How to Start a Pest Control Business

••• Getty Images

A home-based pest control business has the potential to provide you with a healthy income, but going the freelance route takes commitment and marketing know-how. Many of those who run their own pest control businesses get their start working for an established pest control services company.

What Does a Pest Control Business Do?

Pest control workers, or exterminators, eliminate mice, rats, roaches, termites and other pests to protect homes and businesses from further infestation. They set traps with poison or natural baits and seal off entryways.

They may also have to fumigate entire homes and businesses while educating clients on how they can better control pests. Homes with children and curious pets demand special consideration if you must use toxic materials.

Pest control businesses often have a seasonal nature. For example, there may be a strong demand for controlling yellow jackets, flies, and carpenter ants in the warmer months in the Northeast, while rodents like mice and rats are often a problem in the cooler months when they seek warm shelter and nesting places indoors.

You can offer monthly, quarterly and annual pest control packages to help generate a steady income stream.

What You'll Need to Get Started

Startup expenses for a pest control business can be significant. To start, you’ll have to outfit a truck or van with equipment and chemicals. Here's a rundown of some things you'll need to get started:

  • Pest control knowledge and some experience.
  • A reliable vehicle that will allow you to safely transport equipment and supplies.
  • Insurance.
  • A website, vehicle signage, business cards, and print and online advertising materials to promote your business.
  • Strong networking skills to develop relationships with suppliers and with business and residential clients

In addition, you'll need certification, because pest control is regulated. Contact your state pest control board for certification information and to find out what’s required in your area.

Visit the National Pest Management Association's website for certification classes and tips.

​The websites of some of the larger exterminating outfits may also have how-to advice and may offer trainee positions for those with little or no experience. Community colleges and vocational schools offer classes, as well.

Advantages of a Pest Control Business

You’ll have job security: the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the need for exterminators should remain consistent from 2014 through 2024. In addition, any of your jobs will be simple matters, clearing minor infestations or follow-ups. And repeat business is common if your customers feel you’ve helped them out.

Disadvantages of a Pest Control Business

Your work conditions will be occasionally unpleasant, such as in an attic on a hot summer day. You also run the risk of bringing pests home with you, as well as carrying in harmful chemicals you’ve been exposed to.

You’ll need safe storage for chemicals and supplies and must meet state and local requirements for their storage and for transporting them in highways or in tunnels. You also run the risk of legal liability for misapplication of chemicals that might result in injury or property damage.

Competing against large franchises with equally large advertising budgets is a given, so understand the unique value proposition your pest control business offers and convey that effectively to your customers and prospects.