Spread cheer and earn some extra shopping money by starting a business installing Christmas lights. Learn how to set up your Christmas light business, how to get and keep clients and how to follow safety regulations in your area. Operating a Christmas light business can keep you busy from October through March.
Things You Will Need
Electrical safety license or permit
Begin by contacting the agency in your state or county that regulates electrical contracting. Even though it may seem like putting up a few Christmas lights is no big deal, electrical safety is important. You may be required to obtain a contractor's license in order to make a business of adding even temporary exterior lighting.
Secure a wholesale supplier of Christmas lighting. It's important to be sure that you're getting the best price on Christmas lights so that you can make money. Compare price and color from several vendors.
Get several insurance quotes from different agencies. Discuss your options for liability insurance. If you'll be working alone, your expense will be far less than if you were to hire employees because you will not need workers compensation insurance. Having a few quotes allows you to choose based on price or additional features, like online account management, or pay schedules that are easier to work with.
Get a state business license. Discuss with an attorney the tax benefits of becoming a limited liability corporation versus a sole proprietorship. Your city or county might also require a business license. Each state has a different name for the agency that issues business licenses. Once your license is active you'll be sent information regarding state-level wage deductions and other business taxes, like excise tax (also called sales tax) and disability and unemployment taxes. Since each state has different taxes, fees and terminology, make sure that any attorney or accountant you hire to help with this process is experienced in your state. The documentation that these agencies give you to assist with this process is usually helpful.
Apply for an Employer's Identification Number with the IRS. During each pay period you'll be withholding a percentage of every employee's wages for medicare and Social Security. It's your job to match that amount 100 percent and to also withhold federal income taxes. Quickbooks and other payroll software programs make this process easier. Submit quarterly federal payroll taxes with form 941 at any bank or financial institution.
Decide whether or not to accept credit cards. Compare several different merchant services programs. Banks and credit unions have a reputation for the best 24 hour service to merchants, but they also tend to charge the highest fees. When you think you've found a company with low fees, read over their contract very carefully. Some will charge you for sending a monthly statement, or other silly things. Look for simple plans and read the contracts carefully. Ask other business owners who they recommend.
Rent a storage unit to keep your lights in during the off-season. A warehouse with an office might also be a good idea, depending on how many large lighted statues you're storing. You may even want to employ a secretary to take calls for you during the busy season.
Advertise your business beginning in October. Focus on commercial businesses, white collar families and retired residents of your community. These are the people more likely to want help installing their Christmas lights. Send postcards to retirement neighborhoods. Consider having a website made. Place an ad in the newspaper. Ask clients to place a yard sign with your phone number on it. Place a decal on the side of your truck for advertising.
Create a schedule for the next few months so you don't find yourself over-committed. Be sure to visit each client and take accurate measurements so you know how many lights you'll need.
Schedule installations and take-downs by the neighborhood, so that you're not driving back and forth all over town. Plan to be on one side of town on Tuesdays, another side of town on Wednesdays, to save your mileage and give you more time to get things done.
Send your clients a reminder postcard late in the summer, so that you can begin to solidify your winter schedule
A roof can be a slippery place. Be sure to carry your own insurance and take every possible safety precaution