You drive down a street and you see it, a gang tag, something vulgar, or maybe just profanity. Everyone sees it and everyone, except the tagger, agrees it is an eyesore. This is why graffiti removal has become a profitable business opportunity in many communities. Realizing this opportunity maybe you’re thinking about starting your own business, then the first thing you’ll need to do is find out what you’ll need to restore buildings and other venues to their clean image. You’ll need to get familiar with sand blasters, pressure washers, chemical cleaners and restorative paints and finishes
After you’ve familiarized yourself with your equipment and have a supplier lined up, these are the steps that you’ll want to follow to having a successful business opening.
1. Find out what licenses you are going to need.
Each community has a few different laws on if a service provider is a contractor or maintenance professional. Since you’re going to be doing primarily maintenance this is an important designation to know. Also you are likely to be using some significant chemicals you’ll need to understand the licensing procedures to be transporting and handling these chemicals.
2. Make sure that you get insured.
This is an area where it becomes important to know who your community designates your business. If you’re just considered maintenance, then a standard general liability policy will be enough to cover most of your graffiti removal contracts. It will be important though to include insurance for whatever vehicles and/or equipment that you have in your fleet. You may also want to have damage riders included in case there is an accident and a pressure washer causes a glass abrasion or there is a minor chemical spill.
If you are designated as a contractor, then you’ll still need general liability insurance with these specific riders, but you’ll also need to have a surety bond. Bond amounts are typically around $6,000 for this industry, but could much higher depending on your specific classification. If you have the capital to put enough cash into trust [open up a bank account and treat it like a bond], this can avoid the costs of securing extra capital.
3. Make sure you are compliant.
Understand the laws and rules for chemical transport, use, and disposal in the community you work in. There will be federal EPA regulations, state regulations, and likely county or municipal laws. While solvents using Xylene compounds are legal for use by the EPA in the state of Colorado, for example, they are illegal in several communities such as Boulder and Aspen.
It is also important to know and be aware of the differences in labeling. Volatile organic compounds often have different requirements for open air use and use around water and failing to be aware of the compliance issues can scuttle your business before you begin.
4. Get out and start marketing.
You must become aggressive in marketing to stand out today. While a newspaper ad or a billboard might get you some customers, it is more likely that you’ll have to get out and make your name known. Every time you see new graffiti, stop and talk to the business or home owner. In the beginning it might be good to even removal smaller tags for free in a couple of neighborhoods just to show off your skills.
It is also helpful to involve yourself in community activities that reflect your business. Adopt a highway section, be part of the community clean schools or seasonal clean ups initiatives. Marketing in this field can be as simple as showing that you care about a clean community.
5. Plan your time strategically for big events.
In the graffiti removal business, it is important to plan strategically. While taggers and artists can be inspired by virtually anything, there will be times that cause higher amounts of graffiti in your community. Going by police reports, summer alone doubles the amount of vandalism. A local sports championship, political rallies, and the holidays also seem to spark the inspiration for higher levels of graffiti. Make sure your business is ready to go at these times to maximize your profitability.
6. Anyone with graffiti is a potential customer.
Marketing your graffiti removal business means networking to everyone in your community. Find out if the local municipal governments provide workers or if they contract out. Reach out to the schools, parks department, and state transportation departments to see if they offer independent contracting.
Be proactive in talking to businesses and be prepared to go into the industrial sections of town and to show you can clean up different surfaces such as plastic, wood, and brick safely to restore them. Graffiti is often considered urban blight, so make sure the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau know you and your work so they can make referrals.
7. Provide accurate estimates of work.
Learning how to create accurate estimates will be the key to your overall profitability. Let people know how long the work is expected to take, the equipment and chemicals involved, and what time you plan to arrive. Be punctual. You customers will appreciate the details because it will help them understand and plan the time and money they need to make sure you get paid. This will also be able to help you better budget your time and your supplies.
8. Consider having different billing plans.
Some businesses and neighborhoods are prone to tagging. One of the best ways to generate revenue and have word of mouth marketing is to look at these areas and consider offering a group plan instead of individual rates. Give all the business owners of a strip mall a 10% discount if you see regular graffiti that needs to be removed. Offer discounts to non-profits that work in heavily tagged areas or work for free in return for signage that says you clean up the graffiti there. Customers love discounts and will be loyal if they feel you understand their concerns and are giving them a great deal.
Once you understand the basics of licensing and regulations, starting a graffiti removal business can become a rewarding enterprise that is both secure and lucrative. It is also remarkably rewarding because it allows you to do something great for your community.