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How to Make a Good Living Getting Rid of Other People's Junk

Updated on April 23, 2018
Junk removal
Junk removal

Launching a junk removal business

I'm a fan of simple businesses, as they usually cater to the needs of a significant number of ordinary people and businesses, and serve a real need.

It's different than the visionary types that want to change the world, whom take a lot of risk in order to attempt to create new markets. With the majority of simple businesses the market is already there and obvious, if you're looking for ways to serve people and build a business.

One very simple business that reflects this reality and a real need is a junk-moving business. We'll get into that in a moment.

First, what I want to mention is a junk removal business lends itself well to complementary ancillary businesses if you want to diversify your income. For example, you could take the quality items you remove and resell them through a variety of outlets. It can be surprising how much good stuff people get rid of.

You could also leverage the junk removal business by offering to clean the place you are removing junk from. This usually works best when working with apartments, businesses or homeowners.

When talking about cleaning here, I don't mean getting rid of all the stuff, I mean tidying things up like a cleaning company would do. Things like garages, warehouses and barns would be harder to convince people of cleaning, although it never hurts to ask.

The point is there are a lot of ways you can make money when removing junk if you want to expand beyond the removal itself. It's not necessary to do so to make good money, but it's something that should be kept in mind.

There is also the possibility of selling it to those people or businesses that resell, rather than spend time pricing and selling the stuff at the retail level, i.e., to individuals, which takes time.

Here are some steps to take and consider if removing junk for people and businesses is something that appeals to you.

What to do first

The first step is obvious: get your first customer. You can do that by word of mouth with the family, friends or colleagues you currently have. Let people know you're available for junk removal.

Another way to get the ball rolling is to contact people that clean homes or apartments. Many times they're more than glad to give you the business of getting rid of stuff.

I've worked in both the cleaning and removal business, and many times when cleaning people will ask if you will get rid of some of their stuff for them. Having connections with house cleaners is a good way to find new business.

Another way you can get business is by working with people cleaning out HUD or similar homes. If you're from outside the U.S., this is some type of low-income housing supported at some level by the government.

A number of businesses I know that work on these types of homes after the people move out are looking to contract out the removal of items.

Building the business

Once you get your first customers, and assuming you do a great job for them, you can think in terms of encouraging them to share what you did on social media. A great way to do it is to ask them to take before and after photos and share it on their social media accounts.

You could ask permission to do the same, but it carries more weight if your customers willingly does it. This is called social proof.

You could also ask them to share a photo of your truck and trailer during the job. Offering a small discount for doing so is well worth it to grow your business.

Be sure to know how to help them do it in a way that is supportive to your business on various social media platforms.

Don't be afraid of aggressive marketing

As with any business, people aren't going to just come knocking on your door, visiting your websites or calling you on your phone for your business. You need to go out and get and earn their business.

This is why you should always be on the lookout for yards and garages with a lot of junk lying around. Be sure to have a business card or flyer on you or in your vehicle at all times. Simply approach the person and hand them your card or flyer and then so them the social proof you have from your customers that shared on social media and gave you good reviews.

Sure, you'll get a few negative responses from some people that never want to be approached, but you'll be surprised at how many yes's you get as well. Those yes's will generate a lot of revenue for you.

Get creative here. Think of things people or businesses are doing that lend themselves to junk removal. Look for those that have for sale signs up on their home. They may want to get rid of their old stuff to make room for the new once the home is sold. Let them know you'll be glad to do the job.

Staying in contact with businesses that may be upgrading their structures is another thing to consider. They may want to get rid of old equipment to make room for the new.

You get the idea. Always be thinking of why people will want things moved and get in front of your potential competitors by letting them know you're ready to serve them.

Relevant marketing

Whatever means you use to advertise, the best time to do it is during and immediately after a job. If you have flyers, which you should in a junk removal business, place them around the homes near to the home or apartment you just cleaned out.

If you are removing junk from an apartment in a complex, ask the management if you can place some flyers or business cards in their office to let their renters know they can get rid of their stuff. They will also contract with you to get rid of stuff the renters leave once they move out.

Part of the flyers should include a reference to your business social networking site or sites. If your customers give you permission after asking them, place the photos or possibly video of the job up so they can take a look at the before and after photos, and get a view of an image or video of your truck or trailer.

Before and after photos are important to create the image in the customer's minds of getting rid of clutter and opening up more storage space for them. Having before and after photos on the flyers would also be a good selling point, or at least an image of your truck or trailer loaded with stuff being taken away by you on behalf of a client.

