He is making $75k in 3 months with Christmas lights installations

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As we approach Christmas, I start to see success stories being shared on X (Twitter) from founders running seasonal businesses like pop-up gift stores and Christmas lights installations.

One such founder is Julius Marchi who runs an unassuming pressure-washing business making 6 figures revenue from a single van. A few months ago however, he started a new venture offering Christmas lights installations and is already on track to make $75,000 within 3 months. He is only 23 years old.

Curious, I did a quick search on Reddit and learned that his success with this niche service is not unique. What’s more interesting is that many of the growth tactics he used to grow his business can also be applied to bootstrapped entrepreneurs running digital startups as well.

In this article, we will dive into the quirky seasonal business of Christmas lights installations, and see what unconventional tactics we can apply to our startups.

Let’s dive in.

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What we will learn

  • What it takes to run a Christmas lighting installation business
  • When you should consider old-school marketing efforts like distributing flyers and making calls.
  • Why speed matters when it comes to winning new business
  • How to use your customer’s imagination to sell to themselves
  • An action plan with four tactics you can implement in your startup today

Who is Julius Marchi?

Julius Marchi‘s entrepreneurial journey started when he was 19. After learning about entrepreneurship at college, he started various hustles like drop-shipping but couldn’t make it work.

One day several years later, while Julius and his brother were helping their father pressure wash their house, an idea popped into his head. Why not turn a household chore into a side hustle? Surely other people in their neighbourhood could do with such a service?

So they started knocking on doors to find their first customers.

When they first started, they didn’t know how anything worked! But to their credit they just dived right in, learning about the trade and how to price their services as they went along.

We didn’t even know how to properly turn on a pressure washer until a couple thousand into the business

Julius Marchi – Twitter

Now, at 23, Julius operates a $212,000 pressure washing business out of a single van. But they had a problem. The business is seasonal! So a few months ago, they came up with another idea to fill up their downtime over the winter months. They would offer Christmas lights rental and installation services out of the same van they use for pressure washing.

Within two months, their Christmas lights installation business is on track to make between $50,000 and $100,000 by the end of the season.


How does a Christmas lighting installation business work?

Out of curiosity, I spent the last few days piecing together how this business operates based on Julius’s experience, the Christmas Lights business guide he wrote and various other Reddit posts I found on this topic.

To my surprise, many of the growth tactics in this niche sweaty-startup-style business apply to bootstrapped founders as well.

What it takes to build a Christmas lights installation business:

  1. Start simple. For you and your customers. – Most Christmas lighting installations offer an all-inclusive plan that includes installation, maintenance, repair, removal and storage. For your sanity (and in this case, for easier inventory management), keep your catalogue of options limited.
  2. Go local to find leads – The beauty of a physical service business like this, aka sweaty startups, is that your customer is usually within driving range from where you are. You will see how Julius finds his leads and what you can learn from his strategy.
  3. Always call your leads immediately – You don’t have to be installing Christmas lighting to benefit from this approach. Most customers want to feel like they are being served immediately. Whether you are running a SAAS or a service business like Julius, help your prospective customers feel like their problems are being resolved as quickly as possible.
  4. Help your customers imagine your solution – In the case of a Christmas lights installation business, you can increase your close rates (i.e. the number of leads that convert into customers) by getting in front of your customers. For a digital startup, use videos or mock-ups to achieve the same result.
  5. At scale, a successful Christmas lights installation business is all about processes – Once you’ve figured out HOW to install the lights and get customers, it’s all about making each installation quicker so that you (our your staff) can do more. In other words, productizing your offering as much as possible.

Now let’s dive into each in detail.

1. Start simple. For you and your customers

Christmas lighting installation is all about getting on ladders and roofs which can put you in some sketchy situations. That’s why when you are just starting out, avoid complex jobs and keep the options available for your customers simple.

As you start getting fancy with icicle lights, garlands, wreaths, different color lighs, etc your inventory management/storage will become a lot more complicated. You have to keep in mind that you’re in charge of the maintenance too so the less simple your service is, the more headaches & callbacks you will deal with.

Julius Marchi – Twitter

In case you are curious – Here’s a quick comparison between a straightforward Christmas light installation that takes ~1 hour, and a complex job that takes 3 to 4 hours.

Christmas Lights Business Installation Style
Sure, the left looks better, but you have to do a lot of fiddly work twisting lights around awkward branches that takes 3x as long. You will also end up holding a bigger range of inventory than plain strips of white lights.

A quick note on pricing

Most jobs are quoted by length, which is typically ~$8 to $12/ft including everything from installation to maintenance, repairs, take down and storage. Your customer expects to have to do nothing apart from lights appearing on their roof before Christmas and disappearing after Christmas.

If you are really curious about Christmas lights installation as a service, check out Julius’s guide on Christmas lights installation here (as of the date of writing, it’s free).

Lesson:

  • Keep things simple for yourself.
  • Make the decision to buy incredibly easy for your customers by limiting options and reducing hassle.

