How to Start a Detailing Business

How to Start a Detailing Business

One of the great things about starting a detailing business is that it can be a highly profitable operation with a low barrier to entry and low operating costs. Oh and yes, with Undrdog products - it doesn't require extensive training and initial capital!

As of 2019, there are 276 million vehicles registered in the U.S, and 91% of U.S. households report access to one. So, services catering to car owners aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!

Whether you’re a professional detailer looking to become an entrepreneur or an amateur car enthusiast that wants to go pro sometime in the future, this article is for you. It will explain everything you need to know about starting your own detailing business and give you a roadmap for embarking on this endeavor.

This includes acquiring skills, doing market research and creating a business plan, acquiring the right tools, handling the legalities and finances, branding, marketing, and more.

What is Detailing

Detailing is the act or process of meticulously cleaning and refurbishing a vehicle or vessel (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

It involves cleaning and reconditioning the interior and exterior of a vehicle or vessel to restore the paintwork, making it look brand new.

Full detail consists of two main phases: exterior and interior detailing. Let’s break them down.

Exterior Detailing

exterior detailing - undrdog

Exterior detailing is the cleaning and restoring of the car’s finish, trim, windows, wheels, and tires.

It starts with a foamy wash to soften and lift the dirt and mud off the surface. Then, special brushes and wheel cleaning products are applied to take off all the dust and filth. After the wheels have been cleaned, the paintwork is washed and dried from top to bottom using soft wash mit or microfiber towels.

Next up is decontamination which includes an iron & fallout remover or an automotive clay bar, or sometimes both. If required, the paint is polished to eliminate any light scratches, oxidation, and swirl marks. Sometimes a detail will include light cosmetic touch-ups, but the process normally does not include paintwork or body repair.

Then a coating or a protective spray is applied, which adds an additional protective layer. Finally, the remaining exterior elements, like the windows and other plastics, rubber parts, are polished coated to make the entire car sparkle.

Interior Detailing

Interior Detailing - How to Start a Detailing Business

Interior detailing is the deep cleaning of a vehicle’s interior cabin including vacuuming, stain removal, and carpet cleaning.

All of the upholstery inside the car is thoroughly vacuumed and (sometimes) shampooed to remove dirt. If the car has leatherwork, it is scrubbed to remove all the grime and then conditioned. Plastics and vinyl are also properly cleaned and dressed and the interior glass is cleaned.

The final step is engine bay detailing. The engine bay is sprayed lightly with water and wiped down with a degreaser before rinsing everything clean. Once properly dried, all silicone, plastic, and rubber components are coated to prevent cracking.

The Detailing Industry

The US Detailing Industry is growing, and it’s going to continue growing in the future.

A report from 2019 shows that the car wash and auto detailing industry, which is served by 66,708 businesses, produced $12 billion in revenue, and employed 224,874 people. The annual growth rate over the last five years is 4%, and the projected revenue for 2022 is $14.7 billion.

Increase in Demand

Demand for detailing services positively correlates with growth in the number of motor vehicles. As the number of vehicles increases, demand for aftermarket services also increases.

The market size of the Car Wash & Auto Detailing industry in the US is growing faster than the market size of the Other Services (except Public Administration) sector overall.

The US state with the highest concentration of detailing businesses (compared to its population) is Delaware. On the other end of the spectrum is South Dakota, the state with the lowest concentration of detailing businesses.

According to a study by the International Carwash Association, consumers increasingly prefer to get their cars washed professionally versus doing it at home. In fact, more than 2 billion cars are washed each year in North America. In the US, the percentage of drivers that report most frequently getting professional car washes increased from 47% in 1994 to 72% in 2014.

The state with the most detailing businesses is California with 3,999. It alone accounts for more than 13% of detailing businesses around the country. On the flip side, the state with the lowest number of detailing businesses is Wyoming with 43.

That’s why the fact that the number of motor vehicle registrations is expected to increase year over year presents a great opportunity for the Industry.

Great Revenue Potential

Plus, detailing businesses are known to be relatively recession proof and there is no cap on how much you can make. The stronger your business skills and the more energy/time you put into your career, the bigger your income.

Detailing business can generate $40k-$120K/year for an owner operator and $80-$300k if you have 4-6 employees. On top of that, your business's income stream tends to be predictable based on the number of customers you have signed up. This makes financial planning much easier!

For more interesting Detailing & Car Wash Industry Statistics, check out this article.

