How to Start a Pressure Washing Business in 6 Steps
If you’ve been wrestling with the idea of starting a business in the pressure washing industry, you’ve picked a rewarding challenge. Reports predict that the global pressure washer market will reach $3 billion in revenue in 2024. Demand is increasing for commercial cleaning services that use high-pressure mechanical sprayers to deep-clean dirty building structures, driveways, vehicles, and more.
Starting your own pressure washing business also lets you enjoy the many perks of being your own boss. You control your schedule, which clients you work with, and how much money you make. Also, if you love being on the road and working outside with your hands (and heavy-duty washing equipment), then this industry is a good match for you.
Below, we’re breaking down the steps on how to start a pressure washing business.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Write Your Business Plan
Writing a business plan creates a business roadmap to help you hit the right milestones. Also, lenders can decide whether to approve or reject your loan application based on how comprehensive your business plan is. To give you and your business the best chance for success, pay careful attention to the following sections when writing your business plan.
Conduct a Market Analysis
A market analysis identifies your ideal customer and how you can best serve them. More importantly, it will show the size of your market and whether there is a need for your services.
For example, targeting families renting in low-income neighborhoods might not produce the results you want because this market likely doesn’t have the disposable income or need for regular pressure washing services. If you’re interested in setting up shop in an area with mostly apartment buildings, you’ll want to identify the management companies and find out if they already have contracts with other pressure washing companies—and if you can provide something these competitors can’t.
With pressure washing businesses, it’s not always necessary to target one niche market. To expand your business and improve your bottom line, you can serve a variety of clients, including:
- Vehicle owners
- Government agencies
- Commercial property owners
Think of your business as a car and revenue is the fuel that runs it. Without a careful grip on your finances, your business will quickly run out of fuel and arrive at a standstill. You’ll want to provide an overview of your business’s financials in your business plan, as well as projections for the next few years. To stay on top of these numbers, you’ll want to:
Budget Your Expenses
When starting a pressure washing business, there are various monthly expenses to consider. An understanding of the expected costs can help you prepare when it’s time to apply for a business loan. Below are some (but not all) expenses you should account for when creating your business budget:
- Monthly lease payments for equipment
- Monthly lease payments for a commercial vehicle
- Transportation (gasoline and maintenance)
- Marketing materials (business cards, advertising, website)
- Small business insurance
- Salary (for yourself and your potential employees)
Separate Your Personal and Business Expenses
It’s recommended for all small business owners to open a business bank account. This helps to keep your personal and business assets neatly separated. This financial barrier is useful for two primary reasons:
- Taxes: Reviewing your business expenditures for tax write-offs is easier when your personal and business assets are easily distinguishable.
- Personal liability: If you form an LLC or corporation, you enjoy some personal liability protections. Your personal assets are mostly protected during any financial or legal disputes—but only if they’re clearly separated.
Step 2: Register Your Business
There is some official paperwork to complete before you can jump in and start booking jobs. To register your business with the appropriate state and local agencies, you’ll need to:
Choose Your Business Entity
There are several business entities to choose from, which will affect your tax structure, your risk level, and more. Some of the most common business structures are:
- Sole proprietorship: Sole proprietorships don’t offer any personal liability protections. If you run into a financial or legal dispute, you assume total liability because you and your business are legally the same entity. In an industry where you’ll be working on commercial and private properties, this might leave you more vulnerable than you’d like. Another aspect of a sole proprietorship is that your personal and business taxes are filed together.
- Limited liability company (LLC): While some LLCs are formed with multiple business partners, you can form an LLC as an individual. If you form an LLC over a sole proprietorship, you gain certain advantages, like personal liability protections. During a legal dispute, the opposing party can only sue your company and not you, the individual.
- Corporation: Corporations are the preferred business structure for larger businesses expecting rapid growth. This independent legal entity enjoys many of the liability protections and tax advantages that LLCs do and more. However, this often comes at the cost of more paperwork and costs, like writing bylaws and filing additional paperwork with the IRS.
Choose a Unique Business Name
There are thousands of registered and active businesses in your state alone—a unique business name distinguishes your brand from similar businesses. Once you’ve come up with a name, confirm its availability with your secretary of state’s office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You’ll also want to verify your desired domain name is available using sites like Name.com, GoDaddy.com, or a simple Google search.
Register for Taxes
If you plan on hiring employees, you’ll need an employer identification number (EIN). You can apply for an employer identification number online with the IRS. This number will also be used when you file your business taxes. As well, there are several other benefits to obtaining an EIN, even if your business isn’t required to get one.
