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:
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.
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.
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
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:
Weekly residential cleaning
Monthly or quarterly deep cleaning
Rug and carpet cleaning
Apartment move-out cleans
Dust removal from vents and furnaces
Pressure washing house exteriors
What to charge
Apartment, biweekly: $60-120
Small house, biweekly: $80 -150
Large house, biweekly: $100-180
Attention to detail
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:
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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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