Can you get yourself a ladder?
A ladder is one of the few necessary items needed to run your gutter cleaning business. You are cleaning gutters, and to get to the gutters you must get a ladder unless you can fly, at which point I think you would have even better ways to make money.
The large majority of the homes you will be asked to clean are 1 to 2 stories high. Sometimes you will come across a 3 story home, but usually a 3 story home is actually a 2 story home that is on a slope, or has a walk out basement making it an extra story high on one side. Many people I know only do 1-2 story homes and choose to pass up on the 3+ stories due to the increase in risk and the weight/height of the ladder required to reach homes that tall. This is for you to decide, but keep in mind that the higher the home, the less people that are willing to do it, the more you are able to charge. To get a ladder, you have a few options.
- Buy brand new. I’m sure there are many places near you like Home Depot, Lowes or any hardware store where you can buy yourself a new ladder. A brand new ladder will run you anywhere from $200 – $400 depending on what type and how long it is. We will go over the recommended ladder sizes later on in this course.
- Buy used. I have seen 32 FT ladders go for as low as $50 on craigslist. That’s super cheap. Check your local craigslist listings to see if anything comes up for ladders. The further you are willing to drive to pick up a used ladder, the more options you will find. Sometimes it’s worth the drive depending on the size, condition and price of the used ladder.
- Rent. Many places offer ladder rentals. The big name chains near me are Home Depot and Lowes, but you might have local businesses near you that do the same. I personally never rented because I was able to find used ladders to purchase for the same price. The average cost of renting that I have come across for a 32 FT ladder was just under $50/day, $200/week, $550/month with a $50 to $100 deposit. This is low enough to where you can have it paid off for less than half the price of one gutter cleaning job, but still doesn’t always make sense if you can find a used ladder that you can purchase for the same price.
- Borrow. I was fortunate enough to have an uncle who ran a construction business and had lots of ladders. I borrowed from him to get started and later gave him some cash for the kind gesture. Maybe you have someone in your life that has a decent ladder that you can borrow until you get on your feet and can afford your own.
Do you have a way to transport the ladder?
This can be used as an excuse for not moving forward for many people because having a vehicle to transport a ladder is much more expensive than buying a ladder. My goal is to show you that there are many ways to make this not be an obstacle. When I first started gutter cleaning, I didn’t have a truck or a vehicle at all. I was fortunate enough to have a family member that did own a truck and I got him to agree to lend it to me for 1 day a week and I would pay him $100 for the day of using it plus I’d fill up his tank. This mean that I had to have enough jobs scheduled for that day to make it worthwhile. I would sell gutter cleaning jobs at an average of $150-$175 per job, so the first job went to cover the truck, everything else after that was mine to keep. I did have auto insurance, without it, I would not have been able to get the truck.
If you meet the criteria, you can also look into renting a pickup truck. At my local home depot I believe the rate is $19 for the first hour and then $10 per additional hour and you also have to bring it back with the same amount of gas that was already in it. There are probably some additional fees like taxes and optional insurance like with any vehicle rental. If you think this is your best option to start, I would research all the local rental options available to you before making a decision.
Keep in mind, while a pickup truck is obviously the best option, it is not the only option when getting started. My buddy started gutter cleaning by strapping a ladder to the roof rack of his SUV. Get creative if you have to. As long as you present yourself professionally and knowledgeable to the customer on the phone and in person, they will never give you a hard time if you show up with a ladder strapped to an SUV or some sort of Van. I’ve seen it all done successfully. No excuse mentality! Get it done and then get the truck. Eventually I bought the truck off the family member for $5,000 and it felt great.
We will go into how to properly secure the ladder later on. First, figure out how you will be able to transport it in the first place.
Can you learn to work a ladder and get over the fear of heights?
