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How to Start a Residential and Commercial Cleaning Business

Updated on:

November 19, 2021

101 Guide How to Start Cleaning Business
Table of Content

Introduction

Steps to start cleaning business

Marketing of your cleaning business

Commonly asked questions about cleaning busiiness


Owning and running your own cleaning business can be exciting and rewarding. There is a lot that goes into making your cleaning business successful. Starting a cleaning business from scratch takes time and attention to detail. Some of the activities associated with starting a cleaning business have nothing to do with cleaning services themselves. Activities, such as legal set up and accounting services will help keep you protected and financially organized.

You will have to make some important decisions in all functions and areas of your cleaning business. Let’s get started.


The Industry Outlook


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting that employment in the cleaning industry will increase 6% from 2020 to 2030. Cleaning jobs will grow as fast as the average. Cleaning jobs are essential to keep the commercial buildings clean and safe. People employed in this industry do not require a formal education, so employees can be easier to find for your business.


Define Your Business Services


A cleaning business can be segmented into two types of cleaning businesses; residential and commercial. Typically, residential cleaning is defined as cleaning a customer’s primary or secondary residence. Residential cleaning can be broken down into different segments.

bathroom cleanng
Bathroom Cleaning


1. Basic Cleaning

Each of your customers will have different cleaning needs. Basic cleaning can include dusting, vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, surface cleaning throughout the house, sweeping and mopping floors and wiping down the appliances.

Some customers in your cleaning business may want window cleaning once a month or once every two months.


2. Seasonal Cleaning Service

Some customers may want your services three to four times per year. The customers may keep up with day-to-day cleaning but want a deeper clean a few times per year. This could include carpet cleaning, walls, baseboards and ceiling fans.

Another cleaning opportunity is doing home cleaning in preparation for the holidays and parties. As friends and family gather for special occasions, you could relieve the host’s stress with your cleaning business.


3. Move-In or Move-Out Cleaning Services

When tenants move out, landlords may want a professional cleaning service to get their house back in order. You can offer debris removal as part of your cleaning services if you choose.

Commercial kitchen cleaning
Commercial kitchen cleaning


4. Commercial Cleaning

Commercial cleaning can involve many types of commercial or business buildings. Common commercial buildings include the following:


  • Office buildings
  • Schools
  • Apartment buildings
  • Libraries
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Insurance offices
  • Car dealerships
  • Sporting facilities
  • Child care centers
  • Coffee shops
  • Dental offices
  • Department stores
  • Veterinarian offices
  • Distribution centers


Different types of commercial businesses require different types of cleaning. As you tour the commercial business buildings with the customers, take notes, and suggest cleaning solutions. Commercial cleaning jobs may have to be completed at night or off-hours. This is due to the business functioning during the day.


Some cleaning business entrepreneurs choose to focus on either residential or commercial. Some choose to serve both markets with or without a limited cleaning scope.


Things to Think About for Residential Only

Residential cleaning customers may be easier to acquire. Cleaning a person’s house can involve less training, and almost feel like an extension of cleaning your own house. Although a steamer is recommended, there may not be any specialized equipment for house cleaning services.


Things to Think About for Commercial Only

Many customers looking to hire a commercial cleaning service will want references and cleaning experience. If you do not have either, it may initially limit your commercial cleaning services.

Commercial cleaning jobs can take longer to get. There may be multiple decision-makers and potentially a formal approval process to hire a new cleaning company. Some commercial buildings may have a contract in place with an existing cleaning company.

If you want to get your commercial cleaning business off the ground, and potentially acquire customers quicker, one approach is to build a base of residential customers, and then move to commercial cleaning.


Things to Think About Using a Hybrid Approach

Another approach is to do residential cleaning, and then be very selective and targeted on potential customers for commercial cleaning. Consider more local businesses with simple commercial cleaning needs. An example might be a smaller car dealership. This would allow you to prove yourself and gain valuable cleaning experience. You would then be prepared for larger cleaning jobs in the future.


Write Your Cleaning Services Business Plan

Your cleaning company business plan is for you and others who may need to evaluate and support your cleaning business. Completing a business plan will allow you to think and consider many topics that will impact your cleaning service. You can refer back to it as you begin to run your business.

There are quality business plan templates that you can find for your new business. As you complete each section of the business plan, be as accurate as possible. If there is a topic in the business plan that you are not familiar with, do more research to support a successful cleaning business. There are common parts of a business plan.


