September 7, 2022

How to start a pest control business in the UK

Pest controller with cloud over bugs

So you think you want to get into pest control, well you’ve come to the right place. With our expert tips, we will walk you through all the steps, insights and general information you need to get your pest control business up and running.

With current predictions, the pest control industry is projected to grow by $31.94 billion by 2027, which is great news for your business ambitions. There is plenty of demand to keep you going for a long time.

So, how do you get started?

Let's find out.

  1. Earning potential
  2. Getting qualified
  3. What is the pest control industry like to work in
  4. Consider your competitors
  5. Getting set up
  6. Choosing your equipment
  7. Understanding your customers
  8. Specialising
  9. Pricing
  10. Franchising

Earning potential

The first question to answer is how much can you make as an exterminator.

When first starting out, an expected salary for a pest control technician in the UK is around £17,000 - although this is the lower end of the average. This increases significantly with experience, going up to approximately £30,000. On average, you can expect around £24,000 per year.

Of course, your earning potential is highly dependent on the success of your business. If you are able to grow your business and create a successful company you can earn significantly more than the £30,000.

You should also bear in mind that the amount you make is dependent on a number of other factors such as the prices of your competition, the cost of fuel and chemicals and how much demand there is in your area - fingers crossed you live in a pest infested town.

Current employment levels in the industry

In the UK, many exterminators work part-time, with 51% of people in the industry making up this number; 33% work full-time and 17% are self-employed.

Currently, the workforce is split pretty equally between male and female workers at 50.4% and 49.6% respectively. As a woman, the average expected pay per hour is considerably higher at slightly over £20ph for women and just under £15ph for men.

Regionally, London salaries are the highest at an average of £33,371 and Northwest England is the lowest at £20,336 on average. The rest of the UK is paid at a similar rate of around £21,000 per year.

Getting qualified

If you want to make a career out of pest control then it’s important that you get the right pest control qualifications. To be able to practise legally in the UK it is a requirement that you have a Specified Certificate in the Use of Pesticides.

Once you have provided evidence that you are fully competent in the use of pesticides you can gain the necessary pest control certificate from the NPTC, the National Proficiency Tests Council.

We also recommend getting the appropriate pest control training so that you can prove to your customers that you are certified and competent. To receive your pest control certificate we recommend completing the General Pest Control (GPC) - Level 2 Pest Management, which is the recognised industry standard.

There are also further courses you can undertake such as practical vertebrate trapping and using rodenticides safely, which will help add value to your business and authority to your reputation.

If you are starting out with previous experience in the industry, this counts for a lot, but it always helps to have recognised qualifications that you can use as part of your advertising for your business. The right qualifications reassure customers and establish your competency and expertise as a pest control specialist.

What is the Pest Control industry like to work in?

Working in pest control you will deal with a variety of different pests both indoors and outdoors. This makes for a varied career that provides a high level of job satisfaction. However, this career is physically demanding and involves working with dangerous chemicals that must be handled with care.

Generally, working hours are from 09:00 until 17:00 with the option to work on weekends. Working Saturdays and Sundays will also allow you to charge more and is generally more convenient for customers.

Some common infestations you can expect to deal with in the UK are:

  • Rats or mice
  • Wasps
  • Ants
  • Cockroaches
  • Pigeons

Consider your competitors

Before you go all in, we recommend performing research to establish what the demand is like for pest removal in your area.

To do this you should establish who your competitors are and how well established these businesses are in your area.

A good place to start is by performing a simple google search as well as checking on google maps. Reviewing directories such as Yell.com is a good idea as this will show you the national chains' outlets and local independent businesses you are competing against. Check to find the details of your local authority's pest control department.

If your local authority offers pest control you should also check to see what kind of service they provide. Many local authorities do not provide pest prevention measures and will contract this service out, which is where your expertise can come in.

Establish what price and provisions your competitors are offering and use this to build your own niche in the pest control market.

Getting set up

There are a number of different factors to consider when getting started in the pest control business. Making sure you have planned and accounted for all these factors is very important when first starting out.

Expenses

When first starting your business there are a number of initial expenses you will need to pay for. These include purchasing necessary equipment, sourcing appropriate uniforms and protective equipment and making sure you have the right vehicle to bring your tools to the job.

Insurance

In the UK if you own a business that employs staff other than yourself (or family) it is a requirement that you insure your company with employers liability insurance.

If you are planning on starting out as a sole trader or you are self-employed then you do not need this insurance cover.

Although it is not legally required, we would also highly recommend that you cover yourself with public liability insurance as this provides you with cover in case a claim is made against you by a member of the public.

Given you will be working in a public-facing job involving removing (sometimes) live animals and handling dangerous chemicals, it is sensible to cover yourself in case of an accident.

For more information on insurance see the Gov advice on insuring small businesses.

Finances and Funding

Always ensure you have sufficient start-up funds before leaving your current job. You can choose to save the money yourself or speak to a financial institute about taking out a loan. It’s also vital you’re fully informed when it comes to repayments and interest rates.

When starting out it is important to ensure you have suitable funds to get your pest control business off the ground. There are considerable costs to bear in mind, such as purchasing tools, a van, uniforms, traps and chemicals. Further costs are also associated with marketing your business and building a customer base.

If you do not have the initial funds necessary when attempting to set up your new pest control business it is possible to take out a loan, but be aware of repayment costs associated with the interest rate.

Registration

Fortunately registering a business in the UK can be done online and will only cost you £12. If you would prefer to register by post, this is possible but it will cost considerably more.

