How to start a pressure washing business in 15 steps
If you’re here, you’ve likely asked yourself some essential entrepreneurial questions, and you’re ready to be your own boss and start a pressure washing business. Great choice!
A power washing or pressure washing business can be a lucrative way to earn a full-time or side-hustle income as a business owner. The startup costs are relatively low, but the profit margins are high.
Now, you just need to know how to begin. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll break down all the steps you need to know to start your own successful pressure washing business.
But first, let’s tackle one very important question you might have on your mind:
Can I start a pressure washing business with no experience?
It depends on what you mean by “no experience.” If you have never owned your own business before, but are adept with a pressure washer, then go for it. You can learn what you need to know to open and grow your business and put those pressure washing skills to work.
However, if you have no experience with pressure washing, you’ll want to gain some. This doesn’t mean you have to go to work for another pressure washing company—unless you want to. Learning to pressure wash can be as simple as watching some YouTube videos, renting a high-quality pressure washer, and practicing on your own home or the homes of friends and family. If you have commercial or industrial connections, see if you can practice on their facilities as well.
Once you have a good handle on how to pressure wash and you’ve familiarized yourself with the steps in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to starting your own pressure washing business.
Now, let’s work our way through the nitty-gritty business-building details one step at a time.
1) Write your pressure washing business plan
Your written business plan is an essential starting point for your entrepreneurial journey. It can evolve as you grow your business, but it is important to have upfront for two main reasons:
- It helps you secure funding from banks and investors
- It helps you clarify your vision and keeps you on track as you continue to build your business
A strong business plan has several key components:
- Executive Summary: What is the purpose of the business? Why are you starting it, and why now? What is your mission statement? How will you define success for this business?
- Overview: Provide information about the background, legal structure, and other key attributes of your business.
- Industry Analysis: Outline the findings from your market research. What is the size of the pressure washing industry in your area? What is the level of opportunity?
- Competitive Analysis: Who are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how will you differentiate yourself?
- Marketing Strategy: What is your marketing strategy? How will you reach potential customers?
- Management: Who are you as a pressure washing business owner? Why are you the one to start and run this business? What unique skills do you bring?
- Operations Plan: How do you plan to manage the day-to-day operations of the business? Will you hire staff? How will you run your job sites?
- Financials: How will this business make money, and what upfront investment will be needed to start the business? Outline your estimated revenues, expenses, and profits for each of your first 5 years.
2) Business structure
The 4 main types of business ownership for small business owners are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company (LLC). There are different ways to structure your business under each of those main types.
If you plan to operate as your only employee, you might want to start with a sole proprietorship and switch to a different structure down the line. However, if you plan to hire an employee right away, you will want to choose one of the other business structures.
To find the best fit for your pressure washing business, consider each structure in relation to your business goals. Determine if you want your personal assets at risk in your business or if you want to keep personal assets and business assets entirely separate. Factor in the different rules, regulations, liability, and types of taxation for each structural option as well.
3) Choose your niche
You can differentiate yourself in your industry by choosing a niche. Determine the right niche for you by consulting the market analysis in your business plan. Some niche pressure washing business ideas are:
- Government agencies
- Commercial property
- Heavy-duty power washing
- Odd object work like boats
Suppose you see large gaps in the market that you can fill with one specific service—great! However, don’t force it. You can niche down now or later. You can also differentiate yourself in the market in other ways, as we will discuss below.
4) Define your target demographic
Who does your business serve? As a new business owner, it might behoove you to serve a wide range of clients. However, you can still refine your ideal client to help you tailor your services menu, discover your unique value proposition, and help develop your marketing plan.
Here are some questions to help you determine your target client:
- Are they homeowners?
- Do they own a business or commercial facility?
- What is their annual income?
- Where do they live?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- What do they do for a living?
- What does my market research tell me about my target client?
- Is there a gap in service my business can fill?
Questions like these help you see more clearly where you can be of service as a pressure washer. Also, remember to pay attention to the types of clients your business starts to attract once it’s open. If you like those sorts of clients, how can you attract more of that same type of potential customer with your marketing
5) Determine your unique value proposition
Your unique value proposition (UVP) sets you apart from your competitors. It can be a service or how you offer that service. To uncover your UVP, ask yourself some questions:
- What do I do better than anyone else in my industry?
- What do pressure washing customers need that they can’t find from any of my competitors?
- Why would a customer want to work with me over any other pressure washing company?
Brainstorm a list of potential UVPs and narrow it down as you continue to reflect on your brand and research. Once you have your UVP, use it in all your marketing. Repetition will cause it to stick in the minds of your potential customers. The ones who want your UVP will know to come straight to you.
