A lot of people assume that a pressure washing business is something a teenager does for extra income during the summer months. In reality, this could not be farther from the truth.
While some people do take up pressure washing to make a little side income, it requires a lot more to turn a hobby into a thriving, lucrative business. The problem is that most people don’t know how to start a pressure washing business and make it last.
How to Start a Pressure Washing Business
In this guide, we will break down the most important information you’ll need to know for how to start a pressure washing business. For example, is there a pressure washing business start-up kit for beginners? What is the average demand for pressure washing? And is it possible to create a six-figure pressure washing business?
If starting a business from scratch sounds a bit overwhelming, you could consider buying a pressure washing business instead (you can find active listings near you here).
We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the fundamental elements of a good pressure washing business:
What Do You Need to Start Your Own Pressure Washing Business?
One basic assumption about pressure washing is that it is easy. It doesn’t take a lot of skill, muscle, or brainpower. While there are certainly businesses that require more talent than others, pressure washing is not as simple as it may appear.
Here are a few of the most important attributes that you will need to successfully start and run a pressure washing business:
According to Corey Edmonds, the owner of Pacific Northwest ProWash, creating a workable budget is the first step toward building a successful business.
A budget doesn’t just take start-up costs into account; it also figures in ongoing equipment maintenance costs, taxes, insurance, staff salary, and funds for business growth. If you’d like to hear more about Corey Edmonds’ insights, check out this in-depth interview we’ve done with Corey Edmonds at this link or watch it below:
Sometimes, people start a business without really knowing where they plan to take it. While this can work out in the end, it is a risky method. Instead, you should go into your business with a clear goal in mind.
Do you want to make $100k/year and create a high-value business? Great! Create a business plan that outlines each step you will need to take to get there. We will provide more details about what a good business plan looks like a little later on.
There are certain things that you will invariably learn on the job. That said, you should try to learn as much as possible about pressure washing and good business practices BEFORE you set up shop.
For example, do you know how to repair a faulty pressure washer if it suddenly breaks on the job? Are you familiar with the insurance requirements for small businesses in your state or region? Do you know how long it usually takes for a pressure washing business to turn a profit? These are the kinds of questions you need to be able to answer before you get started (and we will help you do it!).
Pressure washing a driveway sounds easy, but if you want to make money doing it, you’ll need to hone your skills and learn the tricks of the trade. Home and business owners don’t like to pay for mediocre work.
However, if you know how to efficiently and effectively pressure wash stone, cement, wood, roofing, and other materials, you’ll make your pressure washing company stand out from the rest. To do this, you will need to study, practice, and hone your skills.
People interested in the outdoor cleaning industry almost always ask the same question, what equipment do I need to start a pressure washing business? This is one of the most important parts of the start-up process. Without the right equipment, you cannot operate a successful pressure washing business. At a MINIMUM, you will need the following:
- Commercial-Grade Pressure Washer – If you show up to a client’s home with a $100 portable pressure washer, it could tarnish your business reputation. While a cheap pressure washer might be fine while you save up for a better one, it should be a very temporary option. If you want to do a good job and get positive feedback from your clients, you should invest in a commercial-grade pressure washer as soon as possible.
- Water Tank – Many properties don’t have access to a spigot or functioning water source. To account for this kind of situation, you will need to have a sizeable water tank (100 gallons or more) supplied with clean water.
- Nozzles and Hoses – Different surfaces and materials require different levels and types of water pressure. These nozzles typically range from 0 to 65 degrees, according to the scope of the stream they produce. You’ll also want to have extra nozzles on hand in case one breaks or gets damaged on the job. Similarly, you’ll want to have back-up hoses (100 feet or longer) to ensure that you’re prepared for every job.
- Vehicle – Every pressure washing business needs either a truck or van capable of hauling all of the necessary equipment to different job sites. Your vehicle will need to be reliable and, ideally, look professional. If you have a vehicle that you want to use but it is not capable of carrying a pressure washer on its own, you will need to acquire a pressure washer trailer and trailer hitch.
- Portable Device and Software – Even if you have an excellent memory and top-notch math skills, you will still need some kind of device (smartphone or portable laptop) with software to keep track of your income, expenses, client information, employee salaries, and tax information.
As you can see, there’s no pre-packaged pressure washing business start-up kit. There are various pieces of equipment that you will need to invest in, some of which will require significant funds upfront. However, if you already have a vehicle capable of moving a commercial pressure washer, you’ve already checked the most expensive item off your list!
Additionally, it’s important to note that you don’t have to start from nothing if you’re willing to invest in an existing business. In fact, buying an existing pressure washing business can help you shop the market and study the value of a business before you make a decision.
If you’re looking for a pressure washing business for sale, there are plenty of options on the market. This saves you the time and effort of building your own business infrastructure from scratch and gives you the opportunity to just buy a pressure washing company.
