Australian wildlife is world-famous, but not always for the right reasons. Sure, people love wombats, koalas and quokkas, but there are also a wealth of less inviting critters that call Australia home.
But where some see pests, others see opportunity.
If you’re someone who’s willing to take on insects, reptiles, mammals and more, pest control might be the business for you. This is an industry that will always be in demand, pays well and that has a surprisingly lower barrier to entry.
But while the act of spraying pests is simple enough, starting a pest control business is a little more complex. There are plenty of questions to be answered: what laws, permits and requirements apply? How do you create, market and build a business? How do you get paid, and pay yourself?
Here we’ll take a deep dive into how to start a pest control business: why you should do it, the paperwork and equipment you’ll need, and how to ultimately build a successful company.
6 benefits of owning a pest control business
Why should you consider starting a pest control business in the first place? This work offers a number of benefits, but here are six of the best.
Low barrier to entry: Compared with a lot of other hands-on businesses that require trade certificates and expensive tools, as a pest controller you’ll need relatively basic equipment, shorter and less intense training, and you won’t even need to find a shopfront or warehouse. The upfront investment is relatively affordable.
Regular work: Pests could potentially invade all year round, and this is a problem that a homeowner can’t afford to ignore, so you can expect regular work.
Greater autonomy: Owning a pest control business means you can set your own schedule and make your own money. Take on as much work as you’re comfortable with and take breaks whenever you need to.
Variety in your day: You won’t be stuck in the same office cubicle. You get to travel around, meet new people and fix their property problems.
No limits: Do you have enough work to bring someone else onboard? Then do it! You could grow your venture into a large business or franchise – it’s up to you how large your pest control business becomes.
A sense of accomplishment: As a business owner there’s a real sense of accomplishment in watching your business grow.
Requirements to start a pest control business
If you decide that a pest control business is right for you, what are skills you’ll need to bring to the table, and the rules, regulations and requirements you’ll need to abide by?
Skills and knowledge
First and foremost you’ll need to know how to remove pests! While you’ll need to undertake formal training - we’ll go into more detail in the ‘licences’ section below - it’s also wise to do a bit of homework before committing to the profession.
As a pest controller, you will need:
To be comfortable dealing with all manner of pests, from the annoying to the potentially deadly.
To be comfortable working within cramped, dark spaces where pests love to lurk.
To have knowledge on a wealth of different animal and insect species, how to remove them and how to ensure they don’t come back.
Basic knowledge of how your tools work in the event of a breakdown.
In Australia the pest control industry is regulated and controlled by state governments. This means that the licences and requirements to become a pest controller vary from state to state, though most require you to first complete a course, such as the Certificate III in Urban Pest Management through TAFE, then apply for a pest management licence.
A complete guide to state-by-state qualification and licensing requirements can be found on the Australian Pest Control Association website.
As a fully-fledged business, you’ll need to register for tax. Thankfully the process of applying for an ABN is a surprisingly simple one. While many pest control businesses start out as ‘sole trader’ operations if you aim to build an empire you might choose to create a company or trust, in which case you’ll need an ACN instead.
If you earn more than $75,000 in a year you’ll need to register for GST, at which point you’d be wise to find a professional accountant if you haven’t already.
Insurance needed for a pest control business
Insurance is as critical for a pest control business as it is for any business. You’re undertaking physical work, using strong chemicals, and you’re doing this on someone else’s property, which brings all sorts of legal ramifications if something goes wrong. In short, your financial liability for accidents, injuries and mistakes can be huge. It’s scary to think that without insurance you’re only ever a moment away from your business collapsing.
The most significant liability you face is causing accidental harm to someone or damaging property. Thankfully public liability insurance is built for these exact situations, with reasonably priced policies covering you for millions of dollars in damages. If you do commercial work for another business or a property manager, they may stipulate other types of insurance coverage.
Other forms of insurance that apply to a pest control business include:
Vehicle and trailer insurance
Tool and equipment insurance
Income protection insurance
Essential equipment needed to start a pest control business
What equipment will your pest control business need? The following core items will get you on your way.
Pest control chemicals and baits.
Chemical receptacles, tanks and sprayers.
Gloves, masks, eyewear, hazmat suits and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
Traps and cages.
Office tools like computers, printers, scanners, phones and business software.
A ute, van or trailer to transport your equipment.
Market your business
It’s time to get to work, though you can’t expect that work will just come to you – you’ll need to go out and get it. You can find a comprehensive marketing guide for small businesses here, but the most effective strategies for your pest control business might include:
Creating a website: Every business, no matter the type or size, needs a website, which is particularly important for a pest control business that might lack a physical shopfront. A website also makes you Googleable - when done well you can ensure you’re getting a steady stream of enquiries. Thanks to Square Online, making a website has never been easier!
Social media: Facebook, Instagram and other platforms allow potential customers to get a sense of you and your work. Pest control is the sort of business that can generate super interesting - and potentially viral - content, so have fun with it!
Word of mouth: Perhaps the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, word of mouth continues to be how most pest control businesses get their start. Spread the word via family, friends and former colleagues.
Job marketplaces: It’s worth posting your services on all-purpose marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, or on job-specific equivalents like Airtasker and hipages.
How much can you charge customers?
Australian pest control businesses tend to charge by the job rather than by the hour. Job pricing can vary greatly, from less than $150 for a one-off external spray treatment to $800+ for a complete pest control service on a large property. These prices also vary based on location – a pest control business in the Sydney CBD will obviously have higher costs than a business in a small country town, so will need to charge far more.
No matter where you are located or what services you offer, you should always base your rate off the time it takes to complete a job (including travel), and the costs associated with that job. Do some market research to understand what pest controllers in your area are charging.
How Square can help you run your pest control business
Once you’ve got your first job, how do you get paid? The modern business owner needs to go digital:
EFTPOS machine: Square Terminal is designed for those who need to take card payments while working on the road. It accepts card and contactless payments instantly, securely and cost-effectively.
Portable credit card reader: A more compact and basic version of the technology above, Square Reader connects to your phone via bluetooth and lets you accept chip and contactless cards anywhere in Australia.
MOTO payments: You may choose to invoice your customers and accept payments over the phone. Remote mail order/telephone order (MOTO) payments can be accepted through Square Virtual Terminal, which turns your laptop into a payment processing machine!
- As a pest controller you’ll need to be able to produce professional quotes and tax invoices; tasks made super simple by Square Invoices.
Online booking system
- The irony of pest control is that if you do your job well, you won’t have many return customers. Constantly working with new clients makes scheduling a time-consuming task for a pest control business. Square Appointments allows your customers to book your time and make payments upfront, seriously simplifying your appointment management.
Scheduling that puts time in your hands.
Australia is a paradise, but it’s also filled to the brim with pests. As the owner of a pest control business, you’ll be perfectly placed to make the most of this fact, enjoying regular and greatly satisfying work.
If you’re ready to help Aussie households deal with their critters, Square is ready to deliver the knowledge, tools and support you need!