Step 3: Secure Small Business Startup Funding
Taking your business from idea to action often requires startup funding. Here are a few ways to secure the money you need to get your business up and running:
- Business loans: If you want to apply for a business loan, your first stop is usually with your bank. However, if you’re a new entrepreneur with little-to-no business history, you may struggle to find a bank to approve your loan application. In that case, you may next turn to SBA loans—still highly competitive—or alternative lenders.
- Equipment loans: Securing the pressure washing equipment and tanks for running your business often presents a hefty upfront cost. Depending on the quality and type of pressure washer you need, you can find prices ranging from $1,000 to $15,0000. It may be worth researching equipment financing to help you cover these startup costs.
- Self-finance your business: If you have the financial means, you can consider self-financing your business. People interested in bootstrapping should already have cultivated a knack for financial discipline and stretching a dollar. It’s worth noting that a lean budget may stunt your business growth, as well as risking your personal cash reserves. However, self-financing can be rewarding because bootstrapping entrepreneurs enjoy full ownership of their businesses.
Step 4: Obtain Permits, Licenses, and Business Insurance
The next step in starting your pressure washing business is to obtain the necessary documentation and protections to operate your business legally.
Research Your State’s Requirements
Before you start your business, you should research your state’s requirements for operating a pressure washing business. For example, business owners of pressure washing businesses must obtain a license through the Contractors State License Board. Regulations change over time, so be sure to regularly check with your state and local county offices.
Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy
Some pressure washing businesses don’t travel to the customer’s location and operate from a single location, like pressure washing for vehicles. If you purchase the property for your business, you’ll need to obtain a certificate of occupancy. This document confirms that the building is being used for commercial purposes and that the structure itself is compliant with building codes. You can obtain a certificate of occupancy by checking with your county’s building department.
Purchase Small Business Insurance
Like health or car insurance, small business insurance is something you hope you won’t need to use but will be glad you have if you do. You can rest easy knowing that some of your costs are covered during any damage and legal claims. You’ll thank yourself later if you accidentally damage commercial property while on the job. If you have employees, you will also need to obtain some employee-specific coverage, such as workers compensation.
Step 5: Market Your Business
You’re nearly finished setting up your business. Now, you have to get the word out. After all, no business can succeed without paying customers.
Improve Your Website SEO
When building your small business website, make sure that your content and information is optimized for ranking in local search results. For example, if you’re operating your pressure washing business in Chicago, you’ll want to focus your SEO efforts on ranking for “pressure washing Chicago” to encourage local residents and businesses to visit your website. Creating a website with potential customers in mind will help you build an informative and SEO-friendly site.
You can use your business vehicle as an advertising tool on wheels. Passively market your business services to your local community as you travel to various job sites. Eye-catching visuals and logos that clearly capture your brand’s specific services will distinguish your business. Also, you’ll want to position your contact information in a large and clear font.
Join a Network
Operating your business within a bubble can close your doors to exciting opportunities. Consider joining a network specifically for entrepreneurs with their own pressure washing businesses, like the United Association of Mobile Contract Cleaners or Power Washers of North America. Interacting with small business owners within your industry can expose you to new marketing ideas or innovative business practices. Also, you never know when a person within your network will send a lead your way.
Create a Loyalty Program
Acquiring a new customer costs significantly more money than retaining an existing customer. A loyalty program where customers accumulate redeemable points can incentivize repeat business. This business practice is especially viable for those who operate a pressure washing business for vehicles, as people will likely have their car cleaned more often than their house or office building.
Step 6: Know Your Employer Responsibilities
When starting a small business, expect to wear several different hats throughout each day. In addition to offering pressure washing services to your customers, you’ll also be training and hiring new employees, working payroll, and marketing your business.
As a small business owner with employees, you also have federally regulated obligations to fulfill. To help you create a fair and safe environment for your staff, be sure to review the OSHA Employer Responsibilities. Here are a few key rules to be mindful of when operating your pressure washing business:
- Post in plain view a poster that informs employees of their rights and responsibilities.
- Use clear labels and signs to warn employees of potential hazards.
- Provide safety training using clear language and vocabulary.
- Create a working environment that complies with OSHA standards.
- Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
Starting a pressure washing business requires a significant investment of your time, energy, and finances. Most of your resources will be used up during the early stages as you write your business plan and secure startup funding. However, checking these boxes off early will save you from many headaches down the line. With patience and entrepreneurial grit, you can build a successful and profitable pressure washing business.
Dan Marticio is a small business owner and contributing writer at JustBusiness, specializing in business finance and entrepreneurship. He’s written on a broad range of topics from stocks and net worth to productivity hacks. He helps SMBs scale and profit through compelling content.