Auto detailing can be a great way to earn a living and run a successful business. It doesn’t require tons of training or up-front investment. But it can help to get an expert perspective so you’ll have a roadmap for getting started.
Nick Vacco is the founder and CEO of Detail King, an auto detailing training institute where students can learn all about detailing processes as well as the business side of the industry. Vacco recently shared some insights for starting a car detailing business in a phone interview with Small Business Trends. Here are 10 of the essential steps you need to get started.
Tips for Starting a Car Detailing Business
Get the Proper Training
Detailing isn’t an industry that requires you to have a four-year degree or any specific certification in order to get started. But you do need to know all of the proper methods and the business side of the industry in order to be successful. And there are training institutes like Detail King that can help you do just that.
Vacco says, “It’s like anything else. If you want to be a plumber, the you go to plumbing school. If you want to be a dentist, you go to dental school. If you’re working on somebody’s vehicle, especially with today’s new cars costing around $40,000, you have to know how to perform the various detailing and protective services.”
Get Hands-On Experience
You also need to practice your craft in order to master it. In Detail King’s courses, students learn various methods of cleaning and detailing and then practice them for days. It can also be beneficial to learn while working for other detailing shops in order to really get the hang of it.
Start Where You’re Comfortable
When you’re ready to start your own operation, you can do it in a way that works with your lifestyle and the level of investment you’re willing to make.
Vacco says, “One of the nice things about this business is that you can start out part time. A lot of our students start part time and they have other jobs that are not necessarily in the industry. You can start out as a mobile operator where overhead is usually pretty low. Then after a few years after you’ve built up a customer base that is still in the area, you might go to open up your own shop while having someone else run your mobile unit.”
Get Your Business Licensed
One of the first things that Vacco teaches students is about the business side of detailing — in particular, the importance of getting licensed to operate a business in your area and incorporating your business. He says there are different considerations for each entrepreneur. But especially for those who have personal assets, he suggests forming an LLC or some kind of corporation to protect yourself.
Invest in the Essentials
Another important early step is investing in the essential pieces of equipment. Vacco says if you already have a truck or van and plan on starting as a mobile business, you can invest anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for equipment such as a pressure washer, hot water extractor, buffer, towels, buckets, sponges, and other various necessities. Of course, it is possible to spend more if you want to start out as a larger operation, but generally it’s not an especially expensive industry to break into.
Hone Your Selling Skills
Selling is one of the most important aspects of running any sort of business. But especially in a detailing business, Vacco says that upselling and cross selling are essential skills for every entrepreneur. Once you are already committed to providing one service for a customer, you might be able to entice them into purchasing extras in order to increase your profit margins even more.
Create a Marketing Plan
Of course, you also need to actually market your services to get them in front of new customers in the first place. Vacco says you should consider every vehicle on the road as a potential customer. He also says that a good website, social media presence, regularly updated content, and online ads are also helpful when it comes to bringing in new prospects.
Stay in Touch with Customers
Once you obtain those customers, your marketing work is far from over. Vacco also stresses the importance of keeping up with an email list of both customers and prospects. You can segment your list so that you can speak directly to those who haven’t purchased yet in some emails, while addressing your current and past customers specifically in other emails.
Grow When You’re Ready
As your business grows, you might find it beneficial to make some further investments. As Vacco mentioned, you can open up an actual location so that some customers can come to you. You can also hire team members to expand your operations even further. However, he did say that it’s beneficial for most detailing shops to keep some form of mobile operation going, as some commercial accounts will require that you come to them for all detailing work.
Re-train When New Methods Emerge
And those aren’t the only ways you can grow your business. From time to time, new methods will also come up that might require you to re-train so that you can add new services to your menu.
Vacco explains, “Right now, ceramic coating is becoming really popular. So you can make major profits in that area as long as you know how to actually perform the work.”