Type of  company

You need to decide what type of company you want to be. You can either register as a sole trader which means you are officially self-employed and can keep all your business’s profits (after tax) but are also responsible for any losses your business makes, or you can create a limited company which is legally separate from you and uses shares and shareholders.

When deciding which type of company you want to be, it’s important to make sure you understand how the different types of companies operate, including differences in tax and liability.

If you are looking to grow your business and take on employees you should register as a limited company. For tips on how to optimise your business when first starting, check out our article on how to grow your service business.

Marketing & advertising

This is an important part of the process when getting started as a business and can be a considerable expense.

If you already have experience working in the pest control industry this can give you a considerable leg up when promoting your new business. Reaching out to your connections over social media and harnessing your established reputation is very valuable. Even if you have moved to a new area, you can still make use of this previous experience and reputation.

If starting completely new to the industry you will need to consider multiple strategies including promoting your business via an official social media page on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

There are also great opportunities on the platform Ticktock which has over 1 billion monthly active users. Releasing short videos and content surrounding your business can create new customers.

It is also important to set up your own website to make it easier for customers to discover you. The great news is, that this is very easy to do and there are specialists out there who can help you with this.

Other areas to consider are posting flyers, contacting local newspapers and creating a logo that you can display on your van - however, do be aware that customers may find it off-putting if your van is labelled as pest control and may not want this visible outside their home.

Finally, you should make sure you join the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) so that you are listed in their online directory.

Choosing your equipment

One of your biggest costs when setting up will be in stocking your business with the right equipment. Depending on which types of pests you want to specialise in, this will influence what equipment you need.

There are many different types of equipment available, from cages and traps to sprays and chemicals. It is important to do your research here and understand your local area. Some pests will respond better to certain traps in one region than they do in another.

The laws on the chemicals you can use are also particularly strict in the UK, so understanding exactly what you need and what is appropriate is essential.

It is also important not to underestimate the value of simple tools like a ladder and appropriate lighting and torches.

Understanding your customers

There are essentially two types of customers you will work with as a pest control agent. These are domestic customers and commercial customers. Both are valuable, but in general, you are more likely to secure contract work and repeat jobs with commercial customers.

Domestic customers

These tend to be smaller-scale projects that involve visiting a customer and removing an infestation in the person's home. The opportunities for repeat custom with these projects are less assured.

Commercial customers

With these customers, there is more opportunity to secure long-term contracts with the aim of pest-proofing an area. This is appealing to many businesses, especially those working with food or where hygiene is of heightened importance as it allows them to provide a legal contract that proves they are maintaining standards.

Agricultural customers

Increasingly, maintaining a pest-free environment is something that is expected of farmers and agricultural workers as customers want assurance that the produce that is sold is produced sustainably and to the right standards. For these customers, you can expect to deal with larger-scale infestations and more complex methods of pest prevention.

Specialising

You may find that it is beneficial to specialise in one area of pest control, whether that be in the customers you look after, or the species you focus on. Some of the most common British pests you may want to focus on are the following:

  • Rodents
  • Wasps and Bees
  • Ants
  • Cockroaches
  • Flies
  • Feral pigeons
  • Moles
  • Foxes

There is also the possibility of targeting invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam.

Pricing

When deciding what prices to charge for your services it’s important to consider what your competitors are charging in the same area. It may be that you have to lower your desired prices to ensure you can stay competitive with the businesses around you.

When calculating your prices it’s important to take into account your running costs and expenses and use these to calculate what you want to charge. Decide what margin and what markup you want to make on your products and service and use this within your pricing.

To make life easy for you, we recommend using a good CRM job management software which can help you calculate your prices and organise all your projects. Investing in a system like this may seem like an unnecessary cost at first, but it will save you a lot of money quite quickly, especially if you make use of all the available features.

Check out Payaca to find out more.

Accounting

Managing and organising your accounts is an important part of running your pest control business. Ensuring this aspect of your company is kept organised is very important as mismanagement of your finances can lead to significant problems and costs.

To make your accounting easy we recommend using an accounting provider such as Quickbooks or Xero. These companies allow you to easily manage all your finances from one place with an easy-to-use platform. What's more, all the best CRMs easily integrate with these providers making managing your company super simple for you.

Especially when you're starting out as a small business, by using the right technology you can save yourself a lot of time and energy. The last thing you want is to be wasting lots of time on admin when you want to be focused on growing and developing your business.

Franchising

Setting up your business as part of a franchise may be a good idea. As part of a franchise, your business becomes part of a wider company. Although you will essentially be running your own business you have the support and backing of a wider network of businesses and are able to tap into some of the resources these companies offer.

Some of the benefits are the following:

  • Access to franchise resources such as marketing and advertising
  • Part of a recognisable brand
  • Benefit from the franchise brand reputation which can make getting started easier
  • Franchises may help provide you with equipment and resources

Some of the drawbacks:

  • You will have to either pay an upfront or recurring fee to be part of the franchise
  • There are certain requirements and restrictions that you have to follow as part of the franchise
  • You may be required to purchase your equipment and supplies from your franchisor

Whatever you decide it is important to do your research and check the fine details of the agreement with the franchise. We would recommend checking the contract with your solicitor before signing.

Final thoughts

There is a lot to think about when setting up any new business and starting your own pest control business is no different. Whatever route you end up taking, it’s important you do your research and understand what you’re getting into before you start.

The opportunities and the challenges will be slightly different wherever you are planning on starting out, so the more you prepare and understand what your getting into, the more likely you are to build a successful business.

We hope you have found this guide useful and good luck with the new project. Go exterminate your competition.

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