If you’re thinking about starting a snow removal business, now is as good a time as any.
The snowplow service industry is on track to reach $20.5 billion in revenue by year-end, up 2.1% from 2020. And, the outlook for the next five years is positive, as more commercial businesses open and real estate expands, creating demand for this essential service.
You don’t need any formal education to start a snow removal business, and the median salary is $32,000 a year (though some snow removers can make $50,000 per season.)
But success in any industry depends on proper planning and implementation. Snow removal is no different. Being a seasonal business, and given how unpredictable the industry is, planning is perhaps even more critical.
With that being said, here’s a “How to Start a Snow Removal” eight-point checklist. Use it to set yourself up for success—whether you’re brand new to entrepreneurship or already own a lawn care or ground maintenance business and are looking to scale.
How to start a snow removal business: your 8-point checklist
1. Assess the business opportunity
Besides growing demand, you also need to assess the business opportunity of starting a snow removal business in your area by answering these three questions:
What are the startup costs for a snow removal business?
Startup costs vary depending on the snow removal services you offer, the number of employees, the types of equipment you need, and whether you buy used or new equipment. For example, if you decide to target residential and commercial properties, you’ll need more snow removal equipment and capital.
Typically, though, you’ll need a snow blower, truck, plow, shovel, rock salt, and a salt spreader. Expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for a snow blower, plow, salt, and salt spreader.
The cost of the truck will vary depending on the type of pickup truck, whether you buy used or new, and whether you choose to pay it off or not. If you’re buying new, prepare to pay at least $30,000.
You’ll also have to factor in two months’ worth of running costs upfront, including equipment maintenance, fuel, insurance, business software, and a marketing budget. If you can, set aside $5,000-$10,000 for these startup costs to avoid taking on debt.
How much do snow removal professionals make?
How much you make will depend on your ability to manage costs and maximize profits.
In 2020, the median pay for snow removal professionals was $32,220 per year or $15.49 per hour.
That being said, it’s not uncommon for snow plow professionals to earn more in one season than others earn in a year, with some even making $50,000 per truck in winter.
Are specific training or skills required to get started?
You don’t need a degree to start a snow removal business. But you do need a driver’s license if you plan to operate a snow removal vehicle.
Although not mandatory, you can invest in training offered by Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) to get certified. You can also get accreditation through the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA).
If you’re a total newbie, it doesn’t hurt to get some on-job training from someone who already operates a snow plowing business in your area.
2. Write a snow removal business plan
Your business plan gives you direction, improves your odds of succeeding, and can even help you get capital from an investor.
To get started, we suggest opening a blank document. Fill it in as you work your way through the remaining steps on this checklist.
You likely won’t complete it all at once; it will take some time. But remain patient because everything you write down will help you turn your snow removal business idea into reality.
Snow Removal Business Plan Outline:
This short page includes your logo, company name, role, contact information, and address.
Write a summary of income and expense forecasts, what makes you different from the competition, and how much funding you need (if any). It’s common to write this section at the very end.
Describe your business’s technical details, including business structure (e.g., LLC or sole proprietor), business type, and trading name.
List out what services you will offer, the area you’ll serve, your mission statement, and your short and long-term business goals.
Review your service area and target market demographics. Is there an opportunity to serve parking lots, local businesses, residential driveways, or sidewalks? What size of property and average income does your target market have? Next, look at what your competition offers and charges. Your exact pricing should be unique to you, but knowing the going rates in the market will guide you.
Finally, think about how to differentiate yourself, e.g., through better customer service or your pricing strategy. Maybe you could offer fixed monthly contracts over one-off jobs like Chris Senger of Mow Town Edmonton does.
Detail everything you need to run your snow removal business, including the number of employees, equipment and tools, and scheduling software for snow removal companies to book jobs, schedule work, and create invoices.
Get scheduling software for your snow removal businessGet it now
We won’t go into too much detail here because we have an entire section on marketing below. Just know your marketing plan details the advertising tactics you’ll use to grow your customer base. Concentrate on three to four to remain focused and prevent overwhelm.
Write down and cost everything you need (e.g., equipment and insurance). Then, create monthly expense and income forecasts (estimate monthly jobs and how you’ll price your services), and determine the break-even point (the point where income equals expenses).
3. Register your business and get snow plow insurance
If you’re an established business owner like a lawn care professional looking to make money in the winter or expand, you can trade under your existing name. But if you’re a new business owner, make it official by registering your business with your state and government for tax and legal purposes.
To register your business, you’ll need:
- A business type. Choose between an LLC (Limited Liability Company), sole proprietorship, or partnership. An LLC is a popular choice because businesses have limited liability if sued.
