How to Start a Cleaning Business

Calling all neat freaks: cleaning businesses are in high demand. Here’s how to turn cleaning into a career.

Business at a glance

Income potential

$35,000-56,000 (For a single cleaner business)

Startup costs

$2000-6000

Pro tip: Get started without the investment by renting expensive equipment for the first few jobs.

Training

Typically none required, but may vary according to jurisdiction.

Starting a cleaning business on a shoestring

The USA is the world’s largest market for cleaning services, and the industry is projected to grow considerably in the years ahead. If you’ve got a knack for cleanliness and a good work ethic, starting your own cleaning business could be the shortest—and most profitable—path to gainful self-employment.

There’s more info on the startup costs for a single person cleaning business in the next section. But even if your budget is tiny, you can start your cleaning business right away using basic household supplies. 

Here are three core steps to getting your cleaning business off the ground and earning income: 

  1. Do trial cleaning for friends and family

Before taking on clients, offer free, professional cleaning services to friends and family. It’s your chance to test the waters, and see whether professional cleaning is the right business for you.

After all, your rugs are immaculate, your windows crystal clear, and every square inch of porcelain in your bathroom gleams—but that doesn’t necessarily mean your cleaning skills meet professional standards. 

Plus, when you offer professional cleaning services, time is of the essence. At home, you’re free to linger lovingly over a stretch of stained grout in your shower. But when cleaning for clients, working quickly and efficiently earns you more income (and repeat business).

Offer your services only to those who are willing to provide candid feedback. Your goal is to make sure your skills are up to professional standards—and, if they aren’t, to close the gap.

  1. Decide which services you’ll offer

If you’re starting out on a shoestring with basic household cleaning supplies, you’ll be limited in what you can do for clients; large scale commercial cleaning is out of the question. 

But consider your options: there may be services you can provide that never even occurred to you. And getting a sense of what’s out there can help you plan how to expand your business in the future.

  1. Look for a niche

Finding a niche for your cleaning services can help you quickly expand your business while outmaneuvering larger companies less able to offer highly customized services.

A niche describes a particular subset of customers and their needs. You may be able to study a niche and create pricing packages specially designed for it.

Some example cleaning service niches:

  • Homes in a 55+ trailer park
  • Home-based childcare businesses
  • Garages and workshops 
  • Craft and sewing rooms
  • Homes with many pets
  • Greenhouses and solariums
  • Home gyms
  • Storage rental services that need units emptied
  • Landlords who need apartments cleaned after tenants move out

A few further words of advice from a recent Quora post:

When starting out, don't be afraid to get scrappy.

Essential details

Potential Services
  • Weekly residential cleaning
  • Monthly or quarterly deep cleaning
  • Rug and carpet cleaning
  • Apartment move-out cleans
  • Window cleaning
  • Dust removal from vents and furnaces
  • Upholstery cleaning
  • Hoarder cleanouts
  • Pressure washing house exteriors
  • Junk removal
  • Chimney sweeping
  • Blinds cleaning
What to charge

Hourly: $9-25

Apartment, biweekly: $60-120

Small house, biweekly: $80 -150

Large house, biweekly: $100-180

Skills required
  • Customer relations
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Budgeting
  • Scheduling and task management
  • Commercial and residential cleaning experience

Charging for your cleaning business

You’ve got a number of options when it comes to charging for your services. Once you’ve settled on a method, you can set your prices.

How to charge for cleaning services

The best way to charge for your cleaning services may vary according to the client or the project you’re tackling. Before taking on clients, consider the five approaches below, and set a rate for each; you’ll be prepared to handle anything that comes your way.

  • Hourly: Setting your hourly rate gives you a baseline to work from. Even if you decide to price out a cleaning project using a different method, comparing it to your hourly rate helps you ensure you’re being paid a decent wage.
  • Flat rate: You may decide to offer a flat rate for a particular service, based on how long the service typically takes to complete. This can be particularly attractive to clients looking for one-time services.
  • Per-room rate: If you know how long a typical one-bedroom apartment takes to clean compared to a two-bedroom apartment, you can set your rates based on the number of rooms in a unit. This kind of pricing is a good fit for apartment clean-out services. 
  • Square footage: This approach makes sense if you’re focusing on a specific niche where your cleaning tasks will all be similar—such as junk removal from rented storage spaces—and the main variable is the amount of space you need to cover.
  • Specialty service rate: Some projects may require you to increase your rate. For instance, if you need extra cleaning products and protective equipment to clean a moldy basement, your hourly rate could go up. 

