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For most people, washing and waxing their cars is more of a chore than a recreational activity. For others, auto detailing is somewhat of a pastime.
Maybe you’re one of those people. You’ve spent more time in your garage or driveway applying that fresh coat of wax than you care to admit; you love transforming worn and weathered vehicles into sleek, showroom models. Like us, you enjoy detailing, maybe even a little too much, and you’re pretty good at it, too.
You may have even thought about turning that passion into a career, but where do you start? How do you make the transition from DIY enthusiast to one of the pros? Luckily, you don’t need any special qualifications to break into professional auto detailing; all you need are the skills and some customers to begin detailing cars for a living.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of becoming a professional detailer, including how to start your portfolio, which products and tools you’ll need on your shelf and even how to get your IDA certification!
One of the best ways to jump into the world of professional detailing is to take a few courses and attend some training programs to hone your skills. All it takes is a quick Google search to discover some incredible resources that will help you kickstart your career.
You can find plenty of free, online courses on automotive sites like Detail King and AutoGeek. These classes will provide you with a basic understanding of everything from exterior detailing to how to clean and condition your leather upholstery. We also recommend reviewing the International Detailing Association (IDA)’s Glossary of Detailing Terms to familiarize yourself with the industry jargon and vocabulary. And, of course, don’t forget to check out the rest of our how-to articles and guides to stay up to date with the latest industry tips and tricks!
Many experts in the industry host virtual master classes or in-person workshops to provide a more hands-on learning experience, as well as give you the opportunity to see the pros in action. You can attend these training programs to learn some of the more advanced techniques, like how to apply a professional ceramic coating. We recommend attending a three to five-day program like Mike Phillips’s bootcamp or Rennie Doyle’s advanced detailing classes to get the most out of learning from the pros.
Getting certified isn't required to become a professional detailer, but it's certainly recommended. Not only is certification an impressive credential for your resume, but it’s also a great way for legitimize your skills to potential customers and employers.
The most respected and recognized certification is awarded by the IDA after a detailer completes a series of online and in-person exams. Phase one of the certification program consists of ten multiple-choice and true/false exams testing your detailing knowledge. You can complete this exam conveniently online. You’ll need to pass all of the exams with a score or 80% or higher in order to become a Certified Detailer. Phase two of the process takes place in person and one-on-one with an instructor to test your detailing skills in four primary categories: exterior wash and prep, interior detailing, paint correction and finishing steps. You must to demonstrate your skills in each of the four categories to receive a passing grade from your instructor and become a Certified Detailer – Skills Validated.
With this certification, you’ll have the qualifications necessary to apply to any professional detail shop—or to even start your own business! Your customers can be assured that they’re receiving high quality service from a professional who has been approved by the International Detailing Association.
Another great way to showcase your qualifications is to put together a portfolio. To create a detailing portfolio, just take “before” and “after” photos of each vehicle you detail and place them in a folder or a binder to show your work to prospective customers. A more modern approach is to create an Instagram account for all your detailing work. If you’re just getting started, you can offer to detail your friends or family members’ cars for free to get some valuable experience to put in your portfolio. Once you’ve wowed a few car owners with your expertise and won over their business, word will spread to their friends, family and coworkers to keep the profits flowing!
Of course, one of the best ways to achieve incredible, long term results is to use professional-grade products, tools and accessories. If you don’t have the cash to spend on high-end products, technique can take you a long way. With the right skill, you can get almost the same level of quality with some of our basic compounds and waxes. However, if you’re looking for that extra pop of gloss and paint protection that lasts and lasts, our Hybrid Solutions PRO products are worth every penny. These products are infused with advanced silicone and graphene polymers to provide the highest level of durability and shine.
You’ll also need the most advanced tools of the trade, including a DA polisher, a foam cannon and a shampoo extractor to restore any vehicle to like-new condition, both inside and out.
And let’s not forget cutting pads, foam applicators and microfiber towels. We’ve got you covered there, too.
From odor eliminators to headlight restorers, to bug and tar removers, we’ve got solutions for every detailer to bring out the best in your technique and leave every customer satisfied.
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