  • Executive Summary – This should explain what you do at a high level. List your short and long-term objectives and the resources you are going to need to achieve them.
  • Products and Cleaning Services – List your residential or commercial cleaning services. Explain the house cleaning solutions that you are bringing to the market.
  • Leadership and People – Define who will be leading the cleaning business and his or her back ground. Forecast when and how many people you plan to hire.
  • Cleaning Market Analysis – Define your customers, insights, trends and challenges that your cleaning business may encounter.
  • Competitive Analysis – Do research on your competitors. Find out how many cleaning companies are in your market. Potentially look to hire one of the companies for a cleaning job before you start. This can give you insights on local house cleaning. Through Internet, social media and phone calls, learn about your competition. List what you find in this section.
  • Business Goals – Write down what you hope to achieve in your cleaning business, and how you plan to get there. Talk about your marketing, how you plan to acquire customers, and how you plan to make money.
  • Financial Plans and Needs – Your new business is going to have startup costs. You can list what you plan on spending on cleaning supplies, marketing, transportation, wages and other costs. Project your revenue 12 months out.



Hire a Business Attorney

An experienced business attorney is worth the money. Law firms often have attorneys that specialize in different types of businesses. Try to hire an attorney for your cleaning business that has other clients in the cleaning industry. He or she will know the small nuances of the industry.

Attorneys are in business to make money also. Be sure to set a budget for law services, and be upfront with your budget.


Choose a Business Name

This is rarely an easy task. Your business name needs to have an element of eye-catching creativity, and tell what your business does. You want customers and clients to remember your name.

The Small Business Association (SBA) is a good resource to determine if your business name already exists as well as other important topics in starting your business.


Select and Set Up Your Business Entity

As a business owner, you have choices on how to set up your cleaning business. Consult your attorney and accountant on what the best fit is for your particular business. The type of business entity you choose will dictate many things including how you file your personal and business taxes.


There are four types of business entities or structures.


  • Sole proprietorship – Many new businesses that start out with one owner choose a sole proprietorship. It is simple and straight forward.
  • Partnership – If more than one person owns the cleaning business, the IRS would consider it a partnership. The business partners share in the profits and the liabilities.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – This type of business set up allows the owners and partners to limit their personal liability. The owners can realize the tax benefits of a partnership.
  • Corporation – This business entity is designed to be separate from its owners. The corporation for your cleaning business will hold the liability, pay taxes and hold the assets.


Set Up Your Business Accounting and Bookkeeping

A sound set of business books is critical to a successful business. The books for your cleaning business will track and record revenue, expenses, payroll, taxes and other business categories.

There are accounting software packages you can buy for your cleaning business. Some business owners choose to save money and do their business books themselves. It is definitely possible to do that. Other business owners find that allocating the time to do accounting takes away from core business services, such as cleaning for customers.

If you have a capable family member who you trust with your business information, you may consider him or her for bookkeeping.

As you start your small business, your financial transactions will be fewer in number. As your cleaning service business builds, the transactions will increase proportionally. You could start a cleaning business with a relative doing your books, and then transition to a professional accountant as you grow.

Hiring a professional accountant for your cleaning business has its advantages. There are costs associated with this business service. Some of the advantages of choosing a business accountant include: accuracy, tax filing services, timely services and payroll processing services.


Compute Your Cleaning Business Startup Costs

As you look to start a cleaning business, you will have many different categories of costs. Some of the cleaning business costs will be one-time occurrences for your company, and some will be re-occurring.

Here are some capital commercial and house cleaning business costs to remember as you choose equipment and supplies.


Start Up Items and Services

Transportation – Driving in a company van or commercial cleaning truck to your customer’s house or business is the way to go. For maid service, you can use a smaller economical car. Consider storage for supplies, power and configurations of the different cleaning business vehicles you look at.


Initial professional fees – Local business licenses and business entity set up costs are two that you can count on. You will need to register your business at a small cost.


Cleaning tools – Buckets, mops, dusters, sponges, carts, plastic bins, hoses and electric extension cords are all things you can buy to support your cleaning services.

portable steamer for cleaning business
Portable steamer for cleaning business


Cleaning Equipment

Think about what it will take to complete a job as you start a cleaning business. Your clients will be impressed and appreciate a job well done if you use commercial equipment.

A commercial vacuum cleaner will make all the difference. The industrial motor, bag and cleaning power will allow you to take on any cleaning job. Commercial vacuum cleaners can last longer as they can have higher duty ratings. Plan to purchase more than one for home cleaning in case one stops working or you have concurrent jobs for different clients.

