• Remove snow from sidewalks and driveways of private homes.
• Clear snow from parking lots and entrance ways of commercial locations, including retail stores and office complexes.
• Subcontract with local governments to plow public roads and parking lots.
Snow happens, more so in some parts of the country than others. Many people do not have the time to clear snow, or they may not be physically able to do so.
In some parts of the country, including many rural areas, local governments may hire subcontractors to clear snow on an as-needed basis. Owners of commercial real estate also need to arrange for snow removal at stores and office complexes.
In most parts of the country, snow removal is a seasonal job. In the Midwest and Northeast, the snow season generally runs from late November to early April, although storms can come earlier and later; in high mountain areas and certain other locations, including regions in the lee of the Great Lakes, snow can occur almost daily in an extended season.
In any case, you will need to pay off the cost of equipment during the winter season . . . and watch it gather dust over the summer. You will also likely have to pay for 12 months of insurance and licenses even if your business runs only 6 months of the year.
Snowfall, like rainfall, generally follows annual patterns that could result in exceptionally large amounts of snow in one year and a virtual drought the next.
Don’t base your investment on last winter’s storms, which could be unusually heavy or light. You can research typical snowfall amounts and number of storms at area libraries and government agencies.
Know the Territory
Depending on the sort of jobs you seek, you will need equipment ranging from a sturdy snow shovel to a mechanical snowblower to a substantial truck with a heavy plow.
A snow shovel is quite portable, but a snowblower is much less so and will probably have to be delivered by truck . . . which has to be able to get through the snow on the streets.
Will you bring your own equipment, or use whatever you find at your client’s premises?
Using your client’s equipment simplifies your operation in many ways: You won’t have to buy a snowblower; you will not be responsible for maintaining it and providing gas; and you will not have to transport it from your home to your customer’s property.
On the other hand, the equipment you find may be of poor quality or unreliable, and some homeowners won’t have a snowblower, costing you a job.
Bringing your own equipment should guarantee you’ll have machines you can rely on; you will, though, have to properly maintain the devices.
Investigate local ordinances about snow removal. In some areas, snow cannot be pushed into the street. Many areas also ban disposal of snow in catch basins, rivers, or streams because of concerns about pollution from salt and other road chemicals.
Be aware that you may need to make multiple visits to a property if a storm lasts for many hours or if high winds blow snow back onto cleared pathways.
Not all pieces of property are the same. If the property is hilly or irregularly shaped, it will likely require more time and effort than a flat, square property.
Dry and fluffy snow is easier to clear than heavy or rain-soaked snow.
Snow removal is the sort of job that can be done by one person or by a crew.
A property that takes two hours to be cleared by one person could be done in one hour by a crew of two.
Although having a crew may allow you to sign up many SNOW REMOVAL more customers, you’ll also have to pay additional salaries and benefits, and you’ll need more equipment.
The principal advantage to hiring a crew is that you may be able to step back from actually clearing the snow yourself and instead make your income as the manager of a snow removal empire.
How to Get Started
Market your services before they are needed. Your goal should be to sign up enough clients ahead of the season to justify purchase of equipment.
Start a social media page to posts and places ads .Place ads on bulletin boards at hardware and home center stores, and in community newspapers and start social media pages.
Ask friends and neighbors for referrals. Offer a discount or a free service for any clients they bring to you.
Draw up a simple but complete agreement with clients listing exactly which services you will be providing and the cost. Include in the agreement whether snow removal services will automatically be provided after a certain amount of snow falls, or whether the client must call to schedule a visit each time.
Get specific written instructions about any special conditions—a flower bed to be avoided or a section that needs to be hand-shoveled. Although it will be extremely difficult to promise exact times for snow removal—you can’t schedule the storms—find out from clients whether they have particular needs to meet the demands of their jobs or medical necessities.
If you want to run the business on a more casual basis, you can merely load up a truck with a snowblower or plow and cruise the neighborhood looking for desperate homeowners who need help. Be sure to get a firm agreement on the price before you begin work.
Commercial snowblowers can be quite expensive; you may need to amortize the cost over an entire season, or even over more than one season. A heavy-duty machine can easily cost $1,000, reaching to several thousand dollars for the most powerful devices.
A commercial snowplow—just the plow, not the truck—can cost several thousand dollars. Then you’ll need a sufficiently heavy truck, with four-wheel drive and a power takeoff to control the movement of the plow.
Investigate buying used equipment from a reliable dealer who will offer a warranty and provide service.
How Much to Charge
Underlying the charge for snow removal services is the amount of time each job requires. You’ll need to build into the rate the cost of equipment—amortized over time—plus an allowance for maintenance and repair.
If it is necessary to spread salt or sand to deal with ice, you’ll need to bill the customer for the cost of those materials and your time.
You can establish an hourly rate and bill customers for actual time on-site, or you can estimate the time a job will require and then charge a flat rate. Remember that square footage alone is not an adequate indicator of the amount of time required for a job: Take into account the shape of the land, whether it is level or hilly, and any other special conditions.
Commercial or governmental customers will likely agree to a contract that includes an advance deposit and a regular billing cycle based on the actual number of storms or billable hours.
For individual customers, some snow removal companies offer two options:
an automatic response anytime there is a snowfall of a particular depth (perhaps three inches) or services on an on-call basis. For an automatic response, there is generally an agreement that covers services to be provided and a requirement for an advance deposit representing an amount equal to a typical season’s work; refunds are given if there are fewer snowstorms than usual, and additional charges are billable for a particularly difficult winter.
Most snow removal services offer a discount to clients who sign up for an entire season.
Legal and Insurance Issues
Special notes: You may require a commercial license and plate to operate a snowplow in business; some communities may also require a special permit.