The start-up and overhead costs are significantly lower than for most other businesses. You can start your mobile detailing business for as low as $200, but if you want to be a full-time detailer expect a $1500 - $20000 investment into equipment and $6000-$45000 on a working vehicle.

Steps to Take

Acquire The Right Skills

Another plus side to starting a detailing business is that it doesn’t require a ton of experience.

Sure, working for a detailer or car wash helps - you will definitely benefit from hands-on experience and insight - but it’s not a necessity.

Similarly, detailing isn’t a field that requires formal training in the form of a degree or a certification, like the one issued by the International Detailing Association. However, it can be helpful, especially if you’re a total beginner.

This means the barrier to entry is fairly low. However, to kick-start your detailing career, you should acquire a certain set of technical and non-technical skills. Knowing the proper methods to do things and understanding the business side of the industry will enable you to get on the road to success.

Technical Skills

how to start a detailing business - acquire technical skills

You may think: “It’s only car maintenance. How hard can it be?” But don’t be fooled by how easy the job may seem when someone else is doing it!

Hard skills for starting a detailing business include:

  • paint correction
  • car washing
  • pressure washing
  • leather conditioning
  • upholstery cleaning
  • wet/dry vacuuming
  • polishing
  • decontamination
  • coating installation

This is not an exhaustive list but it’s enough to get started. Keep expanding your knowledge and skill set and always stay up to date with the industry. From time to time, new methods and products will emerge that might require you to re-train and add new services to your menu to keep up with the trends.

You can acquire these skills by signing up for training and courses, working for a detailing shop or going the non-formal route, and teaching yourself!

There are hundreds of instructional detailing videos on Youtube, as well as comprehensive guides that go into the business’ nitty-gritty. The best thing - they are all free!

The most important part is that you practice these skills until you really get the hang of them. Start with your vehicle, or detail the ride of a friend or family member. They will certainly appreciate it, and you get to put your knowledge into practice and gather beneficial experience.

Then you can start detailing part-time as a mobile operator or at home. This will help you build a customer base in your area, as well as a portfolio of work that will make opening your own shop a much less daunting task.

Non-technical Skills

Soft skills often get overlooked in favor of more tangible and technical ones. But make no mistake, they are extremely important!

Detailing is a service business, and providing a good service means building and maintaining relationships with customers, being flexible enough to meet their needs, and paying attention to the details. In short, it means underpromising and overdelivering.

So nurturing communication skills, empathy, patience, agility, trustworthiness, and work ethic are a must. Oh, and you have to be detail-oriented, even meticulous. It’s called detailing, right?

On top of that, running a successful detailing business will require you to have at least a basic level of business savviness as it applies to the field. Sales acumen skills like presenting, overcoming objections, negotiating, closing, upselling, and cross-selling are essential for every entrepreneur.

Conduct Market Research

how to start a detailing business - do market research

Before you start any business, you must get to know the landscape of the market. This will allow you to feel confident that when you do start, you will have enough customers that have a need for your services, which will ensure that your business is profitable.

In your market research, gather as much information as you can about the supply and demand of the market, your competitors, and potential customers.

Consider how many car owners there are in the area you plan to serve, who they are, what their driving and car maintenance habits are, and how much money they make.

Check how many detail shops and mobile operators there are in your area already, what services they provide, what products they use, how much they charge, and how much market share they hold.

Think about the potential competition too - the future is just around the corner at all times. Consider how your business will fit into the market and evolve with it as time goes on.

To help yourself out, you can get some extra information from the IBISWorld Industry Report.

Write a Business Plan

how to start a detailing business - write a business plan

The first step for opening any business is creating a business plan, and detailing is no exception.

And for good reason. A well-thought-out business plan will help you answer key questions, focus on core areas, and come up with a strategy that you’ll need to successfully open and run your business.

Elements of a Business Plan

Business plans vary from industry to industry and business to business, but some key components are normally found in all of them. The standard sections include:

  • Mission Statement
  • Registered Name
  • Physical Location Address
  • Names of Key Stakeholders
  • Objective Statement
  • Business Strategy
  • Management Structure
  • Licenses & Permits
  • Business Insurance
  • Service Packages & Pricing
  • Target Market & its Pain Points
  • Unique Value Proposition
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Marketing & Sales Plan
  • Financial Plan & Projections

The point of this document is to define what your business will do and for whom, where it will operate, how it will make money, what sets it apart from the competition, how it will be structured, and how you plan to grow and market your services.

