I Left Tech & Built My Own Car Detailing Business [My Hobby]
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Matt Paskow. I started a mobile auto detailing business called Fresh Look Mobile Auto Detailing which services North County, San Diego.
My customers are not all wealthy. Most are busy professionals who would rather spend their time with their families than do the grunt-work of detailing their vehicle.
Auto detailing is hard work and my business makes about $5k per month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I worked in the technology industry in sales for 17 years and was tired of the cycle of lay-offs. I always enjoyed my career, but layoffs were just a part of the business. I had a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that despite how hard I worked or the successes I had, company’s change direction all the time. I understand every company needs to do what they feel is best for its well-being. Although I had many high-paying jobs, I needed to feel more in control of my future.
I’ve been detailing cars as a hobby since the 1990s. It is extremely hard work. I wanted to get into an industry in which I wasn’t competing against Harvard or MIT graduates. And maybe I’m just old, but it seems to me most people do not want to work hard nowadays.
Additionally, in North County San Diego. The weather is nice year-round and there are plenty of busy professionals who require an auto detailing service.
There is a lot of competition in my area, but I honestly look at this as a good thing. I am a very competitive person, but I don’t look at any of my competitors as evil or bad people. I think they are just hard-working guys (yes, I think all of my competition are men) who are trying to make money. And the fact is, if I didn’t have competition, I wouldn’t have a business because there would be no market for car detailing. So, thank goodness I have competitors.
Take us through the process of creating and launching the business.
In starting any small business there are a few factors that are in my favor. The first is I live in the USA and I truly believe most things can be accomplished in this country with enough determination and hard work.
The second factor is the internet. Just about anyone who wants to be an expert, in any field, can be if you have enough time and energy. YouTube alone is amazing for learning about almost everything.YouTube does not have a shortage of car detailing videos that focus on every aspect of auto detailing. However, I take every word said in these videos with a grain of salt because the video creator did not create the videos to make me a better car detailer, even if he says he did. All of these videos are created by a car detailer who is trying to help their own business. So, the audience the videos are for is his customers or potential customers and not another car detailer. Unless the video creator is being paid by a company to sell their detailing product. However, I am always trying to learn from other detailers and there is value in getting new ideas.
I planned to focus solely on SEO, Google AdWords, and Google My Business and make my presents in these locations the best they can be. There are seemingly endless options for internet advertising as social media. But there is only so much time in a day and I am only 1 person. It doesn’t make sense to me to be on a site such as Facebook or Instagram just to say I am there. Because if my presents on a social page look bad and are lacking reviews, updated posts, updated pictures, etc., it makes the business look bad.
The first thing I did was buy the best domain for my area I could find. I bought CarDetailingCarlsbad and MobileCarDetailingCarlsbad through Google for $12 per year, each . These are both great domain names for SEO purposes because they contain keywords a potential customer would use when searching for my service. Carlsbad is the main city I service.
I wanted to simplify everything as much as possible for my potential customers. The last thing I wanted to do was offer 1,000 different services and confuse a customer as to what they need. - No one wants to buy something they don’t need. – If I could I would only offer 1 detailing package to keep things as simple as possible but that wouldn’t make sense for everyone.
Some people only want an interior detail and some only want an exterior detail. And it also makes sense to offer a service to include both interior and exterior detail. In the end, I decided to offer 4 packages:
1) Interior Detail - Full Interior Vacuum - Wipe Down All Major Compartments - Windows Cleaned (interior) - Trunk Area Vacuum - Steam & Shampoo All Floor Mats - Full Steam & Shampoo Treatment - Leather Cleaned & Conditioned - Interior Panels, Dash, Vents, & Console Dressed With UV Protectant
2) Exterior Detail - Spotless Hand Wash - Wheels & Tires Cleaned - Air & Towel Dry - Windows Cleaned (exterior) - Tires Dressed - Wheel Wells Cleaned & Dressed - Door Jambs Cleaned - Clay Treatment; Windows - Sio2 Silica Sealant & UV Protectant; Wheels & Body
3) Basic Detail -Spotless Hand Wash - Wheels & Tires Cleaned - Air & Towel Dry - Windows Cleaned (exterior) - Tires Dressed - Wheel Wells Cleaned & Dressed - Door Jambs Cleaned - Wax Application - Full Interior Vacuum - Wipe Down All Major Compartments - Windows Cleaned (interior) - Trunk Area Vacuum
4) & Complete Detail - Spotless Hand Wash - Wheels & Tires Cleaned - Air & Towel Dry - Windows Cleaned (exterior) - Tires Dressed - Wheel Wells Cleaned & Dressed - Door Jambs Cleaned - Full Interior Vacuum - Wipe Down All Major Compartments - Windows Cleaned (interior) - Trunk Area Vacuum - Steam & Shampoo All Floor Mats - Clay Treatment; Windows - Sio2 Silica Sealant & UV Protectant - Wheels & Body - Full Steam & Shampoo Treatment - Leather Cleaned & Conditioned - Interior Panels, Dash, Vents, & Console Cleaned & Dressed With UV Protectant
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I’ve found most of my new customers through Google My Business and Google searches. But I’ve had quite a few referral customers and repeat customers. I believe this is because my customers see me as an expert and a trusting person. I am always upfront and honest from the beginning of the detail until the end. For example, if a customer is focused on a stain on their interior and honestly I don’t know if I can get it out, I’ll tell them just that. I care more about being honest and direct with a customer, even if it is something they don’t want to hear, than just getting someone’s business. I am 100% not in this business for the money. My focus is happy customers.