How to set prices for your cleaning services

When setting a price for your services, no matter how you charge your client, you need to take three factors into account:

  1. The cost of products
  2. Travel expenses
  3. Your hourly wage

  1. The cost of products

Set up a system to log how much cleaning product you use during an average hour of work. The products you use will naturally vary according to the projects you tackle, but by tracking consistently over multiple projects, you should be able to determine an average hourly cost. If you need to estimate, it’s better to over-budget for cleaning products so you don’t accidentally cut into your bottom line.

  1. Travel expenses

You’ll need to factor in both the gas mileage to reach clients and the cost of upkeep on your vehicle. How much do you need to earn each month just to keep your vehicle on the road and insured? What is the average cost of traveling to a client within a 100 mile radius?

  1. Your hourly wage

How much is your time worth? Take into account the time you spend scheduling clients and projects, restocking with cleaning products, and traveling to jobs. In an eight hour day of work, you may only spend five hours cleaning. How much do you need to earn to make it worthwhile?

If you’re transitioning from working for someone else—either as a cleaner, or in a different field—do you expect to earn as much as you did before? Can you afford a temporary decrease in income while your new business gets off the ground? These are all essential questions to ask when setting your rate.

Investing in your new cleaning business

Maybe you’ve taken the shoestring approach, worked successfully with a few clients, and decided you’re ready to expand. Or maybe you tried the shoestring approach and found it limited which clients you were able to serve.

If you decide to take the non-shoestring approach, and invest some cash in your new business, be prepared to spend $2,000 to $6,000. On average, it costs $3,500 to start a cleaning business

That money goes toward buying tools to help you do the job more easily and efficiently. It also covers the cost of buying cleaning supplies wholesale. Opening an account with a wholesale seller of cleaning supplies saves you cash on a per-item basis, but due to minimum order amounts, you’ll need to spend more money upfront to stock your inventory.

Cleaning business essentials:

  • Powerful, reliable vacuum with cleaning attachments
  • Mop and bucket
  • Duster
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Protective gloves
  • Cleaning products
  • Spray bottles
  • Laundry bags
  • Garbage bags
  • Protective clothing
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning products for specific users (eg. windows, tile, floor, cooking surfaces)
  • Air freshener or deodorizer

Build a website for your cleaning business

A professional website proves to potential clients you are serious about your business. It includes information about your experience, the types of services you offer, and how to get in touch with you.

When you use Durable’s AI website builder, it only takes 30 seconds to design a website for your cleaning business. Plus, it’s free.

Not 100% satisfied with the website our AI has designed for you? Hit “reset” and get a brand new design from scratch. Or dive in yourself, making changes to fonts, colors, and layout. No coding experience necessary.

Check out our cleaning service website template to get a taste of what the AI site builder can do for you.

Ready to get started?

Get your Cleaning website generated in seconds, and start building your business of one.

Start promoting your cleaning business

Even if you don’t have the budget for park bench ads or late night TV spots, you can start marketing to potential clients. Some quick, inexpensive steps you can take now:

  • Share your website across a variety of social networks. Reach out to anyone you think may be able to refer you clients—from old schoolmates to distant relatives.
  • Put a bit of money behind Facebook and Google Ads campaigns, targeting different demographics and seeing what works.
  • Local classifieds sites like Craigslist and Nextdoor can connect you with potential customers in your community.
  • Setting up business pages on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn gives you a chance to share cleaning advice and news about your business.
  • How-to videos are popular on TikTok. Consider sharing some of your time-tested cleaning hacks with the world.
  • Take the old-fashioned route, and put up posters at the local community center or library
  • Ask your clients to leave you positive reviews (learn about Durable review management)

A few more words of advice from Quora:

Your marketing doesn't need to be sophisticated to start. But it pays to be consistent (and creative).

Make sure you can get paid

Invoicing your clients for cleaning services helps you track your income, get paid faster, and present a professional face to the world. Also, if you clean commercial spaces, or do cleaning for home-based businesses, the business that hired you will expect an invoice so they can deduct the cost from their taxes.

