Do you own a pressure washer and have some spare time? Would you like to make an extra buck on the side while maintaining a flexible schedule? Then you are the perfect person to start a professional pressure washing business!
Cheesy sales pitches aside, owning a pressure washer (or in fact any other power tool) opens up new possibilities for part-time jobs, which are ideal for guys in between jobs, retired men, but even for students and single moms. In short, for people who could use some extra money but cannot commit to a full-time job.
This article will explore the option of starting a pressure washer side hustle and walk you through the basics of doing so.
(This is not legal advice)
Before You Start a Business
Before you jump head first into the world of professional pressure washing, you should probably slow down and establish what exactly you will be doing and what you may expect in return.
First things first, consider what the goal of your pressure washing venture is and what will it take to achieve it. Here are some basic questions that you must answer before proceeding.
- How much money would you like to make by pressure washing?
- How much time are you willing to commit to your newly established business?
- Should you invest into additional equipment to become an all-around handyman, or just specialize in pressure-washing alone?
- How much money do you have at hand to invest into your supplies, marketing, and travel cost?
- Do you have the means to transport your equipment?
- How long do you see yourself doing this for?
- What are the tax codes and business regulations in your area for small businesses?
Think about these carefully and set out reasonable expectations. Search the internet for usual rates that handymen charge (opens in a new tab) and estimates of their hourly salary. Better yet, if you know anybody who owns a small business, ask them for advice and talk to them about your goals, to make sure you’re being realistic.
In short, make sure you are comfortable with the money you can make doing this job and the time you’ll be spending on it.
Practice the Skill
Being a professional in any skill requires some prior practice. Although pressure washing is not by far the toughest job out there, you must know what you’re doing before you reach out to your first customer.
In addition, practicing pressure washing will give you a better idea of what you will need on a day-to-day basis and how much time does doing the job take, which will be crucial for establishing a rigorous business plan.
Research everything you can about how to use a pressure washer (for example, on our trusty blog!). Get familiar with different pressure washer nozzles and accessories and know what they are used for. Learn how to handle a pressure washer and most importantly, how not to harm yourself and your surroundings while doing it. Learn how to prepare your worksite, how to pressure wash different materials (wood, concrete, etc.) and what care products must be applied before, during and after the washing.
Once you have established the basics, practice. First, do so on your own property. Pressure wash your house, pressure wash your driveway, patio, car, walls and fences. Ask your wife (husband, or even mom) to roleplay as a customer, to establish how much communication a typical job involves. Then, hit up your friends and neighbors to practice on new territories. They will surely be eager to let you wash their stuff for free.
Keep track of your time, your expenses and even how much detergent and care products you have used during each washing. Evaluate these figures by the surface you have washed (e.g., 1 car, 1 sq. foot of patio).
After going over this routine 5-10 times, you will have a good idea of what a typical workday involves. You will also build up a stock of supplies you will need on a day-to-day basis and establish how much they’ll cost in the future. This gives you a rough idea of how much to charge to get your money back, along with the wage you can expect for yourself. As a bonus, since you will already have all the equipment and experience using it, everything is ought to go smoothly when you reach out to your first real customer.
Good Equipment is Key to Success
Although you could, in principle, use any pressure washer to do most jobs in one way or another, the only way to do a job perfectly is with a high-quality pressure washer or better yet, pressure washers.
During your practice sessions, you will find that e.g., cleaning concrete driveways requires a heavy-duty pressure washer, most likely a bulky, gas-powered unit, whereas if you were to clean a rooftop, it would be best to opt for a more practical, lighter portable unit.
Moreover, high-quality pressure washers are very reliable, which comes in handy when your paycheck depends on their performance. You will also find them more comfortable, easy to use and easy to maintain.
But what makes a pressure washer “high-quality”?
The best way to judge a pressure washer is by its specs. No idea what they mean? No worries, we already covered the most important of them in our comprehensive guide on PSI, GPM, and Cleaning Units. Scrolling through our database with this knowledge should help you judge pressure washers reliably (especially with our comparison tool in your arsenal).
Here are several additional tips to narrow your hunt down:
- Regardless of the field, every product has one or few leading manufacturers which dominate in quality, e.g., Levi’s Jeans or Tesla electric cars. For pressure washers, some of the top brands are Simpson, Dewalt, NorthStar and Stihl.
- Another sign of quality is a pressure washer with a Honda engine. Honda is the top manufacturer of small engines globally, which is why their engines are included in almost all high-end power tools.
- Lastly, if you want the best of the best, narrow down your search to pressure washers which use a Triplex pump. Triplex pumps have the highest outputs relative to their size and can be maintained, which means that they can virtually last forever.
Research the Market
A business does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a market (opens in a new tab). They key to be successful, or even get any customers in the first place, is to know the market and your place in it. Find out if there is a gap in the market, and if there is a market in the gap.
