I worked for a swimming pool cleaning business for two summers during high school and college, and all that I learned all those years ago has helped me to care for my own pool greatly.
But my biggest takeaway from those two summers is just how easy it is to perform basic pool maintenance and projects. So today, I'm back to help you start your own swimming pool cleaning business in order to make some extra money.
What is a pool cleaning business?
Pool cleaning businesses are businesses that take on a number of clients and visit their homes to clean their pools. Most businesses, including the one that I worked for all those years ago, also perform water chemistry tests and perform chemical maintenance.
Furthermore, many businesses that derive most of their income from cleaning services also perform a number of repairs, including some or all of the following:
Pool system replumbing (to fix leaks)
New pump or filter installations
Openings and closings
Other ancillary services
Let me reassure you now - I know how to perform all of these tasks, and none of them are hard to learn at all. For some reason, pool owners tend to get nervous about working on their own systems.
But this apprehension leads to the potential for you to turn a profit.
How to clean a pool
Before you can start your own pool cleaning business, it is important that you understand how to clean a swimming pool. Like I mentioned, it is an easy process. I like to break it down into five steps:
Skim the surface of debris
Vacuum the pool
Clean the filter
Empty the skimmer(s)
Let me break this down into more detail.
1. Skim the pool's surface
I recommend that you start by skimming the surface of your customer's pole to remove any debris that may be in the pool, such as leaves, pine needles, acorns, and anything else that you see floating.
If your customers live in an open area without a lot of trees around, you may be able to skip this step at times. Poles and skimming nets are pretty cheap, and you can find them for purchase online or at your nearest pool store.
The reason why I recommend that you skim before, and not after, you vacuum, is because some of the debris that you miss with the skimmer net is likely to fall to the bottom of the pool, where you will be able to vacuum it up. If you vacuum before you skim, you'll likely find more debris falling to the bottom as you're trying to leave and move on to your next job.
I like to skim off in clear lines, like I am mowing a lawn. But as I bring the debris closer to me, I like to turn the pole to the right a little. Then, as I work myself left to right around the pool, the debris that I missed will turn in the direction where I will have another chance to get it into my net.
This way, by the time I work myself around the whole pool, I have gotten upwards of 90% of the debris off the surface.
2. Vacuum the pool
With the surface clear, you can begin to think about vacuuming the bottom and the walls of the pool. To vacuum a pool and do a job worthy of getting paid for it, you'll need to think through a few things.
Equipment needed to vacuum a pool
You'll need a couple different pieces of equipment to perform your duties here. You can use the same pole that you use to skim, but you'll also need:
At least one vacuum head
Different types of pools require different vac heads. Most backyard pools in New England, for example, have vinyl liners, so you'll need a vinyl safe vacuum head to assure that you don't cause any damage.
Gunite pools, which are more popular in other states, particularly in the south, require a gunite vacuum head, which has wheels that allow it to move more freely on the cement and sand mixture finish.
Set up your equipment
When you arrive at your customer's home, you'll want to bring your pole, vac head, and hose with you to the pool. To set up your vacuum, you'll need to establish suction to essentially pull debris towards the pump basket and pool filter.
To do this, you'll need to fill your hose with water and connect it to your vac head, which is in turn connected to the pole so you can reach the deepest parts of the pool with ease.
Once the hose is full, you'll want to connect the end of down the skimmer of the pool. If you remove the skimmer basket, you'll see a hole down into the ground that has suction.
Once you connect your hose to the skimmer, you may hear the pump make a loud noise for a moment or two. This is just any excess air working itself through the system, and it should only last for a few seconds. With your hose attached, you want to direct all of the suction through just the skimmer you're attached to. This will make it easier for you to vacuum more efficiently.
To do so, you'll want to walk over to the pool's system and shut off all the valves going into the pump, other than the one you're working out of. This means the main drain and any other skimmers if there are any.
They likely won't be labeled, so you may have to experiment with the valves for a minute, but you'll immediately know when you've got the right combination because you'll feel the suction through your vacuum set up. Remember - if it ends up being a trial-and-error game, you only want one valve open.
Vacuum the pool
Finally, it is time to vacuum the pool. I recommend that you take the same approach that you did when skimming. Treat the bottom of the pool like a lawn that you are mowing. You may opt to vacuum the perimeter of the pool first, before proceeding in a back-and-forth motion in clean straight lines.
After you work your way around the entire pool, including any walls or slopes if the depth varies, you should do a final check for any spots that you may have missed.
Tips when vacuuming a pool
As someone that routinely vacuumed fifty pools per week, I've got a fair amount of experience working with pools of all types. As such, I have a number of tips to guarantee you'll have satisfied customers.
Focusing heavily on the area around the pool's stairs are a great way to impress customers, since that is oftentimes where their eyes will be drawn to when checking out your work.
Similarly, you'll want to pay special attention to any corners, particularly in the deep end of the pool, since these areas are easy to miss.
