April 5, 2021 Chris Woolman

Detailing Businesses are Easy to Start, Right?

Detailing Businesses are Easy to Start, Right? 

I talk with all too many people who love this view of the detailing world: “I used to detail my own car” or “I detailed my parents’ car and they loved it.” Of course they did, you were their kid and you probably did the work for free, or for the right to the car keys on Saturday night. But free brings low expectations, even from good old Mom and Dad. 

Detailing professionally for people you don’t know, who also have high expectations for their purchase of a detailing service, is an entirely different world than detailing your car, the family car, or your friends’ cars. 

Casual, hobby-based detailing is what started my own passion, but I do think it’s important to know that it takes a great deal more to make it at the professional level. 

Here are a few additional misunderstood tidbits about detailing I would like to clarify: 

  • All I need are a few things from the local store to get started. Professional-grade detailing products are often not so easy to find in your local market. The corner auto-supply store is not going to give you the level of products you will need as a professional.
  • The $85 to $15o retail detail. Here is another key term I want you to burn into your head: “full detail.” I hear this common and overused term all too often. The term “full detail” is dangerous and pricing that level of service within almost any market has one meaning, maybe two. In short, the first meaning of the term means “struggle.” If you are going to offer a full service detail at the $85 to $15o mark, I can tell you now, you will struggle to make a true profit. Offer the service below that mark and the second meaning is “failure.” You need to understand that your new venture is a business. You need to make sure you understand the pricing demands and related costs of running a business. If you price your services too low, it can destroy your business or, at a minimum, burn you out, and fast! 
  • The $1,ooo+ detail. Performing a $1,ooo+ detail seems to be a big goal for those new to detailing and I am not sure where this comes from. I know that many of us are car people, and that working on one-of-a-kind vehicles is very attractive, but the reality is that this level of detailing is very uncommon, although ceramic coatings have helped make it much easier to achieve. Do pro detailers perform at this level? You bet they do, but it takes years to build up that level of reputation, and that level of detail is rare even for the most elite-level detailer. Few are making a living solely from this level of service but I encourage you to set your goals high. I would rather shoot for the stars and hit the moon than fail because I didn’t set my goals too high!
  • All you need are two customers a day to make big bucks and really to succeed within detailing, right? When I started, I made a massive error. I underestimated how hard it would be to attract new customers. Directly related to that error, I missed my first year’s sales goals by a mile. That was many, many years ago and I now know that thinking I could find two new detailing customers a day, ten new customers a week, forty new customers a month or a total of 48o new customers in my first year was nuts. Yet, today there are many suppliers that preach basically that you can make big money detailing just two cars a day. What is missing from this nonsense is how you are going to find those 400-plus new customers that first year. It’s simply not that easy but if you market your business and services correctly, you don’t need that many customers in the first place to run a successful business.