chemical treatment that many homeowners don’t have the time or expertise to handle themselves. That’s where a pool cleaning service comes in.
While pool cleaning may seem like simple work, building a successful pool cleaning business requires more than just technical skills. In this guide, we will provide an overview of the pool cleaning business, steps to get started, and answers to common questions for new entrepreneurs..
Pool cleaning businesses offer a variety of services to the owners of residential and/or commercial pools (hotels, apartments, fitness centers) and hot tubs. Cleaning a pool is a multi-step process, and in a single appointment, a pool cleaner or pool technician will remove any debris from the pool, test and adjust the chemical levels as needed, clean out the catch baskets, clean the filters, and clean the bottom of the pool with a brush or a vacuum. These services are necessary to preserve a pool’s life and keep the water bacteria-free and safe for swimmers. While the process isn’t too difficult, it is time-consuming, so many pool owners opt to hire a pool cleaner to come in at scheduled times and maintain their pool.
The above services are just as important for commercial pools, and because these pools see such a high degree of use, they need to be cleaned and maintained more frequently. Commercial pools are often larger than residential pools, so they can take more time but result in more profit.
In addition to these services, some pool cleaners branch out into offering pool equipment repair services, and they may troubleshoot issues, then order and install replacement parts of the pool filter, pump, and more.
If you’re interested in getting into the pool cleaning industry, there are two ways to get started: You can build your business from the ground up, or you could purchase an existing route from a pool cleaning company or franchise.
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Pool Cleaning Industry
The pool cleaning industry is highly fragmented and dominated by small operators and sole proprietors. Over 90% of businesses are non-employers with no paid staff aside from the owner. Most companies offer services within a local area, cleaning both residential and commercial pools within a 30-mile radius.
Pool cleaning work involves routine cleaning tasks like skimming leaves and debris from the water surface, scrubbing pool walls and floors, and vacuuming. Maintenance tasks include monitoring and adjusting chemical levels, cleaning and replacing filters, and inspecting equipment. Many companies also provide opening and closing services at the start and end of pool season.
Residential clients make up the largest share of revenue, particularly households earning over $100,000 per year, while commercial facilities like hotels, apartment complexes, and gyms represent a smaller share of the customer base. Industry revenue tends to be higher in warmer regions with long pool seasons.
The swimming pool cleaning industry is expected to reach $7.2 billion in sales by the end of 2023. While revenue declined over the last five years, the primary cause was COVID-19. The industry is expected to grow over the next five years as many consumers are expected to continue prioritizing home-based recreation and amenities coming out of the pandemic, benefiting in-home services like pool cleaning.
Checklist To Start A Pool Cleaning Business
Starting a pool cleaning business can be an exciting and rewarding business. However, proper planning and preparation are essential for success. To help, this step-by-step guide, covers essential aspects such as market research, business registration, funding options, and more.
Step 1: Assess the Market
Before diving into starting a pool cleaning business, conducting thorough market research is an important step. Even though you can skip this step, researching the market research provides information about the competitive landscape, customer preferences, and industry trends. It helps you assess the potential demand for your pool cleaning services, and without it, you risk investing time and money into a business that may not have enough customers to sustain it.
Understanding your potential clients also enables you to tailor your service offerings and pricing. While research can’t guarantee success, it provides an objective method for evaluating the viability of a new pool cleaning company.
A few ways to research the market include:
- Analyze local competition: First off, get to know the other pool cleaning businesses in your area. This isn’t about copying what they do; it’s about identifying what they offer and finding your unique way to stand out. Also, look at online reviews to find common complaints that your business could resolve. Negative reviews may indicate inadequate competition.
- Analyze housing data: Assess if there are enough homes with pools to support another pool service in your area by researching real estate listings and housing starts. High-income neighborhoods are ideal target markets. This can be done through the Census Bureau or local demographic data.
- Conduct surveys and Interviews: Reach out on social media to gather insights about their pool cleaning needs. Surveys and interviews can help you understand their preferences, pain points, and willingness to pay for professional pool cleaning services or leave their current provider.
- Talk to pool supply retailers: Stores selling pool chemicals and equipment have visibility into local pool ownership rates from their customer base. They can also be a great referral source, as pool owners will often ask for their recommendations.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
Unless you are looking for funding, this step could be optional, but I would still recommend putting together a business plan. A business plan is great for organizing your thoughts and outlining the company’s goals, strategies, and financial projections.
When presenting a business plan to lenders, several key sections of the business plan hold particular significance:
- Market analysis: In this part, you look at the pool cleaning market in your local area to understand what your competition is like and to figure out where your business fits in. It’s a section where you answer questions like “Are there many people with pools?” and “What do people want from a pool cleaning service?” Knowing these things will help you explain why your business has a good chance to succeed.
- Management team: Here, you write down who is going to be running the business and what jobs they’ll be doing. If it’s just you, talk about what skills and knowledge you bring to the business. This part is important because people lending you money want to know that the business will be run by someone who knows what they are doing.
