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 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.
Pool cleaning businesses offer a variety of services to the owners of residential and/or commercial pools (hotels, apartments, fitness center) and hot tubs. 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 a pool’s life and 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 pool equipment repair services, and they may troubleshoot issues, then order and install replacement parts of the pool filter, pump, and more.
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.
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 increase 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.
Any pool service business will need to market to people who own pools. Generally, this market consists of affluent homeowners with 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 to establish and retain clients.
Amazon has several books that go into detail on starting and running a pool cleaning business:
Pool Cleaning Business: A Detailed Business and Marketing Plan (Free on Amazon Kindle Unlimited)
Marketing Your Pool and Spa Service Business
Pool Cleaner Business Budget Planner
Costs to Start a Pool Cleaning Business
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 include:
- Tools like skimmers, vacuums, and brushes
- Water test kits
- Pool chemicals
Steps to Starting a Pool Cleaning Business
Step 1: Write your Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a business plan. Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Step 2: Form a Business Entity
A business entity (sometimes called a legal entity or business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the 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.
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
Step 3: Name the Business
Finding the perfect business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Step 4: Select your Location
Since a pool cleaning business works at their customer’s location, some smaller operations work out of their home, while others will usually use a small warehouse space.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: Register for Business Licenses and Permits
Several states require licensing or certifications in order to professionally clean pools through the Health Department.
While not licensing, certification can be helpful from a professional development opportunity and a way to marketing your business more effectively. The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance offers the Certified Pool & Spa Operator Certification
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 pool cleaning business is another. While the cost to start a pool cleaning business isn’t large, loans can be difficult to get. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to personally invest 15-25% towards the total start-up costs.
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 business’s income and expenses.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Any business will need to market its services to build up a client base. Pool cleaners can use a variety of marketing techniques, including handing out flyers and business cards, social media marketing with before and after shots on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, targeted direct mail, and more. Building a referral relationship with local pool installers (who don’t do pool cleaning), landscapers, contractors, or handymen can also be an excellent referral source.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
A pool cleaning business will need multiple types of insurance to be fully covered:
- General liability insurance protects the business if customers are ever injured due to 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 used for business purposes, and it can pay for expenses that can result from an accident.
- Worker’s compensation 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.
Step 10: Hire Employees
On average, it takes 30 minutes to clean a pool. As demand for a pool cleaning business grows, it may make sense to bring on additional employees to keep up with the work. 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.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system 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.
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 pool maintenance and minor repairs, 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.
While buying an existing business is tempting, 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 the success that you’ve created every step of the way.
Remember, when creating sales projections that this business experiences seasonality that varies on the location. Warmer areas have longer warm seasons and those seasons track the seasonality of a pool business.
Pool & Hot Tub Alliance