A guide on how to start a pressure washing business from suds to success
Starting your own pressure washing business offers low startup costs, the chance to be your own boss, and a flexible schedule. Of course, this involves more than just buying a pressure washer, some cleaning supplies, and a vehicle.
The median salary of a pressure washer technician is more than $46,000 per year, according to Salary.com. By some estimates, pressure washer salaries have increased by 24 percent over the past five years. Pressure washing jobs are expected to grow by 6 percent by 2028, from the previous decade.
Before launching a pressure washing business, it’s a good idea to draft a business plan that spells out the type of equipment you use, your targeted customers, and how you reach them. You should also consider the types of business insurance you’ll need to protect your business and your bottom line.
Here’s a step-by-step approach that you can follow to get your business off the ground and make it profitable.
1. Draft a business plan for your pressure washing company
Before launching a pressure washing business, you should start with your own business plan, where you outline what your business structure will be, the kind of services you’ll provide, and how you’ll promote your business.
Here are some key things to consider in your business plan:
An executive summary
Start with your business name. It should be something distinct that lets people know what your business does. It’s a good idea to check the names of power washers in your area, so you don’t start using a name that’s too similar to your competitors.
You might include the name of your town or neighborhood in your business name. This would make it clear to your potential customers as to where you’re located. It could also help when people do a Google search for pressure washers in your town.
An effective logo
After your business name, you should consider what type of logo you’ll have. It should be one that makes it clear what your business does. You could buy an “off-the-shelf” logo online, or hire someone to create one for you. Placing your logo on your business vehicle, business cards, and signs is a good way to promote your business.
Your market research
Starting a business without research is like looking before you leap. You can search Google and online Yellow Pages for pressure washers in your area, to see what type of services they offer and get an idea of what they charge.
Ask your friends and neighbors if they know of anyone who does power washing themselves. You might find someone who can offer advice, and it’ll let people know about your new business.
Choose your business structure
You have many options for how you launch your power washing company. Will you be a sole proprietor or will you form a limited liability company (LLC)?
The easiest type of business to launch is a sole proprietorship. You’ll likely need a separate business bank account and credit card for your business, and you can list your business income on your personal tax return. The downside is any liabilities that affect your business would directly impact you as well. As far as the law is concerned, you and your sole proprietorship are one in the same.
LLCs are more complicated and creating one would likely require the help of an attorney. The main reason that sole proprietors form LLCs is they create a separate legal entity for your business. This way, your personal assets are legally protected from any debts and liabilities faced by your business.
Get your business license
You may have to get a business license and/or register your business with your state and local government. Your local city or county clerk’s office, and your state’s Secretary of State website, can help you figure out what’s required.
If you form an LLC, you’ll also need to obtain federal and state tax ID numbers. If you’re a sole proprietor without employees, you won’t need a separate tax ID or employer identification number (EIN) as you’ll file your taxes using your own Social Security Number.
Check zoning and environmental laws
As you’re obtaining your business license and forming your business, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re aware of local and federal regulations on power washing, how to address any contamination issues that may arise, and how you’ll dispose of wastewater.
If you intend to run your business out of your own home, you should check with your local zoning office, to make sure this is allowed and if there are any restrictions.
Choose your services and pricing
Consider the types of pressure washing services you could offer. Commercial customers might want their building exteriors, sidewalks, vehicles, and signs cleaned periodically. Residential customers could hire you to clean their driveways, patios, vehicles, swimming pools, outdoor furniture, and housing exteriors.
If you live in a rural area, you might include cleaning agricultural equipment in your list of services. If your business is in an area known for graffiti, the ability to clean it from various surfaces would be an asset to your business.
You’ll have to do some market research on what the going rate for power washing is in your area. You could enlist your friends and family in this and have them check with your future competitors to see what they charge.
As you set your prices, you’ll need to estimate your business expenses such as the cost of cleaning supplies, fuel and servicing of your vehicle, maintaining your equipment, and paying your state and local sales and income taxes—on top of whatever profit margins you hope to make from your cleaning services.