- Financial projections: Here, you need to provide an estimate of how much money your business can potentially make and what the costs will be. This should be realistic based on the research you did in the market analysis section. Lenders will look at this closely to see if your business has a good chance of making money and being able to repay the loan.
Before showing your business plan to potential lenders, it’s smart to get feedback from someone who knows business, like a business advisor or an accountant. They can help find any issues and give advice on how to improve the plan.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Source Funding
So, now you’ve got a fantastic idea backed by some data and a business plan, it’s time to start putting your plans into motion. The next step, which is making sure there is enough money to get started is a big step.
If you haven’t already calculated what you need to get started in the business plan, I would suggest getting this list together now. If you skip this step and then find out you don’t have enough money to get started, all of the remaining steps will be a waste of your time.
Pool cleaning services can be comparatively very inexpensive to start, but you may have big plans. Regardless, that’s perfectly okay because there are other ways to gather the funds you need. Here are some of the most common ones:
Getting a Loan from a Bank
Going to a bank to get a loan is a common option. Most banks will ask you to show that you’ve put a good chunk of your own money into the business, usually between 15% and 25% of the total cost. They will also look at your credit score to see how reliable you are in paying back debts. Sometimes, if the bank thinks giving a loan is a bit too risky, they might still agree but with an SBA guarantee, making it a bit safer for them.
Borrowing from Friends and Family
If you have friends or family who believe in your dream, they might be willing to help you out financially. It’s important here to be clear about the terms and to write down the agreement to avoid any confusion or hard feelings later on.
There’s also the option of microloans. These are smaller loans that are often easier to get compared to bank loans. The fantastic thing about microloans is that they sometimes come with business training to help you manage your business better.
Step 4: Register the Business
With the money in place, it’s time to begin registering the business. Here’s a general break of what you need to know:
Choosing a business structure: First off, you need to decide on a business structure. Here are the four main types you can choose from:
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest form, and it’s relatively cheap and easy to set up. It means that you alone own the business. However, keep in mind that you will personally be responsible for any debts or problems the business may have.
- General partnership: In this structure, you and one or more partners will share ownership of the business. Like a sole proprietorship, it’s simple to start, but all partners share the responsibility for the business’s debts and problems.
- Corporation: Setting up a corporation involves more paperwork and legal stuff, but it gives you the benefit of personal protection from business debts and lawsuits. It can be a good option if you plan to have a big business with employees.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): This option combines elements of both corporations and sole proprietorships. It offers personal liability protection and is simpler to set up than a corporation.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Every state has its own rules and requirements, so you’ll need to find out what is needed in your specific state. To start with, several states require licensing or certifications in order to professionally clean pools through the Health Department.
Next, while not licensing, certification can be helpful as a professional development opportunity and a way to market your business more effectively. The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance offers the Certified Pool & Spa Operator Certification.
In addition to pool-specific requirements, there are also general business registrations that may be needed, such as a business license, sales tax permit, or Employer Identification Number, among others.
Step 5: Purchase Equipment & Supplies
After securing funding and registering the pool cleaning business, setting up your pool cleaning business with the right equipment and supplies is a huge step – and one that means you are getting close to taking your first customer.
First things first, you need to make a list of all the equipment and supplies that you’ll need. It will likely include items like pool nets, vacuums, and chemicals for treating the water. If you don’t have a lot of experience in using this equipment, be sure to take some time to understand what each tool does before heading out to a customer’s pool.
Next, you will need to outfit a vehicle to service customer’s pools. Consider attractive signage on your vehicle, as potential customers may see you in the neighborhood and need their pool cleaned.
Also, don’t forget that buying equipment and supplies is an investment in your business. That means you can get a break on your taxes for these purchases. So, remember to keep the receipts for everything you buy. You’ll need these at the end of the year, to help reduce the amount of taxes you owe.
Step 6: Create a Marketing Strategy
You are nearing the finish line to launch your pool cleaning business, and it’s time to let people know you are open for business.
A traditional yet effective way to draw attention to your pool cleaning services is by distributing printed marketing materials such as flyers and business cards. This method, although old-school, allows for affordable and targeted local advertising that can help reach potential customers in your immediate vicinity.
Next, having a well-designed website that has your contact information and showcases your services, perhaps with before-and-after photos of clean pools, can be a strong move. And don’t overlook the power of social media. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be great places to show off your work and connect with potential customers.
In addition to your website, it is beneficial to claim your business on relevant online directories like Google Business Profile, Angi, and others. This improves visibility and increases the chances of being found by potential customers searching for pool cleaning services in their area.
A well-designed website that showcases your services, perhaps with before-and-after photos of clean pools, can be a strong move. And don’t overlook the power of social media. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be great places to show off your work and connect with potential customers.
Paid online advertising, such as Google Ads and social media ads, is another popular method for marketing a pool cleaning business. These platforms allow for precise targeting based on location, interests, and demographics, ensuring your marketing efforts reach the right audience.
Finally, forming partnerships with local pool supply companies and joining the local chamber of commerce can enhance visibility and create opportunities for collaboration and referrals
Step 7: Prepare to Launch!
