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The pool cleaning industry is thriving, so if you live in an area with many residential or commercial pools, starting your own pool cleaning business might make for a promising opportunity. While pool cleaners need to be organized, have attention to detail, and have some strong customer service skills, this business is a relatively easy one to start. Requiring only a minimal financial investment, starting a pool cleaning business might be a practical option for you. 

Business Overview

Pool cleaning businesses offer a variety of services to the owners of residential and/or commercial pools. Cleaning a pool is a multi-step process, and in a single appointment a pool cleaner or pool technician will remove any debris from the pool, test and adjust the chemical levels as needed, clean out the catch baskets, clean the filters, and clean the bottom of the pool with a brush or a vacuum. These services are necessary to preserve the life of a pool and to keep the water bacteria-free and safe for swimmers. While the process isn’t too difficult, it is time-consuming, so many pool owners opt to hire a pool cleaner to come in at scheduled times and maintain their pool. 

The above services are just as important for commercial pools, and because these pools see such a high degree of use, they need to be cleaned and maintained more frequently. Commercial pools are often larger than residential pools, so they can take more time but result in more profit. 

In addition to these services, some pool cleaners branch out into offering equipment repair services, and they may troubleshoot issues, then order and install replacement parts of the pool filter, pump, and more. 

Industry summary

According to IBIS World, from 2014 to 2019 the swimming pool cleaning services industry experienced annual growth of 6.3 percent. During that time, the number of businesses grew to 65,421 and the industry employment expanded to 98,996 employees. The industry’s profits are expected to grow by 4.1 percent in 2019 alone, and the industry revenue should total more than $6 billion in 2019. 

That growth is due to the increase in disposable income that has also occurred from 2014 to 2019. As homeowners have more disposable income, they are better able to afford pool cleaning services. The number of pools also increases as new houses and pools are constructed, leading to an expanding customer base and growing income for the industry. 

Industry trends

Many trends affect the pool cleaning industry, and in many cases they mean increased work and profit for pool cleaning businesses. According to Pool Scouts, pool owners are moving away from their reliance on salt and chlorine generators and, instead, are hiring service technicians to maintain their pools. Service technicians are more reliable than machinery, which can break down and cause issues with the pool. There’s also been increased emphasis on preventing pool chemistry problems before they occur. Pool owners are requesting that pool technicians treat the pools based on the treatments they previously needed at different times of the year. 

Additionally, there’s been an increased in short-term service appointments, rather than in booking pool technicians for a season’s worth of service. Pool owners often hire technicians to manage and monitor their pools while they go away on vacation. 

Who is the target market for your pool cleaning business?

Any pool cleaning business will need to market to people who own pools. Generally this market consists of affluent homeowners with the disposable income to spend on pool cleaning and maintenance. 

Some businesses may focus more on cleaning commercial pools than residential ones, and will need to market to business owners and property owners, instead. 

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a pool cleaning business

There’s no need to have a business degree to start a pool cleaning business, but certain skills and experience are helpful and can increase your chances of starting a successful business. 

Pool cleaning experience. Some experience in cleaning and maintaining pools, even if just done for a summer job, will be helpful when starting a business of your own. Familiarity with the types of equipment and cleaning strategies used is important and will make for a smoother transition into starting and owning a pool cleaning business. 

Attention to detail. When working with chemicals or choosing the right replacement part for a client’s pool, attention to detail matters. Clients will quickly learn if a business does a thorough cleaning and maintenance job – and if they don’t. 

Mechanical experience. Pool cleaners need to maintain more than just the pool – they’re often responsible for maintaining the pump, filters, and all of the other components that keep a pool running. Mechanical experience will be useful when it comes to maintaining pumps and ordering and installing new parts. 

Management skills. If a business expands and hires additional employees, management experience in interviewing, hiring, training, and overseeing employees will be important. 

Customer service and communication skills. Customer service is a significant part of the pool cleaning industry. A business owner needs to have strong communication skills, the ability to manage schedules effectively, and dedication to showing up on time in order to establish and retain clients. 