You could set your prices based on an hourly rate, per square foot of the property you’re working on, or a flat rate for particular services.
Select the equipment you’ll need
The types of jobs you intend to take on can help guide your selection of pressure washing equipment. It might be tempting to start with a residential-scale pressure washer that a homeowner might own, although if you plan to tackle larger jobs on a regular basis, then you’re probably better off buying a professional grade pressure washer with a variety of hoses, nozzles, and attachments.
This would allow you to perform a variety of services and get a job done faster than a residential-grade model. A commercial grade washer is also more likely to stand up to constant use. You could also borrow a pressure washer from a friend, or rent one while you learn how to use it.
You also need to consider the type of vehicle you use and how much cleaning equipment it can carry. Make sure your equipment will fit in your intended vehicle, and it can handle the weight of a pressure washer and cleaning supplies.
PressureWashr.com has information on how to deal with different surfaces and conditions, plus recommendations on equipment, cleaning supplies, and detergents. This article on “How to pressure wash a house to clean siding” is a good place to start.
2. Manage your risks
You can best manage your risks by following environmental regulations and the right safety protocols for your equipment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists many accidents that happened while using a pressure washer, including:
- An employee died after falling from a ladder, while pressure washing a house.
- Someone died after a 50-foot fall, while pressure washing the inside of a water tower.
- A pressure washer died after falling through a skylight while washing a roof.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends reading the owner’s manual for your equipment and always following the instructions.
The CDC notes that the spray of a pressure washer is under such high water pressure that it can cause bodily injuries that may appear minor at first, but can lead to infections, disability, or amputation if not treated properly.
Because pressure washers use both water and electricity, there’s a considerable risk of an electric shock if your equipment and electrical cords aren’t used properly. Make sure your grounded pressure washer is plugged into a properly grounded outlet. If you use an extension cord, make sure the connections stay out of the water.
OSHA has many regulations for cleaning and other cold work, such as having the right personal protective equipment (PPE).
For example, OSHA requires using a full-face protector when working with power washers with pressure of more than 2,000 psi. When using equipment with a psi of more than 3,200 you must have a 24-inch hose guard, close to the operator.
If a full-face protector is not required, safety glasses should be worn to protect your eyes from water and debris. Closed toe nonslip shoes or work boots should also be worn.
Other regulations involve the use of scaffolding, ladders, and warning signs—such as posting notices at a job site that tell people to stay clear of your work area.
Where can I learn more about managing pressure washing business risks?
There are many safety classes and certifications you can pursue online and in person. An OSHA safety certification can help you stay safe on a job site. You can also list your certifications on your website and promotional materials, to let people know you take safety seriously.
Safetyinfo.com also offers information and tutorials on a variety of safety topics involving pressure washing, accident prevention, and other workplace safety issues.
The risks of using a pressure washer, visiting other people’s properties, and driving to and from appointments also mean it’s important that you choose the right business insurance for your power washing business.
3. Protect your power washing business with the right insurance
You should consider these other small business insurance policies to fully protect your business from financial losses:
General liability insurance: This covers common business risks like customer injury, customer property damage, advertising injury, and copyright infringement. It protects your small business from the high costs of lawsuits and helps you qualify for leases and contracts.
Business owner's policy: A BOP bundles general liability coverage and commercial property insurance together, and typically costs less than buying each policy separately. It protects against the most common third-party lawsuits and property damage.
Commercial auto insurance: Required in most states for businesses that own vehicles, this policy covers your legal bills, medical expenses, and property damage if a business vehicle is involved in an accident.
Commercial umbrella insurance: Once an underlying policy’s limit is reached, commercial umbrella insurance provides additional coverage for liability claims made on general liability, commercial auto, or employer’s liability insurance.
Janitorial bonds: These are a type of surety bond. They act as a contract between your business, your clients, and an insurance company. They guarantee the surety company will reimburse the client if the business fails to deliver contracted services.
