You’ve no doubt heard the classic holiday song Let it Snow! The key takeaway comes in the very first verse: “Oh, the weather outside is frightful….”
And that’s when the professional snow remover swings into action. No matter how much snow falls from the sky or fast it accumulates on buildings, streets, roads and parking lots, people still need to get out and about. Without a snow removal pro, many people would remain stuck at home when winter weather shows her fury. Others might try shoveling to freedom by themselves, perhaps not realizing that snow shoveling is a leading cause of heart attack during the winter months. Some cities require residents to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after the snow stops falling. In a brutal winter with a foot or more of ice and snow, clearing a sidewalk can become a daunting and dangerous task for the inexperienced.
If you live in a region prone to harsh winters, starting a career as a snow remover might be the right move. The need is critical and the pay is good. You don’t need a formal license to do this work, while getting the proper training is fairly quick and inexpensive. The only significant investment is the equipment you’ll need to get that frozen obstacle out of the path of your customers. Plenty of snow removal pros start out working for a company to build up their savings and experience before launching their own business. With a couple of years of experience and a good credit history, you should be able to get financing for the plows, snow blowers and other equipment needed to start your own snow removal business. Does that sound cool? Even cold? Okay. Let’s get started.
Pour a cup of hot chocolate and read on to learn how you can get into the snow removal business.
In this article you’ll learn:
- How much money you can make as a snow remover
- The required training and certifications
- Professional groups to join
- Employment opportunities for snow removers
- Finding clients
- Plus helpful tips
How much money can you make?
Snow removal professionals charge an average range of $25 to $75 per hour for their services, depending on the situation. Some charge by the hour, others charge per inch or square foot of snow. In subdivisions, where driveways tend to be of uniform length, snow removers are likely to charge the same price to all residents. It’s difficult to estimate an annual salary for snow removers because the work tends to be seasonal and entirely dependent on the weather. For a rough example of how much you can make, if you work through a 3-month winter with a consistent accumulation of snow, and devote 40 hours a week to the removal, charging $75 per hour, over that 90 days you could expect to earn about $36,000. To maximize their income, established snow removers invest in equipment and employees who clear snow on a contract basis for as many clients as they can sign up.
Training and Certification
There is no formal licensing requirement for individuals who remove snow for a fee. However, if you plan to operate a snow plow or other snow-removal vehicles, you will need a commercial driving license (CDL). That is because these vehicles are in operation typically during extremely adverse weather conditions, so the operators are held to a higher standard than regular drivers. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to determine what regulations apply where you live.
There are many in-person and online training programs to prepare you for the CDL test leading to your commercial driving license.
You can also learn how to operate a snow plow either in a local training workshop or with simulation programs available online. Here’s one example. Snow removal training courses are also available at colleges and universities in areas subject to harsh winters. Additionally, the Snow and Ice Management Association offers a training and certification program. The six study modules in the program cost $400 and the examination fee is $500. There’s a significant discount on training and the exam if you join the association.
What you’ll learn in training:
- Operating equipment and vehicles safely
- Local vehicle operational laws, including speed limits
- Being aware of surroundings at all times to avoid accidents
- Avoiding obstructions (utility poles, parking bumpers, parked vehicles)
- Efficient plowing techniques, including blade angle, to do a thorough job as quickly as possible
Professional Groups to Join
Getting involved in a professional organization shows your customers you are serious about your career. But there are also other benefits like sharing information with other members, learning about job opportunities that only people in the industry would know about, pursuing continuing education and staying on top of trends in the field.
The Snow and Ice Management Association is the premiere group for professionals in the industry. A one-year membership costs $350 and gives you access to the network of members, as well as inside information on job opportunities, ongoing training and more. In addition, if you become certified through the association you’ll get a listing on their searchable directory of accredited members. This can help customers find you.
General online searches in your area as well as focused searches on sites such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter will turn up job openings. Most job-search services will allow you to set up an alert so the types of jobs that interest you are sent each day in an email. Snow removal companies, like most service-oriented businesses, still use the Yellow Pages to advertise their services, so don’t overlook old-school resources like the phone directory when job hunting.
When you’re self-employed as a mobile detailer, part of your work will involve finding steady work. This means marketing your business. You’ve got to get your company name out there and build a reputation for yourself.
You’ll need a website. Something basic will do fine, just a page outlining your services and contact information, and a few pages of photos showing off your detailing work. Some “before” and “after” photos of your best vehicle detailing work can illustrate the benefits customers enjoy when hiring you for the job.
Talk to a printing company about making a custom magnet sign you can attach to the side of your vehicle. The sign should include your business name, the fact that you offer snow removal services, and a phone number to call. You can include your website address at the bottom. As your business grows and you become wildly successful, you can eventually have your business information professionally painted on the side of your snow plow truck – or the entire fleet. But in the beginning, a magnetized sign will be sufficient.
While you’re at the printing company, order some business cards with your company name, phone number and website address. If there’s room for a slogan or catchy motto, add that as well.
Customer retention is important, but satisfied customers also refer companies they like to their friends. Keep your customers happy and you’ll enjoy repeat business for years to come. People almost always stick with companies they trust. Your business strategy should be to deliver on what you promise to the customer and get the job done right the first time. Do that consistently, and customers will be lining up for your snow removal services.
As an incentive, offer regular customers a discount for referring new customers, then give new customers a first-time discount.
Good to know
When you’re just starting out as a snow remover, try to secure jobs in a concentrated area, such as a subdivision. You won’t have to travel as far between jobs, which saves money on fuel, as well as wear and tear on vehicles, and affords greater safety while you gain experience because you won’t be travelling as much on the main roads, which may be treacherous and clogged with less experienced motorists.
You’ll also need to be insured and possibly bonded to protect yourself and your business in the event you or any of your employees damage private property. Check with your local business licensing office about specific requirements. The steel blade of a snow plow can grind up asphalt on a driveway and rip landscaping to shreds. One moment you’re clearing the sidewalk, the next instant you’re chopping up the lawn. These areas can be easy to overlook or misjudge when a foot of snow is covering them, but ripping up a driveway or lawn won’t endear your snow removal company to your customers.
Because this is a seasonal business, you’ll need to decide whether to maintain a side gig during the warmer months, or build that down time into your winter pricing for snow removal. No matter what price you charge, it has to be in-line with the prevailing rates for snow removal in your area. Otherwise, the competition is going to undersell and you’ll lose business.
If you enjoyed this article, check out some more great PocketSuite.io content that can help you grow your career as a snow remover. Here’s a great place to start.PocketSuite has thousands of business owners who all started where you are right now. Our community is always happy to help you ramp up, grow your client base, and achieve your income goals, both within the PocketSuite app and as part of our exclusive Facebook Community Group. PocketSuite’s vision is for any professional to be able to work for themselves and make a great living. It starts here. It starts with you. It starts today. Let’s get started, download PocketSuite now! Feel free to reach out with any questions (we’d love to hear from you)! Text us @ (415) 841-2300.