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People all over the United States like to go swimming, and many of them head to a swimming pool when they want to take a dip. Keeping the many swimming pools in the country clean and operating properly is major business. According to IBISWorld, the swimming pool cleaning services industry is a $3 billion industry. With no single company dominating the industry, there’s plenty of opportunity for new business owners who are interested starting up a business that cleans and services pools.
Who is this business right for?
Anyone who enjoys working with their hands and being outside may enjoy running a pool service business. It also helps to be self-motivated, as business owners spend much of their time working alone while cleaning pools, and personable, because owners frequently see their customers when cleaning pools.
What happens during a typical day at a pool cleaning business?
A pool service business owner spends a lot of their time going to customer’s locations and cleaning their pools. A typical cleaning may involve:
- Driving to a customer’s site
- Checking the pool’s water and adding chemicals as appropriate
- Emptying debris baskets, cleaning the pool’s filter and similar tasks
- Looking over the pool’s equipment and making any necessary minor repairs
- Leaving a bill and driving to the next customer’s site
When not cleaning customers’ pools, business owners schedule cleanings, market their business, order additional supplies and maintain their equipment.
What is the target market?
While most pool service businesses clean and maintain individual’s pools, a business’ ideal customer is a business or organization that has a commercial pool (e.g. a hotel, apartment complex, condominium property, gated community, school, park or fitness center). Commercial pools take longer to clean, but pool service businesses are able to charge more for cleaning them. They also are used by more people and, therefore, frequently need to be cleaned more often. Some commercial pools may need to be serviced weekly, or even two or three times per week.
How does a pool cleaning business make money?
A pool service business makes money by charging for cleaning swimming pools and making minor repairs to pools.
What is the growth potential for a pool cleaning business?
A pool service business may be a single-person operation, or it can be a large company. Many business owners never hire employees and simply clean pools in their area themselves. Others grow their business into regional or national chains. An example of a local business is Belleair Pool Service & Supply. America’s Swimming Pool Co., a national franchise.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pool cleaning business?
A pool service business owner needs to be familiar with how to both clean and service swimming pools. The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) offers a Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certification (CPO) Program that’s widely respected in the industry. To become certified, business owners must either attend a two-day, in-person class or complete a blended class that includes one day of in-person instruction and a day of online training.
In addition to the NSPF’s CPO class, several businesses also offer courses, some of which are free. Pool Care Directory has an email course, and HD Supply provides three-hour classes on pool maintenance.
Finally, there are a number of books and ebooks available on pool cleaning. America’s Swimming Pool Co. has published an in-depth guide, How to Start a Swimming Pool Business. The Ultimate Guide to Pool Maintenance and Swimming Pool Basics for Servicing Professionals are two other resources that business owners might want to review or keep as references.
What are the costs involved in opening a pool cleaning business?
The startup costs for a pool service business can often be kept to as little as $2,000 (not including any licensing fees). Most capital is put towards equipment and supplies. A business will need water test kits, cleaning chemicals, skimmers, brushes and leaf rakes. Purchasing chemicals in bulk helps keep costs low, although it increases the initial investment slightly.
Business owners also need a vehicle that’s large enough to transport their supplies. Trucks, SUVs and trailers are typically big enough, and some crossovers will suffice. In order to keep startup costs low, many business owners begin by using their personal vehicle if it’s large enough.
What are the steps to start a pool cleaning business?
Once you're ready to start your pool 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 pool 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 pool 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.
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 pool cleaning business?
Cleaning pools is a seasonal business (even in the Southern United States), and business owners need to prepare for the industry’s ebbs and flows. The summer is typically steady, as people are using their pools. Spring and fall, when pools are opened and closed, can be extremely busy. The winter is often slow.
Business owners may be able to prepare for winter’s slow season by trying to find customers with indoor pools that are open year-round. Fitness clubs, high-end hotels and some apartment complexes may have indoor pools. With a few commercial accounts like these and some smart financial management, business owners might be able to get through this slow time of ear without having to find alternative employment.
How to promote & market a pool cleaning business
A pool service business’ marketing efforts should be specifically focused on pool owners within the business’ service area. Businesses may reach these potential customers online via targeted ads or through direct mailing.
Business owners who don’t have much money for marketing may even be able to get their first few customers by going door to door and cold calling. While this takes a lot of work at first, any customers gained will be in the same general area -- which will reduce how much time is lost driving between customers’ locations.
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How to keep customers coming back
When a pool service business is marketed can greatly impact the business’ success. The ideal time to market a business is in the late winter and early spring -- when people are starting to think about their swimming pools but before they have signed a contract with a competitor. If a pool service business can secure customers by signing contracts during this time of year, they’ll have those customers all season long.
How and when to build a team
Many pool service business owners never hire employees. Those that bring on employees usually hire their first employee once they have more customers than they can serve themselves.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Some states require the obtainment of a Pool Contractor License. There is often a specific kind of Pool Contractor License for Pool Servicing. To obtain this license, there is typically either an education requirement of a Bachelor’s Degree or 4 years of experience. If the applicant meets these requirements, he then qualifies for the Pool Exam which must be passed in order to obtain the license. There are fees for both the exam and the license.
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 more 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.
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.
Pool service 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 pool service 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.
How much can you charge customers?
How much a pool service business charges customers depends on several factors, including how frequently the customer’s pool is serviced and what’s done during the service. According to Home Advisor, pool service costs average:
- $177 for weekly services
- $267 for bi-weekly services
- $190 for monthly services
- $266 for opening and closing only
What are the ongoing expenses for a pool cleaning business?
The ongoing expenses for a pool service business include supply costs, fuel costs, and vehicle repairs, maintenance and depreciation. Altogether, ongoing expenses account for about 20 percent of a business’ revenue.
How much profit can a pool cleaning business make?
A pool service business owner will make about $50 to $60 per hour cleaning pools. Working full time, this comes to $2,000 to $2,400 per week. (There may not be full-time work available in the offseason).
How can you make your business more profitable?
A pool service business owner can increase their hourly wage to between $150 and $200 per hour if they both clean pools, and perform minor repairs or maintenance to pool equipment. A business owner that does this additional work may bring in as much as $85,000 annually.
Pool service businesses can also sell supplies to pool owners who want to clean their pools themselves. This can provide an additional stream of revenue and help the business find more customers.