Equipment floater insurance: This is also known as contractor’s tools and equipment insurance. It covers your movable tools and equipment wherever you take them, and covers the repair or replacement if they’re lost, stolen, or damaged. The equipment typically must be less than five years old.
4. Secure funding for your pressure cleaning business
PressureWashr.com estimates that it’ll cost you at least $1,500 in pressure washing gear to get started, plus a vehicle and your costs of obtaining a business license and launching your business.
Your upfront costs could also include business cards, flyers, and advertising—such as a sign for your business vehicle. You also have to consider your cost of business insurance.
Any lender you pursue will likely expect to see a business plan, and will of course check your credit rating. You might start by checking with banks in your area, or online, such as the bank you already do business with. You might be eligible for a business line of credit that gives you enough funds to start your business.
The Small Business Administration offers small business loans for businesses that are creditworthy and have exhausted other financing options from nongovernment sources. Government-backed microloans are also available through government intermediaries, with the average loan being $13,000.
5. Market your pressure washing services
The right marketing strategy could make or break your new pressure washing business. There are a couple of steps that any new small business owner should consider.
Start a website
As we live in an online world, setting up a simple website for your business can help people find you, let them know about the services you offer, and how to contact you.
Register on Google Business Profile
Setting up a Google Business Profile (formerly "Google My Business") means your business will show up in Google Search and on Google Maps. This is a free service and a great way to promote your business.
Use social media
All forms of social media should be considered. This includes Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Pressure washing videos tend to do well on YouTube, as many do-it-yourselfers look for advice.
Sharing what you know gives you a chance to spread the word about your business and your abilities. Checking out pressure washing videos yourself could give you ideas of what’s popular.
The people you already know might be in need of your services and not even realize it. Do they have some dingy outdoor furniture, a patio, or deck that you could clean?
How about vehicles and equipment, such as boats and RVs? You could start by offering a discount, or even do a few jobs for free, and encourage people to spread the word about your business.
The word-of-mouth technique takes on a whole new meaning if your satisfied customers are willing to offer referrals, comment about your business online, and post testimonials to your social media and website. This can really help you grow your customer base.
Advertise in your community
You might consider printing out some flyers and handing them out door-to-door around your neighborhood as a way to acquire new customers. If your flyers include before and after pictures, people might realize that their dingy old deck or patio could use a cleanup.
Consider posting an ad with your local paper, news network, or radio station. Any community bulletin boards at your local city hall, chamber of commerce, or coffee shop, can also be a good way to spread the word at little to no cost.
Ask your customers if you can post a yard sign while you work, and if you can leave it there for a few days after a job is finished.
6. Leverage network opportunities to grow your business
Reach out to other local businesses in your area and offer to help promote each other. Real estate agents, rental companies, homeowner’s associations, and other cleaning businesses might be willing to recommend you to their clients if you do the same for them.
Anyone who works in landscaping, home repair, handyman services and the like could also be helpful to your business, as they will likely interact with customers who could use your services as well. Of course, you could repay this by recommending these businesses to your own clients.
You might also consider partnering with other small business owners to offer discounts to customers who use both your services.
Join industry associations
Professional associations can offer a wealth of knowledge on pressure washing techniques, safety, and advice on choosing the right equipment and running your business. They also give you the chance to meet others within your industry and learn from their experience.
Power Washers of North America (PWNA) offers power education on power washing methods, certification, networking opportunities, and an annual convention. It also provides information on safety and environmental regulations.
United Association of Mobile Contract Cleaners (UAMCC) is a national trade association of the pressure washing industry. It offers pressure washing certifications on techniques and safety. It also holds an annual convention.
Get pressure washing insurance with Insureon
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Mike Mosser, Content Specialist
Mike spent several years as a reporter and editor covering politics, crime, and the world financial markets. He’s worked for several newspapers, a financial newswire, and a monthly magazine. As a copywriter, Mike has produced SEO-based content, marketing, public relations, and advertising work for a variety of companies.