Opening your own funeral home requires experience in and knowledge of mortuary services. You also need compassion and strong customer service skills to work with families that need help making arrangements to bury their loved ones. In addition to business and marketing expertise, you must be knowledgeable about different faiths and the funeral and burial customs of each one.
Obtain Your License
Most states require funeral directors to have a minimal amount of college education in mortuary science. An associate degree in funeral service education is commonly required, according to the American Board of Funeral Service Education. In addition, many states require you to obtain a funeral home license administered through a state board exam. Before you seek your license, check with your state about apprenticeship requirements. Most states require at least a one-year apprenticeship under a licensed funeral director before taking the exam. A handful of states require continuing education classes. For instance, Indiana requires funeral directors or embalmers to take 10 hours of classes every two years.
Secure Safe and Private Space
As you look for space for your funeral home, keep in mind that you may need room to add crematory and embalming areas. Refrigeration is another requirement for embalming. In addition, you need space to handle body preparation. Other necessities are a reception area and rooms to hold funeral services. Selling caskets and urns requires space to set up a showroom. You may also want to offer private meeting rooms and a children’s playroom during funeral memorials or wakes.
Holding and treating dead bodies may present a health risk, and your home will have to meet the state's building, fire safety and health standards. If you're operating a crematory, you likely will need an air quality control permit from the state.
Price Your Services
The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires you to develop and hand out to prospects a comprehensive list, known as a General Price List, of the services and products you sell. Include the prices of individual services and products, such as embalming fees, transportation of the body to the funeral home and memorial service arrangements. The FTC also requires you to provide specific disclosures to your GPL, such as mentioning that alternative containers like cardboard boxes are available for use in cremation services. In addition, you must let customers know they are not obliged to buy a package of funeral services and can instead purchase their choice of individual services and products.
Offer Pre-Arranged Funerals
Pre-arranged funerals are a valuable product to offer while also providing cash flow with which to grow your business. Before you start selling prepaid funerals, however, check into state regulations. For instance, in Tennessee you must register with the State Department of Commerce and Insurance Burial Services to sell funded, prearranged funeral plans. The state also requires you to obtain approval for your pre-need funeral contract with any financial institutions you plan to use.
Hire Experienced and Certified Staff
As a funeral director, you'll handle a variety of daily activities, including working with families, making arrangements on how to handle the body and taking care of the administration of your business. If you plan to offer embalming or cremation services and do not have the experience with these procedures, you must hire experienced staff. Hiring a part-time receptionist to greet and direct people during memorial services gives you the support needed while you work with the families and handle last-minute tasks.
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.