What is your typical process for working with a new customer?
Mostly it is about the car. I can spend days on a car and get it nearly perfect, or I can spend the three or four hours it will take to get it 90%. For most people with a daily driver that is good enough. If you are super OCD about your car (my favorite type of client) then we can definitely focus on your areas of concern. That's how I get to know my customers really well. I just need to know what it is they are trying to obtain so that I know turning that minivan into a car that is flawless from 2 feet away may not be the objective. Maybe you are just looking for something that looks good from 10 feet, and that is fine with me.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
My education and training comes from nearly 20 years of doing this. I have written hundreds of thousands of words on the topic of detailing. I've been the one training the detailers out there through my guides and articles. I was a founding member of two of the largest detailing message boards on the internet to date. You can go back in the archives for 15 years and find things I've been writing online.
Do you have a standard pricing system for your service? If so, please share the details here.
My pricing isn't all that complicated. Most jobs take 3 to 4 hours. The industry average for that kind of work is about $180 dollars. Therefore I bill my time out at around $60 an hour. Believe me, you pay more than that for your lunch at Burger King if you think about it. It takes 5 minutes to make and you pay $8 bucks for it. That's like paying them almost $100 dollars an hour for their time and materials. I just state an hourly rate because that is how I figure my estimates.
How did you get started doing this type of work?
I got started when I bought a 1997 Mustang that I really wanted to keep looking sharp. That is where my education began. Along with a couple friends who were also gear heads, we sort of ran a little shop where they tuned and modified and I made them shiny. That is where OCDetails began. A couple years later I started really picking up some projects by doing details for co-workers. That spiraled into referrals that kept me busy for years without ever needing to advertise. Keep in mind that this has never been my full time job. I've got time to do several cars a week, but only after I complete my normal 9-5 job. So while working and going to school full time, and raising my 3 kids and all the responsibilities of family life, I can't think of a month in the last 20 years where I haven't detailed something. It started as a passion for my own vehicle and then transitioned into a passion I shared with friends over their vehicles. That transitioned into something I could do for others and has continued to be a passion to this day. No, it isn't my full time job, but I challenge you to find a shop or detailer anywhere in the world who will treat your car like it is their very own as well as I do. I'd put my passion and skill up against anybody out there, and I have done just that numerous times.
What types of customers have you worked with?
Lately it has been people with nice cars that just want to keep them looking that way. They come to me three times a year and I maintain the shine. Prior to the last couple years most of my business was people looking to restore their car to showroom shine so they could sell it. Either that or they just bought the car and it didn't look as good as they wanted it to, so I finish the job the previous detailer started. I also do a fair amount of work fixing the mistakes of other detailers. Buffer burns, hazing, polish stains... Some people have no idea what 'quality' means.
Describe a recent project you are fond of. How long did it take?
Growing up in the 80s there were three car brands that were on every boy's wall.. A Lamborghini, a Ferrari, and a Porsche. Those were the supercars of the day and far more exotic than anything I'd ever see in rural Idaho. My real love of these cars would be fanned when we would go on summer vacation to Salt Lake and I would get a chance to see these on the road. I remember seeing my first Porsche in the mid-80s and it was amazing!! I have had a love for the '86 Porsche 911 ever since. That whale tail spoiler is just gorgeous.
A couple years ago a friend of mine who I've mentored in the art of detailing purchased an '86 Porsche 911 and I begged him to let me detail it. It honestly didn't take much begging. :) He left it with me and I got to go to work on it. It turned out great and he was very happy with it.
A year or so later he wanted to take it up a notch and turn it from a 5 foot car to a magnifying glass car. Every flaw that could be repaired without repainting needed to be gone. So with that in mind I taught him how to wet sand and we sanded that entire car until there wasn't a swirl or scratch on it. Then I polished it out to a mirror shine. It was like a pool of reflection. It was so shiny that you'd think it was actually blue because it was reflecting the sky.
It wasn't the fastest or most valuable car I have ever worked on, but it was the dream car of my youth and an absolute honor to get to work on it. I've detailed the Porsche 918, GT3 RS, 997 & 996 turbos, but nothing in my mind will ever be as beautiful as the '86 911.
What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
I would make sure that they know what they are doing. Just because they have a website or posting on Thumbtack that says "Have sponge. Will travel." doesn't mean they are the right detailer for you. I will be 36 years old in 2012 and I have been detailing for 15 years and heavily involved in the industry for the past 10 years. I have worked on cars displayed in major automotive events such as SEMA. My client list includes celebrities, industry moguls, soccer moms, and my neighbor. I would never do a job for anyone that I wouldn't be proud of and I have the portfolio to back that claim up. Don't just take the word of some 18 year old whose experience is based on washing his mother's Camry. I'm a grown up with an absolute understanding of what your car means to you and how to care for it best. You should base your search for a detailer on how well they can back those statements up.
What questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their project?
Experience is key. Just because someone shows up with a buffer and a bottle of wax doesn't mean they know what they are doing. We've all seen the cars on the road that have hologram like patterns burned into the sides of their vehicles by people who don't know what they are doing.
The question I would ask a detailer is how long they have been doing this and how confident do they feel that they can remove all the damage your car may have. A good detailer will back off at that point and say that they really need to visually inspect the damage before they can give you an answer. A bad detailer will say that they can do it all and they don't even need to see it to know they can fix it. That would indicate they haven't considered several problems with paint that can't be repaired. If they think they can polish out clear coat failure, then they are not someone I would ever hire.