So you're wondering how to start a cleaning business; let us show you how. Starting your own residential or commercial cleaning business from scratch can be very rewarding and lucrative.
But having the drive and ambition is only part of the equation to be successful. To turn your cleaning business into a thriving business, it pays to take some time to plan your business strategy to tackle the challenges and expenses you'll encounter along the way.
You need every advantage you can get. There are limited online resources on how to start a cleaning business from scratch, so I prepared this comprehensive guide.
Is A Cleaning Business Profitable?
The cleaning business is a multi-billion dollar industry. You're tapping into an enormous market with plenty of clientele, and it's evident that there's money to be made.
I have a friend who started a cleaning business in a small town in West Virginia, and she makes around $50,000 per year doing residential cleaning; she cleans three houses per day, five days a week.
Cleaning is a necessity in every home or business. But after a long day or week of work, traffic, long commutes, and family responsibilities, cleaning is the last thing most people want to do.
Spaces that are messy and cluttered can affect our ability to be productive. By starting a cleaning business, you can help people who lack the time or inclination to clean solve this pain point.
People are willing to pay somebody else to do all the ‘boring' and arduous work; this allows them to spend their weekends with their loved ones, rather than fussing with the chores at home.
The cleaning business offers huge profit potential, is in very high demand, calls for no special training or experience, and requires low upfront costs.
Not sure where to start? This article will be your step-by-step guide on how to start a cleaning business.
Independent Or Franchise Cleaning Business?
Whether you want to start your business from scratch or buy into an already established franchise is one of the biggest decisions you will need to make.
You should choose before you get the first client on board as it determines the direction in which you will move.
Both options have benefits, which I'll discuss below.
Benefits of starting an independent cleaning business:
Few overhead expenses
As a sole proprietor, it's unlikely that you'll need to buy or even rent a building or company car. Since all your work is done on your customers' premises, they'll have no business coming to your facility. There will also be no utility bills to pay, translating to minimal monetary concerns.
Enjoy all profit
Performing cleaning jobs yourself will help keep more money in your pocket. If your business attains a substantial value, you can sell it for a good profit without asking for permission from anyone. You won't need to pay an initial franchise fee or ongoing royalty payments.
Being independent means that you get to choose the ideal location for your cleaning business. You can even start your business from home! When working with a franchise, you don't enjoy this freedom as the franchisor picks the site locations.
As a franchisee, you will be required to surrender a great deal of control in your business, something you will not have to deal with as an independent business owner. Nothing says independence as having creative freedom, setting your hours, and calling the shots.
If you're willing to go out of your way to market and grow your business, you don't need a franchise to start a cleaning business. You can do it on your own.
Benefits of going with a franchise model:
Your business will be up and running when you buy into a franchise. Since most of the work has already been done for you by the franchisor, you will not have to deal with newbie mistakes or a learning curve.
Access to training
Although starting a cleaning business doesn't require advanced training, you have to learn some aspects of the business. And it's not just you, if your business grows, the franchisor will be responsible for training your new employees.
Assistance with marketing and advertising
Franchises have big budgets for marketing. Thanks to their ad campaigns, you will be able to attract customers with little effort on your part.
Better brand awareness
In the cleaning business, trust is key. Some franchises are household names. You will have little work convincing people to hire you when they are already familiar with your company's name and reputation.
When you buy into a franchise, you won't feel like you're alone. When a problem comes up, you always have the support of the franchisor.
Need help to figure out whether a franchise cleaning business is right for you? Check out the FTC's consumer guide to buying a franchise.
How To Start A Cleaning Business From Scratch
There's no doubt that the market for cleaning services is massive, but the challenge lies in standing out as a reliable, exceptional service provider.
You need more than just a mop and bucket to start a cleaning business.
1. How To Pick Names For A Cleaning Business
As a startup cleaning business, you need to establish a brand.
What's in a name? Everything!
Your brand name will play a vital role in your cleaning company's overall success. While at first, you may consider it as just a side hustle, it is a business and should be named as such.
Get creative and brainstorm catchy company names that reflect your business model. Feel free to include a fun play on words. Don't rush this step because the name you pick is going to represent you for the long term.