Financial Overview

Starting a pool cleaning business requires a minimal initial investment, making it an accessible option for many entrepreneurs. The necessary equipment and supplies can often be purchased for about $2,000, and some business owners decide to use their own personal truck, van, or SUV as they get their business up and running. 

Common startup costs for a pool cleaning business include: 

  • Tools like skimmers and brushes
  • Water test kits
  • Pool chemicals

Working capital

A pool cleaning business also needs working capital to cover expenses like rent and supply purchases, keeping the business in operation. If too much working capital gets tied up into inventory, like pool chemicals, and the business doesn’t book enough appointments to bring in income that replenishes that working capital, it will be difficult to keep the business running. 

Insurance

A pool cleaning business will need multiple types of insurance in order to be fully covered: 

  • General liability insurance protects the business if customers are ever injured as a result of the business’ work, and this type of insurance can cover expenses like medical bills or legal fees. 
  • Commercial property insurance can cover expenses that result if the business property is damaged.
  • Commercial auto liability insurance covers any vehicle that is used for business purposes, and it can pay for expenses that can result from an accident. 
  • Workers comp insurance will cover expenses like lost wages or medical bills if an employee is ever injured while on the job. 

Insurance policy cost will vary according to the value of the equipment you want to insure, where the business is located, and the value of the vehicle used for the business. To get the most accurate idea of insurance costs, request quotes from multiple companies to compare. Be sure to consider factors like premiums, coverage limits and exclusions, and deductibles. 

Common operational expenses

In addition to the above startup expenses, a pool cleaning business’ budget needs to include the following operational expenses. 

Vehicle Lease or Purchase

While no physical business property is required, because there’s so much travel involved, you may need to initially buy a vehicle or may want to later upgrade to a vehicle for business use. Be sure to budget for a vehicle’s lease or purchase, along with expenses like gas and vehicle upkeep and repair costs. 

Employees

As a pool cleaning business grows, it may make sense to bring on additional employees to keep up with demand and increase the business’ capacity. Remember that hiring employees brings more expenses than just salaries. A business’ budget needs to include workers comp insurance, paid time off, and payroll tax contributions. 

Marketing

Any business will need to market its services to build up a client base. Pool cleaners can use a variety of marketing techniques, including social media marketing, print advertising, targeted direct mail, and more. Building a referral relationship with local pool installers can also be a worthwhile activity. The costs of marketing will depend on the type of activity performed. 

Licenses & Permits

Any pool cleaning business owner will need to hold business permits or licenses. These licensing requirements vary from state to state and from town to town.

How much can you potentially make owning a pool cleaning business? 

According to SpringBoard Pool Route Brokers, most pool technicians will make between $50 and $60 for pool cleaning. If technicians expand their services to offer minor repairs and maintenance, they could increase that average rate to $150 to $200 per hour. 

Most pool cleaners should only spend about 20 percent of their monthly billing amount on expenses, leaving them significant profits. On average, pool cleaners who maximize their time and market themselves effectively can make a net income of between $75,000 and $85,000 each year. 

Things to consider before starting a pool cleaning business

If you’re interested in getting into the pool cleaning industry, there are two ways to get started: You can build your business from the ground up, or you could purchase an existing route from a pool cleaning company or franchise. There are advantages to either route. 

It can cost thousands of dollars to purchase a route, but you’ll be stepping into an established business and can start making money immediately. The pressure of finding those first customers is removed and much of the hard work of starting up your own business has already been done for you. 

But there are many reasons to start your own business, too. When you start a pool cleaning business, you’ll have complete control of the business and can establish a route in the area of your choice. There will certainly be challenges in getting the business started, and you’ll need to be prepared to support yourself until the business is built up into a full-time operation. But, if you have some marketing skills, some business sense, and some determination, you can build your own business and enjoy success that you’ve created every step of the way. 

Resources: 

Pool & Hot Tub Alliance

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