A portable steam cleaner will prepare you to thoroughly clean your clients’ houses and the buildings for your business customers. A portable electric steam cleaner is the choice for most cleaning businesses. This type of steam cleaner lets you clean all rooms and furniture. If your clients want their kitchen or bathroom comprehensively cleaned, a steam cleaner can do that. Steam cleaning is also the best way to clean and eliminate mold on bathroom tiled floors.

For a hotel or home rental commercial cleaning job, a steam cleaner can be used to clean mattresses and other furniture.

Having a steam cleaner as part of your company can set you apart from other cleaning companies.


Start Up Supplies

As you open your cleaning business from scratch, you will need cleaning supplies. Consider the quality and costs of the cleaning chemicals. You will more than likely find a few brands of cleaning chemicals that work best for your commercial and house cleaning jobs.

Consider buying your cleaning supplies, including paper towels and gloves from a warehouse club or from an online bulk distributor.

There are environmentally friendly cleaning supplies on the market. You can market this environmentally friendly service. Some clients will appreciate this aspect of your services.

Disinfectants are becoming an important part of a company providing cleaning services. As you buy your supplies, you may want to have some stronger disinfectants in your inventory. Businesses of many kinds may have higher demand for this type of cleaning. Offering disinfecting services can lead to higher frequency cleaning for some clients.


Plan Your Finances

As you look to start a cleaning business, finances will be critical. Planning and understanding where the money will come from to fund your cleaning business is the first step.

Some people looking to start a business go to friends and family. Although that may seem like an easy path to business ownership, it can create conflict down the road. If you choose this path for your cleaning business, be selective as you do not want your business to ruin a relationship.

If you have your own means of funding your business, that can be an ideal solution. You may have saved money to start. There are also programs to access 401K savings for the right opportunity.

Business bank loans are also available. There may be grants in your area that support new business ownership. Do your research to access the right financing for your cleaning business.

Be sure to do a forecast on your business fund needs. As an example, if you have a loan for your cleaning vehicle or employees to pay, customers may not pay for 30 days. You are still expected to pay all of your bills. Plan for the right amount of business cash flow. If you need help, a business accountant can set that up for you.

Some small business owners believe in starting small to grow big. Maybe you do not need the biggest and best cleaning van to start out. Purchasing a used model in good condition, and then saving for the cleaning van of your dreams, can be a safer path for your company.


Apply for a Business License

Some cities, states and other levels of government require a business license for your cleaning business. You can do Internet research or contact your local court house for this information.

Applications for your cleaning business can typically be completed online or in person. Be prepared to wait for your business license. It can take up to 12 weeks. There is often a nominal fee associated with the application.

Choose one of credit card processing services for your business
Choose one of credit card processing services for your business


Open a Business Bank Account

Most cleaning businesses will open business bank accounts in preparation for transacting with customers, cleaning supply purchases and paying employees. Opening a business bank account is not that difficult if you are prepared with the proper documents and information.

You can often apply online. Doing so should take you under 20 minutes. Banks can vary on the time they take for approvals and the actual opening of the account. If you do personal banking at a specific bank, you can contact them and inquire about a business account for your new cleaning business. Generally, it will take a bank one to seven days to review your application. It will take approximately one to four weeks for your account to be open.

You could call a local bank to see what documents they require. Some of the most common documents include, the certificate of incorporation, employer identification number (EIN), business formation documents, and your business license. If you are working on your own, your social security number may serve the same purpose as an EIN. Requirements will vary based on your business set up as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation or corporation.

You can even offer payment in crypto to your customers and start collecting payment to your digital wallet.

Obtain Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is designed to protect you as a business owner. This form of business insurance will prevent you and your partners from being held responsible for your cleaning company’s debts or losses.

As a business owner, liability insurance also protects you from claims that could be raised against your cleaning business. Work with your insurance agent to determine the best level of insurance for your cleaning business.


Choose a Location for Your Cleaning Business

As you start your cleaning business from scratch, you will get to choose a business location. Many businesses operate out of the owner’s house. You could potentially do that, and save money on initial costs. Because your services take place at the client’s house or business, they will not be coming to your business location.

Some local ordinances restrict businesses from operating out of a home. You will also need a place to park your company vehicle. If you are storing business supplies and other inventory at your home, be sure to have the proper insurance. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you are covered.

