There is a lot of information out there about detailing cars. Anyone can clean a car but not everyone can claim the title of detailer. While many people would argue that it's a talentless craft, there are however many opportunities to make fistfuls of cash and prove your haters wrong.
YouTube is loaded with car enthusiasts and hobbyists who, like you, have perhaps found a channel cathartic so now you're hooked and want to either open your own detailing business or you already have and just want to get better.
My first tip of advice is, get certified. The International Detailing Association is the industry standard, and they offer a ton of FREE information for new and experienced alike. It's a great way to get connected, learn tips and trick, and how to develop your skills further. What's the difference between a Certified Detailer and a Detailer? Knowledge.
Knowledge is power and it's also a way to separate yourself from your competition. Detailing has a relatively low cost of entry. I started up with about $500. Now years later I have several thousand dollars in equipment, equity, assets and a shop with employees. This didn't come overnight so let me help you by avoiding some of the mistakes I made and some things I would advise you to do sooner rather than later. Your competition is likely fierce. Scope out a google map, check who's referring who on Facebook. It can be really cutthroat, so do all you can to separate yourself from the crowd. Dare to be different.
Build a Website
Create a website. No one will take you seriously with just a Facebook page. Have standardized pricing. Make packages that make sense. Scope out your competition. Most other legit players in the game are happy to discuss what works and doesn't. We all started somewhere, and no one will know your market better than successful detailers in your area. You can't rank on google without a website and you won't be found on the map. 70% of users today are mobile, don't lose that traffic.
Marketing for Leads
Get leads. The most expensive way and probably the least effective, at least for a new detailer is Google Ad Words. It'll cost a fortune and people won't take you seriously unless you have a respectable amount of google reviews first. So how do you get there? Make friends - Network. There are tons of networking groups out there. Facebook is an amazing source for business and can help you find some in your area as well. Find groups that are for your area. For example, we have a Word-of-Mouth group and a 411 for the 719. So many people are asking daily for who you recommend. Start blasting yourself on those forums. Get your friends to help you out. Some networking groups cost money to join, I have found they are a priceless investment. Like BNI, 1 Million Cups etc.
Get a Mentor
Get a mentor. SCORE is a FREE source of successful entrepreneurs whose sole job it is to help you and at no cost. They may not be specific to your industry but finding trusted advisors that have managed, owned, or operated successful businesses is a necessity. I have both a business coach and an advisor. Find someone you connect with and sees your vision.
Find Referral Partners
Find referral partners. My largest referral partner is actually one of the biggest former detail shops in town. Former you ask? Yes, they got out of detailing and focus on protection. I went to them asking just to meet and greet and also ask how I could get to where they are, I never thought it would turn into them feeding my success and am incredibly thankful for it. Showing genuine interest in how you can learn and your desire to want to be great will help you. If you want to make this a lucrative venture for yourself than be sincere. No one wants to help you if you aren't. Time is precious, waste it wisely.
After you've started with the basics of business foundational groundwork, you're going to be surprised at what I tell you is the least important factor in operating a successful business. Skill.
Now I'm not saying being talented or an expert in your craft isn't important, what I'm saying is that there will be people out there who are completely talentless or so mediocre it'll astound you, yet will still somehow be successful.
How Do They Do That? Well, Marketing for One.
There is a newer detail shop I stumbled across on TikTok just to see what everyone was doing to make sure I was current on all the trends. Not only is this a newer shop, but the owner is also incredibly young. Even if he has been detailing since he was 12 years old, it would have been so part time and seasonal that, at best, he would only have max 3-4 years of experience. But experience isn't why he is so wildly successful, it's because he has a vision for his company, and a strong social media presence. He took a mobile detailing job into a full-blown detail shop with multiple employees in just a couple of short years!
Social media can be one of the most daunting yet important factors in being successful. I'm in my late 30's, TikTok, Instagram, FB Reels are all things I couldn't care less about, however, their importance to my continued success is prevalent. This young entrepreneur had made such a presence on social media that people from all over the country lined up at his door to have him do work on their vehicle. Is it because he has tons of experience, skill, or talent? No, but because of perceived value. He speaks articulately about his work and makes great videos in the process.