Finally, if you see any areas where debris may have resettled before you leave a job site, just hit it with a brush. It will likely keep it floating in the water column for awhile, so if the homeowner is home and comes to look at the pool once you leave, they likely will not see it.
3. Clean the filter
Once you have finished cleaning the walls and the bottom of the pool, you should clean out the filter. The way to do this varies based on the three types of filters out there:
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Sand and Diatomaceous work very similarly. All you need to do is backwash the filter. Attached to the filter, you'll see a valve with a setting called "backwash." You'll want to turn the valve to this setting, at which point water will be forced through the pool's filter and out to the street or wherever the backwash line goes.
Some pools have temporary rubber lines that need to be unrolled each time you backwash, and if this is the case, just make sure you don't flood out any flower beds or leave it right next to a house.
If the filter is sand, it is that easy. DE filters require just one more step: recharging the system with fresh DE. You can do that by scooping the recommended amount for the size of the pool and dumping it slowly into the skimmer basket in the pool.
Cartridge filter cleaning is a little easier to visualize, but it can be more tedious to perform. Basically, you'll see a clasp around the middle of the filter. You just need to loosen the clasp, pop the top off the filter, and remove the large cartridges.
From here, just give them a rinse with the hose and put the filter back together.
No matter which type of filter you're dealing with, you'll know that you got it right if you notice the pressure gauge on the filter (measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI) has a lower reading when you start the system back up.
Always close whatever backwash valves may exist before you leave a job site and assure that the filter is on the correct setting. When I worked for the pool company, a colleague of mine accidentally left a filter on backwash, which over the period of a few hours drained the entire pool out before the homeowner got home from work.
4. Empty the skimmers
Your last step before you are ready to add chemicals and move on to your next job is to empty the skimmers on the pool. They are designed to collect things like pine needles, leaves, and dirt off the surface of the pool.
It is as simple as removing the plastic basket, emptying the debris in yard waste or the woods, and returning it to its place.
5. Perform chemical maintenance
Time for chemicals. Once a pool is opened for the season, it actually won't need a bunch of ongoing chemicals each week.
Typically, each week, I shock my pool with one bag of granular BioGuard chlorine (called "Burnout"), reload chlorine tabs into my chlorinator, and use about 4 ounces of a concentrated algicide.
The pools you work on may have other water chemistry needs, though, particularly if there are metal, pH, or phosphate problems.
How to start a pool cleaning business
Now that you know how to perform weekly maintenance on a swimming pool, you're ready to start your own business. Getting started isn't hard to do. In fact, you can do so by following these 7 steps:
Write a business plan
Register your business
Obtain licenses and permits
Buy your equipment
Take on customers
Build out your business processes
1. Write your business plan
Crafting a well thought out business plan should absolutely be your first step. Answer all of the questions you can think of when you imagine talking to your future customers. In this step, you should decide:
Which cities/towns you will operate in
Exactly which services you're going to offer
Any ancillary repair services you'll offer
Your pricing strategy
Your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis)
Having answers to these questions is critically important to help you get started. And I recommend that you conduct some market research to help you. You will want to understand how much your competitors charge, the quality of work they perform, and what makes them unique.
Then, you can use this to find your secret sauce.
2. Register and launch your business
Your next step will be to officially register and launch your business. I recommend that you formally establish a business, rather than just take on clients as a side hustle. Depending on the business structure you pick, this could shield your personal assets in the event of a lawsuit.
You have a number of options here, but the three most common for service-based businesses like pool maintenance include:
A sole proprietorship
A limited liability corporation
Registering your business will likely require you to file paperwork with your state's Secretary of State or Department or Department of Business. And while this process can feel complicated at times, there are companies out there that can help you.
For example, I used Northwest Registered Agent to help me out, but you may consider using Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom, or another company altogether.
3. Obtain licenses and permits
To work on people's properties, which you'll be required to do if you want to clean their pools, you'll likely need to be licensed and permitted. These licensing requirements may vary between states, but may include:
Water treatment certification
Other local permits
I also recommend that you consider small business insurance, which may help protect you in the event that you cause damage to a customer's pool or property.
4. Buy your equipment
Believe it or not, you actually don't need that much equipment to get started. I've covered much of it already, but a good starting point would be:
A good toolbox and set: Screwdrivers, nut drivers, wrenches, ratchets, channel locks, pliers, a rubber mallet, channel locks, and robo grips are a good starting point. If you want to do plumbing or repair work, though, you'll need various PVC pieces, cement, and other stuff too.
A pole: It should be attachable to a vac head, skimmer net, and brush. Most pool stores have them, but you may be able to save money buying it (or any of this equipment) online.
A vac head: Remember that there are separate vac heads for vinyl and gunite/fiberglass pools. Using the wrong vac head will cause all sorts of frustration and problems. Generally, the gunite vac heads have wheels on them, which allow for each navigation across the sides and bottom.