Think of original names for a cleaning business that will pique interest and be memorable in potential clients' minds. Add the name of your town or city at the beginning or the end.
Ensure the exact domain/website name is available online; this will help people searching online find you easily.
Here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:
- The SOAPranos,
- Clean Queen,
- Krazy Klean,
- Dirt B Gone,
- Dirt Busters,
- Dust Bunny,
- Diamond Shine,
- Dirt Devils,
- Two Girls and a Bucket.
After deciding on frontrunner options, perform an assumed name search and trademark search on the U.S. Patent and Trade Office's (USPTO) database of registered trademarks to ensure the name isn't already taken.
Most states have sites that you can use to perform a search to ensure the name is not already in use.
Once you pick a business name, register it to prevent others from using it. Registering your business allows you to open a business checking account, apply for loans, and hire employees.
2. Legal Requirements For A Cleaning Business
The second step involves covering your legal bases. You want to ensure everything is sorted when it comes to the legality of your business.
Before doing business with the public, most states will require you to obtain certain business licenses and permits. Check your state, county, or city to learn the types of licenses required to open a cleaning business in a particular locality.
Choose the right business structure. Do you plan to do the cleaning yourself or employ people to administer the cleaning?
You can choose to remain a sole proprietor with a cleaning business or be classified as a partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC) or corporation.
For each designation, there are some legal and tax protections that you enjoy. If you're confused, consult a financial advisor or an attorney about your options.
Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS if you plan to hire employees.
We all agree paperwork is no fun, but it's obligatory.
3. Insurance For A Cleaning Business
This step involves obtaining the appropriate insurance.
It's worrying how many startups overlook using insurance to protect themselves and their businesses before they officially start. Some do it to “save money.”
Don't wait until claims against your business have already been filed to acquire insurance for the cleaning business.
No matter how careful you are while on the job, an employee can get injured in a client's home or accidentally break an expensive piece of décor. In this case, you must obtain a general liability insurance cover to protect your business from potential lawsuits.
Insurance for a cleaning business is not optional. Depending on your cleaning business's employment structure, you can also consider Bond Insurance, Commercial Auto Insurance and Worker Compensation Insurance to stay ahead of the curve.
Buy business insurance from an insurance provider licensed in your state. You can discuss with your property and casualty insurance agent about the available coverage and their costs.
4. Cleaning Supplies List For A Cleaning Business
You will need to have some cleaning equipment and supplies on hand to provide your cleaning service.
Ensure you have enough supplies and equipment, especially if you plan to do different cleaning jobs simultaneously.
Different clients require different services and attention. Some people are specific about the supplies used in their homes. They may request you to clean with the items they have bought.
The cost (and volume) of the cleaning supplies list for the cleaning business will depend on the services you offer and the number of clients.
At the very minimum you should have:
- Regular mops and buckets
- Safety gear (coveralls, dust masks, rubber/latex gloves, aprons)
- Disposable and reusable towels
- Feather dusters
- Mildew cleaner
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Toilet brushes
- SOS pads
- Window cleaners
- Spray bottles
- Disinfectant cleaner
- Soft scrub for sinks
- Furniture polish
- Dustpan and brush
- Lint rollers
- Garbage bags
- Steam cleaner
- Vacuum cleaner
Keep in mind that many of the products mentioned above will need to be replenished or replaced regularly. Purchase supplies from bulk retailers like Costco, Amazon, or Sam's Club.
Avoid using harmful chemicals where possible. I highly recommend using natural cleaning products to protect yourself and your clients against harsh chemicals.
Best Vacuum For Cleaning Business
As a cleaning business owner, you're only as good as your equipment.
The best vacuum for a cleaning business is high-capacity, powerful, and versatile. By versatile, I mean, it should be “off-road.” Whether you're vacuuming dust or gravel, wet or dry areas, the vacuum cleaner should get the job done.
Here are five vacuum cleaners to consider:
Ease of work:
To make your work easier, you need the following.
- A car, van or pickup truck with enough space for cleaning supplies and employees – transportation is essential to a cleaning service because it's a mobile business. You'll be traveling to other locations to offer your services; this will also help you advertise your brand.