Search the internet, Facebook, notice boards in your area and even newspaper ads to get an idea of how many pressure washer services are in your area and how much they charge. Compare that to your now established expenses for an average job and your expected salary.
Assume you will be paying a tad more for the travel costs, advertising and, of course, you always have to pay your taxes. When you add all of these up, can you set up a price tag that can compete with the rest of the services out there?
If your answer is yes, now you are finally ready to start your pressure washing business! If not, you must either figure out how to cut your costs or find a better way to make money.
Starting a Business
Now that you have finally established the basics of your practice, you are ready to set up a business plan and start earning that money!
Create a Business Plan
Every business starts out by establishing a business plan. A business plan (opens in a new tab) is a projection of your expenses, revenue, and profits, but also an exact plan of how to achieve them, including a description of what your business is, what it will be doing and which customers it targets. Based on your preferences, you should have a plan divided by months, weeks, or possibly even by individual days.
Your business plan should include your starting budget and projected weekly/monthly budget, which will be divided into purchases/services, travel costs and marketing. You may also include the investments you have already paid during your practice sessions and the cost of your pressure washer in the starting budget, to keep track when these have paid for themselves.
You should establish a target number of customers and the fees you will be charging them. Based on these, you can figure out the projected revenue. By subtracting expenses from the revenue, you will obtain a net profit, which will be divided between you and your business reserves.
However, business plan is not just a matter of finances. You should project how much time you will be spending on the job, buying supplies, taking a lunch/break during a workday. It should include how long it takes to prepare each worksite for a job and how long it takes to leave. In short, you should budget both your money and your time (opens in a new tab)!
Your business plan should also map out the area in which you will be operating in (town, county, state), what kind of customers you’ll be targeting and figure out a way how to reach these customers.
Most importantly, periodically re-evaluate your business plan and learn to be flexible. Nothing ever goes as planned and that is not a bad thing. You just need to get used to it.
Here are several notes on what should definitely be included in your budget plan (opens in a new tab).
Purchases should account for regularly purchased items, such as detergents, care products, but also minor things you will need on a day-to-day basis – plastic covers, brushes, maybe even a lunch and a coffee.
Travel costs can be tricky. Although you cannot project an exact mileage, you should be able to come up with a rough number for expected travel costs based on the area you wish to work in and how many customers you can get to per day.
Marketing costs should have their rightful place in your budget as well. Whether you’re printing pamphlets or posting Facebook ads, you will most likely need to allocate at least some finances to customer outreach.
Reserves should always be established to accommodate any unforeseen purchases of new equipment, e.g., you may need a new foam cannon or nozzle for a job, or a different type of detergent for a newly encountered surface. If your reserves do not get used, then good! Don’t touch them and reward yourself with an upgrade to a better pressure washer. Let them quietly pile up. If your pressure washer ever decides to suddenly break down, you’ll be happy you did so.
How to Sell Yourself
Keep in mind that regardless of what you are selling, you won’t make a dime unless you can get any customers, which requires effectively marketing your services (opens in a new tab) to your target customer base.
As a professional pressure washer service, you cannot expect customers returning on a daily basis. Therefore, marketing is of utmost importance to you, to you maintain a steady influx of new folks.
If you are an old-school guy like me, the best way to reach house owners and car owners is to target them directly. Create fancy pamphlets (opens in a new tab) and stick them right into their letter boxes or behind their windshields.
Naturally, some younger folks may frown upon the idea of pamphlet marketing. Thanks to the internet, marketing strategies for small businesses are endless. Target Facebook communities, post a tweet under your county’s hashtag, post a Craigslist ad. Create a webpage, blog, Facebook page, Twitter – if you have the guts, try creating a Tinder profile as well. Expand your client outreach as far as you can.
A note on newspaper ads: Although newspaper ads are a viable option even in the 21st century, we recommend deprioritizing them due to their limited reach.
Be the Best Version of Yourself
All businesses start off slow, and even once they get going, they hit ups and downs. Keep it simple. Focus on doing the best job possible.
Plan, budget, and market regularly. Be on time, treat your customers with respect, be kind and take care of their property as you would of your own.
Expect mistakes to happen, expect your initial expectations to fail miserably. Never beat yourself up for not keeping up with your plan – adjust and move forward. Sooner or later, you will get there, don’t worry!
In summary, starting a pressure-washing business is pretty much as starting any other business. It’s usually a bad idea to jump in headfirst. Think through your strategy thoroughly and reach out to your friends and family to hear out their opinion on the matter.
Make sure to be prepared for the job before you reach out to your first customer. Practice extensively, build up a budget and create a business plan. Invest in adequate, high quality material and expand your pressure washer collection if you have the means to do so. Stock up on supplies you will need regularly and learn everything you can about pressure washing before contacting any potential customers.
Once all the planning is done, your keys to success are good manners, work ethic and reaching your customers effectively. Do so any way you can, be it through newspaper ads, pamphlets, or the internet. We personally recommend both of the latter two options.
We wish you good luck in your future ventures!