Some of the important questions you should answer in your Business Plan are:

  • Will your business be stationary or mobile?
  • Do you plan to work alone or hire staff?
  • How will you handle the legal requirements?
  • Will you need business funding to get started?
  • Who are your customers and how will you reach them?
  • What services are you going to provide and at what prices?
  • Which insurance companies to pick?
  • Who are your competitors and what can you do better than them?

Decide on Business Type

Choosing the type of business (and location) is central to your business operations. As a detailer, you have a couple of options:

  • stationary (fixed site)
  • hybrid (temporary location)
  • and mobile.

All of these business models have unique pros and cons, and your decision depends on their evaluation, the market research you conducted, as well as personal circumstances and preferences.

Consider all options and choose what’s best for you.

Stationary Detailer with a Shop

How to Start a Detailing Business - Stationary With a Shop

The stationary business model means that you own a garage, workshop, or any other premises adapted for detailing services.

A fixed-site detailing business, or detailing shop, is a more expensive option in terms of start-up costs and overhead. This increases the likelihood of having to get financing through traditional lenders or an SBA loan, which is a time-consuming process that will delay your open date.

However, it also means that you will have an ideal working environment and that the weather conditions are not going to affect your business. You will waste no time in traffic, driving from one place to another, so you will be able to detail more vehicles, and make more money.

Having a shop makes it easier to grow your business beyond individual effort and hire employees. Compared to other options, this results in the most potential for huge profits in the long run.

Additionally, a physical presence in your community makes marketing your business and presenting yourself as a professional much less challenging. Choose a location that is a natural traffic center and customers will come to you.

Hybrid Detailer

how to start a detailing business - hybrid detailer

If you want the lower costs of a mobile detailing without the inconvenience of travel, you could try the hybrid business model.

Setting up in a temporary location means you have agreements with local parking lots or garages, gas stations, or shopping malls to offer your services to their customers.

This is a good starting point to running a successful detailing business as it gives you the best of both worlds: the drive-by visibility of a fixed site, as well as low start-up and overhead costs.

You can even choose to spend some days at your temporary location and go directly to clients on others. This way you expand your potential customer base to those who prefer you coming to them vs. them coming to you.

Overall setup costs and operating expenses are similar to a mobile business, with less money spent on gas required for traveling from one location to another, and more on any charges your host location may require.

Mobile Detailer

how to start a detailing business mobile detailing rig

The mobile business model is exactly what it sounds like: you bring the service directly to your customers.

This option has been growing in popularity recently as it taps into the trend for on-demand services. Busy customers appreciate, and are willing to pay, for the convenience of never having to leave their homes.

Choosing this business model means you can start right now and keep start-up costs very low. There is no need to lease a commercial space and you can invest that money in acquiring equipment and financing initial marketing efforts.

Plus, lower startup costs make financing decisions easier. Especially if you can secure funding through personal savings or pooling resources. That’s why mobile detailing might be more suitable for those with less capital and experience and is an especially great option if you already own a van, RV, truck, or trailer.

Another plus side of being mobile is that you are not locked into a specific location, which can limit the number of vehicles you can serve. It also gives you more flexibility as a business owner. Beginning with a mobile detailing business lets you decide if you want to open up a detailing shop, or maybe offer both mobile and stationary services at some point in the future.

Don’t get too excited! Mobile detailing is a great business model to take advantage of, but you should carefully consider all the cons and potential risks as well.

First off, a mobile detailer is weather dependent. If you live in the southern regions of the country and enjoy mild winters - great! You can comfortably work outside most of the year. But if you live up North - snow and freezing temperatures are not going to be your friend. Even if the climate where you live is moderate - heat waves, heavy rainfall, and other unpredictable weather conditions are bound to happen.

This goes hand in hand with the next con, and that is your working area. Sometimes, you won’t be able to find a good spot - the client’s garage will be too small or too crowded, have poor lighting, or have no AC - which will severely impact your efficiency.

On top of that, you can only deal with one car at a time, which significantly lowers potential profits. Take into account that the number of clients you can feasibly travel to each day limits your schedule, and very much depends on traffic. So, yes, mobile convenience is popular with clients, but it’s a major waste of time for operators.

Another downside of a mobile business model is that if you don’t have a physical location - a visible presence in the community. Unless you have strong marketing strategies in place, customers won’t know you exist.