- Cleaning uniforms will add a sense of professionalism. Make it a rule to never go to a job without a uniform featuring your logo. Since you're just a startup, this is an important piece of advertising for your cleaning company.
- A phone and email address dedicated to the business.
- A laptop or PC to easily manage appointments.
- Accounting solutions (QuickBooks) to track expenses, customize invoices and run reports.
- Scheduling software to manage all your job information, leads, bookings, dispatching, payment processing, marketing, etc. Check out Housecall PRO, and Launch27 Cleaning Business Software.
- A well-structured business website is a great way to give your business credibility and market its services. As a service business, you will bank on your customers for further business. They will interact and make bookings directly from the web portal.
To impress potential clients who visit your site, post before and after photos of your work and client testimonials.
5. Cleaning Checklist
After you've chosen a name for your cleaning company, fulfilled the legal requirements, filed the proper licensing and insurance documents, and ticked the cleaning supplies list for the cleaning business, it's now time to create a checklist on the items and areas you will clean.
This checklist is critical to keep track of exactly what you will be cleaning each and every time you clean a home.
For ideas, check what other cleaning companies in your area are offering to clean.
The three main types of cleanings include spring, general and move in/move out. I'll discuss them in detail later.
Use Excel or Word to create your cleaning checklist. Remember to include all the areas and items you will clean for each service. This way, the clients will know exactly what they're paying for.
6. Different Types Of Cleaning Services To Offer
Do you want to target residential spaces or commercial outlets?
Don't try to please everyone in every segment of the cleaning industry. Taking every available cleaning job is setting yourself up for failure.
Narrow down your scope of service to give your business a direction and purpose.
By focusing on a specialty, it would make sense to invest in advanced cleaning supplies and equipment for that special cleaning service.
Not all businesses want or can afford to maintain in-house cleaning staff. Your business clients can include public libraries, shopping malls, restaurants, banks, office complexes, hotels, and corporations. In most cases, businesses require your services outside working hours (at night or during weekends).
Target owners and renters of homes, condos and apartments if you want to focus on consumer clients. You'll perform your duties in the presence of the client.
Based on your experience and workforce, you can offer specific residential or commercial cleaning services.
Residential cleaning services:
Here, you'll take the burden off of busy renters and homeowners by offering services that pertain to their needs.
- Deep Cleaning – also known as spring cleaning, deep cleaning service involves overlooked tasks. It goes beyond normal maintenance. You will clean walls, window sills, cupboards, pantries, fans, baseboards, and other hidden areas.
- Move-In/Out Cleaning (Real Estate Cleaning) – people hate moving because it's exhausting and time-consuming. After settling in their new homes, they will need help cleaning walls, windows, appliances, etc. When people move out, landlords need the rental property properly cleaned before new tenants move in.
- Home Maintenance (Errand Services) – here, you'll perform duties such as washing surfaces, dusting, emptying trash, vacuuming, removing cobwebs, polishing mirrors, mopping floors, and interior window cleaning.
- Green Cleaning -more and more people are becoming conscious of the products they use and the effects these products have on their health and the environment. By offering eco-friendly cleaning services, you will target a growing niche and have the edge over your competition.
- Home Event Cleaning (Party Cleaning And Assistance) – parties are fun but cleaning up, not so much fun. People celebrate important life events such as birthdays, graduations, and engagements in their homes. Adding event cleanup to your roster will help you land new clients. You will help them get their homes back in great shape.
Commercial cleaning services:
These services will target work and business environments. Pricing is based on a contract price.
- New Construction/Construction Cleanup – this type of service involves the removal and cleaning of construction materials. You may be required to remove labels and stickers fork sinks, windows and toilets; clean woodwork and vents to get rid of dust; scrub floors, and clean ceiling fans. You will need specialized equipment like a shop vac, window cleaning kits, ladders, etc. Your customers will include construction companies, contractors, and property management firms.
- General Office – to enable them to handle daily business, it is vital to keep commercial office spaces clean. Common duties include dusting, mopping, vacuuming, sanitizing bathrooms, removing trash, and waxing floors. When corporations move buildings, the building owners need someone to clean up the mess left behind.