2. Go local to find leads

As you can imagine, leads (i.e. prospective customers) for a Christmas lights installation business come from houses within the driving range of the business. This means using local groups, flyers and yardsticks. Yep, we are going old school here.

a. Facebook groups

Forget lurking on Reddit, or going on Product Hunt. For these types of service businesses, it’s all about local groups and communities. A clean, professional post and flyers are all it takes to get the attention of a prospective customer and earn yourself a call.

Christmas Lights Business Installation Style - Facebook ads
Example of a Christmas lights installation Facebook post

b. Yardsticks

These are signboards you stick into the ground next to high-traffic junctions in the neighbourhood. As long as the authorities in your local area are ok with you sticking something to the ground (some will give you a fine), these can be wildly effective.

Christmas Lights Business Installation Yardstick - advertising local businesses

At this point, I can feel you squirm. You may be hesitant to pick up the phone and speak to people, preferring instead to write tweets or other social media posts to promote yourself.

But from researching many successful indie makers and creators, it’s clear that regular conversations with customers are key to understanding their needs. You can’t avoid talking to people completely.

Pick up the phone and speak to your customers/users.

3. Always call your leads immediately

Actually this is a strategy all entrepreneurs should adopt, regardless of whether you are running a software-as-a-service (SAAS) business or a Christmas lights installation company.

The second you get a lead either text or call the customer, if you don’t do this you won’t get any jobs. CALL THE CUSTOMER DAMMIT SIX TIMES IF THEY DON’T PICK UP. AFTER 6 TIMES GIVE UP

Reddit – How I did $15k in 2 weeks so far for Christmas lights

This might sound pesky, but hear me out.

Think about the last time you went looking for a plumber, an electrician or even an accountant. You Googled for one near you and called the first guy that popped up.

But what happened when your call went unanswered? You didn’t wait around for them. You just moved on to the second Google search result and made another call.

You engaged with the first supplier who responded to you because they made you feel like you were about to get your problem solved.

This is the power of instant gratification.

For a SAAS, creator or other digital business:

  • Think about ways you can immediately reward your customers when they interact with your website/app.
  • Ask yourself how you can make your onboarding experience as frictionless as possible.
No sign up SAAS
Here’s an example of this customer desire in action. If you Google “AI writing tools”, you will see a bunch of tools that promise “no sign-ups”. This is to target customers actively avoiding friction.

In short, leverage your customers’s desire for instant gratification.

4. Help your customers imagine your solution

Again, this is all about helping your prospective customers imagine what it’s like to have their problems resolved.

In the case of Christmas light installations, the service itself is usually expensive and more than what most people can afford to pay. This makes closing sales incredibly difficult.

What Julius and other Christmas lights installation entrepreneurs found was that being physically next to your customers, explaining how you are going to decorate their houses and showing them sample lights can increase your close rates.

Of course, being face-to-face with your customers isn’t always possible. The alternative is to use mock-ups like this:

Simple mock ups are great for startups

If this looks like something one creates out of Google Slides or Microsoft Paint… it is. Mock ups don’t have to be complex.

Other examples:

  • For a SAAS business, this can be screen casts of the software in action.
  • For a creator business, this can be a video of you sharing what it’s like to work with you.
  • For a digital product business, this can be a sneak preview of your product.

The point here is to leverage your customers’ imagination to close the sale.

5. At scale, it’s about processes

Once you’ve done your first season, most Christmas light installation companies would at least break even, including the costs of getting equipment and lights.

It’s essentially a leasing business with an ROI of 100% (including labour) in the first year, according to Redditors operating such a business.

In the following year with no further capital costs and some experience under your belt, it’s all about optimization:

  1. Do each job faster
  2. Get the same customers to buy again
  3. Leverage reviews and referrals
  4. Optimize your route to get to the next job quicker
Christmas lights installation route planner

Of course, you can continue to experiment with your product offering, but when it comes to scaling, it’s about building your own playbook to do more, faster.


Juicy ideas to replicate success

This Christmas lights installation case study is a great reminder that there are lots of opportunities beyond your laptop. Here are 5 ideas any bootstrapped entrepreneur can take away from this unusual side hustle:

  1. Keep things simple – Remember the classic advice – focus on providing one offer to one target customer. Simplicity often wins.
  2. Don’t be afraid of talking to people – You may feel safer hiding behind your keyboard and promoting your startup via text and social media but you may be missing out of crucial touch points with your customers that can help you understand their needs and to serve them better.
  3. Leverage the power of instant gratification – For a service business, this means picking up the phone as soon as you can. For a product business, reward your customers with a quick solution when they come to your site. Avoid over-complicating your sign-up process.
  4. Optimize to scale – Once you’ve figured out how to do something once, it’s time to do it faster, better and cheaper.

What’s next

Want more case studies like this? Get notified when my next article on Juicy Ideas drop

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