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A self-storage business can be lucrative if you want to provide an invaluable service to your community.

But before you dive in head-first, you'll need to create a self-storage business plan geared to the type of storage business you want to start. You may be asking questions such as, “What‘s a business plan?” or "How much does it cost to start a storage unit business?"

A business plan is a document that outlines goals, strategies, and financial projections for a company. It serves as a map that helps you identify challenges as well as opportunities and provides crystal-clear direction to achieve your desired outcome.

What does a comprehensive self-storage or storage warehouse business plan include?

A comprehensive business plan is essential to the success of your self-storage business. Not only will it provide you with clear direction, but it will also help you secure funding from lenders or investors. A clear, thoughtful business plan demonstrates that you’ve done your market research and understand all risks and opportunities.

  • Market Analysis - Identifies your target market, including demographics, behavior, and needs of your potential customers. It should also provide insights into the supply (existing self-storage businesses) and demand in your area.
  • Pricing Strategy - This section covers the rates for the various types of self-storage units you’ll offer to ensure you remain competitive yet profitable.
  • Marketing Plan - Here you'll outline strategies and tactics you’ll use to both attract and retain customers.
  • Competitive Analysis - Evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors to determine how to differentiate your self-storage business from the local competition.
  • Financial Projections - Estimates your total cost to start a storage unit business, including operating costs, potential revenue, and profit over the first several years of operation.

A business plan helps you stay focused on your goals and company objectives and avoid costly mistakes. It also provides a frame of reference for measuring the success of your storage facility business and making adjustments, as needed, to your strategies and tactics.

Storage Business Ideas

There are many storage business ideas to consider. By exploring all possibilities, you can ensure the startup of a more comprehensive storage facility that will cater to a wider customer base. A few self-storage business ideas include:
  • Climate-Controlled Storage - A temperature-controlled, secure environment in which to store valuable items such as electronics, antiques, artwork, or other delicate items is a smart storage business idea that can set you apart from the competition.
  • Portable Storage - A container storage business plan provides a flexible, convenient way for your customers to store their valuables. With this option, your customers could rent a portable storage unit that would be delivered to their location, then loaded and unloaded at the customer’s convenience. It's a great option for people who are moving, performing home renovations, or simply need additional temporary storage space.
  • Vehicle Storage - A car or RV storage business plan allows customers to safely and securely store their vehicles. This type of storage normally offers features such as indoor or outdoor storage, climate control, and various levels of security, while accommodating different types of vehicles, such as cars, boats, and RVs, as well as motorcycles or ATVs.

Other self-storage business ideas that could be incorporated into your container or car storage business plan could include document storage or even something truly unique like wine storage. All storage business ideas will cater to a specific niche market that provides your customer base with the solution that meets their needs.

By offering innovative storage solutions, you can differentiate yourself from competitors and create a profitable self-storage business.

Self-Storage Business Models

Self-storage is an increasingly popular, thriving industry, especially in recent years.

To help you understand which business model would best suit your needs, take a moment to explore the three primary self-storage business models: traditional self-storage, franchise, and management agreements.

  • Traditional Self-Storage - This business model is the most common. It involves purchasing land, constructing the units, then independently operating the facility. As the owner, you would be responsible for the management of the facility and handle all facets of customer service, marketing efforts, and maintenance. A self-storage planning guide and worksheet can help you figure out the costs of launching and operating a traditional self-storage business.
  • Franchising - As a franchisee, you would be granted the right to use an established self-storage brand and its business model. You would pay a fee to the brand that provides you with support in the operation of the facility. You would benefit from the brand’s established reputation, marketing efforts, and overall expertise. This could be a great option if you want to break into the industry but lack the experience, or if you’re simply unsure of how to proceed.
  • Management Agreements - This means partnering with a management company that would oversee operations. It's an excellent option if you want to invest in and own a self-storage facility but have little interest in day-to-day management. The management company handles marketing, facility maintenance, and customer service. The company is normally paid a percentage of the storage facility’s revenue.

So, how much do storage units make a month?

That depends on three main factors: location, size, and demand.

Larger units typically command more revenue than smaller-sized units, and, of course, location is always key. Self-storage units located in expensive or prime markets can earn more per month than in areas with lower demand.

Self-storage construction cost per square foot will vary depending on factors such as materials used, the complexity of the design, and the location in which the facility is being built.

Self-Storage Business Plan Examples

Let’s take a moment to discuss a few self-storage business success stories and the key elements that contributed to their success. As with anything, there are pros and cons of owning storage units, and we’ll also dip into those.

The first example of a successful self-storage company is Extra Space Storage. With a vast collection of self-storage facilities spread throughout the United States, their business plan is to offer ultra-secure, clean, maintained units to all their customers. Extra Space’s growth is driven by its top-notch customer service and ability to expand its facilities.

Another well-known example is Public Storage, which has an impressive network of locations across the country. Its business plan focuses on convenience, affordability, and security for all customers.

The common denominators that have contributed to the success of these two businesses are stellar customer service, secure facilities, cleanliness, and a commitment to continuing expansion and growth.

A great starting point if you’re just beginning the planning process is to take advantage of resources such as a free self-storage business plan template, as well as a storage unit income calculator. But before you get started, it's wise to consider the pros and cons of owning storage units.

  • Pros of owning storage units - Stable source of passive income, fairly minimal overhead, and in many areas of the country, low competition.
  • Cons of owning storage units - Constant, ongoing need for maintenance and security, plus the high probability of demand and revenue fluctuations.

You will probably discover more pros and cons as you research your local market thoroughly and start devising your self-storage business plan.

Self-Storage Marketing Plan

To attract customers and generate profits, creating a self-storage marketing plan is critical. Any successful marketing plan includes market research, identifying your target audience, appropriate branding, relatable messaging, attention-grabbing promotions, and last but not least, advertising.
  • Market research - Identify your competition and the size of your market, and stay current with trends in the self-storage industry.
  • Identifying your target audience - Define who your ideal customer is and include demographic information such as age, income, employment, lifestyle, location, and other information that indicates the likelihood of interest in your self-storage business.
  • Branding - Create an image and identity for your business that will resonate with your target customers.
  • Messaging - Communicate the benefits of your self-storage business to your target audience.
  • Promotions - Develop unique offers or incentives to attract new customers or, later on, reward your existing customers.
  • Advertising - Use various media channels to reach your target audience, including social media, email, search engine marketing, or even good old-fashioned printed material.

A useful tool and resource to consider in your marketing plan is Google Ads. 

It can help you target potential customers searching for self-storage solutions. With the use of relevant keywords in your marketing efforts, you can ensure that your advertisements, website pages, and blog posts or articles appear near the top of the potential customer’s search results. It’s also important to manage Google Ads based on multiple locations by creating separate campaigns per location, using location-specific keywords, and making sure to track the performance metrics for each campaign.

To get and keep your business on the right track, it's imperative to regularly conduct a self-storage business analysis by tracking performance indicators like occupancy rates, rental rates, and revenue per square foot. This way you can quickly identify areas that may need improvement and make more informed decisions to boost your bottom line.