Making Money 101: A very successful approach we used when I was cleaning and sealing decks. We were considered the most expensive service in the area, and were not ashamed of that fact. In spite of offering the highest price for the work, we closed an amazing number of jobs every year.

When we were selling the job, one of our best selling points was our Maintenance Plan. We offered maintenance pricing on two levels - Light Maintenance & Full Maintenance. The discount for Light Maintenance was 50% in the off-season (for us this meant November through February) and 30% off during our season. The discount for Full Maintenance was 30% in the off season and 10% during our regular season.

Our tag line was "You only spend the big dollars once. As long as you maintain your deck, you will pay less every year than you would have."

Customers loved the idea (except for the price shoppers, who we didn't want as customers anyway).

Light Maintenance was a cleaning with SafeWash and a light coat of replacement Ready Seal on the horizontals only - floor, stair treads, and top of the handrail. Full Maintenance was a cleaning and light coat of sealer on everything. The light coat of Ready Seal was done at 300 sq. ft. per gallon or less. Remember that you are only replacing the sealer on the surface that was already spent by weather and was washed off with the SafeWash cleaning. Also understand that every time a customer wanted Light Maintenance, we worked to convince them that Full Maintenance was a better deal.

The logic for our pricing was simple - We used as little as a gallon or two of sealer for Light on most decks and as little as two to three gallons of sealer for Full on a typical deck (around 200 or so square feet plus rails and steps). Our labor was less (no stripping, no hard cleaning) and our material was a lot less.

As an example of how this model worked in our business, let's say the original job cost is $600. I would use about 4 hours on the job and use about $150 in materials. After materials, I earned about $112 per man-hour. A $600 deck became a $420 deck for Light Maintenance during season and became a $300 deck during the winter (when no one wanted to hire us). At $300, I used about 2 hours of labor and about $60 worth of cleaner, brightener, and sealer. Even at half price, I was making $120 per hour on this job. No problem. Same job, Full Maintenance: I used about $80 worth of material and maybe 3 hours of time. I got $420 for the job during our off season, and earned about $112 per man-hour for the job. In other words, our maintenance pricing resulted in similar profitability because it took a lot less time and a lot less material.

Consider having your customers sign up for the ongoing maintenance plan when you sell the first job. By signing up at that time for Maintenance, they automatically got something extra from you that cost you almost nothing - a free deck wash after six months. I will explain.

Rather than give them a discount to get the initial job, we offered those who signed up for the maintenance plan a free washing six months after the job is done and then they would pay for Light Maintenance after one year. Second year, another free wash and a Full Maintenance six months after that. And on and on, until the customer stopped the service or moved. By coming out every six months and washing the deck (one trip, one hour, no charge, low cost) you have the opportunity to do other work (such as driveways) and make some additional money. You keep competitors away, too. The bottom line is that people like getting things for free, and it sets you apart from the others.

Considering those free washes, there is cost involved. You have the expense of gas and wear and tear on your equipment plus some labor cost. We did these cleanings on our schedule - at a time when we had no other work to do. Getting the customer to pop for a driveway cleaning covered the cost of the trip and made everything worthwhile. Even if we didn't get extra work, when you think about the positive word-of-mouth that was generated by our service it was worth the investment.