How to Budget Your Pressure Washing Business
Now that we’ve provided an overview of what you’ll need to do before starting a pressure washing business, it’s time to dig into the details. We’re here to help you start a pressure washing business from scratch! In the remainder of this guide, we will focus on 3 key areas of your business plan: Budget, Pricing, and Business Strategies.
Before we talk about specific numbers, it’s important to remember that budgets are not always static figures. They can change as your business grows or your goals shift.
Also, not every pressure washing business will use the exact same budget; some entrepreneurs have a lot of capital at the start, while others need to get their business up and running on a shoe-string budget. In any case, let’s look at some of the hard data related to budgeting a pressure washing business:
On average, commercial or industrial pressure washers cost between $1,000 and $3,000. You can save some on these costs by purchasing a used pressure washer, though you should always be wary when purchasing second-hand equipment for your business. If you’re short on cash and are willing to start small, you could also buy a portable pressure washer from your local home improvement store.
A personal pressure washer can cost anywhere between $100 to $1,000. Keep in mind that smaller pressure washers are not meant for commercial use, so they are more likely to fall into disrepair after a year or even just a few months of regular use.
Also, homeowners can easily purchase these kinds of pressure washers on their own. If a client sees that you use a non-commercial pressure washer, they will be less inclined to pay for your services.
Next, you will need to consider a vehicle. This is easily the most expensive aspect of your business, both in terms of the initial price and ongoing costs (maintenance, insurance, etc). If you already have a van or truck, consider yourself lucky; a new utility truck will run upwards of $30,000.
A water tank is not a necessity if you plan on starting small. You can confirm with each of your clients that there is an available water source on the property before accepting the job.
However, if you want to expand your potential client base and be prepared for unexpected events (like no running water on a job site), you should invest in a water tank. A 100-gallon water tank will usually cost between $100 and $200. Needless to say, larger tanks will be more expensive and more difficult to transport.
Work Device and Business Software
Next, you’ll need to consider acquiring a work device and business software. Most people already have a smartphone, but if you don’t, you’ll definitely want to get one.
Clients will need to contact you, even when you’re on a job site, so having a wired home or office phone won’t cut it. A basic smartphone will cost at least $100, not including the phone plan (anywhere between $20-$100 per month).
Thankfully, there is plenty of free business and accounting software available to download on mobile devices or computers. That said, free software almost always lacks some of the best features provided in paid software. While using free software can help you cut costs, it may also prevent you from running your business efficiently. On average, paid business or accounting software will cost around $300. In any case, you will need to evaluate the pros and cons of POS systems before you make a decision.
*Pro Tip: Some software programs require a monthly subscription, while others only require a one-time fee.
No one will know about your pressure washing company unless you tell them it exists! This means that you will need to invest in advertising or promoting your business in your city or local community. You should take advantage of free advertising (social media, word-of-mouth, etc.) whenever possible, but you may need to pay for radio, television, online, or newspaper ads as well. Once your business is up and running, the US Small Business Administration recommends spending no more than 8% of your budget on marketing.
Nozzles and Hoses
Finally, extra nozzles and hose kits will be one of your smallest initial investments for your pressure washing business. Most pressure washing can start with a small supply and additionals for one machine. Generally, you can expect to pay between $20 to $100.
Now that we’ve covered all of the basic costs, let’s put it all together:
- Pressure Washer: $100 – $3000
- Vehicle: $0 – $35,000
- Auto Insurance: $1,427 (average annual cost)
- Water Tank: $100 – $900
- Smartphone and plan: $0 – $500
- Business Software: $0 – $500
- Nozzles and Hoses: $20 – $100
- Marketing: $0 – $5,000
- TOTAL: $220 – $47,000
As you can see, startup costs can vary widely based on your starting funds, existing equipment, and the planned scope of your business. You can start a pressure washing business with just a few hundred dollars. However, you have to spend money to make money, so remember that all of your initial costs should be treated as long-term investments.
All of the prices above are also based on the assumption that you plan to start as a one-person operation. If you plan to start your business with one or more employees, you will also need to factor in salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes.
You’ll also need to factor in the cost and time it will take to register your business as an LLC or a similar commercial entity. A pressure washing business doesn’t require any special licensing, but you will need to register your business with your state and local government. If you don’t, you could be fined for running your business outside of the law.
Now that we’ve covered your initial startup costs, it’s time to move on to pricing. Power washing business pricing varies by location, types of services, and the current demand for pressure washing, just to name a few factors. However, you can get a general idea of how to price your services based on your expenses, the average cost of pressure washing services, and the type of services you provide.
How Much to Charge for Pressure Washing
There are essentially three ways to determine the price of a pressure washing job: space, time, or service. According to HomeGuide, the average cost of pressure washing services falls between $0.35 – $0.77 per square foot. If you choose to charge by the hour (as opposed to the area), the average price per hour can be anywhere between $50 to $150.