Skimmer net: I like the big baggy ones, since they can hold more debris and don't need to be emptied as much.
Brush: Brushes are really good to help get undissolved chemicals or a spot of debris you missed off the pool's bottom.
It can also be a good idea to have some cheap commonly used parts on hand too, such as pump lid gaskets, filter pressure valves, and filter sight glasses. All three parts are really cheap and easy to switch out at a moment's notice.
Buying your chemicals
Like I mentioned earlier, in all likelihood, you're going to be managing the pool's water chemistry as well. This means that you'll need to buy chemicals to use. Over time, you'll find the brand or suite of products that you're most comfortable using, but you'll likely need to use the following at some point:
Liquid chlorine: I recommend you use this when opening pools to help them clear.
Granular chlorine: I use a granular product that comes in one-pound bags. Each week, I "shock" my pool with one of these bags.
Chlorine tabs: Tabs are intended to be used for ongoing chlorination and should be stored in the system's chlorinator.
Algaecide/algicide: I like to use a super concentrated banish regularly.
It can be helpful to have some extra diatomaceous earth, metal magnet, and phosphate remover as well, though you will find these products are used with less regularity.
I personally like the BioGuard suite of products, but they can be pricy. Still, they may be a good option if you're looking to provide an upscale full-service type of experience.
5. Start marketing
Technically, you don't have a business until you have customers, so it soon will be time to start marketing your services!
Marketing is tough as you first start out, but you will find that it gets easier as time marches on and word of mouth referrals begin to help you.
Three good ways to market your swimming pool maintenance business include:
Building a website/establishing a web presence
Taking to social media
Sending out mailers
Building a website
Though pool cleanings and maintenance are services that are performed in person, you should have a website. Not only will it help you to find customers, but once established, it may generate you leads without much active work on your part.
Your website should obviously have information about your services, but it does not necessarily have to have pricing information. If you're willing to learn some search engine optimization skills, blogging can be a great way to build your business virtually. You can write about various pool topics, including maintenance, chemical maintenance, and repair work, all of which will help establish you as a voice of authority in the space and help you to attract web visitors (potential customers) to your site.
Establishing a Google Business profile can also assure that you're near the top of the search results when somebody looks for pool services in your area.
Taking to social media
Social media can be another great tool to have at your disposal.
Though it remains all the rage right now, TikTok probably is not your best option for a local service-based business. Rather, I'd recommend Facebook and Instagram due to their structure.
It will likely be easier to spread information about your pool cleaning services to those in your geographic area and target market. Facebook Groups can be a great asset here, as well!
Sending out mailers
A paper-based campaign may also help you get your company off the ground, particularly if live in an area with a high concentration of seniors that may be less likely to locate you online.
Going door to door or sending mailers can yield results, but it is important to assure that you don't get lost in the shuffle. So this doesn't happen, it is important that you identify right off the bat what makes you different.
It could be your price point, quality of service, or something else altogether.
But - if you find a way to answer a way to answer this question, your client acquisition won't be a problem.
Each time you gain a new customer, don't be afraid to ask them if you can place a lawn sign with your company information. Typically, I'd recommend that you wait until after they've been a customer for a little while, rather than bombarding them the second you sign them.
And while some customers will say no, you'll probably be surprised by the amount that do say yes. Lawn signs can be a really effective way to market businesses like these, since pools tend to be a feature that multiple homes in the same neighborhood have.
6. Take on customers
Once you have interested prospects, your goal is to turn them into paying customers. Some customers will commit to you relatively quickly, while others will want to learn more about your pricing and service offerings.
Either way, remember that the customer is already right. They are considering inviting you to perform maintenance on one of their home's systems, and they just want to make sure that they are comfortable proceeding.
7. Build out business processes
With customers entering your sales funnel, you'll next to find a way to keep track of them. A customer relationship management (CRM) system can be a great start here, but you'll also need a way to invoice and collect payments.
Further, you'll likely need a way to process electronic payments and checks. Opening a business bank account can be a great start, but it is important that your business solutions can support your existing client base.
Tips when starting a pool cleaning business
Like any other sort of side hustle or business, getting up and running becomes far easier if you have some insider tips.
When it comes to pool maintenance, I've got you covered.
1. Look for contractor discounts
When I worked for a pool company in high school, we used a contractor discount that allowed us to buy chemicals and equipment at a discount. Then, when we performed chemical maintenance services, we charged our customers the regular rate for them. But it was still a win-win.
We were able to advertise that we performed chemical maintenance at cost (and make more money), while our customers felt value in having the work done for the same price it would cost them anyway.
Starting a pool cleaning business can be a lot easier and more profitable than you expect. The work is not hard to perform, and if you're confident in your marketing abilities, you'll be able to do really well for yourself!
Would you consider starting a pool maintenance business? Let me know in the comments below!
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