Starting a Detailing business - turning a hobby into a career

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Consider the cost, financially and mentally

So you want to become an auto detailer? Before you begin to invest and get excited about this idea, consider the costs. The costs of beginning your business do not start and end with financial costs. The price you must pay for your dream is risking losing your passion! Often people will pursue their passion as a career and quickly lose that passion. Consider what that would mean to you, do you rely on passion in your career, or can you continue to detail as a hobby while you work in another industry? The time and effort it takes to get a new business off the ground is immense, make sure you have considered all outcomes before jumping in!

 

Training

Once you’ve decided to take a chance, and fully pursue a career in detailing, you’ll want to formally train. Having completed courses or attaining membership is important for a new company. Having a good reputation before you begin is a huge leg up to the competition!

Some well-known organizations to consider:

  • IDA – link
  • Esoteric – link
  • Small Detailing University – link
  • Rightlook – link

Do your research and decide which of the hundreds of detailing programs are right for you!

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Market Research

This step is important in any new business assessment. Look into your local competition, resources, and customers. Ask yourself, things like, “Is there room in this area for another detailer?”, “what does my target customer look like?”, “what are successful detailers doing in my area?”, “Is there a demand for a specific offering I can provide?”, etc.

Do everything you can to learn about your surrounding area and how detailing businesses both successful and failing, have performed. Learning from someone else’s successes or failures can be the factor that puts you in front of the rest.

 

Mission and Values - Competitive Advantage

Once you have completed your market research, you’ll have a big picture idea of what you need to do, and what customers need/want from you! Sit down and write out your Mission, Values, and Competitive Advantages. What is your goal? What do you want customers to believe about your business? And what sets you apart from the competition?

No need to spend too much time on these. This first version is just a start, as your business grows you can update and revise your mission and values. Things change in the world and so will the needs of your clients, and the things they value may change. Your mission and values should be able to adapt along with your business and your customers' expectations.

 

Location, Location, Location

Something important to consider is whether you want to have a set location that you work from or a completely mobile business. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Do some research and discover which plan is valuable to your client base.

Luxury vehicle details tend to lean mobile simply because these cars might not ever leave the driveway. Perhaps your client doesn’t feel comfortable having their luxury car in a shop for the day and would prefer you come to them, where they can see your process and their vehicle at all times.

On the other hand, some clients want their vehicles in a shop, because there are more resources out of a shop. Most daily drivers and middle-class detail jobs are done in a shop. You will know whether you should be a mobile or shop detailer by your target clientele, which is why market research is so important.

 

Funding and Investment

Funding a new small business can be a huge financial investment. Not only must you pay to start up, and train, but you’ll also need thousands of dollars of high-end equipment to work with. The list of items needed can go on and on. Consider starting with smaller services while you save for more equipment to expand your service offering. Interior details can be done with relatively low overhead cost, offering general exterior washes and full interior detailing until you can realistically purchase the equipment needed for full exterior detail service is a great strategy.

On the other hand, it is always an option to obtain business loans and start off running with employees and a full array of services. All of the research and knowledge you’ve gained up until this point will give you the wisdom to know what kind of business model is a better option for your business.

 

Paperwork 

Make it legal! This may be the most time-consuming and require the most mental effort when it comes to starting any type of business. You will need to make your business legal and up to code. This means lots of paperwork, business license applications, permits, insurance, bank accounts, loans, etc. Depending on your situation, hiring an outside party to get through these steps correctly and efficiently can be very helpful. However, for most people, DIY is a more realistic choice. Make sure to do your research, ask around, and read all your local regulations!

 

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Hard Work

This one is a given and hopefully something you do already. For many people, owning a business kicks their motivation into high gear. When your own money and time has been invested into something, working hard for the success of that thing, is what you will naturally do.

There will be ebbs and flows, there will be good and bad times, there will be moments where quitting is tempting. Keep pushing! If running a detailing business is your dream, you will need to fight for it, and push through every trial that comes your way and, in the end, it is worth it.

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