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Gutters are excellent at collecting water from roofs and directing it down specific channels, but they also do a great job of collecting other debris. While homeowners can clear out this debris themselves, many prefer not to, aren’t comfortable on a ladder, or don’t have the time. Instead, they have a gutter cleaning business remove the leaves, branches, and other stuff that collects in their gutters over time.
Gutter cleaning is part of the ”building exterior cleaning industry”, a $9 billion industry that’s seen 5 percent annual growth over the past five years. The industry at large, and gutter cleaning, in particular, present many promising opportunities for prospective business owners.
Who is this business right for?
Anyone who likes being outside may enjoy running a gutter cleaning business. Business owners shouldn’t be afraid of heights, since they’ll spend much of their time up on ladders. And, while it can be a dirty job, they’ll get to spend their time outside working on people’s homes.
What happens during a typical day at a gutter cleaning business ?
Business owners spend as much time cleaning gutters as possible, and they’ll try to line up multiple cleanings in a single day. When not cleaning gutters or driving to customers’ locations, business owners spend time marketing and disposing of debris.
What is the target market?
The primary market for a gutter cleaning business is homeowners who can afford to contract out at least some home maintenance. These tend to be middle, upper-middle, and upper class homeowners.
How does a gutter cleaning business make money?
A gutter cleaning business charges homeowners for cleaning out their home’s gutters. Business owners will frequently base their fees on how many linear feet of gutters a home has, although they may calculate a flat rate for the whole job. It’s also common to charge more for second-story gutters than first-story ones.
As an example, assume a business owner charges $1.00 per linear foot for first-story gutters and $1.50 per foot for second-story gutters. On a two-story house with 80 feet of first-story gutters and 45 feet of second-story gutters, the price would come to $147.50 (80 ft. x $1.00 + 45 ft. $1.50). The business owner may quote $150 to the customer for this job.
What is the growth potential for a gutter cleaning business ?
A gutter cleaning business can be a small one-person operation or it can grow into a large company with services in multiple locations. MJ Richardson in Syracuse, NY is an example of a smaller gutter cleaning business that serves the surrounding area. We Get Gutters is a much larger company with locations in 37 states.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful gutter cleaning business ?
While gutter cleaning isn’t the most complex work, it is more involved than many people assume. For example, there are several ways to clean gutters. The best method depends on the debris being removed and roof slope:
- Leaf blowers can be used for jobs that have low-grade roofs and only dry debris.
- Scooping from the roof is possible for jobs with low- and mid-grade roofs.
- Setting up ladders about every 6 feet is best for jobs with steep roofs.
Of course, business owners should know how to safely walk on roofs and use ladders. The Roofer’s Helper also points out several other items to consider, such as where debris is dropped and how to clean outlets.
Business owners who don’t have experience cleaning gutters may want to spend a season working for another business in the industry, as this lets prospective business owners get paid while gaining experience. Alternatively, there are several videos on YouTube that provide all necessary information. Lowe’s has a popular one.
What are the costs involved in opening a gutter cleaning business ?
A gutter cleaning business can be started for less than $2,000, especially if business owners already have some equipment. Business owners need:
- A vehicle that can transport a ladder
- A ladder (24 or 32 feet is sufficient for most jobs)
- A ladder stabilizer (to keep the ladder off the gutters and for safety)
- Buckets and tarps (for collecting debris)
- Heavy-duty rubber gloves
Business owners may also want a pressure washer for quickly cleaning downspouts, and a leaf blower for quickly cleaning dry debris. These aren’t absolutely necessary.
Those who don’t have a vehicle that can carry a ladder can start out renting a truck whenever they have a job. Once the business generates enough income to purchase a larger vehicle, business owners can get something that will hold a ladder.
What are the steps to start a gutter cleaning business ?
Once you're ready to start your gutter cleaning business , follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your gutter cleaning business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your gutter cleaning business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Establish a 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. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I 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.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a gutter cleaning business ?
Business owners who don’t have experience might want to begin by offering to clean family members’ and friends’ gutters for free. Business owners can practice before charging someone for their time, and they can post a sign in front of each home they work on to advertise their services. Doing just a few homes around town will give business owners exposure in several different neighborhoods and developments.
How to promote & market a gutter cleaning business
Because a gutter cleaning business serves a defined geographic region, marketing methods should be focused on reaching homeowners in the area. Business cards, flyers, yard signs and local search engine optimization are all effective ways to promote a gutter cleaning business.
Once they’re established, business owners can sometimes get multiple jobs at once by talking with homeowners associations. Many HOAs will pass on gutter cleaning specials to their members if the price is decent and the company has a good reputation. By getting several jobs close together, business owners can afford to reduce their price slightly and they can get more jobs done in a day.
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How to keep customers coming back
Business owners who are professional and charge a fair price will see a lot of repeat customers. In this industry, just showing up on time and doing good work goes a long way.
How and when to build a team
Many business owners start out working by themselves, and some decide to never hire employees. Those who do bring on workers do so as their customer base and revenue grows.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Most states require retail businesses to obtain a seller’s permit. A seller’s permit enables states to record and collect taxes from the sale of taxable goods and services. More information can be found here:
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.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
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.
Businesses are required to register vehicles which will travel across state lines for commercial purposes. Check here for a list of state requirements.
Class B Driver Licensing Requirements
In most states, licences are issued by classes, operating according to the weight of the vehicle being driven. Drivers of standard cars and trucks require a class A commercial driver’s license (CDL), while operators of heavier vehicles, including most tow trucks, require a Class B CDL to operate. More information can be found here.
Oversize Vehicle Permits
Some states, including Michigan, require a towing businesses to obtain an oversize/overweight vehicle permit for its tow trucks, sometimes also referred to as “wreckers.” More information about state weight load permitting can be found here.
How much can you charge customers?
Gutter cleaning costs vary quite a bit. The Roofer’s Helper mentions charging $75 for a typical ranch house and $100 for a standard two-story home. Shoestring Profits gives an example of $45 for a garage and $120 for a two-story home, or $165 for both. Some businesses charge even more than this.
The best way to determine how much to charge is by simply requesting quotes from competitors. Business owners should price themselves similar to or slightly below other companies in their area.
What are the ongoing expenses for a gutter cleaning business ?
The ongoing expenses for a gutter cleaning business are minimal. They include fuel, vehicle maintenance, and insurance premiums.
How much profit can a gutter cleaning business make?
Business owners might earn between $200 and $300 in a full day, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to a $75,000 annual income. Work is seasonal, with most customers wanting their gutters cleaned in the fall. It can be difficult to schedule a full day of work the rest of the year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are many ways that business owners can increase their revenue. Many business owners offer to make minor gutter repairs while working, and some offer gutter guards. It’s also common for gutter cleaners to offer leaf removal, window washing, and skylight cleaning services.