Do you love being out on the water in your boat?
You’re not alone! There are more than 15 million recreational boat owners in the U.S. right now. And there are almost 90 million Americans who take part in a recreational boating activity, like fishing or water skiing, every year.
If you’re interested in turning your love for boating into a career, the fact that so many people enjoy boating could work in your favor. By learning how to start a boat business, you can spend more time out on the water doing what you love while getting paid to do it.
But before you launch a boat charter business, there are a series of steps you should take to get it off to a strong start. They’ll put you in prime position to capitalize on your passion for boating.
Check out how to start a boat business below.
Create a Business Plan
Before you can officially jumpstart a business, it’s important for you to sit down and create a clear-cut business plan for it.
Your business plan should lay out the specific types of charter boat services that you’re going to offer. Whether you’re going to take people on tours out on the water or take them on fishing excursions, you should outline your services in your business plan.
Your business plan should also detail who your business is going to serve. Whether it be younger people who enjoy watersports or avid fishermen, your business plan should spell out exactly who will benefit from your business.
Your business plan will provide a strong foundation for your company and send it in the right direction once you start it. It’ll also help you obtain funding if you need some seed money to get your boat business off the dock.
Come Up With a Business Name
As part of your business plan, you should kick around some different names for your boat business and see what sticks.
Ideally, your business name should be something that’s catchy so that people will remember it. But at the same time, something straightforward and simple like “Bob’s Charter Boats” will also do the trick since it’ll sell people on exactly what your business is all about.
Once you have a name in mind, make sure there isn’t another business that’s already using it. As long as you’re in the clear, you can register the name and make your business official.
Buy the Right Boat
Do you already own a boat that’ll work well for your charter boat business?
If so, you can go ahead and skip this particular step. But if you don’t own a boat or if you own a boat that’s too small to serve as a charter, you should look around for a boat that would work best for your business.
The boat that you buy should be large enough to hold a bunch of people on it at once. It should also be the style of boat that will attract your preferred clientele.
For example, if you want to entice high-end clients to cruise around on your boat, the last thing you want to do is snatch up a rickety old boat for your business. You want something that will fit the needs of your customers.
Make the Necessary Upgrades to It
Prior to putting your boat in the water to charter people around, there are several upgrades that you’ll probably need to make to it.
For starters, you’ll likely want to repaint your boat and put your business name, logo, and even contact information on it. You’ll also want to outfit your boat with the latest forms of GPS so that you don’t ever get lost when you’re out on the water.
Additionally, you should see what kind of condition your boat’s propeller is in before you start setting sail. Learn more about the different types of propellers that you can put on your boat and think about which one will help your boat move through the water efficiently when you have people on it.
Find the Best Place to Dock Your Boat
While obtaining the right boat for your boat business is obviously essential, finding the right place to dock your boat is just as important. If you pick a place that’s way out of the way for people, you’re not going to generate as much business as you would if you pick a place that’s conveniently located.
Drive around to the different marinas in your area and see what they have to offer. They should be easy to get to and, once people are there, they should have lots of parking. They should also give you direct access to the waters that you plan to use when providing charter services.
Consider at least a few different marinas before choosing the one that’s right for you. The right location could work wonders for your business.
Get a Captain’s License
In order to operate a charter boat legally, you’re going to need to obtain a captain’s license. A captain’s license will ensure that you know all there is to know about:
- Charter boat navigation
- Buoyage systems
- Chart plotting
If you get caught operating a charter boat without a captain’s license, you could get into serious trouble. You might even end up having to shut your entire charter operation down. So don’t set sail without one.
Obtain Business Insurance
When you welcome a group of people onto your charter boat, the expectation is that everyone is going to have a great time. No one plans to be involved in an accident during a day out on the water.
But there are, of course, accidents that take place on the water almost every day. So as the captain of a charter boat, you need to expect the unexpected and prepare for potential problems on your boat.
One way you can do this is by obtaining business insurance. Specifically, you should get a liability insurance policy that will cover your company in the event of some kind of accident. You should also consider a policy that will cover any damages done to your boat.
Operating a charter boat without insurance is simply not an option. Budget for it accordingly.
Equip Your Boat With Safety Gear
Outside of obtaining an insurance policy to protect yourself, your boat, and your passengers when you’re out on the water, you should also stock your boat with safety gear.
There should be enough safety vests for each and every person on a boat at any given time. You should also make sure your boat has a fire extinguisher, visual distress signals, sound producing services, and more.
Set Up a Website
Amazingly, about one-third of all small business owners in the U.S. still don’t have a website up and running for their companies. For whatever reason, they don’t see the value of having a website for their business.
You should not take this approach with your charter boat business. You 100 percent need to have a fully functioning website for your business.
Your website should include:
- A brief introduction for both your company and yourself
- A list of the charter boat services that you can provide
- Photos of your boat and the gear that you keep on it
- Reviews from customers who have used your charter boat services before
- Contact information for your company
- Links to your social media accounts (make sure you have those, too!)
When people visit your website, it should be warm and inviting and should reflect what your business is all about. You should also keep search engine optimization in mind and consider working with an SEO company that can give your website a boost in Google rankings.
Market Your Charter Boat Services
After you’ve worked your way through all the other steps listed here, it’ll be time to start marketing your charter boat services to your potential customers.
You can do this by running radio and TV ads in your area. You can also do it by making a strong push on social media to spread the word about your business.
Whatever you do, don’t leave marketing on the backburner. No matter how great your charter boat services are, people won’t know about them if you aren’t able to market your business effectively.
Know How to Start a Boat Business Before You Do It
When you first get the idea to start a charter boat business, it might seem simple enough. Just buy a boat, plop it in the water, and get things going, right?
But as you can see, it’s not quite that easy. You need to know how to start a boat business before you do it so that you hit all the required steps. It’ll help you turn a profit quicker and keep everyone who turns to you for your charter boat services safe.
Would you like to learn more about starting a successful business? Read our blog to see how being persistent will pay off.