How to Start a Pool-Cleaning and Service Business in Florida
Many people dream of one day starting their own business. Whether it's being self-sufficient, setting your own schedule, or being your own boss that appeals to you, going into the pool-service industry is a great way to begin working for yourself—especially in Florida.
Advantages of Owning a Pool-Cleaning Business
- You Own the Business: Owning a pool-service business means that there will be no lack of opportunity or customers. The state of Florida has the most homes with pools out of all 50 states. You can have as many or as few customers as you like according to your income preferences. Whether you work part-time or full-time will be your choice.
- It's a Small Investment: There is not a large start-up cost required to open a pool-service business. Licensing, chemicals, and equipment are all you need to start. Once licensed, you can purchase what you need from wholesale pool suppliers.
- It's Not Back-Breaking Work: If you remain on the service-only side of the pool business and don't offer more complex repairs, the work is relatively easy. It can get pretty warm in Florida, but the heat is the most uncomfortable part.
In order to be successful in starting your own pool-service and cleaning business in Florida, you must go through the proper channels and be prepared to work hard.
How to Start a Pool-Service Business in Florida
- Learn How Not to Succeed
- Get Licensed
- Get Set Up
- Find Customers
- Set Pricing
1. How Not to Succeed
Many people make the mistake of opening a pool-cleaning business for the wrong reasons. Oftentimes, those new to the industry have misconceptions about what owning a pool-service business means. They think it's "easy money." Perhaps they have taken care of their own pool or their parents' for a few years and think that since they know how to test chlorine and pH, they're ready to go into business. Many, many small pool businesses have failed early-on due to a lack of knowledge about the industry.
I can't stress enough that if you have not already been in the industry for several years, your business will likely fail. There is so much more to water chemistry than just chlorine and pH. These can be perfectly balanced and you can still have a green pool no matter how much you shock it. It is crucial that those thinking about entering the pool-service industry become familiar with advanced water chemistry before going into business.
Did You Know?
A strong odor of chlorine usually means that a pool's chlorine is low? This is caused by the free available chlorine molecules working "overtime" to try to kill bacteria since there is not enough total chlorine.
2. Florida's Licensing Requirements
There are three classes of swimming pool contractors in Florida: Classes A, B, and C. Two additional licenses, known as CPC and CPO may also be obtained. Insurance is another must for anyone starting a pool business.
A class A designation describes a commercial pool and spa contractor who is allowed to service both commercial and residential pools.
A class B designation describes a residential pool and spa contractor that is limited to working on residential pool building and major repairs. Those with class B licenses can pull permits and do anything someone with a class C license can do.
A class C designation describes a swimming pool/spa-servicing contractor who is limited to non-structural repair and equipment servicing of pools. Those with class C licenses cannot build a pool or pull a permit.
Certified Pool Contractor (CPC)
CPC is a state license that allows you to work in any county. You can also obtain a local license that allows you to work in a single county.
Certified Pool Operator (CPO)
A CPO license is required for working on commercial or public pools such as those in hotels, apartment complexes, or other larger buildings. This is not required for residential work but is a good thing to have. More information about CPO licensing can be found on the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance's website.
Being insured will help you secure customers. Many customers want the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that you carry liability insurance.
More information on licensing can be found on Florida's licensing website. As in most other states, you will need to be licensed and insured to legally operate a pool business in Florida. You will also need to register your Florida business's name at sunbiz.org.
3. Getting Set Up
Before you can start serving customers in your area, you will need to equip yourself with a vehicle, supplies, and chemicals.
Although I have seen small companies use a car with a little trailer on the back to pull around the pool equipment, it is best to have a small truck as it looks much more professional. I highly recommend acquiring some bins that you can store your liquid chlorine jugs in since they spill from time to time. Spills like this can ruin the back of your truck very quickly.
- High-end professional test kit
- Pool pole
- Garden hose and nozzle
- Vacuum hose and vacuum head
Note: These items are the essentials—you will need all of these at a minimum to get started. As your business grows, however, you will likely need to acquire additional supplies.
Calcium Hypochlorite (Shock)
Sodium Bromide (Algeacide)
Did You Know?
When people say their eyes burn when they are in the pool, it usually has nothing to do with chlorine levels. Generally, this is the result of a bad pH balance. Human eyes have a pH of 7.5. If the pH in a pool's water is out of balance, it can cause swimmers' eyes to sting or burn.
4. Getting Customers
Now that you've gathered the necessary permits and materials for your new business, you'll have to take on the somewhat daunting task of finding customers willing to use your service. You won't have much of a business without customers! Advertise, advertise, advertise. Signage and Craigslist have been the two most successful marketing tools I've come across while working in the industry.
Make sure you have a magnetic sign on your vehicle with your company's name, phone number, and website (if you have one). This is an effective way to advertise as you work.
Craigslist is where I have had most of my success in obtaining customers. It's free to post under the services section, but make sure to do it right. Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn't have the option of adding a photo in the services section like it does in some of its other categories. I have gotten around this by using HTML code to incorporate full-page ads on my Craigslist services posts.
5. Setting Your Prices
How much do I charge customers? Many pool businesses have made the mistake of bidding too low. When I first started my business, I made the same mistake. I tried to beat all of the competition but found out the hard way that I was losing money. You cannot raise your customers' rates after quoting them your price.
Most customers want a licensed and insured pool-service. There are many "fly by night," unlicensed pool companies (I say companies, but these are usually just one guy with a truck) that will offer lower bids that you can't compete with. Just reassure your customer that you are licensed and insured and that there are many pool guys out there that are not. Do some research and see what your competition charges. Do not underbid or try to "beat" the competition. Advertising will build your account base over time.
I go by a few different factors when pricing a service. How hard is this pool going to be to take care of? Does the pool have unscreened "leaf-pits" or poor and faulty equipment? If I receive a call for service, I never give a price over the phone. You don't know what you are getting into until you actually inspect the pool and equipment. Always offer free estimates.
Make sure an account is going to be worth your while, and bid your price knowing that you will make money on this account. I usually advertise that my services start "as low as" $XX.XX per month. Offer quotes for a variety of services. Common service types include:
- Chemicals only
- Chemicals plus filter clean and empty baskets
- Full service
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Do you need a CPC to repair equipment for residential pools?
Yes. More information on this can be found at: http://www.floridapoolpro.com/industry/licensing/g...Helpful 3