On the flip side, the costs of mobile detailing are much lower compared to a fixed location. But there are still plenty of things that your business will need to pay for, like the equipment, coatings and cleaning liquids, insurance, gas, phone, merchant service fees, and taxes. Lastly, consider waste disposal, water restrictions, and mobile system maintenance.

Conduct a SWOT Analysis

It’s a good idea to include a SWOT Analysis in your Business Plan. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. An analysis of these internal and external aspects of your business will help you understand what you do well and what resources you have, where you struggle and what you have to improve, what are the opportunities and low-hanging fruit, and what risks you should take into account.

There are plenty of free and paid business plan templates available online. Here is one by Hubspot, available as an interactive PDF and Google Docs Document. If you need some additional assistance, consider a business plan software as a relatively inexpensive option.

Acquire the Right Tools

how to start a detailing business - acquire the right tools

Launching any type of detailing business requires you to make an upfront investment to purchase essential equipment, PPE, and supplies necessary for doing the job.

The specifics will depend on the business type you chose and the services you’ll be providing. For example, a mobile business will need to invest in a work vehicle, a hybrid business renting a temporary location, and a stationary business in its physical space.

If you already have a van or truck and want to start a mobile business, you can invest anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for necessary inventory. Of course, you can invest even more if you want to start out as a larger operation, offer specialty services, and hire employees right off the bat.

Let’s break that down:

Equipment:

  • Pressure washer
  • Foam cannon
  • Deionized water
  • Dry vapor steamer
  • Air compressor
  • Rotary polisher
  • Wet-dry vacuum
  • Hot water extractor
  • Carpet extractor
  • Plastic razor blades
  • Rotary & orbital buffers
  • Rolling work seat
  • Power source and Extension power cords
  • Light source and Water reclamation system
  • Different applicators, mitts, buckets, sponges, and brushes
  • Microfiber towels for glass, interior, exterior, wheels & engine, coating & waxing

PPE:

  • Safety goggles & gloves
  • Respirators or masks
  • Close-toed & non-slip shoes
  • Seasonal-appropriate clothing
  • Fully-stocked first aid kit
  • Required workplace safety items
  • Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals used
  • Appropriate storage containers for chemicals
  • Electrical outlets with GFCI

Supplies

If you are unable to cover these startup costs out of pocket, multiple financing methods can help you get your business off the ground.

An SBA loan is a popular option, as it carries low-interest rates and generous terms compared to many other forms of funding. Similarly, business term loans can be a great alternative if you don’t qualify for an SBA loan. Another good option if you have to purchase a lot of equipment is equipment financing.

If you prefer not to get a loan and want to build your business up slowly, you can start with a limited menu of services and add more when you make enough money to invest in additional equipment.

Handle the Legalities

how to start a detailing business - handle the legalities

As an entrepreneur, you must make sure your new business is adhering to all the legal obligations. These include a range of requirements, including financial regulations, tax, and employment laws.

See that your detailing business complies with all its legal responsibilities first, so you can focus on growing it without interruptions later.

Register Your Business

The first step in registering your business is selecting the type of entity that you will structure your detailing business as. This decision will impact everything from your tax liability to your bankruptcy options should the business fail. It’s definitely not something to neglect.

The most common business entity options include a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, general partnership, and corporation. When choosing, take into account the unique circumstances you are starting and planning on running your business in.

That being said, forming an LLC is the most straightforward option for launching a small business. Compared to a sole proprietorship, as well as choosing not to formally establish your company (which we don’t recommend), it will protect your personal finances and limit your liability for debts and lawsuits.

The registration process is different from state to state. You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire an LLC Service for a small, additional fee. Whatever the case, you will need to elect a registered agent - hire one, or act as your own.

Working with a business attorney or tax professional can be a great option if you’re unsure of which entity is the best choice for your business. They can help you understand the pros and cons associated with each option and even assist with registering your business entity at your local secretary of state’s office or chamber of commerce.

Apply for Taxation Registration

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide.

The form of business you operate determines what taxes you must pay and how you pay them. The following are the five general types of business taxes.

This may seem confusing so if you need help, this checklist from the IRS website is a good resource.

An employer identification number, also known as a federal business tax ID, is a nine-digit number assigned to your business by the IRS. Every business needs an EIN to apply for a business loan, open a business bank account, apply for a business credit card, and — perhaps most importantly — file taxes.

