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Start a mobile detailing business and charge $900 per car.

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Jean Claude of Detailed Designs Auto Spa gets an average of $900 to clean and polish a car.

Read our interview with Jean, and discover:

  • Why his clients pay him 4 times more than his competitors.
  • How he meets clients.
  • Mistakes he made on the way to become a high dollar detailer.
  • Why he continues to raise prices, with no objection from customers.

Why did you choose to enter the car detailing industry?

Jean Claude: Owner, Detailed Designs Auto Spa. Atlanta, GA.

Jean Claude: Owner, Detailed Designs Auto Spa. Atlanta, GA.

My dad was a car nut, so a love of cars has always been ingrained in me. Detailing my personal car was a passion before I made a dollar doing it. I knew I had a particular eye for it. I began to realize that car enthusiasts like me wanted more of a detail than was readily available on the market. I looked at what people were paying for and I was disgusted at what people they were getting for their hard-earned dollars. It’s not like this was a unique thing, either, I realized it was industry wide. It’s hard to find detailers who are going after quality, so I decided to be that detailer.

How did you get your first 5 customers?

I take a pretty hard-line stance in that I don’t see friends and family as a so6urce of income or a market. I thought I should make my name the old-fashioned way and hit the concrete. I walked into every business that did not have a “no solicitors” sign on the door. I went to business parks and retail stores. I’d say, “My name is Jean-Claude, I’m with Detail Designs Auto Spa, and I’d love an opportunity to earn your business.” Sales is a numbers game. Bang on enough doors and you’ll get the business. Thing is, when someone sees a new business man hungry for work they know they can get a lot of work for a little.

When you’re starting off you have to take anything that comes your way. I’d love to say that my first five customers were five full paint restores but they weren’t. They were car wash and waxes, they were removing layers of pet hair from interiors. You cut your teeth on the heaviest, dirtiest work.

I knew starting off that the high-volume stuff [dealerships, car washes] wasn’t where I wanted to go with my business. I wanted to work for guys like me who were willing to pay a little more so that they got the job they were after.

Are you happy with your income?

Overall, yes. As a small business owner, week-to-week success falls entirely on you. When you’re having a slow week you’re thinking how nice it would be to have $3,000 of work lined up for next week, but sometimes that’s not the case and I worry. If you own a car detailing business, you’ve got to have infinite fortitude. You’re going to have weeks when you’re stressed out. You’ve got to maintain that desire to keep going. Even though things are tough right now, it can get better. If you’re really slow, you hit the concrete. Cold calls. Get on the internet boards and make yourself available by helping people. That community will appreciate you overall. If you’re operating a high-volume business, then what I’m saying isn’t going to resonate with you. Volume work and high-line expensive detailing are two different worlds.

My average detail ticket is about $900. I have jobs that cost upwards of $3,000 and some as low as $125 for a wash and wax.

I’ve been critical of everything I do. Would I be happier with more money and volume? I fall back to reasoning that I want fulfillment in my career. I want to be known as a craftsman, not a volume guy. We live in this throw-away society where you buy it if it’s just good enough and then when you’re done you throw it away. That’s not what I want to be. When you really want it done right, I’m the guy you call.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Reaching the types of clients that make up my market. When people search the net, most aren’t searching for what I’m offering. Most are price shoppers. They’re looking for the lowest price detail – that type of detail which is inexpensive but is usually overpriced for what it actually delivers. My clients are looking for an end result.

Most of my clients are ones I’ve had for a number of years. I have a nice rapport with car enthusiasts in my area, thanks in part to my online presence on a car enthusiast forum based in Georgia. Through that forum, I am able to find car enthusiasts looking for someone to fix their paint. It’s word of mouth from there. I tell all of my clients, “Hey, I’m a small business, you know the kind of work I do. If someone brings it up, please give an honest opinion of what you think about my company.”

Years ago, the guy that designed and hosted my website disappeared on me. I didn’t have access to my own site for about a year in a half. In that time, I’d have to impart to my callers the changes that had been made in pricing and packages, what was now different from the website. This was very draining.

Since I’ve regained control of the site, I’ve made changes, spent money on google adwords and SEO. If I’m spending time on marketing these days, it’s usually on SEO and updating the website, as well as spending time on car enthusiast boards. I’ve found that if you’re there for people on those boards – people with questions like “how do I clean the wheels properly” – and if you give them honest answers to their questions, it can improve your online presence. Working in this business has been an ongoing learning experience. By being an active member on Autopia you’re always learning. Be critical of every one of your processes and realize that something can usually be improved somewhere. I like the idea that car detailing is a continuing learning experience.

If you could start again, what would you do differently?

Hard to say. I would say that I should have been ready to drop dead weight that was holding me back.

Say there’s a package you’ve been marketing but hasn’t been getting any kind of traction. Don’t feel like you’ve got to stick with it because you worked a lot on it and now it’s on the website.

My paint correction packages have changed a number of times over the years. I’ve intensified the package and increased the prices. It’s never been how can I dumb it down or make cheaper, just how can I make it better and improve the service. I charge two times more than when I first started and now I’m offering a far better service. My clients know I’m offering the same thing they want, superior service.

If you’ve got an employee and a gut feeling it’s not working out with them then you have to be ready to let them go. I had a guy I trained for over a year. Throughout that time he had spots of being a complete genius and the ideal guy for moving my business forward. Other times it was the opposite. No one should hold your business back.

What’s your single favorite detailing tool and why?

I’m goanna cheat here and give two that tie for first. First: the Wheel Woolie. I take a lot of pride in how I clean wheels. Brushes in the past did a good job at wheel barrels but had issues like slinging brake dust onto my clothes.

The other tool would be my compressor.

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How We Started

It was 2006. A car detailer couldn't find affordable, easy-to-use add-on equipment to grow his business. So he made it himself.

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