Start a chimney sweep business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your chimney sweep business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a chimney sweep business?
Chimney sweep business startup costs are between $27,000 to $87,000, depending on the business’s size, equipment and supply needs. This price includes franchising process, a small workshop and cleaning equipment. Costs can be reduced by operating the business from your home, but liability coverage—and other insurance costs—will remain.
Who is the target market?
Your target market will be residential homeowners and small to medium-sized business owners. Mostly, you’ll direct services towards homeowners with chimneys. As for commercial properties, look for factory, store, and production plant operators who own multiple chimneys. Because your profits will rely on the number of chimneys cleaned, clients with more chimneys should be your primary market. You can also target real estate investors who own multiple rental properties that may need servicing.
How does a chimney sweep business make money?
A chimney sweep business makes money by cleaning, repairing, and touching up chimneys and fireplaces. Some chimney sweep businesses may expand services to roof repair, roof cleaning, and gutter cleaning. While most chimney sweep businesses charge by the number of chimneys cleaned, some charge by the hour.
How much can you charge customers?
Rates depend on the condition of the chimney. A basic inspection and sweep can run anywhere from $125 - $250 for a single home. Commercial and industrial jobs that involve multiple chimneys often get a lower rate per chimney.
How much profit can a chimney sweep business make?
A good chimney sweep can make as much as $25,000 to $50,000 per year. If a chimney sweep’s business owner is smart about services, marketing and management, they can make six figures per year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
To make more money, make sure your chimney sweep has diversified services. In addition to cleaning chimneys, you should offer chimney inspection and repair. Also, you should offer roof and gutter cleaning. Because a lot of chimney sweep businesses exclusively offer cleanings, any additional services will expand your marketing potential. Having flexible payment options, too, can make your business more profitable.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your chimney sweep business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a chimney sweep business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Chimney sweep businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your chimney sweep business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a chimney sweep business
You should promote and market your services locally. Extend promotional materials to stores, maintenance providers and cleaning crews. Because you’ll work with a referral program, your network matters. Market your services on social media, too. Over time, your clients will promote your business for you.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
You should attract customers by promoting via local associations and maintenance groups. While chimney cleanings are needed, they’re often purchased as accessory services. For this reason, you’ll keep customers by being associated with roof cleaning businesses, gutter repair operators and other general contractors. Once you’ve found a client, they’ll be likely to stick around out of convenience. That said, you’ll need to make sure your services continue to please them and surpass expectations.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Chimney Sweep Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
The chimney sweeping business is great for any construction or industrial worker who can cope with danger. A chimney sweep needs to be educated on the art of sweeping, and they need to be knowledgeable about safety before performing duties.
The chimney sweep business is also great for anyone who loves servicing and cleaning homes. Commercial cleaners also make great chimney sweeps. A chimney sweep business can be self-run, so the owner doesn’t necessarily need management knowledge.
What happens during a typical day at a chimney sweep business?
Typically, chimney sweeps clean between six and eight chimneys a day. If they’re a full-time sweep, they also spend a good amount of time pricing their services.
First, a chimney sweep will inspect the establishment. Next, they’ll mark down which services to use. Services vary depending on a chimney’s construction materials. All services also focus on the cleaning of wood, oil, and gas burning chimneys. The detection, prevention, and correction of chimney and venting hazards also takes place.
Then, the chimney sweeping team uses tools, cleaning materials, and knowledge to fix any issues, clean away debris, and repair any broken materials. If a project needs more attention, a sweep can create an ongoing service plan.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful chimney sweep business?
A chimney sweep business owner should be well-versed in the art of chimney cleaning. Joining the National Chimney Sweep Guild helps, as does having a solid grasp on roof maintenance. Future chimney sweep business owners should visit the Chimney Sweep Trade Show in Portland every year. Additionally, they should check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America to learn how to prevent chimney fires, heating disasters and structural disasters
From an administrative standpoint, a chimney sweep business owner should learn effective management, marketing and financing tactics. Learning to expand services to large markets, keep customers interested and offer competitive rates helps.
What is the growth potential for a chimney sweep business?
In most cases, a chimney sweep business will stay local. This doesn’t mean they can’t expand to serve a regional clientele, however. A lot of chimney sweep businesses become local favorites, and those with great prices and services can easily become an area’s best providers. Successful chimney sweep providers offer far more than simple chimney cleaning services. Often, they serve commercial properties and provide ongoing services.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a chimney sweep business?
Self-promotion is your friend. During your first few years as a chimney sweep business owner, you’ll need to build a solid customer base. Once you’ve established your clientele, you’ll need to operate on a referral basis to grow your audience.
Safety is a huge factor. Your workers should be outfitted with safety gear to prevent injuries. In doing so, you can reduce your insurance coverage costs. Liability issues, like fires and post-job damages, can be harmful to your business’s professional viability.
How and when to build a team
You should have at least two additional workers when you start your chimney sweep business. Even if you’re starting it from your home, the extra hands matter. In the beginning, you’ll need to rely on a high service output to increase and maintain profits.