Applying for your EIN is free and easy. You can do it online, by mail, or by fax. Depending on your method of application, you will either receive your number instantly or within a few days or weeks.

Some states have specific taxes that might apply to your business, so don’t forget to check whether you need a State TaxID Number as well.

Obtain Permits and Licenses

To start any business, you will have to obtain permits and licenses at the federal and state level. The requirements and costs vary from business to business, state to state, and even from city to city.

Ensuring that your car detailing business has all of the required permits and licenses isn’t just a good idea — it’s necessary. Failing to acquire the proper licenses and permits could result in fines, penalties, the closure of your business, and, at worst, jail time.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to prescribe a complete list of permits that you’ll need to operate a detailing business because the precise requirements will vary depending on where and how you choose to operate.

At a minimum, you will need a basic state and local business operating license. It will grant you the right to start and run a particular type of business in the city, county, state, or country that issues it. It is a type of permit indicating the company has the government's approval to operate.

Now, depending on multiple factors, you might have to acquire a couple more permits. The common ones include zoning and land use permits, building permits, fire department permits, and a certificate of occupancy — if you plan to operate out of a physical location.

Yeah, we know, the list of things to obtain is quite long. That's why we at Undrdog decided to free you of needing certification for using our products. You can, however, sign up for our Pro Network to become a Partner Installer. We only have one requirement - for you to use our coating, Undrdog Pro, in jobs you book with the help of our free leads.

However, keep in mind that, if you plan to lease a location, it is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO. Before signing a lease, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO applicable to a detailing business. On the other hand, if you plan to purchase or build a location, you will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.

Environmental Issues

Environmental protection

Both mobile and stationary detailers must be mindful of regulations about the environment, like the Clean Water Act and Ozone Transport Commission.

Detailing typically requires a lot of water so you might run up against specific water usage and/or wastewater rules that you must comply with. Because of this, some states and cities issue specific car wash licenses, and have dedicated departments responsible for overseeing air and water pollution.

You may need to register your business with this department in your area as well and demonstrate how you will comply with regulations such as water reclamation and disposal requirements.

To get information about this, get in touch with the Department of Environmental Protection, and don’t hesitate to call your local city hall.

Work Safety Protocols

Implementing Safety Protocols, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, is essential to mitigate risk.

Take them seriously to keep all parties safe from injury, fines, and legal action.

Also, get familiar with detailing chemicals and equipment operations, and investigate locations if you are performing mobile detailing.

For more information about local licenses and permits:

The Small Business Administration (SBA) also has resources in this area.

Protect Yourself with Insurance

how to start a detailing business - get yourself an insurance policy

Building a successful business takes a lot of work and money. But no matter how tempting it may be to cut costs by only signing up for the business insurance you’re legally required to have - resist.

Just one uninsured accident can cost you your business.

Protect your business with one of the many types of business insurance available. It can be challenging figuring out what kind you need as each carries a different level of risk, so analyze your options carefully and make a strategic decision.

There are certain types of insurance that most detailing businesses will need. These include:

  • general liability insurance
  • vehicle and property insurance
  • unemployment and disability insurance

You might also want to consider Garagekeepers Liability insurance which covers you for working on vehicles as they are in your possession, as well as Business Equipment Insurance.

This article is a great resource for learning more about Insurance for Detailing Businesses. If you are struggling, working with a business attorney is always a good idea.

We also ran a poll in our Pro Network and here are the top insurance companies our customers opted for:

Open a Business Bank Account

Not separating your personal from your business finances is a mistake you do not want to make. This is a critical step to ensure long-term financial success and protect your personal assets.

First off, it will make monitoring business income and expenses very difficult. Secondly, using a single bank account will cause a lot of confusion come tax-filing season or if your business is audited by the IRS.

Opening a business bank account is not complicated - you just have to prepare the proper documents. Choose a Bank and contact them to inquire about the required documentation for the type of business entity you have.

Some of the most common documents include the certificate of incorporation, employer identification number (EIN), business formation documents, and your business license.

Generally, it will take a bank 1 to 7 days to review your application and approximately 1 to 4 weeks for your account to be open.

Set up the Finances

how to start a detailing busienss - set up finances

Determining the Budget

As a new small-business owner, you have to figure out a lot of things you’ve never done before.

One of them is how to create a business budget — and that can be intimidating, especially when you’re just starting out.

