For many entrepreneurs, the home improvement and maintenance niche offers some of the most lucrative opportunities. Chimney sweeping is one sector that’s begging for exploitation. A low barrier to entry and high profit margins make it an extremely attractive line of work. As more and more homeowners look to ditch the grid in any way possible, chimneys are seeing a lot more use these days. Using the following tips as a rough business blueprint, anyone can launch a fruitful chimney sweep company.
Do Your Market Research
Though chimney sweeps are a rarity in many areas, you’ll need to hash out a few details before you get rolling. Things like pricing, specialties and business structure deserve some serious thought. Cleanings can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on location as well as chimney size. Local demand as well as the most common hearth and stove types found in your immediate area will factor into the pricing equation quite a bit. Lastly, you’ll need to decide between a franchise and a solo operation.
Funds, Licenses & Paperwork
If you’re serious about a chimney sweep sideline, the good news is that you can launch on a relatively modest budget. For cleaning materials, you can expect to spend around $2,000 at the outset. In addition, you’ll need to register a company name, get a business license from the state and obtain a tax ID. Form an LLC or other corporate entity to reduce your tax liabilities and draft release forms, reviewed by an attorney from your state for customers to sign.
Assemble the Required Gear
There are three basic tools that you’ll need to clean chimneys: rods, brushes and vacuums. Rods are typically a meter long and snap together to form a pole that’s several stories tall. Purchase a slew of polypropylene bristle brushes in varying sizes and shapes. You’ll need a heavy-duty vacuum like the August West Sootsweeper or a similar model to suck up debris. Stock up on plastic sheeting and tape to prevent the inadvertent spread of soot into a home’s interior.
Get Educated & Certified
For the most part, chimney sweep work isn’t rocket science. Regardless, it’s still a wise idea to school yourself on the finer points of safety, technique and efficient workflow. The Chimney Safety Institute of America, the National Fire Protection Association and the National Chimney Sweep Guild are amazing educational resources during the learning phase. Practice your technique on a few friends’ chimneys while you pick out hardware to avoid wasting money on unnecessary tools.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Once you’re ready to launch, you’ll need to work on building inertia for your new sideline. Obviously, offering your services at a severe discount to get your name out there in an organic manner is a wise move. As always, doing some cheap or even pro bono work for community organizations is a great way to refine your skills while making contacts. You’ll gain valuable feedback from customers that can guide future decisions.
Market As The Professional You Are
After establishing yourself locally via word-of-mouth promotion, it’s time to get serious about marketing. Distributing business cards, flyers and coupons is always a good first step. In addition, you should focus on using SEO and targeted content marketing to boost your online profile. All the major social review sites like Google+, Yelp and Foursquare should be targeted. Developing a reputation online will significantly improve your name recognition offline once chimney sweeping season rolls around in September.
Flesh Out Your Service Menu
At the height of the chimney maintenance season, a good sweeper can make up to $1,000 per day and rake in upwards of $40,000 from sweeping alone. Unfortunately, business drops off drastically after New Year’s Day. If you want to make your chimney sweeping side business a year-round affair, you’ll need to diversify. Consider adding flue waterproofing or sealing to your repertoire. Alternatively, you could install chimney accessories or perform inspections during the slow summer months.
Keep Every Option Open
While the chimney sweep business isn’t nearly as fluid as the tech industry, it’s hardly static. For instance, the popularity of different types of fireplaces or stoves waxes and wanes over time. Therefore, there’s an opportunity to stay one step ahead of the competition by keeping an eye on market shifts. As always, the ability to anticipate trends and adapt your business strategy to them is the key to long-term success in your endeavors.