Everyone will have different needs, but there are likely several steps that are still needed to launch your business. Here are some of the remaining key steps that you may need to consider:
Business insurance: It’s important to get appropriate business insurance to protect your business from potential risks or liabilities. This often includes liability insurance, property insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance.
Related: What insurance do pool cleaning businesses need?
Bookkeeping: Setting up a system for bookkeeping is vital to keep track of your business finances. Consider hiring a professional accountant or using accounting software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks.
Contracts: Having well-detailed contracts is essential. In the pool cleaning industry, these might include service agreements outlining the frequency of services, payment terms, and liabilities. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful, but always have your contracts reviewed by a legal professional to ensure they cover all necessary aspects.
Bank account: Open a separate business bank account. This helps keep personal and business finances separate, making it easier for tax purposes.
Management software: Consider investing in management software to help streamline operations. Skimmer, Jobber, and Housecall Pro are popular options for scheduling, invoicing, and managing customer relationships.
Setting pricing: Determine your pricing strategy based on factors such as local market rates, the cost of equipment and supplies, and overhead costs.
Accepting credit cards: Implementing a system for accepting credit card payments can increase convenience for your customers. Providers like Square or Stripe offer simple solutions for small businesses on the move.
Industry Associations: Joining industry associations such as The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance and the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA) can provide networking opportunities, resources, and credibility.
Common Questions When Starting A Pool Cleaning Business
How much does it cost to start a pool cleaning business?
Starting a pool cleaning business requires a minimal initial investment, making it an accessible option for many entrepreneurs. The necessary equipment and supplies can often be purchased for between $2,000 and $5,000, and some business owners decide to use their own personal truck, van, or SUV as they get their business up and running.
Here is a breakdown of the key initial expenses involved:
The largest expenses would be in the vehicle. For a vehicle like a van or truck, expect to pay $5,000 to $15,000 for a used model in good condition that can transport your tools and hold chemicals safely.
Basic equipment like leaf skimmers, brushes, vacuums, and water testing kits will cost around $500 to $1,500. Other supplies like chlorine and safety gear will be an additional ongoing expense.
Licensing requirements vary by state and region. For basic registration, licensing, and permits, allot $50 to $500. Pool service professional certification courses cost around $250 to $400. General business licenses are $50 to $100 annually.
Liability insurance is crucial for protecting yourself from customer claims and will run from $400 to $1,200 annually for a basic policy.
Market yourself from the start with a professional logo, brochures, and website for approximately $300 to $1,000.
You’ll also need to pay initial deposits for a business phone/internet service ($200 to $500) and possible office or warehouse rental if you choose not to operate from home.
How profitable is a pool cleaning business?
The profit pool cleaning businesses can generate varies widely based on the number of clients, pricing, and expenses. However, looking at industry benchmarks provides a reasonable estimate.
The average pool cleaning service charges around $100 per month per residential client for weekly cleaning and maintenance. For a solo operator servicing 50 regular residential accounts, that equates to $5,000 in monthly revenue or $60,000 annually.
Industry analysis shows cost of goods sold averages around 15% of revenue. For $60,000 in revenue, the annual expenses for chemicals, equipment, etc. would be approximately $9,000.
Additional overhead expenses like insurance, fuel, marketing, and other costs account for about 18% of revenue or $10,800 per year.
Factoring in these estimated expenses of $19,800, the potential annual pre-tax profit for a pool cleaning business with $60,000 in annual revenue from 50 clients would be in the range of $40,200.
Remember, when creating your sales projections, that this business experiences seasonality that varies on the location. Warmer areas have longer warm seasons, which means a longer season to service pools.
Of course, the number of clients served and rates charged directly impact revenue and profit potential. Additionally, expanding to hire employees increases labor costs. However, these industry benchmarks provide a realistic snapshot of the earning potential for a pool cleaning entrepreneur. With hard work and effective management, six-figure net incomes are feasible within a few years of operation.
What skills are needed to run a pool cleaning business?
There’s no need to have a business degree to start a pool cleaning service, but certain skills and experience are helpful and can increase your chances of starting a successful business.
Pool cleaning experience: Some experience in cleaning and maintaining pools, even if just done for a summer job, will be helpful when starting a business of your own. Familiarity with the types of equipment and cleaning strategies used is important and will make for a smoother transition into starting and owning a pool cleaning business.
Attention to detail: When working with chemicals or choosing the right replacement part for a client’s pool, attention to detail matters. Clients will quickly learn if a business does a thorough cleaning and maintenance job – and if they don’t.
Mechanical experience: Pool cleaners need to maintain more than just the pool – they’re often responsible for maintaining the pump, filters, and all of the other components that keep a pool running. Mechanical experience will be useful when it comes to maintaining pumps and ordering and installing new parts.
Management skills: If a business expands and hires additional employees, management experience in interviewing, hiring, training, and overseeing employees will be important.
Customer service and communication skills: Customer service is a significant part of the pool cleaning industry. A business owner needs to have strong communication skills, the ability to manage schedules effectively, and dedication to showing up on time to establish and retain clients.
What is the NAICS code for a pool cleaning business?
The NAICS code for a pool cleaning business is 561790.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?
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