Budgeting for your business is about making an educated guess as to how the future of your business’s finances will look. It requires examining what happened past month, quarter, and year, and then using that information to make financial decisions for the future.

Obviously, the longer you’ve been in business, the easier this process will be, as you will have more data. if your business is brand new, this step requires research into the typical startup and overhead costs within your industry and area, to gather working estimates for your forecasted finances.

The first budget you create might be a challenge, but it’s a good learning experience and a way to understand what works best for your business.

There are plenty of free tools online that can help you get organized, like a business budget template, and if you want to master budgeting for your business, check out Udemy or Coursera for inexpensive courses.

A detailed budget is crucial for any business, even if you start small.

The best place to start is getting to know your budget components:

  • Estimated Revenue
  • Fixed Costs
  • Variable Costs
  • One-time Expenses
  • Cash Flow
  • Profit

Startup Costs

For a new business, you will need to include startup costs in your budget as well. They include all expenses incurred to plan, register, organize, and launch your business.

Thankfully, unlike most new business ventures, a detailing business requires very little investment capital. Industry leaders estimate that the initial budget ranges anywhere from $5,000 to over $100,000, depending on the type of business you decide on. First being if you want to start smaller in your own garage or as a mobile detailer, and the end of the spectrum if you're looking to build out your garage from scratch.

First off, figure out if you can self-fund or if you have to take out a loan. Other sources of money can prove to be beneficial too, like friends or family, personal funds, business partners, crowdfunding, government programs, angel investors, etc. Each method has its pros and cons. For example, personal funds help you possess full ownership and avoid interest, but they might place you in a risky position financially.

Estimated Revenue

This is the money you expect your detailing business to make from the sale of services. Estimated revenue consists of two main components: sales forecast and estimated cost of services rendered.

You will need to check the revenue of similar local businesses and use those figures to create estimated revenue numbers for yourself the first time around. Later, when your business is more than a year old, your experience will guide you in estimating these components.

Fixed Costs

When your business pays the same amount regularly for a particular expense, that is classified as a fixed cost. Some examples include rent, utilities, salaries, accounting services, and insurance.

Factoring these expenses into the budget is crucial as you will have to cover them continuously. They can also be a good reference point to check for problems if your business finances aren’t going as planned.

Variable Costs

This category includes the cost of goods or services that can fluctuate based on your business success.

Consider things like the replenishment of detailing and office supplies, marketing, fuel costs, equipment maintenance and repairs, educational expenses, uniforms, trash pick-up, gray water disposal fees, and travel expenses. The list will vary depending on the size of your business and your business goals.

One-time expenses

These are one-off, unexpected costs that your business might incur in any given year. Some examples include replacing broken equipment or purchasing a laptop.

Since it is difficult to predict these expenses, there is no certain way to estimate them. However, it’s wise to set aside some cash for this category to stay prepared.

Cash flow

This is a measure of how much cash a business brought in or spent in total over a period of time.

You want to track not only how much money travels in and out of your business, but also when. This is especially important for mobile detailers, but it’s relevant for any detailing business out there.

Why? Detailing has a peak season and a dry season. Knowing then your cash flow is going to be the highest will help you plan when to make large investments and purchases.

Again, this is something that you will need to estimate based on market research for your first business budget. Later, you can use your financial records to forecast earnings more accurately.

Profit

The final budget component is profit, which is a number you arrive at by subtracting your estimated cost from revenue.

Detailing businesses generate revenue through the services they offer and are paid on a per-job basis. Experienced business owners report annual profits ranging from $40,000 to over $100,000, depending on the pricing structure, type of additional services offered, number of employees, and region in which they reside.

Detailing prices can range widely. According to data sourced from Yelp and research done by Mobile Tech RX, the average price of detailing services in the US is $160.16. The average range from all 50 states is $114.59 on the low end to $213.67 on the high end. Compare what you plan on charging with the national, state, and city averages to make data-driven decisions.

Your prices will, of course, vary depending upon the specifics of the services you perform, your experience, as well as the region you service. Here are a couple of tips for pricing your detailing services:

  • Calculate your hourly rate
  • Use a tiered pricing model
  • Always inspect the vehicle first
  • Don’t lower prices to match the competition

Once you have projected how much profit you are likely to make in a year, you’ll be able to decide how much to invest in each functional area of your organization. For example, will you use your profit to invest in advertising or marketing to drive more sales?

