"top 10 things you should know when you start a christmas light business"
author: shellie gardner
christmas light source
1. take advantage of your existing customer base
start talking about christmas lights and decorative lighting right now. aside from the fact that time always passes more quickly than you'd expect, people use christmas lights for alot more than just holiday decorations. there are trees to be wrapped for parties. gazebos to be accented for weddings. christmas lights are an easy way to make every party more fun - so let your existing customer base know that this is a service that you offer.
2. surf the web to find out the latest trends in lighting
as a professional lighting installer, you'll want to be aware of the different styles and types of lights available so you can speak like a professional when you start your seasonal adventures. c7 and c9 christmas light bulbs are a traditional favorite that you must understand. these glass bulbs with filaments are the brightest of the christmas lights and depending on your region of the country are the most expected. they are best purchased by the professional in cases of 1000 with separate cords so that you can tailor the sets to your customer's vision. clear and multi bulbs are generally the favorite.
mini lights are incredibly versatile and come in a huge array of wiring and bulb colors. match the lighting wiring to their background if you can. most mini lights can only be run in sets of 3 but some commercial varieties do allow you to run 6 in series (keeping in mind that you don't exceed any breaker limits).
commercial led christmas lights have been on the scene for about 3 years and make installation really easy. their incredibly low power consumption means that you can connect up to 125 sets of lights together in a single run. they use a single power adapter at the beginning of each run. twelve, 20, and 50 foot jumpers are available to jump between trees, eaves, doors and windows.
3. use a good quality commercial clip
the last thing you want to do is revisit an installation because some clips broke in a storm or face an homeowners extreme disappointment (can you say understatement) because you thought installing lights with a power stapler would be just fine. some clips and attachments can be permanently installed - especially on stucco and vertical surfaces. be sure to review these options with your client. i've given my customers a table of common applications and the appropriate installation hardware to use at christmas light source installation hardware - most of it is common sense.
4. order some lights right away to see what they look like in real life
think of yourself as a lighting designer. trying to describe lights and their colors without actually holding them is like trying to describe a color over the phone. you'll be on the hook for purchasing all the materials for your lighting jobs. minimize disappointment by showing your customers samples. you just cannot underestimate the value of this step. for every person who loves the ethereal glow of led lighting there will be a neighbor who requires the super nova quality glow of a run of c9 transparent bulbs.
the colors of the led lights tend to vary and are a little different than traditional incandescent lighting. the white and blue colors tend to have the most color shift. led lights come in 2 kinds of white - warm white and winter white. warm white led lights look white until you compare them to something blue. the winter white or pure white led lights have a bluer look to them and are popular with folks who like blue or are combining them with halogen landscape or commercial lighting.
again, actually plugging them in for your customers after dark is the best way to help ensure that they like the final color of their installation. if you start early enough, you might even consider installing one set of the lights they choose on their house before you purchase all the materials required for their job.
as a new installer, you just can't afford to take the chance of picking out what you like and filling your garage with product because your customers may not share your opinion and your vendors won't take them back.
5. install the lights on your own home
not only can you have your customers drive by (you can coordinate turning them on so all your neighbors won't start turning you into your homeowner's association!) but you can practice and make any mistakes on your own home.
walk the measurements of the roofline and start by adding 30% of the length for the elevation of the eaves. if you find yourself working with a particular type of architecture - i.e. ranch vs tudor - you'll figure out pretty quickly what you need to allow for in the pitch of the roof.
as you are hanging your own home, time yourself to give yourself an idea of how long it will take to complete a lighting job. nothing is worse than coming up short in an installation where after you pay your crew you take home a big thank you and nothing at all for buying christmas presents this year.
6. have as many of your orders as you can lined up by october
all over the country, christmas light importers and distributors start receiving their christmas light products in september and october. the most popular light sets and lighting products with 12 inch spacing can run out by the beginning of november. don't even think that you are going to find heavy duty extension cords on november 1. they will most likely all be gone. and the ones you find won't be cheap.
more than likely, if there aren't very many christmas light installers in your area, once you start doing your installations (and they are starting earlier and earlier in november) you'll start receiving referral calls so make sure that you have good relationships with your vendors and order early. before october 15th, orders are generally processed and shipped within 1-3 days. after this magic date, shipping times can extend to 4-5 days because of the incredible demand. save on expedited shipping and order early.
7. give your first few customers a discount if they'll let you display a yard sign
word of mouth and drive by advertising beats every other kind of marketing - ask any real estate agent about the power of curb appeal.
be ready to answer your phone and change your phone message to reflect your new sideline business. you'll be surprised to see your business grow.
8. be ready to say "no"
i hear about this everyday. be ready to walk away from the grand 4000 square foot mansion with guest house job where the folks think your efforts are worth $200. it just isn't worth it. (unless it's your in-laws and they let you put a sign in the yard.)
9. get help from a certified master electrician
this is important - especially important if you are installing traditional c7 and c9 christmas lights. we live in a "sue them sue them" age and you need to make sure that you understand how to install these tradition high amperage lights. c7 bulbs as a rule of thumb are rated at 5 watts and c9's are 7 watts. as a rule of thumb, don't exceed 1000 watts per breaker. for a long run of c9's or c7's consider running your extension cord to the middle of the run and extend in equal distances from the extension cord.
everyone seems to have a brother in law or someone they know in the electrical business. play it safe and have him or her show you how to do things right.
10. try to build your business to continue year 'round and be innovate in your marketing
as i mentioned before, there is always a demand for decorative lighting. call on nurseries to wrap their display trees - great for drawing in customers. experiment with patio lighting. medium base cords and bulbs are great for this type of application. call all the local wedding planners and let them know the services you can provide.
setting up your own sideline christmas light business can be profitable all year long. you are only limited by what you want to do and how much time you want to give to it. as self employed people, we can all use that extra stream of income.
best wishes and merry christmas.
- shellie gardner
at christmas light source we help end users and installers alike make good lighting choices for great prices. i have a masters in electrical engineering and like every engineer in the industry who knows they can start their own business, i actually did so. my husband and business partner, david robinson, was also in the technology field and is now a lighting guru and building contractor. we love the impact that christmas lights have on folks.
we've provided lights for trees for universities, municipal libraries, businesses, and countless private homes across the country. in 2006 we supplied all of the lights used on the capitol christmas tree in washington, dc.
we carry a wide variety of mini lights, traditional c7 and c9's, rope lights and all the varieties of commercial led lights available to the professional installer currently on the market.
check out our site and if you have any questions, please send over an email and we'll be happy to help.