How to Start a Pool Service Cleaning Business in Florida
Advantages of owning a pool service
- Advantage number 1 - Ownership Owning a pool service business means that there will be no lack of opportunity or customers. The state of Florida has the most pool homes out of all 50 states. You can have as many or as few customers as you like according to your income preferences. Part time or full time, your choice.
- Advantage number 2 - Small Investment It is not a large start-up cost to open a business. Licensing, chemicals, and equipment are what you need to start. Once licensed, you can purchase what you need from whole-sale pool suppliers.
- Advantage number 3 - Not back-breaking work If you remain pretty much on the service only side, and are not also a repair business, the work is relatively easy. It can get pretty warm in Florida, but the heat is the most uncomfortable part.
Did you know?...
- That a pool with a strong odor of chlorine usually means that the chlorine is low? This is caused by the free available chlorine molecules to work "overtime" trying to kill bacteria since there is not enough total chlorine.
- That when people say their eyes burn, that the chlorine must be too high usually has nothing to do with chlorine? It is a bad pH balance. Your eyes have a pH of 7.5.. If the pH in the water is out of balance, it will cause your eyes to sting, or burn.
How NOT to succeed
Many people make the mistake of opening a pool business for a few different reasons. The first being that they think it's "easy money" They have taken care of their parents, or their own pool for a few years and think that if they know how to test Chlorine and pH, well how hard can it really be? And with such a low start-up cost, Many, many small pool businesses have failed for lack of knowledge of the industry.
As stated above, lack of knowledge. I can't stress enough that if you have not been in the industry for several years, your business WILL fail. There is so much more to water chemistry than Chlorine and pH. These can be perfectly balanced and you can still have a green pool no matter how much you shock it. You can read more in my article Advanced Water Chemistry
Florida licensing requirements
There are 3 classes of swimming pool contractors. Class A, B, and C.
Class A is a Commercial Pool and Spa Contractor and is unlimited in the industry for both commercial and residential pools.
Class B is a Residential Pool and Spa Contractor. Limited to residential pool building and major repairs. Can pull permits and do anything a class C license can do.
Class C is a Swimming Pool/Spa Servicing Contractor. Limited to non-structural repair and equipment servicing of pools. Cannot build a pool, cannot pull a permit
Certified Pool Contractor (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 one county.
More information on licensing can be found at myfloridalicense.com
You will need to be licensed and insured to legally operate a pool business in Florida (and most other states) Also by registering a name for your business in Florida at sunbiz.org
CPO License or Certified Pool Operator license is required for working on commercial or public pools such as Hotels, apartment complexes, etc.. Not required for residential work, but a good thing to have. Read more on CPO Licensing
Insurance - Being insured will help to secure customers. Many customers want the peace of mind knowing that you carry liability insurance. Here is a link to get started with insurance.
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I'm licensed, now what?
Getting set up - 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. It looks much more professional but I highly recommend some bins that you can store your liquid chlorine jugs in, since they spill from time to time. This can ruin the back of your truck very quickly.
Equipment - You will need the basics: A high end professional test kit, pool pole, brush, net, garden hose and nozzle, vacuum hose and vacuum head. These items are the very minimum that you will need.
Chemicals - Liquid chlorine, chlorine tablets, muriatic acid, sodium bicarbonate, soda ash, calcium carbonate, calcium hypochlorite (shock), Sodium bromide (algeacide), and salt for pools on salt systems. Again, this is the minimum chemicals you will need.
You won't have much of a business without customers! Advertise, advertise, advertise. Make sure you have a magnetic sign with your companies name and phone number, and website if you have one. This is an effective way to advertise.
Craigslist is where I have had most of my success obtaining customers. It's free to post under the services section, but make sure to do it right. Craigslist doesn't have the option of adding a photo in the services section, unlike the "for sale", or other sections. I have conquered that by using HTML code to advertise full page ads on Craigslist services. This article explains step by step on how to to that and it is a huge advantage to your advertising. Not a lot of people know how to do this, so there are very few full page ads in the services section. I guarantee the customer will be more inclined to call you first than to call a plain text ad with a phone number.
The Price is Right
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 can't just raise the customers' rate after giving them a price.
A licensed and insured pool company has an advantage. People want a licensed and insured pool service. There are many "fly by night" unlicensed pool companies (I say companies, but usually just one guy with a truck), that will bid a lower price 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. Therefore, you can charge more since you are licensed and insured. 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 of a pool is this going to be to take care of? I am talking about 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 such that a service starts "as low as" $xx.xx per month. Most common services are chemicals only, chemicals plus filter clean and empty baskets, and full service. Price will obviously vary.