To make your business more profitable, consider partnering with car shows, auto and RV dealerships, car rental companies, limousine companies, and even hotels. Another way to make more money is to offer additional services, like window tinting, windshield repair, headlight restoration, odor elimination, etc.

Brand Your Business

Branding is important because it’s what makes an impression and allows your customers to know what to expect from your company.

There’s a huge amount of competition today, so businesses must go the extra mile of ensuring they stand out in a crowd. To do this, you should invest in creating a strong brand that will get and keep people’s attention.

Branding is a way of distinguishing yourself from competitors and clarifying what it is you offer that makes you the better choice. Your brand is built to be a true representation of who you are as a business, and how you wish to be perceived, so don’t overlook it.

There are many areas that are used to develop a brand including advertising, customer service, social responsibility, reputation, and visuals.

Choose a Business Name

Cool business names - undrdog

Choosing a name is an exciting part of the entrepreneurial process, but don’t do it without thinking about a few key points.

First off, avoid anything that is hard to spell and pronounce. This will make your name difficult to remember, and can even leave your customers frustrated or unable to refer you via word of mouth.

Stay away from names that are too specific, as they could be limiting as your business grows. For example, having your business named Dave’s Wax won’t be appropriate if you start offering other types of paint protection, like coatings, in the future.

On the other hand, don’t go too vague either. You want people to understand who you are and what you do without having to think about it. And remember: being clear and simple doesn’t imply being boring.

Your name should be catchy and fun, something that resonates with your target audience and sets you apart from the competition.

Once you have a couple of ideas, conduct a thorough Internet search to see if anyone else is using those business names. It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does, so don’t skip this step.

We suggest you conduct a trademark and Secretary of State search too, as well as a search on social media platforms you plan on using for your business.

Create Brand Assets

Undrdog Brand Guide

The next step is to create the elements that will identify your business. These include colors, fonts, your slogan, and your logo.

Whichever logo, color scheme, and style you choose ensure that it is distinctive and easily recognizable. Talk with experts and your team and play around with free online logo makers to get some ideas.

When your branding elements are ready, distribute them across all channels. Consistency makes customers trust your brand, which leads to positive feelings and increased customer retention.

Setup a Website

Every modern business should maintain an online presence. You can build it on social media, but you’re restricted by the platform in terms of design, process, and technology. A website can help you increase flexibility, control, branding, and credibility.

Research shows that 84% of U.S. consumers believe a business with a website is more credible than one that only has a social media page. And you need to be seen as credible for your business to thrive!

A website really does make a difference.

Using a dot com in your website address looks very official. Run your name through a domain name search to see what’s available. Then, figure out how you want to approach website design - there are many affordable options out there.

Some things that are a no-brainer to include are a clear description of who you are, where you operate, what services you provide, how much you charge for those services, and how customers can contact you. Don’t forget to include customer testimonials when you have them, and an obvious call to action.

Market Your Business

Registering a domain and building a web presence for your business are great places to start. Then, all you have to do is attract customers!

But that isn’t always easy.

In the beginning, your marketing effort will be trial and error. We suggest you give different tactics and channels a go to find what works best for you. Learn from both your successes and failures and keep thinking about how you can optimize your marketing strategies.

Marketing is super important, and sales bring in revenue. So, don’t skimp on your marketing budget.

Create a Marketing Plan

how to start a detailing business - create a marketing plan

A thoroughly thought-out marketing strategy can help you to both drum up demand when you first launch and keep your business growing after those initial first few months.

In your marketing plan, try to answer the following questions:

  1. Who is your target market? Consider what problems you will solve for your customers, what are their desires, and do they have the willingness and capacity to pay for your services.
  2. What are your marketing objectives? Set measurable goals for your marketing efforts and make sure you track progress and results.
  3. What strategies will you employ? Make a list of all strategies that can help you achieve your marketing goals. This can include direct selling, social media, email, POP, paid ads, etc.
  4. What tactics will you use? To implement strategies, you must have tactics in place. They are the specific activities you will use to execute your marketing strategy.
  5. What marketing activities will you do? Marketing activities are the methods you will follow to promote your business in order to increase brand awareness, boost sales, and build relationships with customers.

Choose Marketing Methods

There are two main methods of marketing: traditional (classic) and digital (modern) marketing. Traditional marketing has been evolving for ages, while digital just got in a decade ago.

The main difference between them is the medium through which an audience encounters a marketing message. While traditional marketing uses traditional media like magazines and newspapers, digital marketing uses digital media, such as social media or websites.