As your business grows, you could look to rent commercial space. Small business owners providing on-site services can find smaller locations in business parks. Business parks provide parking spaces and can have small storage spaces that are just right for a company like yours. Have your attorney review the lease as you start a cleaning business.


Plan Your Brand Image

There are many aspects that will go into the image of your businesses. The services you provide will be supported by your image. Here are few questions you can answer to help define your brand.


  • Who are my customers and clients?
  • What cleaning services will I offer?
  • What sets my cleaning services apart from the competition?
  • Why will customers choose my cleaning service?
  • What are the values of my business?
  • What will motivate clients to return for another cleaning job?


Use this information to create your marketing, advertising and online presence.


Create Your Logo

An effective logo is easily recognizable, and stands out in a crowd. It should be readable from a distance so potential customers can see your business name. A business logo does not cost as much as in the past. You can find local talent or professionals on the Internet.

If you are looking for a unique local art resource, check with a local tattoo artist. He or she may be happy to economically create a business logo for your company.


Traditional Media Marketing and Advertising

Once starting a cleaning business, you are going to want to get the word out to gain residential and commercial cleaning clients. Here are a few ideas to get your cleaning services known in the market.

Fortador helps you with HD marketing content

Fortador helps you with HD marketing content


Wrap Your Company Car, Van or Truck


You can get great graphics from a local sign shop that wraps vehicles. As you drive your vehicle from house to house, people will notice your service offerings. Having your contact information, company name, and a list of your services in colorful bold lettering can be effective.


Advertise in The Local Paper


It does not have to be the traditional newspaper. There are often weekly papers that feature local businesses and fliers. Potential customers may come to know your services this way. Senior citizens looking for your services are often readers of local papers.


You could offer an introductory service offer, such as a discount off a first cleaning or a lower hourly rate for the first two months. Get your company name and the great services you provide out there. You may find other service providers in the same paper. Go right along side them as local papers often become a resource.


Get Business Cards


In your startup cleaning business, you need to use as many inexpensive ways as possible to market your business. A business card can be used to advertise your house cleaning company.


There are many places you can post your business cards. These include, hair salons, churches, senior apartment buildings, local coffee shops and more.


Use word of mouth to your advantage. If you do a great job for your clients, leave your business card with them. As you start out, you may have to offer small incentives to get clients. Have a set of cards for current clients that offer a referral bonus or discount for referrals. Your residential cleaning client base can grow through a trusted network of friends.


Business-to-Business Selling

To gain commercial clients as you start a cleaning business, you will more than likely have to phone or visit the client’s place of business. Starting a cleaning business in the commercial market may take a little longer to realize revenue. Companies take longer to make decisions to change cleaning companies; you may not acquire customers as quickly.


Here are a few things you can do to sell your services to commercial clients.


  • Get professional brochures made – Having a brochure that details your company and your services lets the potential customer have something in hand to review after you leave. You can list your rates per hour if you wish. Clients appreciate transparency.
  • Get a list of local businesses – Use the Internet, Chamber of Commerce or purchase a list of all the businesses in your target market. As you start a cleaning business, you will have time to cold call these potential clients on the phone. Set an appointment to understand their needs and how your services can help them.
  • Network at local apartment association meetings – Often you can join as an affiliate member. Attend meetings, get to know the landlords, and market your services.
  • Gain new clients in the same building – If you have one job in a building, every time you are there cleaning, stop by one or two other potential clients in the same building to see if they have needs for your great services.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch – Be prepared to professionally convey your company branding message and services in one to two minutes. Include your strengths, like having insurance, completing a job on time, and other things that can set your company apart.



Create a Website

Your website will be an extension of your brand. It will also be a means by which clients will contact you for services. Starting a cleaning business without an effective website can limit your success. You need to decide what to include on your website. Go with your initial plan and make changes to improve it along the way.

Here are a few things to consider when creating your website.

  • Follow the color scheme and branding from your business cards and vehicle wrap.
  • Include an “About Us” page for customers to learn about you and your company.
  • List the services you offer.
  • Create a “Contact Us” page or enable electronic appointment setting.
  • Provide links to your social media accounts.



Email Campaigns and Follow Up

If you include the ability to email bills to your commercial and house cleaning clients, you will get their email address. Many platforms, such as Constant Contact, let you create regular email touchpoints with your customers. You should also encourage customers to write a review on the cleaning job you performed for them.

Independent reviews and ratings act like electronic forms of word-of-mouth advertising. High cleaning job ratings for your company can result in more customers!