When you use Durable’s invoice tool, it’s easy for clients to pay you by credit card, ACH, or Apple Pay.

Besides making it easy for your clients to pay you, it’s important to separate your personal and business finances. Otherwise, tax time becomes a serious headache. Durable Money gives you an online business bank account that links up with your invoicing and personal website, so your business finances are organized and up to date.

Cover your butt

Don’t let a rug cleaning accident or a run-in with a plate glass window derail your business. Liability insurance protects you in case of accidents on the job. It’s also reassuring to new clients to learn that your business is insured, and further reinforces the fact that you’re a legitimate business.

For a deeper dive, check out our guide to business insurance.

Once your cleaning business starts to grow

So, your client list is steadily growing, your schedule is full, and you’re ready to take your cleaning business to the next level. Here’s how to do it.

Brand your cleaning business

Besides adding an air of legitimacy to your business, branding it makes it more memorable. It also gives you an identity to operate under if you hire or contract other cleaners to work for you.

Need inspiration? Take Durable’s AI business name generator for a spin.

Boost your marketing strategy

Social media, bulletin board posters, and digital ads are just the start. As you begin building a long term strategy for your cleaning business, it’s time to go all-in with promotion.

  • Analyze the competition: Make an audit of the other cleaners working in your area and serving your niche. What are they doing that you aren’t? How can you set yourself apart?
  • Learn more about your customers: Start compiling data on your customers. What is their income level, roughly? Where do they live and work? What are the most common cleaning tasks clients want to outsource? The better you understand your clients, the easier it is to appeal to new ones.
  • Send email: Even if you only do one-time services for some clients, offer to add them to your email list. Through email, you can offer sales, discounts, referral programs, and special promotions. Even just reaching out once in a while with a cleaning tip or piece of advice can keep you top-of-mind with clients, and encourage them to hire you again.
  • Set up a CRM: Client relationship management keeps your clients’ info organized, so you can track how much they’ve paid you, the services you’ve provided, how long they’ve been a client, and other important info. It can give you big-picture insight into what type of clients are right for your business, and which ones are the most profitable.

When in doubt, ask happy customers for testimonials:

Word of mouth can pay off—big time.

Set goals for your cleaning business

When your new career as a personal cleaner is not as new as it used to be, and you’re starting to settle into a comfortable rhythm, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.

Maybe you’re planning to launch a cleaning empire. Or maybe you just want to focus on your preferred types of clients and services, and make sure you keep getting paid well and on time. Whatever your goals, here are a few steps you can take to plan for the future.

Write a business plan

Your business plan is the master document you refer to when it’s time to make business moves—like reinvesting your retained earnings, or hiring staff. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a straightforward template.

Register your business entity

As soon as you go into business for yourself, the IRS (and your state tax authority) considers you a sole proprietor; meaning, on paper, you and your business are identical: your business income is your personal income, and vice versa. 

In the event you incur debt or someone files legal proceedings against your cleaning business, you’re personally on the line. Fortunately, if you register a formal business structure, you may be able to reduce your liability—and enjoy other perks as well, like a lower tax bill. 

Work with a qualified accountant or business attorney when planning a new business structure. They can help you choose the right one for your cleaning service.

Scale your cleaning business

Once your schedule is maxed out and you’re charging the highest rates you can while remaining competitive, how do you earn more income?

  • Contract out work during busy times. For instance, suppose you’re overwhelmed with requests for apartment moving cleanouts at the end of every month, and you can’t keep up with demand. In that case, contracting out particular tasks to other cleaners may allow you to earn a modest profit margin while connecting with clients you’d otherwise turn away. 
  • Hire employees. Once demand is high enough, hiring and training new employees will allow you to expand your business and serve more clients.
  • Sell cleaning products to other cleaners. It’s not unusual for competing businesses to sell products to one another in times of need. Maybe you’ve scaled up your cleaning business and you’re placing large wholesale orders for supplies, and you can make a profit reselling a portion to smaller businesses that can’t afford to open wholesale accounts. 

Make sure to do your research before scaling up a particular part of your business. For instance, would your existing clients be comfortable with a contractor or employee doing the work, provided your standards of service remained the same? What additional services are they looking for that you may be able to offer by bringing on more staff? Never underestimate the power of client interviews when it comes to research.

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