Ultimately both types of marketing have their benefits and downfalls, but the key is understanding your specific marketing needs, considering your budget, and understanding your target audience.

Traditional Marketing

With the rise of social media, traditional marketing is often undervalued. However, it still very much has a place in a consumer’s day-to-day life.

Traditional marketing channels include:

  • Outdoor (billboards, posters)
  • Window display and signs
  • Broadcasting (TV, radio)
  • Print (magazines, newspapers)
  • Direct Mail (catalogs)
  • Telemarketing

Consider creating mailers, brochures, business cards, flyers, t-shirts, and other promotional swag for your business - it’s a great way to get your name out there. Pass out those printed materials at local businesses and homes in the area you service. It’s a good idea to offer first-time and referral discounts.

Remember: be persistent, but not pushy.

Digital Marketing

However impactful traditional marketing is, we can’t forget that we are living in the digital age.

According to DataReportal, there are 4.95 billion active internet users in the world and 4.62 billion active social media users. With numbers that high, marketing online and through social media makes a lot of sense.

Some of the more popular digital marketing channels are:

  • Email
  • SEO & SEM
  • Social media
  • Content marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • PPC (pay per click)
Email Marketing

An email newsletter is an excellent way to keep in touch with customers and gather reviews.

According to research, less than 3% of all companies send a follow-up email to prospects and customers. That is a huge missed opportunity to connect with your customers and build brand loyalty. A follow-up message will show them that you are a professional that values their feedback.

Realistically, you won’t be able to follow up with every single customer by hand. Employ one of the many economical services available, such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact, to handle emails and customer relationship management (CRM). The latter will allow you to ask for reviews and build a base of regular customers.

We suggest you keep an email list of both customers and prospects. When you’re writing your emails, segment the list to speak directly to those who haven’t purchased yet in some emails, while addressing your current and past customers in others.

SEO & SEM

Often wrongly used interchangeably, SEO (Search engine optimization) and SEM (Search engine marketing) are different marketing channels that businesses can use to reach their target audiences on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The difference is that SEO relates to organic search, and SEM is paid.

SEO is the process of optimizing your site to rank higher in search engines. The goal is to get in front of the searchers who could become your customers. It’s important that your business appears in different types of search results, too – Google Maps, Featured Snippets, images, videos, and more – in order to maximize your visibility.

Finding affordable SEO services for small businesses isn’t an easy task. With SEO being such a complex field, it’s hard to know what services you need or whether a company is going to do a good job or not.

To get a better understanding of what SEO is and why it is important, read this article about Affordable SEO Services for Small Businesses.

Google Reviews

Don’t forget reviews! They’re a cost-effective way to appeal to customers online.

In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations!

Google reviews impact your ability to acquire new customers not only through your reputation, but also through your rank, and they are a highly effective tool to market your detailing business.

The first thing you should do is verify your Google My Business Listing. This way your business information will show up on Maps, Search, and other Google services. Then, start actively seeking reviews from your customers!

To learn more about best practices, check out this article about easy ways to get more Google Reviews.

Social Media

Instead of spending time casually scrolling through social media, make it work for your business!

Social media platforms provide an opportunity for small brands to grow and engage with a close-knit community of both present and future customers.

Engage with your social media audience - the more interaction your page has, the more the algorithm favors it.

Consider which networks your customers are on and which ones are trending at the moment. Set up business profiles and take advantage of free insights and the opportunity to run paid ads.

The key to a healthy social media presence is consistency, so try to stick to a social media calendar. If you find daily manual posting too time-consuming, consider using a native scheduling tool like Meta Business Suite or a third-party app like Later.

To Sum Up

Being an entrepreneur involves a great degree of risk & uncertainty; however, it is also a highly rewarding experience. As an entrepreneur, you can pursue your passion, make money, and be your own boss.

While starting any business comes with its own unique challenges, the right level of preparation and forethought can remove many of the variables and confusion associated with it.

Ensuring you have the right skills, both technical and non-technical, conducting market research, drafting a thorough business plan, acquiring the right tools, ensuring your business is licensed and registered, establishing a financial plan, as well as branding and a marketing plan are all crucial, but there is no full-proof plan for running a successful business.

It might seem like a lot, but don’t overcomplicate it.

Have the vision to provide services that will delight your customers, have fun, and make money. That’s all it takes.

You’ve got this!

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