It is easy to get into the drain cleaning business and get in cheap. Keeping it cheap and being profitable is an entirely different story. The hard part is growing the business, so it serves you instead of you being a slave to the business.

Let me guide you through my journey and give you six tips that will save you some pain along the way.

When I got into the business, I did it cheap. I bought a used van, a couple drain machines on Craigslist, a cast iron cutter at a pawn shop and a pipe vise at the flea market. It was paper invoices from Staples with printed labels that I did in-house…literally.

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I was doing good work and it was catching on. I was getting word of mouth referrals and landed some big jobs, some that sent me out of town. So, I hired friends and acquaintances that were between real jobs to help. My first employees were inconsistent, but so was my call volume.

Next, I hired a real plumber, tricked my wife to help with invoicing during a busy spell and watched as costs added up.

I was getting word of mouth referrals, but I needed the phones ringing to keep everyone busily employed with me. So, I became a marketer — not really — I became a guy with a small ad budget who was throwing money at a problem.

The ads I ran seemed so perfect. Then the ads hit. Crickets! It was like betting on a horse that got an ankle injury leaving the gate. I bet a lot of hard-earned loot, only to watch a poor performing horse of an ad for another 10 months. Ouch!

The phone book and newspaper effectiveness faded as the Internet age dawned. Luckily, I had some time, so I built my own website. Then, I got the phone calls to be on “The First Page of Google.” I signed up for a search engine optimization (SEO) contract to help me rank better, again my costs went up. I also bought some new trucks. I was overwhelmed with work. Customers wanted what I was selling.

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