- A business name. Make sure your business name is practical and professional. It will be on all your communications like quotes and invoices. Take your time here but don’t agonize over the perfect name as it can delay the entire process.
- Contact details. Create a business number and email. Your email should preferably contain your name and your company name, e.g., [email protected].
- Business address. You don’t have to invest in office space. However, you should purchase a P.O. box to register your company and separate it from your house address (crucial for those creating an LLC).
Each state will have its own regulations for registering a business, so be sure to speak to your local city hall for more information.
Don’t forget about snow plow insurance. You’ll want to be covered if accidents happen, so shop around for insurance quotes. You’ll need to look into insurance even if you already have it because starting a snow removal business means you’re taking on more risk.
You’ll need general liability insurance (cover if you damage your client’s property) and auto insurance. General liability insurance costs you $1 per day with Next Insurance, and auto insurance costs roughly $12.50 per month.
4. Apply for business licenses and permits
Again, specific permits or licenses to start a snow removal business may be unique to your state. Check in with your local city or town hall to make sure you remain within the law.
For example, in Milwaukee, Minnesota, you need a special business license that you get from the City Clerk’s Office.
5. Open a business bank account and invest in accounting software
There are many reasons to create a business bank account instead of using a personal one:
- It provides an added layer of professionalism when getting paid.
- You can build up a business credit history, giving you access to larger sums of money for bigger purchases or repairs.
- Personal and business spending remains separate, offering personal asset protection and making it easier to manage your finances.
Speaking of better financial management, consider investing in accounting software like QuickBooks early on. You can track expenses, view income at a glance, and run payroll.
You can also integrate QuickBooks with your snow removal invoicing software to stay even more organized.
6. Create your service pricing strategy
Suppose you already own and run a business such as a landscaping company and are looking to make extra money with snow removal. You’ll probably have a solid idea of what it takes to price your services for profit: Factor in labor and material costs, estimate overheads and add your markup.
You’ll also know that pricing isn’t always that simple. You can’t just look at competitors and the going hourly rate in the area. For example, your offering may have an intangible value like fantastic customer service that lets you charge a premium over what your competitors do.
So, whether you’re new to entrepreneurship or have the background to draw from, use a pricing strategy that’s right for you to determine how much to charge for snow removal. This could be project, value-based, or tiered pricing.
READ MORE: 11 pricing strategies for service businesses
7. Set up a marketing plan to get clients
We suggest you choose three to four marketing tactics from the list below:
- Get referrals from family, friends, and current clients (if you already run a business).
- Build a new snow removal website or use your existing site if you have one and simply add a section or page about snow removal.
- Create a Facebook business page or update it to include snow removal.
- Buy high-quality leads with Google’s Local Services Ads.
- Use email marketing to remain top-of-mind with clients, so they’re ready for your services by winter. The success of emailing marketing depends on having an email list, which you’ll probably not have when starting out. However, don’t be afraid of building your list from day one to slowly grow it over time.
READ MORE: The beginner’s guide to email marketing
Finally, you shouldn’t worry about having a large marketing budget at the beginning. But you should pay attention to the timing of your marketing, as Chris Senger learned.
Chris made the mistake of emailing potential clients in mid-September about setting up a snow plowing service. “They weren’t ready to have that conversation, so I didn’t get as warm a reception as I could have,” explains Chris.
Instead, he recommends you begin your emailing or marketing as soon as the leaves start falling off the trees because people start thinking about winter then. His approach is a simple stock email showing the features and detailing the service concisely.
8. Invest in customer service to set you apart from the competition
By following the previous seven steps, you’ll definitely have a snow plowing business. But, if you really want to go far, create and invest in a customer service plan.
Excellent customer service will impress your clients and help you stand out from your competitors in this unpredictable industry. It’s how you will retain their business and get more recommendations.
A few things you can do to make customer service part of your business model is to:
- Hire the right employees with the right attitude who uphold your values. Skills can easily be taught. Attitude can’t.
- Create proper customer service systems and processes. For example, always follow up before, after, and during a job to check that customers are happy and so you can iron out any kinks early on.
- “Wow” customers with online convenience. 33% of consumers said they’d pay more for a more convenient experience. Use this to your advantage by sending professional snow removal estimates, setting appointment reminders, and accepting payments by credit cards or online. The easier you make it for your customers, the happier they’ll be to hire you.
FREE TEMPLATE: Try our free snow removal estimate template
Start your snow removal business today
Starting a snow removal business may be a huge opportunity, but it’s also a massive challenge requiring plenty of work.
However, you can succeed by concentrating on the right areas, including your business plan, registration, licensing, pricing and marketing.
From there, optimize what you have and retain and generate a steady stream of new clients by investing in customer service and using the right business tools to handle your admin.
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