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How to Start a Pool Cleaning Business

How to Start a Pool Cleaning Business

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.

Business Overview

Pool cleaning businesses offer a variety of services to the owners of residential and/or commercial pools (hotels, apartments, fitness centers) 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.

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 swimming pool cleaning 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.

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 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.

Target Market

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 swimming pool cleaning and maintenance.

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

Checklist for Starting a Pool Cleaning Business

If you’re thinking about starting your own pool cleaning business, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.

Step 1: Write a 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.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 2: Form a Business Entity

A business entity (also referred to as a business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures 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.

When deciding on which business entity is best for a pool cleaning business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.

A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.

That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.

The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is that the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.

Related: Guide to forming your LLC

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.

Some popular LLC formation services include:

IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!

ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

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.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming a pool cleaning business 

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 as a professional development opportunity and a way to market your business more effectively. The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance offers the Certified Pool & Spa Operator Certification.

There are also general business registrations that may be needed, such as a business license, sales tax permit, or Employer Identification Number among others.

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 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.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.

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.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Every business is going to need a logo. Make a professional logo in no time with the free logo makers from BrandCrowd and Canva.

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a pool cleaning service. A few of these include:
– 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.

The cost to insure a pool cleaning business 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.

Related: Types of insurance your business may need

Step 10: Hire Employees

On average, it takes 30 minutes to clean a pool, plus travel time.  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.

Related: Setting up the accounting for your business

The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:

- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.

Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.

How much does it cost 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.

Some common startup costs for a pool cleaning business includes:
– Tools like skimmers, vacuums, and brushes
– Water test kits
– Pool chemicals
– Vehicle

How much can a pool cleaning business owner make?

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.

Remember, when creating your 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.

What skills are needed to run a pool cleaning business?

There’s no need to have a business degree to start a pool cleaning service, 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.

Are there grants to start a pool cleaning business?

It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a pool cleaning business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.

Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.

What is the NAICS code for a pool cleaning business?

The NAICS code for a pool cleaning business is 561790.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code?

Pool & Hot Tub Alliance

Greg Bouhl

Greg Bouhl

Welcome! My name is Greg Bouhl, and I have over 21 years as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, where I worked with over 1,600 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses.

As a small business advisor, I got fed up with clients finding inaccurate and outdated information when they were researching how to start a business online, so I launched StartingYourBusiness.com to be a trusted resource.

I'm constantly adding and revising this site, but if there is a question you have about starting a business or need help finding something, please ask!

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