Here is a breakdown of average prices for different pressure washing services:
- Driveway – $0.50 per square foot
- Patio or Deck – $0.55 per square foot
- Fencing – $0.45 per square foot
- Roofing – $0.70 per square foot
- Siding – $0.50 per square foot
Many businesses offer set prices for certain kinds of services. This can make budgeting easier for both the business and the client.
For example, your business could charge a set fee of $100 to pressure wash a deck, $150 to pressure wash a driveway, and $250 to pressure wash the exterior of a house. Not only will you need to decide which services to provide, but also how much to charge for each of these services.
To decide on a final price, you will also need to consider the cost of your services. Since the most commonly-requested pressure washing service is the driveway, we will use this as an example.
The Cost to Pressure Wash a Driveway
Assuming you’re a one-person operation, the primary costs associated with the work will be fuel and time. The average driveway will take 1-2 hours to pressure wash (though driveways can vary greatly in size and length).
The cost of fuel (for both your vehicle and pressure washer) will depend on the size of the driveway and the distance you need to drive from your home or business location. That said, you can calculate your costs by assuming that you will use approximately two gallons per hour on the job (including travel time).
The cost of your time is much trickier to calculate. You want to make enough to offset your business expenses and compensate for wear-and-tear on your equipment.
So, this number will largely depend on the cost of your existing business expenses. If you’re just starting out with basic equipment, you can estimate that the cost to you will be around $20-$30 per hour, plus the cost of fuel.
So, if you’re pressure washing a small driveway (1 hour of labor) by yourself with a 1-hour roundtrip commute, it will cost your business about $65 (assuming fuel is $2.50 per gallon) to pressure wash one driveway. If you have employees, you will need to add their approximate hourly cost to this figure.
Pressure Washing Business Income
Now that you have an idea of how much each job will cost your business, it’s time to figure out how much money you’re going to make from each job. Looking at the driveway example, you can see that you would need to charge $65 just to break even. However, breaking even won’t do you any good!
How to Bid Pressure Washing Jobs
So, how much should you charge your client? You should try to find a rate that strikes a balance between profit (for you) and affordability (for your customers). That said, you should generally aim to make at least a 100% profit off of each short-term job. That means that the driveway (which costs your business $65 to power wash) would cost your client $130. This would give you a $65 profit.
This also works out well because as a general rule of thumb, you should not be charging less than $100 per job unless the job is extremely simple or the client has a special discount with your business. Ideally, every time you finish a job, half of the money goes back into the business, while the other half goes directly in your pocket!
However, if you have clients who want to hire your services regularly, you will need to factor this into the equation. Long-term customers expect a discounted rate, as they will provide your business with steady income going forward.
Nonetheless, you should never set your rate lower than it costs your business to get the job done. You should always charge at least 25% more than your costs. So, if the same client wants you to pressure wash their driveway once a month (which costs you $65 every time), you should charge at least $80 per month for this service.
So, how much can you expect to make annually? Naturally, this will largely depend on the success of your marketing, your ability to find new clients, and your ability to retain clients. The truth is that the sky is the limit! However, in addition to your business income, you will need to have the right business strategy to successfully operate and grow a power washing business.
How to Get Pressure Washing Contracts
The first step in a successful business strategy is securing contracts. One-off clients are great for making short-term income and increasing your word-of-mouth marketing, but they won’t keep your business going forever. To maintain a long-term pressure washing business, you need to land contracts.
Contracts are agreements between your business and your clients. In essence, you agree to provide certain services over a set period of time in exchange for a weekly, monthly, or annual fee. In this way, contracts guarantee that you always have business income, even when you’re not getting a lot of one-off jobs.
So, how can you land contracts? According to business and pressure washing guru Corey Edmonds (from the video above), there are a number of ways that you can make your business stand out and secure long-term clients:
- Find the Pricing “Sweet Spot” for Your Location – When Corey first moved out to the Pacific Northwest, he fell flat on his face because he was charging astronomical rates for the work. Even though he found a few clients willing to pay the rates he was asking for, he ended up losing a lot of leads and business opportunities simply because his prices were too high. He steadily lowered his prices, eventually finding a price point that matched his own income goals with the expectations and budgets of his prospective clients.
- Upsell Your Customer, But Don’t Be Pushy – Usually, clients will reach out to your pressure washing business with a specific need in mind. They might just need one side of a building cleaned or a small patio power washed. In any case, you should provide them with quotes for every available service that you have for their property. This way, they could end up paying for more of your services! However, you should never try to push services onto a customer who doesn’t want them. This is a quick way to lose clients and gain a bad reputation in the process.
- Show the Value of Your Services – Clients want to know that they are paying for an improvement. Whenever you discuss service options and prices with a client, use the opportunity to show how your services can improve their property value. If a client can’t see the benefit of your services, they won’t want to pay for them.
As you can see, starting a pressure washing business requires a lot of preparation. You will need to have the right skills, equipment, and business plan in order to start and run a pressure washing business successfully. That said, it can be extremely profitable and well worth the effort. Just remember to heed the advice above before you get started