On the Job: What It Takes to Earn $89,000 as a Pool Cleaner in New Orleans

Mark Jones graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2011 with a degree in marketing. After graduation, he worked several jobs including as an Apple "expert" and a sales manager of an Acura dealership.

In 2019, he found himself working as an assistant manager of an Enterprise Rent-A-Car location earning approximately $29,000 per year. He was a husband, a father and a new homeowner. 

"My wife, she wanted a pool so we bought a house with a pool. And I told myself, 'Hey, I'm young enough to figure this thing out. So I got the pool babe, don't worry about it, I got it,'" he recalls. "But I didn't even know how to turn a filter system on."

Jones became close with Curly, the owner of his local pool supply store, and learned how to maintain his own pool. His neighbors started to notice. 

"My neighbor called me and said, 'Hey, I'm not happy with my pool guy. I'll pay you what I pay him and I'll pay for the chemicals.' I was like so that's easy," says Jones. 

That year, Jones lost his job at Enterprise and he began driving for Uber and Lyft, sometimes starting as early as 2 a.m. 

"I loved Uber and Lyft because I was in control of everything," he says. "I clocked in when I wanted to, I made as much as I wanted to, I clocked out when I wanted to, I went to lunch when I want to. I wasn't answering to anybody. That gave me that entrepreneurial spirit. After Covid hit, that's when the whole situation took off."

In March 2020, Jones noticed that Uber and Lyft business was drying up in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife, Tabatha and their three kids. Suddenly, his old pool cleaning side hustle became his survival plan. This year, Jones is on track to earn roughly $89,000. 

Getting the job

"Once I got fired from Enterprise and I took it seriously, I went to Curly, I said, 'Man, I think I'm gonna start my own pool business,'" he remembers. "Curly was like, 'If anybody can do it, you can.'"

To find clients, Jones used Google Maps' satellite mode to look at nearby homes with pools. 

"I saw just in my subdivision alone, there were 38 pools. I just started passing out flyers, and then from there within one week, I had five accounts," says Jones. "I remember thinking, as long as I can match what I was making at Enterprise, my family will be okay. So as long as I'm bringing in $1,200, every other week, everything would be good."

To do that, he estimated that he needed 15 pools. In March 2020, just as the pandemic began keeping Americans at home, Jones' business began taking off. 

"March and April is right before swim season starts. That's when all these people's pools are green and that's where I could make a home run," he says. "Because if I'm at your house two to three days, I can make $600 to $1,000 for flipping your pool."

Between March and December 2020, he made roughly $44,000. This year, his business has expanded. Between January and April 2021, he's made $29,514, which technically puts him on pace to earn $88,542 this year. Jones says he expects to to earn more.  

"Six figures is where I wanna be — to be over $100,000," he says, hoping that his business will pick up over the summer months. "I'm on track to do that because it's summertime right now, and my biggest month so far this year was around $8,500 in one month, and that was in the wintertime."

Mark and Tabatha Jones and their three children.
Mark and Tabatha Jones and their three children.

A day on the job

On Mondays, Jones typically does consultations for new clients and technical repairs. Tuesday through Friday, he visits his existing clients for their regular pool cleanings. If any of his new clients have pools that are green from lack of cleaning, he will begin the cleaning process on a Saturday and follow up on Monday. 

His days often start quite early. 

"I hit my first pool at 6:30. Everybody else is asleep and I'm up cleaning pools," he says. "I work from seven to three o'clock, because I've got to be back in time to get the kids. If I don't finish my route once my wife gets back home, then I'll go back out and hit a couple more pools." His wife works at a nearby Whole Foods.

Sometimes pool cleaning work can get difficult and gross, says Jones. 

"The worst pool I've ever done was actually an above-ground pool. It was an above-ground pool full of spiders, walking on water, leaves everywhere. It looked like the pool hadn't been touched in months. It was so nasty. It stinked. It got to the point where the algae was caked on. It was horrible."

But on easy days, Jones will bring his 7-year-old son, Dallas along for the day and pay him $5 to help empty skimmer baskets. 

"He's an entrepreneur himself. He's a part-owner of the company," Jones says with a chuckle. 

"I'm in control"

In August 2020, Jones started uploading pool cleaning videos to TikTok. After several of his step-by-step videos went viral, he gained over 1.5 million followers. 

"I was a frustrated customer at one point, and I didn't know what I was doing. I wished that I could go somewhere and see something where they simplified the process for me," he says. "I think that's why people have gravitated to my page, because I'm not only the person doing pool maintenance, but I am actually teaching people how to take care of [their] pool."

And while Jones says he's enjoyed sharing his business with TikTok users all over the world, he says the biggest perk of the job has been the flexibility that entrepreneurship has given him 

"I'm in control of my whole schedule," he says. "I never have to worry about missing a graduation or the game." 

Do you have a creative or nontraditional career path? We'd love to hear from you! Fill out this form to be considered for a future episode of "On the Job."

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