The key is the best way to leverage your marketing is during or right after the job being done. You may never get an opportunity to reach the people in the neighborhood you're working in again.

Building a network

One of the best ways to build a network is to offer an incentive to people to share your business services with others. It could be via a discount for services, or an outright payment if it leads to getting a job as a result of word of mouth from them.

Don't make the incentive extravagant. Just be sure it's big enough so it isn't insulting.

That said, when I used to sell products in homes years ago, part of the business model would be to ask those I'm marketing to to write down as many names as they could think of the people they knew that might need the service. It was amazing how many names and leads we got as a result. In that case they didn't even mind doing it, and there wasn't even an incentive offered.

On a larger and more professional scale, doing the same with other businesses such as real estate offices and the companies contracted by government agencies to fix homes, you can offer cash bonuses or something else that motivates them to put you at the top of the list when letting people know about your business.

This isn't necessarily something to do every time, but it's a good way to get the foot in the door. With these types of businesses it's good to offer a meaningful percentage of what you charge for your services. In the case of Realtors, do it with individuals, not the office, otherwise they are unlikely to work with you if there is nothing in it for them individually.

What happens is they will almost always do a little bragging about the extra money they made by doing business with you to their colleagues. That in turn will probably open up more doors for you. Even so, you shouldn't rely on one real estate office for your business, you should visit every one of them and make a similar offer.

If different Realtors want different incentives, be sure to write down the terms of the deal, or you could create a negative outcome that can also be shared across a network in a negative way. In other words, be and act like a professional.s

This is a win-win because to get a piece of their action you're giving them a piece of your action back. This builds up a nice network across different businesses, professionals and individuals.

Texting can be a secret sauce for your marketing efforts

One of the more obvious things to do to communicate with potential customers is to use the internet as a major marketing tool. In general, look for places you can put up ads or communications that local people can find. Craigslist is one of them, and there are many others.

On Facebook, there are many local groups that focusing on selling or trading products. This is a great place to let people know what you do, assuming you are allowed to. Some groups don't allow direct advertising in that way.

A way to bypass that is to offer a few things for sale, and then include the URL of your website, or possibly your business phone number. The point is to get your URL out there everywhere. Tell them to go to your website for for details and pricing.

Another major strategy that can be used is to declare you're available to be contacted via texting. In our world of hard sales and unwanted contacts, allowing for customers to text you could be a strong competitive advantage. This provides a less tense atmosphere while communicating with potential customers, and does a lot to win the sale when they're not being pressured to make a decision when talking directly.

So along with your URL, I think it would be good practice to encourage people to text you.

Keep in mind that people want as little friction and disruption as possible when engaging in business transactions. The winners will be those that can offer low-stress communication when customers, while at the same time letting them know what you have to offer. You don't have to be shy about making a pitch, only do it in a way that isn't overly aggressive. This helps reduce the number of cancellations because of buyers' remorse.

Texting helps remove much of the stress and make people fell like they're more in control. It's another way to direct them to your website if they're not ready to make a decision yet.

Get people involved in the narrative of your company

Maybe one of the most powerful ways to keep people interested in your company and willing and wanting to let others know about it, is if you think in terms of it being a story of interest to them.

One of the secrets of Internet success is that people start to follow the lives of businesses and other people because of the ongoing communication and revelation of what's going on in relationship to the business.

In the case of junk removal, think of the potentially interesting things you will find, or possibly, interesting cities you may do business in. People love to be kept in the loop with these types of things, and those that keep a steady stream of reports will retain the interest of its customer base, and those that have a good chance of being future customers. This type of action sells itself.

While updating your movements or job could be interesting in general if the place or city you're working at has a story connected to it, but the sharing of interesting treasures you've found at work is what would be the most attractive to people.

Think of how many people are interested in unique items, or that want to see something that may have significant value. Don't underestimate the value of sharing your interesting discoveries. You will take a large number of people on the journey with you.

There's a reason why reality TV shows remain popular to this day. You and your website and social networking pages can be a source of reality TV entertainment for those wanting to check in and see what you found recently. The key there is to be consistent with sharing what you find. Don't wait too long to share something new. This doesn't mean you have to share it as you find it, only that you can keep a large number of photos or videos of your discoveries and release them intermittently on your various web platforms.

Once you're up and going, this may be the most powerful marketing tool you have, as it's building a community around your brand

Customer service the key to long-term success

One thing I've learned from owning or operating numerous businesses over the years is the first step to success in customer services is to get it right on the front end of the job.

