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2020 saw at-home swimming pools make a big splash. The Washington Post reported that “the number of new in-ground residential pools nationwide rose 21% in 2020 compared to 2019.”

Pool cleaning and pool maintenance businesses have been reliable business opportunities, especially in countries with high disposable incomes. For example, take Mark Jones, owner and pool service professional at Blue Street Pools in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jones is poised to make between $89,000 and $100,000 this year by servicing his 40 pool accounts. That level of income is more than 20% higher than the median household income in the US.

As a new pool cleaning business owner, Jones isn’t alone. The number of pool service businesses in the US has been growing at a rate of 4.6% over the past five years, and the pool service industry is poised to continue that growth. 

Starting a pool cleaning business is straightforward when you know what the process entails. While it is similar to starting any handyman service business like a plumbing or maintenance business, understanding what makes it different will set you up for a smooth launch. 

Jump to the steps in the process that are most relevant to you:

Purchase Your Pool Cleaning Equipment and Transport

You’ll need pool equipment to help you clean your customer’s pools and a vehicle that can accommodate all your equipment. 

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Swim University recommends nine essential pool cleaning tools:

  • Water test strips (and test kits)
  • Pool shock
  • Algae brush
  • Manual pool vacuum
  • Leaf skimmer
  • Telescopic pole
  • Multi-purpose surface cleaner
  • Filter cleaner
  • Pool cover

You can find all these items at any pool supply store. You’ll need a truck to carry all this equipment, but you might be able to manage with a crossover SUV if you have one. 

Find Your First Customers

When you’re getting started, you can either find your customers by yourself, on a service aggregator, or by purchasing a pool route that you can then service.

Finding customers by yourself

Several pool cleaning businesses like Blue Street Pools and Dundas Valley Pools got started by going door to door and pitching their services to customers. 

Google Maps Satellite View can help you identify which houses in a neighborhood have a pool in their backyard. You can then drop off door hangers advertising your business. 

Seasonality is an important consideration when you’re finding your first customers by yourself. You can use pool openings in May or pool closings in September as a way of advertising your services and building relationships with pool owners. 

 Since demand is at an all-time high during these peak months, you should consider using a route planning and optimization software like OptimoRoute to plan your routes. That way, you won’t feel overworked, and you can take on all your new business in a sustainable way. 

Finding customers on a service aggregator

Platforms like HomeAdvisorThumbtackYelp, and Nextdoor connect your business with customers looking to get their pools cleaned. 

This avenue can be challenging for finding new customers because you’ll be competing with higher-rated services. You might have to lower your pricing to stand out early on. 

If you’re going down this route to find customers, you should also consider building a basic digital presence so that you can garner trust from your prospective customers. You can do this by spinning up a basic storefront website using a website creation tool like Wix or Webflow

Finding customers by purchasing a pool route

By purchasing a pool route from a broker, you can quickly find your first customers and get your business off the ground.

Devin Garcia of Balanced Pool & Spa Care recommends this approach. He found his first twenty accounts by buying a pool route from a pool broker. You can find pool routes to purchase on sites like National Pool Route Sales and Springboard Route Brokers

While this might be an easier approach, it’s also very expensive. Garcia spent $20,000 to acquire his initial set of accounts.

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Plan for Growth When Setting up Your Pool Cleaning Business With Optimoroute

If you already know how to start a pool cleaning business you should be thinking about how to make it more efficient and grow it for the long term.

Route planning and optimization will ensure that you can visit more of your customers in less time without spending as much fuel. 

Gallagher Pools and Spas, a pool and spa installation and maintenance company based in Westminster, Maryland, leveraged OptimoRoute’s platform to schedule their busy summer season and regular maintenance services. 

OptimoRoute’s pool maintenance scheduling capabilities saved their team an hour of drive time per service technician per day, which translated to a savings of 600 hours per month. OptimoRoute’s optimized routes also saved them 8,000 miles in fuel costs every month. 

Randy Gallagher loves the visibility OptimoRoute gives him. “I can easily and quickly open the map to see who has what work left and reroute some jobs to other crews. The benefits are threefold: It’s a big cost-saver because of overtime, it saves employees’ time, and it makes sure that all of the orders for the day are getting completed.”

Get Your Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certification (Cpo)

CPO certifications provide the training you need to know your way around a pool, including the chemistry knowledge, safety requirements, and best practices. They aren’t required in every state to operate a pool cleaning business, but they help you get the knowledge you need to offer a higher quality of service. 

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Some states have a list of approved CPO courses that they recognize from a variety of groups. For example, Florida’s list includes courses from industry associations like American Swimming Pool and Spa Association and private entities like U Can Swim, Inc. 

Some courses are also nationally recognized, such as the CPO course offered by the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance

Register Your Pool Cleaning Business

Registering your business with your local and state government allows you to conduct business legally. The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has plenty of resources to help you figure out how to register your business. 

You can register your business under different business structures. Pool cleaning businesses are typically registered as sole proprietorships since you’ll be the only person working for the business early on. 

File Your Tax and Insurance Paperwork

Before you can start operating your pool cleaning business, you’ll need a tax ID number so that your business pays state and federal taxes and general liability insurance to make sure that your business is protected from occupational hazards while you’re on the job. Your tax ID number is also necessary when you’re applying for a business bank account, credit card, and any business licenses and permits. 

Danielle Bahr, president of the Swimming Pool Pro Alliance, says, “Commercial general liability insurance can cover bodily injury, [and] property advertising damage claims made against your business. Without this coverage, you may have to pay for these claims with your own business and personal assets.”

Get Your Contractor’s License

You don’t need a contractor’s license to start your pool cleaning business, but it’s better in the long term if you do get one.

If you’ll be conducting repairs worth over $500 for a pool, you’re legally required to be licensed as a contractor in most states. 

Most pool cleaning businesses aren’t licensed contractors. According to Erik Taylor, owner of Chlorine King Pool Service, pool cleaning businesses don’t become licensed contractors for two reasons: 

  1. It’s really expensive. It can easily cost over $2,000 to get licensed. 
  2. It’s not strictly policed. Companies who offer repairs without a contractor’s license are often not held accountable.

However, conducting major repairs on a pool without a contractor’s license is illegal. It can put your business and your customers at serious risk. 

If you choose to focus only on pool cleaning services and avoid any repair work, you’ll be fine without a contractor’s license, but there are a couple of additional business benefits to getting one. 

  1. You’ll have an edge over your competition. 
    Since there’s a financial barrier to getting a contractor’s license and most cleaning businesses aren’t getting them, you can stand out in your local market by investing in a contractor’s license. It will also provide your first few customers with some peace of mind when they choose to work with you. 
  2. You can prevent your competition from poaching your clients. 
    When you only focus on cleaning and avoid doing repairs, your customers will be forced to contract another business to get their repairs done. Most pool contractors offer cleaning services as well, so you might be putting your business in jeopardy by having customers interact with other businesses in your target market. 

Whether you are taking your first steps in the pool cleaning business or setting your business up to scale long term, OptimoRoute can help you take it to the next level. Try out OptimoRoute today with a 30-day free trial!

Check out our page on cleaning business tips for more general advice on operating & growing a cleaning business.