Considering starting a new cleaning business? Here's what you need to know
If you take pride in having the cleanest house on the block, you might be thinking about starting a cleaning business. Whether you clean homes, offices, schools, or factories, you can follow these steps to start a new cleaning business.
Decide what kind of services you will offer
You may want to clean private homes, or you may choose to clean commercial, industrial or municipal buildings. Some cleaners specialize in cleaning cars or boats – sometimes called detailing. Some other services you may offer include:
- One-time ‘deep’ cleaning for renters moving out or landlords who have a new tenant moving in
- Vacation home cleaning in between guests
- Window cleaning
- Post-construction cleaning
Some cleaning businesses also offer organizing services to help customers get rid of clutter and maintain an organized home or business.
Brand your business
Decide on a name for your business, making sure that it describes what you do, and that it’s easy to pronounce, spell, and remember.
Take care of the ‘housekeeping’ issues
We’re not talking about making beds and cleaning bathrooms here – this is about registering your business so you can legally operate. You’ll need to choose a structure – sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation – and then register your business with the state. You may need a business license, especially if you are not a sole proprietor. In most cases, you should have a tax identification number (TIN) and a separate bank account for your business.
Related: Do you need a business license?
You should also get business insurance. Cleaning companies go to other people’s property to clean, so it is a good idea to have liability insurance to protect against risks. A general liability policy is intended to protect you from lawsuits and other claims for bodily injury and property damage. This may include damage to your clients’ property while you are cleaning.
Having these things in place before you open your doors also helps you build trust. If potential customers know that you have taken the necessary steps to protect yourself and them, they will feel better about agreeing to do business with you.
Determine how much to charge
This is a critical step to take when you’re launching your cleaning business. Charge too much and you won’t get enough customers. Charge too little and you won’t earn enough money. To find that happy medium, here are some things to consider.
Do you want to charge an hourly rate, a flat rate, or a rate per square foot? Cleaning services that specialize in cleaning homes often charge a flat rate or an hourly rate. Commercial cleaning companies often charge by the square foot.
For homes, it may make sense to start with an hourly rate, but then convert to a flat rate. For example, you can charge, say, $35 per hour, but by the time you’ve cleaned a house three or four times, you should know about how long it will take each week (or however frequently you do it). If you find that you can clean the house in three hours, you can charge $115 per visit. This will help you maintain a steady cash flow and will let the customer know how much they can expect to pay. If there are special requests, like cleaning windows or organizing closets, you can quote your hourly rate for those.
Most owners of commercial buildings expect to pay a per-square-foot price. That price will still be based on how long it will take and how many people you’ll need to do it, but once you establish the rate, you can apply it to other, similar buildings.
Do some research into how much competitors are charging for certain types of cleaning to determine how to set your rates. You may need to start out charging at the lower end of the scale until you build your business and your reputation.
Determine what supplies and equipment you will need
Think about all the steps you will go through when you clean a home or a commercial building and take note of the supplies and equipment you will need for each step. Use cleaning supplies that you know are effective – you may save money in the long run using higher quality products that work better than using cheaper products that may take you longer or require you to use more.
Commercial cleaners nearly always bring their own supplies and equipment, but house cleaners may bring their own or use the homeowner’s supplies. If the homeowner has specific requirements, such as using products that are unscented or safe for use around children or pets, it may make sense to ask the homeowner to purchase the products themselves, or specify which brands are acceptable. You may need to adjust your price accordingly, charging a little less if the customer is providing the supplies, or a little more if they require pricey brands.
Equipment for a cleaning company can be a big expense, particularly if you’re cleaning commercial buildings. Buying used equipment may make sense as you’re starting out.
Find your customers
Now that you have the logistics in place, it’s time to find some customers. This can be the most challenging part of starting a business, but it’s also the most necessary.
The first customer is often the most difficult to find, since your business has no track record and no one to provide references. Consider offering a free one-time cleaning to a limited number of potential customers. You can post your offer on social media or, if you will offer commercial cleaning services, you can call, email or visit businesses in your area to offer a free cleaning.
If house cleaning is your specialty, be sure to join local Facebook groups. These groups often include neighbors who are looking for recommendations for house cleaning services (along with a lot of other things). Don’t hesitate to recommend yourself!
It can also be helpful to join your local Chamber of Commerce, whether you provide residential or commercial cleaning. In addition to potential customers, you may also meet business owners who will let you advertise your business at their location, or with whom you can partner to promote your business.
Growing your cleaning business
You may find that your first few customers turn into several more, and then into dozens, until you’re really, shall we say, cleaning up! At this point, you may need to hire employees to keep up with all the work. When you’re ready to add staff, take a look at your pricing, your cash flow and your insurance coverage to make sure you can bring someone on. If you don’t think your business can handle a full time employee, consider adding someone part time, or as an independent contractor.
As your business grows, it’s a good idea to review your insurance coverage to make sure you’re protected from the risks you can’t see coming. To get a new policy, or check to see if you have the right coverage, visit hiscox.com and get a quote.