6) Choose your business name
Your business name will be on all your marketing materials. It should:
- Be clear and simple
- Be easy to remember and pronounce
- Be relevant to the type of business you are
- Have the matching domain and social media handles available
If you need help coming up with the right business name, try a business name generator to jumpstart your imagination.
7) Select your services
You can offer a range of services to various clients, or you can keep it simple by focusing on 1 to 2 types of pressure washing. Some pressure washing companies only perform various pressure washing services, and some add power washing services into the mix.
What is the difference between power washing and pressure washing?
- Pressure washing cleans surfaces with a high-powered stream of water.
- Power washing adds hot water and sometimes additional chemicals to that process. This allows the power washer to clean different surfaces than a pressure washer.
Here are some services ideas to get you started:
- Car or truck pressure washing
- Industrial pressure washing
- Agricultural power washing
- Residential pressure washing
- Commercial pressure washing
- Government facility pressure washing
- Equipment power washing
- Detailed pressure washing (gutters, tree roots, sewer lines, etc.)
How much can I charge for pressure washing services?
Pricing tends to vary by contract length, property type, and difficulty of service. You will also be able to charge differently based on the type of job it is. For example, many residential pressure washing jobs can be charged by the square foot. In contrast, government agencies may want to settle on a flat, recurring contract rate.
Expect to charge around $100 for vehicle pressure washing, $500+ for residential exterior pressure washing, and at least $0.20 per square foot for agricultural or industrial exterior cleaning services.
8) Choose your location
You may choose to run your pressure washing business out of your home. This is a great option for startups, especially when you are the only employee. Once you expand, however, you will at least need a facility in which to store your vehicles and equipment.
Even if you don’t intend to lease or rent a location to start, look into storage or warehouse facilities in your area. Keep a log of options so that it is easy to secure a space when the time comes.
9) Buy your pressure washing equipment
The most important piece of equipment you need to select is your pressure washer. You can rent a pressure washer, but consider investing in your own pressure washer if you are serious about starting your own business.
When researching the right pressure washer for you, consider the following:
- A new piece of equipment is likely to last you longer than a used pressure washer
- You will pressure wash more effectively with a pressure washer that gives you a force of at least 3000 psi. You can reduce the pressure for more delicate surfaces by using a larger spray tip, but you will not be able to provide heavy-duty pressure washing without at least 3000 psi
- You will need a variety of tips. These include: 0° angled tip, 15° angled tip, 25° angled tip, 40° angled tip, and chemical tip
- Both high-pressure and low-pressure hoses will be required for a pressure washer or power washer. You will also want to look into hoses of at least 50 feet
- If you want to offer power washing services in addition to pressure washing, choose hoses that can withstand hot water and chemicals
Aside from your pressure washer, you will need some other pieces of equipment to start your business:
- Truck or van
- Proper cleaning chemicals
- Hot water units
- PPE and protective uniforms
- Surface cleaners
- Sewer jetters (if you plan to offer sewer-cleaning services)
- Water inlets
- Dual lance
- Telescoping extension wands (if you intend to pressure wash high or hard to reach surfaces)
- Reels to store your hoses
- Various chemicals and soaps pertinent to the services you offer
You may also need the following technical equipment to operate your day-to-day business affairs:
- Computer, printer, business phone
- Accounting software
- Client management software
- Time tracking software (if you plan to hire employees)
10) Get your finances in order
You can expect some startup costs associated with a pressure washing business. Some of these business expenses include:
- Business vehicle (if you don’t already have one)
- Marketing and advertising
- Employees (if you plan to hire)
- Location (if you need one)
These costs can range from $5,000 to upwards of $50,000, depending on your needs. To finance your business, you can consider the following options.
- Bank business loans
- Investors or personal lenders
- Friends and family
- Your personal savings
You may need to leverage multiple forms of financing to get your new business started. Remember that you will need a strong business plan if you seek investors or a bank loan.
You will need multiple small business insurance policies to ensure that your power washing business is fully covered. Some of the necessary policies for power washing businesses include:
- General Liability Insurance: This insurance is meant to cover you if someone makes a claim against you for injury or property damage
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Essential when you have employees. Workers’ comp ensures that you are protected if an employee sustains illness or injury while at work. Calculate your estimated workers’ comp premium here. Need workers’ comp now? Here’s why buying workers’ comp online is a great move.
- Business Property Insurance: This insurance covers you against property loss, theft, or damage in most cases
- Equipment Breakdown Coverage: This form of equipment insurance protects your business equipment in the case of mechanical or electrical breakdowns
- Business Interruption Insurance: Supplements lost income due to business shut-down for any reason
- Commercial Auto Insurance: Commercial auto insurance protects your vehicle if it's used for work purposes. You need commercial auto insurance even if you use your vehicle for personal use as well.
