How to start a detailing business

How to start a detailing business

Learn how to start a successful detailing business with the right equipment, techniques and marketing to build a strong customer base.

I’m 16 years old, and I recently made my first $1,000 weekend detailing. Today, I’ll be explaining the steps I took to create my detailing business and scaling it in under a year. I originally detailed as a side hustle, struggling with leads and finding customers. At the time I didn’t have the best equipment, chemicals, microfibers, etc. But I worked hard on my craft and was even able to achieve similar results to what I make now. Let’s get started with the basics.

Equipment, and how to use it

The best way to scale your business is to actually know what you’re doing, and that starts with good equipment and knowledge. You need microfibers and chemicals to get started. Don’t worry about any polishing or coatings because these are topics you should avoid as a beginner and get into later once you gain some knowledge and skill detailing. Next, you need a vacuum. I use a four-gallon five-peak horsepower shop vac with a longer vacuum hose and a bunch of different heads for different uses. As for an extractor, you can build your own using your vac. You can purchase an extra vacuum hose, a pressure washer hose, an extractor head and some quick connects. You may be wondering why I would need a pressure washer hose for an extractor? It supplies water to the extractor head. You will buy quick connects, attach them to the extractor end of the hose to hook up to the extractor head and a faucet adapter for the hose end to screw into the faucet.

What brushes do I use?

I have boar hair as well as a stiff and soft bristle. I mostly use my boar hair for plastics, but if conditions are bad, get an interior scrub pad. For the exterior, get some buckets, wash mitts or microfibers, soft bristle brushes and drying towel. We will go in depth on the rest of the needed supplies later in the blog.

What washing equipment should I get?

Good question. You need microfibers and washing equipment. Let’s start off with the interior. I use low pile rags; you can pick up some cheap rags at your local hardware store. Piano plastics is where you must be careful. I only use 500 gsm plush rags with rinseless wash diluted 16-1 to avoid scratching the delicate surface. Interior isn’t too picky, but as for the exterior, that is when the micro arsenal builds up. I have rags ranging from 400-1300 gsm depending on the vehicle’s needs. I use the one bucket wash method over the two bucket wash method for convenience and less chances of scratching. For washing a vehicle exterior, I use four 700 gsm rags folded into sections of eight, so after a panel is detailed, I flip to a fresh side of my micro and wash the next panel. Do not reuse a microfiber when dirty. Instead, hang it on the side of your bucket and grab a fresh one. Make sure you purchase grit guards for your bucket and start with wheels first.

Next, we will go over 450 gsm rags. They are good for buffing on a spray sealant and buffing off a wax; although, I would also recommend a 300 gsm low pile to prevent linting and grabbing from the wax (450 gsm rags are also good for quick touch ups with a quick detailer). I only touch the exterior with plush microfibers and keep dedicated rags for certain things. For example, rags for paint, glass, chrome, etc. For glass towels, I use waffle weave rags or diamond weave for a streak free finish. Finally, my dreadnought drying towel. Dreadnought is my favorite. I find it very absorbent. I can get three cars done with my one rag. Make sure you dampen the rag before use and spray some rinseless wash on the vehicle as a drying aid. Anything between 400-700 gsm is safe on the exterior and can be used in many ways. Feel free to find what works best for you.

Let’s move onto wheels. We will have two main types of wheel well brushes: bristle and microfiber. Microfiber will be used for black gloss wheels and any wheels with glossy clear-coat and chrome to prevent scratching, along with a microfiber wheel mitt to agitate the face of the wheel. Bristle is primarily used for the everyday aluminum clear-coated wheel as well. I use tiffer bristles for filthy wheels. Use a microfiber mitt or nylon brush for the face. For the lug nuts, use an everyday detailing brush. As for tires, I use a stiff bristle brush to help agitate the muck. Tires are picky, so make sure to use some elbow grease. Pro tip: if they come out brown, use some tar remover, let it sit and agitate and don’t let overspray dry on the wheels.

Okay get ready; this is where the wallet starts to hurt. Let’s discuss chemicals. I won’t go too deep into this topic because you can use your chemicals in many different ways. Do some research and see what catches your eye. Let’s start off with the most important chemicals: interior cleaner, interior and exterior dressing, car shampoo, carpet shampoo, all-purpose cleaner, universal wheel cleaner as well as a high alkali and acid wheel cleaner, rinseless wash, degreaser, spray sealant or wax and a tire shine. There are so many more things to get, like applicator pads, compound and polish, ozonator, panel wipe, ceramics, and more. However, what I listed is even more than you need to start your adventure into entrepreneurship.

How to market your business

Now that you know what you’re doing, the first thing you must do is get a Google Business Profile and a website. If you want a steady stream of customers long term, get these things done first because as your business grows and establishes its presence on Google, you will start to rank for certain search terms in your area. The moment this happens, you will increase a spike in traffic that will have you hiring employees just to keep up. Do this sooner rather than later, building your reviews and SEO to dominate the online market. Don’t use some website builder or cheap developer either. Get this part done right because it will pay dividends in the long run. This is the market outlet detailers miss, leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table.

Once you have your website and Google Business Profile, it’s time to get some reviews and customer loyalty. Print hundreds of flyers, offering heavy discounts for first-time customers as well as doing free details for people you know. All of this is in exchange for reviews and word-of-mouth referrals which you can leverage to your advantage. The beginning is all about manual outreach and building your portfolio. This is the most important step in your marketing process.

You’re ready to start

Now you’re ready to start. Once you feel like you have the skills to launch your business, make sure to get an LLC. This is my best advice because it transfers liability from you to the business, protecting your personal assets. You can also open a business bank account and hire employees. Follow all these steps and you’ll be on your way to a successful detailing business. If I, 16-year-old Antonio Olivas, can do it, so can you. Happy cleaning.

Antonio Olivas is founder and owner of Frisco Mobile Detailing. At 16 years old, he has cracked the code on marketing his detailing business and recently got his first $1,000 weekend. He has been in business for a little over a year doing Mobile Details in Frisco, Texas.

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