We get a lot of people that reach out to us asking about the backflow industry on a whole, mostly with the question Can I make this a profitable career? I get so excited when I get these emails. Why? Mostly because it’s an opportunity to expose how huge the backflow industry is. I get to talk about protecting clean drinking water. And that’s awesome.
What should you consider before becoming a certified tester?
First, I want to note that the Cross-Connection industry is highly regulated. After all, it’s a huge step to maintaining clean drinking water. Do your research on state and local regulations since each water district varies on requirements. This can include how often your gauge is calibrated, how often you need to be re-certified, how much paperwork is included per test, and how many educational hours you need to remain certified, to name a few things.
Before becoming certified, make sure you’re capable of complying with the regulations.
Joining a team vs starting your own Testing Business
If you become certified, do you want to start your own business, or join an existing company? There are obvious pros and cons to each – and it’s up to a personal decision on this one.
Initially, starting your own company is more up-front costs such as business owner licenses and insurance, and you will be responsible for gauge calibration and certification fees. You will also be responsible for obtaining all your own customers. However, you have all the ownership in company decision-making.
An already existing company will only pay you a portion of what you would make as a business owner, but they typically have a large set of customers, and there are fewer up-front fees. Many companies will pay for gauge calibration and re-certification classes.
Can backflow testing can be profitable?
Yes! But it’s profitable because it’s reoccurring business. As a business owner, it’s not just backflow testing that is involved. Having the proper way to manage your customers is key, and that ranges from invoicing promptly, to notifying customers of their upcoming backflow tests.
What is your competition like?
One of the things I always recommend is to find out how much your potential competitors charge for a test. Do a little research on your competition – give ’em a call and ask for an estimate for a test. You might be surprised how much the prices vary! This can be a great gauge on how much to bill for a test.
A typical technician can expect to perform between 2,500 and 3,500 tests yearly. The amount of tests done is dependent on your area, the size, types, hazard of devices, etc. E.g. If you’re often doing tests in a confined space, you’ll do fewer tests, but you’ll also be charging more per backflow device tested.
Once you’ve determined how much you can charge, don’t advertise as being the cheapest backflow tester. Instead, be the best. (Also, having “Backflow” in your company name really doesn’t hurt.)
I need customers though. Where do I find them?
Ideally, let them find you! How? Have a strong web presence. In this day-and-age, make it easy for your customers to get a hold of you. Ideally, you have a website with options to schedule online.
Consider advertising with Google Adwords. This is a fantastic way to get your name out there.
Not all water purveyors update their backflow testers lists annually, so reach out to them individually to insure you are on the approved tester list.
Aside from that, there many places to get customers. Find out when your water districts send out notices- and send out flyers advertising your service shortly after. (This goes back to doing your research!)
Or, consider contacting HOA’s directly. Another great way to get a group of devices to test is to reach out to property management services, but make sure to do it before their customers start getting backflow test notices, so that you’ve already set up you’ll be doing all the testing for them.
Can I just get contracts from water purveyors?
Each water district handles managing backflow testing differently.
Some only provide the lists of approved backflow testers in the area to the end customers, so when you test a cross connection device, you’re being contacted by and paid by the customer directly. (I’d argue this is the most common way.)
Others contract out their entire district to testers that bid on the tests. This is often seen in smaller water districts with 10,000 or fewer devices. In a similar vein, sometimes water purveyors hire technicians who become government employees, rather than just contractors, so you can continue to test year after year.
Some water purveyors have a program that allows end customers to sign up and have their backflow device tests contracted out rather than seeking out a backflow testing company. In cases like these, you can ask or bid on a section of the devices to be tested and be paid directly by the water district.
Don’t limit yourself
Backflow prevention devices are everywhere! Soda machines, underground sprinklers, pools & hot tubs, and fire lines are the first things that people typically think of when it comes to backflow devices.
However, there are some other interesting places you find them – at mortuaries, all over hospitals and medical offices, universities, dentist offices, jails, the list goes on and on! Sometimes, a tester can bid on a whole hospital or jail to solely do their backflow tests. This can be more than enough for a one-man shop for an entire year.
I don’t know that I want my own business. Can I just go to work for someone else?
There are many backflow testing companies that have 5+ testers- all actively testing the entire year. I often hear, “We just hired another tech,” as well as “I can’t find enough backflow testers!” The job market is hot for backflow testers. This is partially due to the fact many of the backflow testers who started in the 1970’s are retiring, or nearing retirement age, and there’s a huge demand for younger techs to fill those spots.
Should you become a backflow tester? It’s up to you – Backflow testing can be profitable if you approach testing with the right tools, knowledge, and perspectives. Do your research, and then get testing!
If you want more info, let us know. We’re happy to chat backflow all day!