- Business Owner’s Policy: Provides you with multiple insurance policies, including general liability, business property, and commercial auto insurance
Ready to tackle your pressure washing business insurance now? Huckleberry can help you get insured fast.
12) Take care of paperwork, permits, licenses, and accounts
You’ll need to handle a few administrative pieces before you’re ready to launch your power washing company.
Register your business name
You’ll have to register differently based on the business structure you selected. Check out your specific rules and regulations and get your business name registered.
Get your EIN
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) acts as a Social Security Number for your business. It provides you with several benefits, so make sure you apply for your EIN as soon as you can.
Obtain all permits and licenses
- Business License: Your pathway to a business license depends on your state. Check your state’s regulations to see how to get your business license.
- Wastewater Discharge Permit: You will likely need to procure a wastewater discharge permit, though the exact regulation varies by state. You can determine your need for a water discharge permit through the Small Business Association (SBA)
- Other necessary permits: Your state or city may require additional licenses and permits. Check your state and local government websites for more information about permits and licenses for pressure washing companies.
Open a business bank account and business credit card
Keep your personal and professional finances separate by opening a business bank account and credit card. A credit card can also open up additional startup capital for you.
Get a business phone and phone number
You may be able to use your personal phone number initially, but as more and more client calls come pouring in, you'll appreciate the separation between personal and business calls.
13) Prepare for employees
Even if you don’t want to hire any employees now, you will likely need to as you take on more new customers and your business grows beyond what you can handle as a sole proprietor. When it does come time to hire employees, you can download and print off W-4, W-9, and other necessary employee hire forms entirely online.
14) Create your marketing plan
A great marketing strategy gets the word out about your business and drives new customers to you. You will likely need to use a combination of marketing channels to keep a steady stream of potential customers coming your way. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Your website: Your pressure washing website allows you to be competitive in today’s world. Without it, you lose credibility, and your target market may look elsewhere for their services. You can DIY your website, but a web developer, copywriter, and/or search engine optimization (SEO) specialist can all help you build and launch a powerful website that you will readily find via local search.
- Email marketing: Your website can help you grow your email list. As your email list grows, you can send out marketing emails to your subscribers. This is an effective way to develop a relationship with your target audience, educate them about how pressure washing can help them, and offer them specials on your services when appropriate.
- Direct marketing: Not all industries benefit from direct marketing, but cleaning professionals can. When you show up in someone’s actual mailbox—instead of just their email inbox—you prompt them to look at the current state of their property. They may realize that they do indeed need your services and will call you. Even if they don’t reach out right when they receive your direct mail, they may remember you when it does come time to have their property professionally pressure washed.
- Social Media Marketing (SMM): Social media helps you develop your network and build name-brand recognition. Not only can you gain clients this way, but you can also make powerful industry connections that may help you to grow your business over time. When you begin to leverage SMM in your business, start with one platform. You can always expand as you gain proficiency and speed with your first social media marketing channel.
Here are some common and popular social media platforms you can use in your business:
Your market research and target market should inform the platform you choose for SMM. Where does your ideal client spend most of their time online?
- Google My Business: This is a free and simple way to get found on Google as a local business. Register your business name and create a profile. It’s that simple. Google My Business helps your business with local SEO—very important for a new pressure washing business looking to gain a foothold in their community.
- Word-of-mouth and referrals: The good work you do will get noticed, and clients are likely to refer you to other clients. You can incentivize this process by offering a referral program. Provide a perk to both the referrer and the referee if the referee signs a contract with you. You can even highlight your referral program in your company brochure to hand out to clients with your business card once you complete a job or contract with them.
15) Additional resources
You did it! You’re now equipped with what you need to know to take the next step toward starting your pressure washing business. Congratulations.
(However, you took in a lot of info just now—make sure you stop and take a breath.)
As you continue on your way, you’ll want to stay educated, inspired, and energized. Here are some resources to help you as you become a new business owner.
- Pressure Washing Resource Association (PWRA): A resource for community, guidance, and industry news
- United Association of Mobile Contract Cleaners (UAMCC): A broader organization that supports mobile cleaning industry professionals
- Pressure Washers of North America (PWNA): A community of industry experts
Get your pressure washing business insurance fast with Huckleberry
At Huckleberry, we make it easy to get the small business insurance policies you need to start your pressure washing business. With us, you can grab a quick workers’ comp estimate and can even get insured online faster than you can spray down one square foot of driveway. (Okay, maybe two square feet.)