You as a business owner aren't expected to, nor should you be a master at everything. If this isn't your strong suite, hire a professional, hire someone who is current with social media trends and make them your creative director. Get out there and make a name for yourself. Are you a serious person, funny, creative? Let that reflect in your social media campaigns. After all it is your business.
Second piece of advice to being successful, make it look good.
Detailing is very much an aesthetic game. It's human nature to some extent, to be vain. People put on masks every day for a variety of reasons and sometimes that mask is to appear to be wealthy or well off. This can be easily achieved with having a flashy car, but it needs to look great too. And since people are so concerned about outward appearance, they'll be willing to spend a lot of money to achieve this.
You need to look good too. I don't mean necessarily physically, although if you look like you let yourself go, no one is going to trust you know how to make something look great, but I mean make your work LOOK good. Showcase what you do, get on a detailer forum and ask for feedback. Try and try again. I have an artistic spirit, so I love to incorporate that into my photos. People love things that look good, otherwise art would fail to exist. Even if you aren't great yet, a photo can hide imperfections until you figure out how to be great. Videos reveal a lot more, an experienced person would recognize that so include some reels of your best work from time to time.
Some Detailers Astound Me
Some of the most talented and meticulous detailers I've ever met don't blast their work on the internet and do quite well, but they will have a much steeper hill to climb if only relying on word of mouth for business growth. If you're old school like me this social media stuff won't come naturally and that's ok, but don't do yourself a disservice by saying I don't need it. With the low cost of entry into this industry, teenagers can buy in and will have way more skill at social media than you do; as proven with the above shop doing probably 10x the amount of business I do with far more hands-on experience.
How many of the customers for the detail shop mentioned above do you think wanted to come to him because they knew their vehicle would be showcased on his channel for all to see? Humans are quite vain. Play into someone's ego, make them look good, they'll appreciate it BUT, be genuine. I've seen some real schmoozers in my day, so make sure you don't come off as slimy used salesman type. I'm an excitable person and that generally goes hand in hand with being charismatic. I like almost every car every made with few exceptions. One day we had what Ryan called a "roller skate" come in. I did think it was hideous, but it had a really unique color. So instead of saying 'I love your car' I said, 'What a cool color, is that what attracted it to you?" Get your customer talking and listen to them. Make mental notes about conversations when they drop off and at pickup. You want to be "Their guy". Remember repeat business is a gauge to your success. If you aren't making connections with the people, you worked so hard to get in your doors or on your books, you're missing a key piece in your continued success.
Some Detailers are Better Salesman
Speaking of salesmen, the third and final piece of advice I have for you is to perfect the art of sales. This for some reason seems to be the biggest point of contention for entrepreneurs. I consider myself an extroverted introvert. Meaning, social interaction and going out of my way to talk to people isn't my jam, unless I'm comfortable. It actually brings a lot of anxiety thinking about it, but the good news is you don't have to be an extrovert or gregarious to be a great salesman. You as the business owner will wear a lot of hats, and one of those hats is to sell yourself and your business. If you cannot tell me or a customer WHY they should do business with you, I assure you, they will not. Selling yourself doesn't mean being pushy, or upselling services. It means that you can convey your message/business easily for people to understand and are able to instill trust in those people who are considering doing business with you.
Establishing Trust with a Client
The sooner you can establish trust with your customers the sooner you'll earn their business. Some people will just be shopping at the lowest price and no matter how good you are they won't see the value in it, those aren't your customers anyway. Establishing trust happens by showing a genuine interest in what it is you do, speaking articulately about it, listening to your customers wants and needs and being able to consistently demonstrate that you can do those things. Following up with your customers before you've landed and after is good business practice. Ask them for feedback on ways to improve. You only hurt yourself if you think you've mastered it all! Sometimes the angry customer or someone who didn't become a customer could be your biggest teacher. Every negative experience you have, turn into an opportunity for learning and you'll never lose.
Mastering the Art of Sales
Here's a way to master the art of sales. Make is less about sales and more about help. Let's say a customer calls about needing their car cleaned and they are putting it up for sale. Obviously, them coming to you means they see the return on investment off the bat in getting their car professionally detailed. But do you know what else helps a car sell? A clean engine is a prime example. Not only is it actually a way to add to the sales ticket, it also increases the sale price for the car. Are you upselling the customer or helping him get the most out of his detail? Change your mindset to help people achieve maximum profit. Value your time, value theirs.