I did my best to create a website on Wix and it was not easy. I am not a creative person, but I have a good friend who is a graphic designer.
I hired a freelance copywriter on Upwork to help me with the website but it turned out to be a waste of money. I don’t just accept mistakes, I expect mistakes. But my philosophy is to try to make my mistakes as inexpensive as possible. I paid the freelance writer $150 and decided to just do the copywriting myself. And quickly moved on to complete everything else to get Fresh Look Mobile Auto Detailing up & running as quickly as possible.
The total start-up costs were about $2,500. I have an incredibly supportive wife and family. I use our SUV as a company vehicle to service our customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
On the marketing side of things, when I launched Fresh Look Mobile Auto Detailing, I knew I only wanted to focus on 2 or 3 things and do them extremely well, or to the best of my ability. I chose to only focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Google My Business & (PPC Advertising) Google paid to advertise.
I feel in business it is always important to treat everyone with respect. Being kind with every interaction is always necessary and better than the alternative.
I’m not on Instagram, snap chat, Twitter, Facebook, any of the other social media platforms. First, teenagers are not my demographic. People under 30 aren’t my demographic either. And I understand I am probably missing out on potential customers by not being on FB or Instagram, but that is ok with me. I’d rather be on Google. If it was possible to create and maintain a compelling profile on all social media platforms, I would.
But the hard truth is, I don’t have the time or energy to maintain multiple social media platforms AND focus on SEO, Google My Business & PPC Ads. Every day I try to post a car detailing picture on my Google My Business profile and it is a struggle to create the time to do it. Learning and implementing SEO strategies is an ongoing journey. It is also time-consuming to keep up with what is or isn’t working in regards to PPC Ads.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Fresh Look Mobile Auto Detailing is a profitable business because I work hard to keep my expenses as low as possible and the largest cost of an auto detail is labor. The equipment and the car cleaning products I use are the best on the market and tend to be expensive. I will always use the best products available because it just makes good business sense to offer the best service and results possible. I will never allow my brand to be tarnished due to a bad customer experience because I wanted to save $40 and buy cheap car wax.
Luckily, I haven’t been blindsided by any circumstances that were out of my control. I use laser focus on each detail I perform. And there is very little or no risk in my customers’ vehicles. One perk is, I don’t have to deal with angry or abusive customers. If someone is rude, I don’t have to do business with them. All of my jobs are by appointment only and it takes 2 parties to schedule an appointment. I have plenty of competitors who can have all the rude customers in North County San Diego.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I have looked at a few SEO tools to help me with on-page SEO and optimizing keywords, but the cost ($150 - $250 per month) of the tools is not worth it for me. But I have had success with Fiverr. This app has freelancers who offer specific jobs. I used it to create citations for my business which improves my website’s SEO. I believe the cost was $50 which is a great deal.
I also use Wix all the time to update and change my website. It has a lot of good features to edit, crop, and make photos look great. I used to take pride in posting real, non-touched-up photos on Google My Business. But experience has shown me people want a pretty picture whether it is real or not.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I am very much in the people business. Everyone deserves respect and some people are dealing with terrible situations I have no way of knowing about. I feel in business it is always important to treat everyone with respect. Being kind with every interaction is always necessary and better than the alternative.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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