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 graffiti removal 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 graffiti removal business?
Arguably, one of the most attractive features of a graffiti removal business is the extremely low cost to get started. You will need a truck large enough to transport your equipment, which should cost no more than $32,000 (although if you already have a suitable vehicle, you can simply us that). You will need a pressure washer, which will be no more than $1000 (and this is for some of the fanciest models—there are washers as low as $100). And you will need to buy paint to help with repainting, which you will likely purchase as you go along (so that you can determine the exact colors you will need to repaint a surface). You may decide to spend a few thousand on traditional advertising, but your business can get a lot of attention via a free or low-cost website and a social media account—these highly-visual mediums can let you showcase the “before and after” photos of your work, which is a great way to advertise.
What are the ongoing expenses for a graffiti removal business?
Along with the relatively low cost to start your business, the low ongoing expenses are very attractive. Month to month, you are basically paying for fuel for your vehicle (and it is appropriate to charge customers for traveling to them, absorbing this cost) and new pain as needed. This means that the vast majority of the money that you take in goes towards your profit margin.
Who is the target market?
The “bread and butter” clients for a graffiti removal business are business owners and school boards. These people represent areas most often afflicted by graffiti. To a lesser extent, private homeowners and city managers will also require your services from time to time.
How does a graffiti removal business make money?
A graffiti removal business makes money by charging clients to remove their unwanted graffiti and, if necessary, to repaint the area. You should decide early on if your business will only charge for services rendered (getting paid one removal at a time) or if you would like to charge a monthly fee to be “on call” for that client or business if they should need you at any time.
How much can you charge customers?
If the client is not paying a monthly fee for your services, then you would typically charge them between one and three dollars per square foot of the area you are expected to clean. You may also consider charging between thirty to seventy dollars to drive out there: this will help pay for fuel and equipment costs. Feel free to negotiate higher prices for more difficult conditions (say, having to remove the graffiti from a tall tower that is difficult to access).
How much profit can a graffiti removal business make?
The exact profit your business can make is determined largely by the area you live in and the regular contracts you get. For instance, government offices like the Ohio DOT spend $17,000 a year removing graffiti, and that is is just for one building. There are countless government buildings, schools, and private businesses affected by graffiti each year, and as indicated above, the vast majority of the money you bring in becomes a pure profit for you. Thus, enough clients and enough hustle can make this a very lucrative job!
How can you make your business more profitable?
Don't be afraid to charge higher fees, especially if there is little competition in your area. Consider giving yourself a built-in gimmick, such as low toxicity paint. You may also consider offering other services, such as spray sealants, which help add value to your services. Above all, never stop showing off your work via social media—your job is rooted in the community, and the more the community can see how you are cleaning things up, the more work you'll have.
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.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your graffiti removal 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 graffiti removal business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
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.
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.
Graffiti removal 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 graffiti removal 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 graffiti removal business
Depending on your area, traditional marketing via television, radio, and newspaper can be a good way to announce your presence. However, as mentioned earlier, online marketing is most effective for your business, and it costs virtually nothing: a free or low-cost website can provide all of the info that clients need, while social media accounts allow you to share images and videos that show off what a great job you do. Considering that your job is to essentially restore surfaces to their former glory, visually showing off your skills is the greatest way to advertise!
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
As mentioned earlier, the Holy Grail for a graffiti removal business is to sell local businesses, schools, and city offices on a monthly plan where they pay you a fixed fee to have your business “on call” for any graffiti issues that occur. This gives them peace of mind and gives you a regular paycheck. Aside from that, retaining customers is mostly a matter of extensive client communication before, during, and after the graffiti removal process: if they like you and like your work, you will quickly become their go-to person for handling this.
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 Graffiti Removal Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
While experience is not a prerequisite, this job is great for someone who has extensive experience painting various surfaces, as repainting is a major part of the removal process. Similarly, experience with a pressure washer can help you be more efficient when you start. Otherwise, the business is ideal for those like to work alone—aside from your brief interactions with clients, much of your actual work day is spent by yourself.
What happens during a typical day at a graffiti removal business?
The day-to-day activities of a graffiti removal expert are actually pretty straightforward. You will take calls from existing clients and make calls to prospective clients. You will then drive a truck or trailer to the afflicted area and use your equipment to remove the graffiti. You may choose to spend downtime working on advertising and client recruitment.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful graffiti removal business?
As mentioned earlier, existing skill with things like painting and pressure-washing can be a big help as you are starting. Additionally, being part of several of your community's networks would be handy: having a good relationship with members of the law enforcement, education, and/or business communities can help you translate your social relationship to a working relationship.
What is the growth potential for a graffiti removal business?
The exact growth potential for this business varies greatly by the area you work in. In more metropolitan areas (such as New York City and even Toronto), such businesses typically do quite well for themselves. As you may imagine, the exact growth of your business is tied with the amount of graffiti that is added each month: more people living in the area means more graffiti, which adds up to more business for you.
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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 graffiti removal business?
As with many businesses, it's good to scope out the competition. This helps you to determine the exact market and need for your services and gives you an idea of what the community may expect from your services. If you have the space at home, you should start out by practicing removing graffiti that you yourselves have added to a variety of surfaces, helping you to “practice.” Finally, try to conduct quiet inquiries with law enforcement officials to get an idea of just how prevalent graffiti in your community actually is.
How and when to build a team
Most graffiti removal businesses work alone, since that means not having to split profits with anyone. However, if there are more clients than you can handle on a regular basis, it may be time to expand your team. Keep in mind that for most projects, team members will be working solo, so every member that you add will need their own truck and equipment.