What I mean by that is put things in writing as to what the customers wants and the price you offer to do the job. This saves an enormous amount of potential headaches, and even litigation, if nothing is in writing.

Most people aren't interesting in trying to sue someone, but the fact is our memories can easily fade as to what we agreed to, and in that case, the customer can think what they remember was exactly what the terms of the agreement were if it's only done orally and with a handshake. Don't allow that to happen to you.

I did that inadvertently years ago when having someone grow some tomatoes for my greenhouse business. When I went to pick them up, the price charged was almost double what we agreed to. I have no doubt the grower wasn't trying to pull something over on me; we simply had no written agreement in place and this is what they remember being the terms of the deal.

Because I needed the tomatoes and I did other business with the grower, I didn't even mention it to him. It wasn't a huge order and I still would make a lot of money on them. That's a different business though, and it could be a huge loss in the junk removal business if the terms aren't laid out exactly and adhered to.

What this means is you must know what your overall costs are going to be for the job, and make a bid based upon that. You could lose a lot of money on a big job if you don't know your costs. Knowing your costs provides a sense of confidence in knowing you're going to make money on the job.

But even under that scenario, if you don't have it in writing, the customer could throw a big enough fit to cause you to eat the costs. There is also the fact if it's a negative experience, you could get a lot of bad word of mouth, even if it is undeserved.

The bottom line is put everything in writing and have both of you sign it. This saves everyone a lot of problems and potentially, money.

Finally, you can't engage in quality customer service if you don't know specifically what it is you've agreed to. After all, quality means doing the job according to the agreement and customer expectations. That can't be achieved if things are written down.

Even if someone says something like "get rid of everything," be sure that you have it in writing. I've seen people accuse a business of theft in one case where they said something was taken that wasn't supposed to be. The good news is the business took video of everything so was able to prove they were innocent in the matter. But if there wasn't something in writing and proof of that, it could have been a major problem for the business.

Most of the time these types of things don't happen, and the key is to get it right on the front end and bidding side of the business. Bidding accurately on the job is the key to profitability anyhow, so there needs to be a list of items that are to be hauled off in order to make an accurate assessment of costs in the first place.

Doing what you said you'd do at the price agreed upon is the bare minimum of customers service. Add to that a smile and a friendly disposition, and you shouldn't have too many customer service complaints. And assuming you have everything in writing, those that aren't engaging in good will on the customer side, will still have to provide the payment for services rendered.

Customer service at its best should remove the anxiety and work associated with junk removal off of the customer. In a major way, junk removal is stress removal, do it right and you'll be financially rewarded for it in a big way.

Conclusion

One major thing in any business is to differentiate from competitors in order to create a competitive advantage over them. Since anyone with a truck or trailer of some sort can haul junk and compete on price, there is a need to separate yourself from those businesses.

The good news is those competing only on price can't survive. They may win and maintain a few customers, but those customers aren't that desirable anyhow if all they want is a service that costs the least. They won't have any loyalty to your business, and will quickly move on to the next business offering the lowest price if they need another round of junk removal.

In the beginning of the business you could maybe agree to a few of these jobs to get the ball rolling, but you don't want to position yourself as a low-cost competitor; it won't pay off in the long term. You also attract people or businesses that tend to not only want a low price, but in many cases may want premium service with that low price. That will make your business unprofitable if you cater to a lot of those types of customers. Avoid them in most cases, outside of launching your business.

This is why I mentioned earlier about doing a number of things to stand out to your customers. They may do a little griping if you charge a decent price, but if you deliver on the goods, they'll be more than happy to pay it and share the good experience with other people or businesses.

Again, the junk removal business is a way of relieving the stress of those needing to get rid of stuff. The key is to ensure you don't add any stress to the situation, or they'll start thinking in terms of wishing they had did it themselves, or hired another company to do it.

The great thing about a junk removal business is it's recession-proof. Everyone needs to get rid of stuff no matter what the economy is doing. That's another major reason to market to those that are looking for quality service and are able to pay for it. Even in slow economic times they are willing to pay to get junk removed.

Earlier I noted there are possibilities of having secondary businesses grow out of the junk removal business. While that's true and worth pursuing over time, the first thing that must be done is to build a strong foundation of quality service in junk removal. Remember that is the core business to focus on.

If that isn't done, you could lose your core business, and by extension, the other businesses that have grown out of it. After all, all the stuff you may sell or share with others comes from the homes or businesses you're removing the junk from. Get that down first, and afterwards look at ways to add other revenue streams if you choose to

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