Roofing is a trade that attracts a lot of people because they think it can’t take that much skill, and as long as you have a tough back, are not scared of heights, and can deal with weather, it would be cool to be outside in the fresh air and swinging a hammer. Well, that is sort of right, but starting a roofing business takes a lot more than just being buff and a risk taker. Roofing is a skilled trade that requires stamina, some cash flow to start, ability to handle risk and the insurance that goes along with it, and good business smarts. Too many roofers get off in the weeds and leave customers with non-enforceable warranties, unfinished jobs, or issues that are never resolved.
The first thing you must have to start a roofing business is the skill set to do roofing, and it should be roofing of different materials ranging from asphalt shingles both tab and architectural to shake, metal in various forms from galvanized to architectural coated, and if the materials are prevalent in your area, shake, slate, and tile. Each kind of roof requires different skills sets, sometimes equipment, and certainly knowledge to tear off, prep, and replace properly. Professional grade tools are a smart investment to get the job done right and fast, without damaging the roof or other materials on the structure. Safe ladders rated for the weight necessary to hold a worker with a bundle, roofing hammers and pry bars, lifts and other extension equipment, and other trade specific tools are needed to correctly and safely perform the job. On the list of equipment should also be safety equipment, ranging from harnesses and lanyards to safety helmets, gloves when necessary, safety goggles, and other requirements.
All this takes money, and starting a roofing business can be done for less than many trades, but you still need to be able to pay for insurance, workman’s compensation if necessary, liability insurance (a must), errors and exclusions insurance (strongly recommended) licensing at the state, country, and municipal level, and any certifications that might be required to do insurance work, such as wind load verification. Many roofers start out small with the owner and just a couple of workers, and grow from there. Some roofers also require the tradesmen to supply many of their own tools. The caveat is to make sure those tools are safe and quality, as your insurance and therefore business is on the line if they are not.
From the very start you need to have a sales tax permit if it is required in your state so you can buy your supplies wholesale. Accurate bookkeeping is the traditional weak point of many trade businesses, so early on find someone that is good with budgets, costing, and numbers to keep track of receipts, payroll, accounts receivable and payable, and job costs. A little investment in basic bookkeeping software will be saved when taxes are filed, and yes, you need to immediately start being concerned about paying taxes. Do not be foolish and wait until after years’ end to be rudely surprised that you, as a private business owner, may need to pay income and social security taxes. While many expenses are deductible, all transactions and expenses need to be accurately reported. Many a new roofing business has gone out of business practically before they started because of a massive tax bill staring them in the face come tax day with no way to pay the bill.
Marketing needs to be part of your planned budget from day one. You can start out small, and work up as you get more paid jobs complete, but to survive you must get the word out about what you do, how you do it, and how well you are able to do it on schedule. There are good companies that cannot only build a simple website for you, but supply leads that do not cost a fortune that can give you warm potential clients that are actively looking for roof work. Do not fall in the pit with some of the pushy, pretty much ineffective marketing companies like Yelp and Yellow Pages. They will try to force you into a contract that is nearly impossible to get out of, and will do you little good for generating business. Stick with a company that has a track record with roofers, and is reasonable and willing to work with you as you grow, like Roofing Advertisement. Do not overlook simple things like your Google My Business listing, which can be invaluable especially in an area with moderate populations and not many roofers. Referrals and inexpensive ads in local community listings like Next Door can prove terrific, as can personal visits after hail, wind, hurricane, or nasty winter storms.
Most of all, take pride in what you do, treat your crews well, and treat your customers with the Golden Rule. Good roofing crewmembers are harder to come by than you realize, and if you take care of them, they will take care of you and your customers. Being respectful and professional is some of the best free advertising you can have, called word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to let everyone know what you are doing for a living now, and don’t be afraid to volunteer some time in a community project. You might be amazed at how much business your friends, family, neighbors, and organization and church members can send your way.