Social media accounts needed for your cleaning business
Social media accounts needed for your cleaning business


Social Media for Businesses

Social media uses social methods to connect you with customers and potential cleaning customers. Social media is now a must as you start a cleaning business. It can be overwhelming and confusing. Let us break a few things down.

At a minimum, your cleaning business should have a Facebook and Twitter account. Instagram also offers opportunities to engage your customer base. Imagine if you promoted your house cleaning to home owners in a specific zip code.

Social media is about being engaged. If you are not comfortable with social media, perhaps engage a friend or child who is a user, and is familiar with the platforms.

Many business owners ask how often they should post on social media. Posting once a week may be good in your market. An effective post might be posting before and after pictures from a job you did in the area. Be promotional if you are looking to drive cleaning around the holidays or other events.

Here is an example of a post that might be good for the month of May:

“Congratulations to the Grand View High School graduates. With parties coming up, if you are looking to alleviate the burden of cleaning your house, let us help. We are house cleaning experts, and will get your house ready for your party.”

If you have customer complaints on social media, be sure to effectively address them. Other customers will respect your upfront approach and response.


Setting Your Cleaning Rates and Pricing Structure

Do research on what prices are being charged for the same services in your market. Two of the ways you can charge for your services are per hour and by job type.


Charging an Hourly Rate

Charging an hourly rate is simple for customers to understand. Give thought to the hourly variable and fixed costs that go into a cleaning job. Ensure you are making the money you expect.

Here are a few things to consider when setting an hourly rate.


  • Location of the cleaning job – You may provide your cleaning services in a larger geographical area. If your cleaning job requires you to travel a long distance, you may want to consider a travel fee.
  • Minimum hourly cleaning job – For you and your employees to drive and clean a house or business for one hour, it would not be worth it. Your hourly rate would realistically not cover the expenses for one hour. You can establish an hourly minimum of two hours if you wish.
  • Loyalty discount or frequency rate – If you have clients that sign up for frequent cleanings over a year’s time, you can offer them a loyalty discount or a lower hourly rate.


Charging a Flat Rate by Job Type

You will want to accurately estimate your time and the supplies you will use when you determine your flat rate. Flat rates are often used for apartment cleanouts or even normal cleaning work. As you estimate the job, be sure to allocate costs from supplies, such as paper towels, cleaning chemicals and gloves.


Remember Your Fixed Costs

As you calculate your profit margins, be sure to include your fixed costs, such as insurance, vehicle payments, mobile phone and other costs that do not fluctuate with the business.


An Add-on Sales Idea

After a cleaning, some clients may want their house smelling fresh. You could potentially purchase air fresheners in bulk to resell at a modest profit. Have a variety of scents, and add more value to your service in a customer’s house.


Accepting Payments

There are three main means of payment.

  • Cash – Some people will want to pay in cash. Be sure to have change.
  • Check – This is the riskiest form of payment for your company. Some checks bounce due to insufficient funds.
  • Credit card – Although there will be merchant fees, you get your payment immediately. Credit cards are convenient, so expect high use of them.
  • Mobile payment option – There are plenty of choices if you choose to accept credit cards on your phone. Some clients may find high value in the service of being able to accept credit cards at their house.


People and Hiring Planning

You may start by doing the cleaning appointment settings and the cleaning jobs yourself. As your business grows, you will want to hire people to clean along with you. You cannot be in two places at once.

For cleaners, you can pay them a competitive hourly rate. Some people are looking for part time work in their area, and your job may be a fit. Be sure your employees are bonded and insured to cover your business in the case of employee thefts and accidents.

There may come a time where you want to hire a full or part time office person. Having someone to answer the phones, set appointments, billing and other administrative tasks can free you up to clean and get new business.


Commonly Asked Questions


How do I start my own house cleaning service?

Begin with a plan and know your market. The more you treat it like a true business and review your financials, marketing and other functions, the more profitable it will be for you.


Can you run a cleaning business from home?

Absolutely. Cleaning businesses often start from a home. Make sure there are no local ordinances or neighborhood rules that prevent home-based businesses or from parking your company car in the driveway.


How much do house cleaning business owners make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a cleaning business owner is $55,949 in 2021. It can range from under $20,000 to over $100,000 per year.


How much money do I need to start a cleaning business?

Startup costs for a cleaning business are relatively low. You can start up a cleaning business from between $2,000 and $10,000.


Sabrina Tretyakova
Wesley Marshall

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