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 window tinting 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 window tinting business?
The costs associated with opening a window tinting business vary dramatically. On the low end, Advanced Window Tinting requires an investment of $2,995 and recommends that business owners have an additional $700 to $1,000 in available capital. On the high end, Tint World offers a turn-key franchise for $108,000.
Window tinting courses frequently start at $1,700, with some offering premium packages at higher prices. This is an additional expense that business owners should be prepared for.
Business owners who want to keep their startup costs as low as possible can work in the industry and then open a mobile window tinting business. Spending six months to a year working in the industry will give business owners the skills and knowledge needed to tint windows -- and save them $1,700 on a training course. Opening a mobile business keeps upfront costs low, because business owners don’t have to lease a commercial space.
Streidel began his first mobile window tinting business with just his cell phone, personal vehicle and a box of tint. This reduced his startup expenses to just a box of window tint, which can be purchased for under $100.
What are the ongoing expenses for a window tinting business?
The ongoing expenses for a window tinting business are manageable. They generally include:
- fuel and maintenance costs for a vehicle (for mobile businesses)
- lease payments and utilities (for businesses with a fixed location)
- tinting supplies
- any employees’ salaries
Who is the target market?
A window tinting business’ ideal customers are car dealerships. As Laurence Streidel explains, dealerships can take a long time -- 30 days on average -- to pay; however, they provide a regular source of work. During slow periods, the regular work that dealers provide more than makes up for their long payment cycles.
As an added bonus, dealerships frequently serve as a source of referrals. Car buyers will sometimes ask dealerships where they can get the windows of their new vehicle tinted.
How does a window tinting business make money?
A window tinting business makes money by charging customers to tint their vehicle’s windows. Businesses frequently offer several different levels of tinting that customers can choose from. For example, Notorious Tintz offers 3M-Crystalline, 3M-FX-Premium and 3M-Color Stable tinting options. Pricing depends on the type of tinting that customers opt to go for.
How much can you charge customers?
How much window tinting businesses charge depends on their location and the tinting services they offer. Angie’s List reports that one business in San Antonio charges $25 to $50 per window, and between $99 and $400 to tint an entire car. A business in North Carolina charges between $120 and $480. In a few cases, jobs can run as much as $800.
How much profit can a window tinting business make?
A successful window tint business can service four to ten cars per day. If the average cost of a job is $225, a business may bring in between $900 and $2,250 per day.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Window tinting businesses can increase their revenue by also offering window tinting services for buildings, but the demand for tinting the windows of homes and commercial buildings isn’t as great as the demand for automotive tinting. Businesses already have the supplies and equipment required, though, so this is a natural market to branch into.
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 window tinting 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
Each state has its own laws regulating car window tinting. For more information, check out this chart.
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a window tinting 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.
Labor safety requirements
It is important to comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Services Contract (e.g. MSA)
Window tinting businesses should require clients to sign a services 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.
Certificate of Occupancy
A window tinting business is generally run out of a shop. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a service location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a window tinting business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a service location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your window tinting business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
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 window tinting business
Just as car dealerships can be sources of referrals, other auto-related businesses can also provide referrals. Any business that offers car stereo or other aftermarket customizations may have customers who are interested in window tinting. Body shops and windshield repair businesses might also have referrals. It can be helpful to leave business cards, coupons, or other advertisements inside of these types of businesses.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
A window tinting business can set itself apart from the competition by offering affordable prices and multiple tinting options. To make sure they’ll have better prices and/or more options than competing businesses, business owners should research what other businesses in the area are offering and charging.
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 Window Tinting Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Anyone who is passionate about cars and likes working with their hands may enjoy running a window tinting business. Business owners spend a lot of time manually customizing vehicles’ windows and applying window tints, so having a love for cars will help you consistently offer a high-quality service.
What happens during a typical day at a window tinting business?
Window tinting business owners spend most of their time cutting and applying tint to windows. When not actually tinting windows, business owners:
- drive to and from customers’ locations (if offering mobile services)
- market their business
- invoice corporate customers (e.g. car dealerships)
- order more tinting supplies
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful window tinting business?
Window tinting business owners must know how to properly tint windows.
Business owners can learn how to apply window tint by taking an in-person course, which several schools offer for a fee. Tint College, Rightoutlook.com and AutoWindowTinting.com are a few companies that offer courses. (Because applying tint is a manual process, most courses are in-person and not online.)
Additionally, many companies that offer window tinting systems provide training on how to use their system. This training is usually included in the cost of a system. For example, Advanced Window Tinting offers free support to business owners who buy the company’s Film Star Machine. Such support is not always in-person, so it is still wise to invest in a hands-on course first.
What is the growth potential for a window tinting business?
Window tinting businesses are highly scaleable. A business can start out as a small mobile operation, and then invest in an upgraded vehicle or permanent location once the business is more established. Successful businesses can grow to have multiple locations.
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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.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a window tinting business?
One of the first decisions that business owners must make is whether they want to invest in a computerized tint cutting system or manually cut tint themselves. Cutting tint takes between 10 and 30 minutes per job, which greatly reduces efficiency. Computerized cutting, however, requires a sizeable upfront investment in software and machinery.
While the efficiency that a computerized system offers is appealing, it’s not necessary to have until a business is established and doing lots of work. Therefore, business owners can start out manually cutting tint. Once their customer base is built up, they can transition to a computerized program. At this point, their revenue should support such an investment.
How and when to build a team
A window tinting business can be run as a one-person operation, or it can grow to have several employees. Most business owners hire employees as their business grows and supports employees’ salaries. The average window tinter’s salary is $13 per hour.