How to Start a Gutter Cleaning Business

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Quick Reference

If you enjoy working outdoors and have dreamed of starting your own business, a gutter cleaning business may be a great option for you.  It does not cost much to start, and it’s relatively simple to manage.  Your services will always be in demand, and you can make a living being your own boss.

Business Overview

A gutter cleaning business offers services to homeowners to clean leaves and debris out of their gutters and downspouts as a one-time service or on a regular basis.  Some businesses offer gutter cleaning only, and some offer it as part of a suite of services such as handyman, home improvement, or painting services.

Cleaning gutters is a physically demanding and dirty job that will be done outdoors when it may be cold and raining or in unsafe situations like homes with a steep roof.

Industry Summary

Gutter cleaning is part of the exterior building cleaning industry, which has a $10 billion market size according to IBIS World.  The industry has grown 2% per year for the last five years and is expected to continue to grow.  According to Market Research, demand for exterior cleaning services improved as growth in household formation rates expanded the potential customer numbers, and more disposable income allowed homeowners to hire for cleaning services that they did not do during the recession.

 

Industry Trends

Gutter cleaning demand should continue to increase post-pandemic as people return to work and “business as usual.”  The industry is very sensitive to economic fluctuations, so during economic downturns, the demand decreases due to people delaying non-essential services. There are new tools available to clean gutters from the ground, making it safer to do.

Target Market

Your target market will be homeowners, mainly those who have trees in their yards, although other types of debris can accumulate in gutters.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Gutter Cleaning Business

There are several specific skills and education that you will need to open a gutter cleaning business.

  • Experience.  While gutter cleaning is not complicated, experience will be an asset and give you credibility when talking to potential customers.
  • Business knowledge and experience.  You will need to have at least some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
  • Customer service. You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and gain repeat business and referrals.

Costs to Start a Gutter Cleaning Business

Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a gutter cleaning business.

  • Setting up a business name and corporation costs approximately $200.
  • Business cards, brochures, postcards for marketing $200 – $300
  • Website setup $100 –$200 for a basic, do it yourself website, $1,000 – $2,000 for a professional site
  • Safety gear such as a helmet, eye protection, gloves, etc.
  • Equipment including a ladder, leaf blower, garden hose, buckets, gloves, and tarps $1,000 – $2,000
  • Vehicle large enough for a ladder $10,000 +
  • Liability insurance, worker’s comp, property-casualty insurance $600 – $1,000
  • Initial marketing such as Facebook ads or search engine optimization for your website, flyers, and postcards, $500 -$1,000

Steps to Starting a Gutter Cleaning Business

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your gutter cleaning business should be to write a business plan.  The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be and what your ongoing expenses will be.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.

Related:
How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect gutter cleaning business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.  Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Step 3: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

RelatedComparison of Business Entities

Step 4: Select your Location

Chances are you will run your gutter cleaning business from your home, but you will need to decide on your service area depending on how far you are willing to travel to minimize transportation costs.  You will want to look for customers in neighborhoods that have trees, so you will generally be looking for more mature areas rather than new construction areas.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

You may need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. A gutter cleaning business may be considered a contractor business in some states so that you may need a contractor’s license.  Some other common local, state, and federal registrations a gutter cleaning business may need include a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number.  

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a gutter cleaning business is another.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.  Fortunately, the startup costs for a gutter cleaning business are quite low, and many entrepreneurs use their own funds, a home equity loan, or credit cards to get started.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

A gutter cleaning business will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for a gutter cleaning business include yard signs, social media marketing, and online advertising, as well as flyers and postcard mailers.  Developing a website can be a significant expense, but it can also give your gutter cleaning business greater visibility online.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

A gutter cleaning business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage. For a gutter cleaning business, this may be more expensive due to the danger of the job.

Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.

Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working. This is critical in a gutter cleaning business in case one of your employees is injured.

Property and casualty insurance protects you if your equipment is damaged.

Insurance policies will vary. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 10: Hiring Employees

You may need employees to help you run your gutter cleaning business if you are able to get a large volume of customers.

In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your gutter cleaning business is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Gutter Cleaning Business?

Some gutter cleaning businesses will price jobs by calculating roof height and square footage, while others charge by the hour.

Prices for gutter cleaning range from $1 – $1.50 per linear foot and are higher for 2nd or 3rd stories.  An average house price would be around $100 – $150.   If you average 5 houses per week at an average of $125, you could make $32,500 per year.

Additional profits can be generated by installing gutter guards.

Things to Consider Before Starting a Gutter Cleaning Business

Running a gutter cleaning business or any business will have its challenges.  You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

Some businesses will overlook the mess from cleaning the gutters. Most of what comes out of a gutter are decomposed plants or roofing materials like nails, shingle granules, and debris. To get repeat business and charge more than the low-priced competitors, be sure to clean up the mess.

The costs to run a gutter cleaning business are small, but you will probably have to pay more for insurance because of the potential for injuries.  Your main costs will be for fuel to get to your jobs, so consider distance when calculating prices.

Ongoing marketing will also be necessary to grow your customer base.

The other challenge is that a gutter cleaning business will be seasonal, so you will need to plan for your downtimes.  Gutter cleaning season varies by location, but generally, it starts at the end of summer until it starts to snow. While cleaning gutters isn’t typically a year-round need, there are other types of similar services such as pressure washing, skylight cleaning services, or window washing.

Be sure not to overlook basic safety standards. Climbing ladders and walking on roofs that may be slick are just a few of the hazards you can face. Before starting, learn safety requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Finally, you will face competition, so you will have to make your business stand out and provide a high-quality experience.

Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business and do your homework to determine costs.  Research other gutter cleaning businesses to see what they offer and what prices they charge.

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