This is going to be by far the most important step to master to be a successful gutter cleaner. Being able to properly and successfully work a ladder will either make or break your gutter cleaning business. There will be two types of ladders that you will have on you at any given moment. A big one and a small one. The small ladder can be either a small straight ladder or a step ladder and this one will be super easy to navigation because it’s extremely light. The small ladder will be for the 1 story gutters. The bigger extension ladder will be the one you will need to make sure you are super comfortable with before you ever do your first gutter cleaning job because if you’re not, you could cause major property damage or even worse, hurt yourself. Depending on the height of the extension ladder that you end up getting, it could range on average between 40 to 65 pounds in weight. This might not seem that heavy, but if you extend this weight over 24-32 feet high, it can become a very difficult balancing act that if not properly handled, could take out a window at the least. You MUST be confident with an extension ladder before you start your first job. Don’t worry, I was, and to a certain degree still am a 5 foot 8 inch relatively weak individual, and I was able to slowly tame the extension ladder. It took a lot of safe practice before I was confident enough to bring the extension near someone else’s home. Here is what I recommend:
- Watch and read as much about using an extension ladder safely online. Here are two places to start –
- Drag or carry (depending on what you’re comfortable with at this point) your new or old extension ladder to an open area where you can safely drop the ladder if needed without any worries. Try to choose a place that has something nearby that you can use as leverage against the ladder to help you initially lift it up. This could be a big rock, or a tree without low hanging branches.
- Practice carrying the ladder folded up horizontally.
- Practice picking up the ladder into it’s vertical stance. Start by using the nearby leverage to push the ladder against as you slowly pick it up bar, by bar.
- See if you can figure out how to get the ladder to its vertical stance without any leverage. Don’t worry if you can’t, I never really could and have always found leverage to help me push the ladder against to lift it up. There are many firefighter training videos that go over this online.
- Practice carrying the ladder and try to put yourself in many different scenarios. For example – climbing up a hill, going downhill, how you would work around power lines (using tree branches), squeezing through tight areas, etc. Put yourself in as many different situations as possible until you are fully confident. You will find that your shoulder muscles will begin to grow month to month until your ladder starts feeling like a feather eventually.
- Try to put yourself in a position where you slightly lose control of the ladders balance so you can practice regaining control.
I might be making it seem much more complicated than it is, but that’s because I want to make you understand that this is by far one of the most important things to master for a few reasons:
- How comfortable you are with moving around with the ladder is directly proportional to the amount of jobs you can or cannot complete in a day.
- How comfortable you are with moving around with the ladder is directly proportional to how much liability issues you have at each job site. For example, if you drop the ladder and break the window, that won’t be fun for your reputation and mostly your bank account if you don’t have general liability insurance. I’ve never had an accident at at job site like this but I’m sure some people have.
After you feel comfortable with the ladder, practice around your home or your friends home by offering to clean their gutters for free. I highly recommend that you clean some gutters free of charge for practice on your own home or your family, friends, neighbors before you go out and do your first paid job. But first, make sure to finish the rest of this course to get some additional pieces of knowledge that will make your life easier.
Do you have a mobile phone? Preferably with an internet connection.
You need a mobile phone to receive phone calls from people looking to get a gutter cleaning quote. Obviously. You will also be at a huge advantage if your phone is a smartphone that is connected to the internet. This is because many of your web leads will come in the form of an email after they submit their information on your website form. In case you don’t know what a lead is, it is someone that calls or submits their information so that you can get in touch with them about gutter cleaning whether it is to schedule or to give them a quote. Basically, a lead is a potential customer. When a lead comes in as an email, you want to be able to see it immediately and not at a later time when you have a chance to open up your email on your computer. The reason you want to see it immediately is because the longer you wait to call the lead back, the less of a chance remains that you will actually sell that person. The competition never sleeps and most people get 2-3 quotes before deciding. Some decide after they get the first quote so you want to be the first one to give them a call back. That is why it’s important to have an internet connected smartphone. The quicker you see the lead come in, the quicker you respond, the more you sell, the more money you make. Internet Connected Smartphone = More Money. Simple math.