Would you like to start your own cleaning business?
According to sites like HomeAdvisor, general cleaning services can charge anywhere between $100 to $200 per job. That’s not too bad when you consider that you don’t really need any experience or official credentials to start taking on clients.
But like any business, you do have to invest some money up-front to get it up and running. So if you’re a little tight on money, here’s how you can start a cleaning business on a budget and make it a success.
How To Start A Cleaning Business: Define Your Services
The first step of any new business venture is to define exactly what it is that you will do (or not do).
- Residential customers will probably be smaller and more flexible, but will probably pass less than commercial jobs.
- Commercial jobs will probably pay better and be more consistent than the residential jobs, but they may require you to clean at night or the weekends when no one else is working.
If you decide to go for residential customers, do you want to become a:
- General housecleaner – Dusting, mopping, vacuuming, etc.
- Housekeeper – Similar to housecleaning but may also include laundry and cooking
You might also decide to specialize in niche services such as when people are moving in or out of a house, junk removal (think about hoarders), carpet cleaning, or even restoration (after a flood or fire).
Again, it’s up to you what you want to do. Your work should be enjoyable, and the last thing you want to do is commit yourself to something that you can’t stand doing.
Create Your Cleaning Business
Give It A Name
Every business needs a name, even if its just “your name” plus “cleaning service” (but please be a little more creative than that).
Decide Your Legal Structure
Even if you think you’re the smallest of small-time businesses, if you plan to earn more than $600 this year, then you are legally required to report it to the IRS.
To do this, the IRS gives you several options for forming a business structure. You could do nothing and be considered a “sole proprietorship”. However, if you get into any legal problems, your customers could sue you personally.
Instead, do yourself a favor and protect your assets by forming an LLC (limited liability corporation). LLCs can be set up easily through your local government or a service such as Legal Zoom for generally less than $100. After creating one, you’ll also have to file for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS.
Obtain A License
You’ll also need a vendor’s license for your cleaning business. You can apply through your local county office or city hall. Again, it will likely be a small fee of less than $100.
Since you will be doing work for people outside your own home, you’re going to also want to get general liability insurance in case anything gets accidentally damaged.
While this is not only highly recommended, it may even be a requirement of commercial businesses before they will even consider hiring you.
Purchase The Necessary Cleaning Equipment
One of the great things about a cleaning business is that there is generally very little equipment needed.
For example, your list of supplies might include:
- Mop, bucket, cleaning concentrate, etc.
- Multi-surface cleaning sprays, rags, etc.
- A vacuum
- PPE (personal protection equipment) like cleaning gloves, dust masks, etc.
For some residential jobs, you might even be able to negotiate with the homeowner so that you can use their cleaning supplies.
Market Your Cleaning Services
Once your business is legit, its time to get the word out that you’re ready to accept jobs. But since you’re operating on a budget, here are a few low-cost ways you can do this:
- Word of Mouth – Whether your aim is residential or commercial, asking your friends and family to put out the word will be helpful. When we hired our housecleaner, it was through a referral from a friend.
- Social Media – These days, everyone is on some form of social media or another. Create a Facebook page for your business and start making daily posts with tips and offers for your services. Be responsive when people reach out to you.
- Job Posting Sites – To get the ball rolling, you may just want to start picking up jobs from services like Care.com or Task Rabbit where people will post work they need done.
- Ask for Referrals – After you get your first customers and have proven that you do good work, encourage them to refer you to people they know.
- Business Cards – Business cards are also a great way to market your cleaning business. These can also help with referrals, as you can give your cards to current customers to give to their friends or family.
Managing Your Customers
A quote is just an estimate of how much you will charge for the work. Quotes are just as important for you as they are for the customer because they give some indication of the scope of work and how long you think it will take to perform.
It will also help to provide the quote in writing so there can be no mistake about what was agreed to and how much the customer should expect to pay.
If you’re not sure about how long the job will take, you could just give a range for the first time and then refine it after you’ve had a chance to complete it.
No matter what business you’re in, communication is always king. If a potential or existing customer reaches out to you, always respond to them as quickly and kindly as possible. Be respectful and professional (even if they are not).
If something comes up that disrupts the schedule, be sure to give your customers as much advanced notice as possible. Offer them workable alternatives so that the job can still be completed.
Remember that in most cases you will be working either alone or with a helper while the homeowner is away or the business is empty. These people are trusting you not to do anything illegal or unethical while you are there. Each and every time you work for your customer, earn that trust by being a professional.
If you are working with a helper, you are legally responsible for the actions of that person as well. Therefore, make sure you’re working with someone you trust. Don’t feel awkward if you have to check over their work; its just part of good business and will be better for you in the long run.
Invoicing For Your Cleaning Business
Finally, you’re going to want to get paid for your services. To do this, provide your customers with written invoices. Invoices are super easy to make and there are templates for them all over the Internet.
You can choose to use the classic system of having your customers write you a check after you send them an invoice. Or if you and your customers hip to technology, they could pay you through a popular payment app such as Paypal or Venmo. You may even wish to operate through a small business bookkeeping software such as Square or Quickbooks.
While the digital systems are great for keeping track of your financials and invoices, remember that they will charge a small fee for each transaction that’s made. For example, Square charges 2.9% plus $0.30 for each invoice sent.
Bookkeeping will be absolutely required for when you go to file your taxes with the IRS. Get into the habit early by keeping detailed records of all of your transactions right from the start. Save your receipts for your equipment purchases and even the miles you drove to go to the job as these may be considered deductible and could lower your taxable income.
Final Thoughts: How To Start A Cleaning Business
Getting into the cleaning industry can be a great idea. Whether you want to start a commercial cleaning business, a house cleaning business, or a niche-specific cleaning business, it is totally do-able. You’ve learned throughout this guide how to start a cleaning business, so follow these steps and tips and get cleaning!