Basics of Starting Your Own Detailing Business

November 19, 2015 William Russell

So you’re currently employed, or even unemployed, and you want to begin making more money. Or maybe you are just sick of your job and at a turning point in your life where you want to take control. Or maybe you just enjoy detailing so much you feel as though you can make a living do so. I was all of the above at one point, and I took the leap of faith in myself to make a living and be happy being my own boss. I wanted to become a professional detailer. Not because I saw people making money or others being successful. But because I wanted it for myself. I wanted freedom doing something I loved. Money was never, ever, ever once the goal. It took years to build my dream and every day I am adding one brick at a time to the foundation. If I were to look back, these are some points I would make my past self aware of before starting my own detailing business.

Starting your own detailing business

Business structures and plans are really important

What type of corporation should I start?

This is something you really need to think about. In the U.S. there are many different paths to choose, each with their own benefits and issues. You can choose between corporations (S/C corps), LLC, or a sole proprietorship. Many new detailers start as a sole proprietorship as they are fairly easy compared to corporations but offer little in terms of corporate and asset protection. So if you plan on growing or even just want to protect yourself, there seem to be better options. This is a process you really need to think about and it is also very important to consult a lawyer. There are many who will be more than happy to help you find what fits your needs best. Do a lot of research here. I spent weeks on Google and then consulting with lawyers prior to deciding. Don’t skip this step and just start working.

Sit down and write a functional and simple business plan

Your auto detailing business plan will ALWAYS be evolving. I see a business plan as something that grows with you as a person. You don’t have a life plan where you stick to every detail and your business plan should be the same way. It grows. It learns. It adapts to changing environments and economies. Take some time to look up basic business plans and go from there. Some key points to pay attention to are:

  • Who is your client demographic (this is really important for everything in your business)
  • Where will you be detailing (mobile or fixed location with a studio)
  • What will you be using to detail and what are the costs involved
  • Employees? If so, how many, how often, and what sort of training
  • How will you acquire customers
  • How will you retain customers
  • Is your business seasonal? Can you survive a harsh winter or sudden change in weather?
  • Perform a break even analysis
  • What is the GOAL of your company? What is your mission?

Accounting, town laws and ordinances, and water laws are really important

So many people overlook these “small” laws or rules. There are a lot of things in running a business that get overlooked even by the big players in the industry. Contact your local town or county board and find out what laws relate to detailing and water use. Make sure if you have a fixed location, your location is to code and also allows for a detailing operation to function in that zoning. This is so important it can bring down your entire operation.

As for accounting, book keeping, paperwork, etc. Get someone good, or get good. As a business owner, looking at your numbers, your profit, your losses, your expenses, etc. will get you a good idea of how your business is doing. Don’t just look at what’s in the bank. Look at what goes in, what goes out. Keep track of EVERYTHING. If you have issues, find a local CPA capable of book keeping and have them help you get started.

Detailing Process and Products

Don’t worry about products as much as your processes

Some people get way too overwhelmed or caught up in buying, trying, and using different detailing products. From someone who runs a company dedicated to sampling and experimenting, I will be the first to say. Take a step back and evaluate your situation. Figure out your processes and find products that you like. That does not mean stop trying something new. What this means is that you should learn how to first detail, how to accomplish specific goals, and find a product that compliments your techniques and goals. This may take time, but start slow and experiment in your free time. Start off with the basics, even if you don’t know how to correct paint properly, your brain surgeon didn’t just grow up with the scalpel in his hand while learning how to walk. One step at a time and as you grow, your business, skill, and clientele will too.

Try new things, try new techniques, have fun with it!

Like I said earlier in this discussion, try new things, but don’t waste your resources. Don’t go and buy gallons, on gallons, on gallons of new products to test while running your business. This is a quick way to run short of cash and ultimately close business. Auto detailing is lucrative but competitive and you don’t want to undermine the entire operation by wasting money on products that will only end up sitting on your shelf.

Try new products in small, sample sized or even 8-16 ounce quantities. Use these products and try new techniques associated with them. Find time to improve your detailing speeds, efficiency, and ultimately quality. This is the goal of the monthly detail sampler box. This box will provide you with a couple samples you can try when you have time along with new techniques to improve your detailing skills.

Just have fun!

How to open up your own detailing shop

At the end of the day. Have fun. Look at what you have built and what you are building. Take time to appreciate your business, your clients, and those who supported you along the way. Don’t ever, ever, look at what another detailer in your area is doing or waste time with envy and greed. There will always be enough cars to go around for everyone, especially if you’re good. Just enjoy it. Take time off and don’t burn yourself out as many of us do on a yearly basis. I myself am guilty of this and quickly destroyed my mind, my body, and my ambition. It took time to rebuild, to rethink, and reevaluate my goals. And this article is what I learned along the way.

I am by no means a lawyer and this information above is only opinion. If you need legal advice on starting a business, consult a lawyer.

Copyright 2015 Xclusive Autoworks Inc., It’s Better


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