- Window Cleaning – commercial window cleaning requires specific skills and equipment, but you can get $10-$15 per hour per worker.
- Carpet Cleaning – help businesses keep their carpeting free of dirt, stains, and other debris. You can charge between $30-$70 per room.
Remember, trust is an important qualification for a cleaning service. You're being invited into the most sacred place in someone's world – their home. You should, therefore, hire employees who are reliable, thorough, and trustworthy.
7. How Much To Charge For Your Services
Just as your business name, getting your pricing structure right can make or break your profitability. Cleaning is not easy work, so charge accordingly.
Be careful not to overcharge or undercharge your customers. Overcharging will scare off potential clients. He or she may think, “For that rate, why not just do this myself?”
Undercharging, on the other hand, will make them think you are inexperienced or offer mediocre services. Workaround striking a balance.
Several factors come to play when determining how much to charge for your services.
These include expenses such as supplies and travel, your location, labor, type of cleaning, and your time.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What makes my cleaning business unique?
- How far am I willing to travel? 5 miles? 10? 20?
- Will I work during weekends?
- Am I willing to do everything myself or hire assistants?
- Will I be using my cleaning products or the clients?
- Will I offer extra services?
Your answers to these questions will help in determining how much to charge for your services
The three most common pricing models are per job type, per hour, and long-term contract. $25 to $50 per hour per worker or $75-$100 per clean is a good introductory price.
Decide how to accept payments. Most cleaning services use mobile credit card processors like Square.
8. How To Give A House Cleaning Estimate
You have to convince your prospective clients that you can provide the required services at a competitive price.
Having a house cleaning estimate will give your business a much more professional look in your customers' eyes.
Figure out your unique selling proposition to differentiate your service offerings and base your profit margin on your value.
If you're just starting up, the best way is to estimate the cost of completing specific jobs based on your experience, type of floor, room size, how often you will be cleaning, upgrade options and how you want to charge (by the job or by the hour).
You can also do competitor research to find out how much other cleaning businesses in your area are charging and who they are targeting.
You will get that most of them have rates that fall within a specific range. Keep yours somewhere within this range as well.
You can deliver your estimates over the phone, via email or in-home.
9. How To Advertise A Cleaning Business
Let's switch gears and talk about something fun – how to market a cleaning business.
Now that you're familiar with how to start a cleaning business from scratch, you need a stable client base to make a profit and grow your business.
Regardless of the type of cleaning services you offer, no one will know about your business if you don't advertise. So don't sit there and expect clients to come knocking at your door.
Getting your first clients takes a great deal of time, persistence, and patience; this is because most of your potential clients want to know how long you have been in business and see your testimonials.
Your ideal marketing strategy should be a combination of traditional and online marketing.
If you don't want to spend that much money advertising, start with people you know. Make it your job to ensure everyone you know knows that you have a new business.
Besides spreading the word by mouth, you can get the word out by sending out postcards and tagging your family, neighbors, friends, former co-workers, and business acquaintances to your social media posts. Ask them to share the info as well.
You can also:
- Create a banner ad on a complimentary site, run ads in the local radio or newspaper, print flyers, rent tables at local events.
- Establish referral partnerships with other small businesses in your town that deal with customers who may need professional cleaning services.
- Become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and distribute your business cards.
- Join cleaning associations, participate in industry exhibitions, and network at association events. Ask other members for referrals based on the specific type of services you offer and your region.
- Use engaging and attractive marketing tactics like promotions to get new customers. Offer a percentage off for a referral or a free cleaning after five paid cleanings.
- If your budget allows, print and distribute branded novelty items such as mugs, t-shirts, caps, pens and key chains featuring your business name, services offered and contact information
- Register your business in directories such as Yellowpages.com, Local.com, Yelp for business, Whitepages.com, LinkedIn, and Google My Business to put it on the map.
As a business, you should have an ideal target market. Focus your promotion and advertising on this audience. This way, your potential clientele will truly feel that you're speaking directly to them.
If you're not sure that the cleaning business is for you then check out these other business ideas.