The ultimate guide

How to start a cleaning business from scratch.

Everything you need to start your cleaning business - from naming to selling.


Deciding what kind of business to start can be a daunting decision. Sure, some of us might have a hobby or experience in an industry that we can break into and build a business - but this isn’t always the case.

But, what if there was an industry that almost everyone had at least some experience in, where you could learn on the job and scale your business quickly?

We are talking about the cleaning services business. Whether you love cleaning or hate it, there is always a market for cleaning businesses in residential and commercial fields. Not to mention, it can be an incredibly effective way to earn money.

The best part is, starting a cleaning business can be done with only a few hundred dollars and a willingness to learn as you go. This guide will show you the essential steps of how to start a cleaning business from scratch. Using our expertise gained from building many profit-generating service businesses, you can start growing your business today. 

Choosing Your Cleaning Business Focus

Now that you have decided on starting a cleaning business, you will need to decide which kind of cleaning business you will focus on. 

There are two main categories to choose from: residential and commercial. Both have serious earnings potential, so your decision will come down to a matter of preference.

Residential cleaning refers to house cleaning services, while commercial cleaning involves cleaning spaces like shops, offices, or public services buildings.

Here are some differences to consider when thinking about your focus:

Residential Cleaning Businesses

Commercial Cleaning Businesses

Once you have decided whether to focus on a residential or commercial cleaning business, you will need to “niche down” even further to identify an underserved or less competitive market in your area. This includes specific cleaning functions like window cleaning or “move out” house cleaning.

There’s an old adage that says “if everyone is your customer, then no one is your customer,” and this is especially true in the cleaning business. 

Especially when you are starting out, no niche is too small. Focusing on the needs of a specific niche allows you to get good at serving your ideal customer, and also marketing to them. Make a list of unique cleaning business ideas and do some research on how competitive these niches are in your area.

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Consider New Trends in Cleaning Services

Stay aware of the forces that are changing business in the cleaning industry. Your new cleaning business can implement changes faster than larger, less agile companies.

Environmentally friendly cleaning supplies are a must, and customers will pay a higher rate for companies that make this a part of their process. Customers will respond well when you advertise that you use “green” and “safe” cleaning methods.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a greater emphasis on cleaning high-touch surfaces thoroughly and more frequently. Your cleaning business should advertise how it can make its customers’ space safer to visit using advanced cleaning techniques and supplies. 

How to Budget for Your Cleaning Business

Startup Costs

Let’s establish the budget that you need to get your business off the ground.

In terms of startup cash, the smallest amount that is possible to start a cleaning business with is in the low hundreds of dollars - but this is assuming that you already have a vehicle that you can use to get from place to place. 

If not, then your startup costs will be much larger. 

At the bare minimum, here are the start-up costs for a cleaning business,

So how much does it cost to start a cleaning business? Look to shell out just over $250 at the least, but be prepared for other expenses like transportation, insurance, and labor to catch up with you quickly. 

Branding Your Cleaning Business 

Even a cleaning company needs a distinct brand image that helps to separate it from the competition. Here’s how to build your brand from scratch.

Choosing a Company Name

When you are thinking about your company name, try to remember these key points:

Logo Design

Even if you have just started your own cleaning business, you will want to give the appearance that you are well established, and know what you are doing. It’s never been easier to design a professional logo for a reasonable price.

First, find three existing cleaning companies' logos that you like. Be sure to record specific aspects that you like about these logos, and think hard about what they convey.

Then, sign up for an account on Fiverr or UpWork, and post a job ad. We recommend asking for a logo in the $100-$200 price range. This is a great way to get a logo made quickly, but there are a few things that you should keep in mind throughout the process.

Read this guide on hiring an online logo designer so that you can be confident you are getting bang for your buck.

Registering a Domain Name

Before you start to think about what your new company website should look like, you can purchase the domain name for your business online. We would recommend buying from either of these domain registrars:

Unless your business name is highly unique, it is unlikely that you will be able to secure an exact match for it. Be prepared to make some concessions, like choosing a nontraditional domain like .co or .net. Having a .com domain isn’t that important anymore, especially because of how much it can cost. 

Build a Website 

A decent website is a must-have for any small business today, and your fledgling cleaning company is no exception.

Thankfully, starting a website from scratch isn’t incredibly difficult, even if you don’t have any experience with website design or web development.

There are a few key options when you are considering getting a site off the ground:


Fortunately, you will not need a site with fancy features when you just start out. All you really need is some basic information about your services, and a place for customers to call you, the business owner.

Goal Setting and Business Plan

Goal setting is an essential part of building a successful cleaning business. Not only will this keep you motivated, but it is essential to determine sustainable and realistic ways to invest back into your business and grow at scale. 

Part of this process involves building a business plan, where you set goals for things like total customers served or new employees, and use this as a roadmap to guide business spending.

Many cleaning business owners will ask themselves the question “how much does a cleaning business make in a year”, and use this number to guide their business goals. The answer to this varies a lot depending on location, niche, and other factors.

Try to determine your own goal revenue as a part of your business plan. Factor in potential dry spells and unforeseen costs along the way. Many business owners will calculate “best case”, “worst case”, and “in the middle” figures for this part of the plan.

Team and Employees 

When you first start your cleaning business, it’s likely that you may be working all on your own. This is a great way to learn the basics of the cleaning process, and familiarize yourself with the daily challenges your employees will face. 

Look to hire employees after working several of your first cleaning jobs solo, then review online job marketplaces like Indeed to post a job availability.

Employees vs. Subcontractors

Another way to grow your business quickly is by subcontracting, where you contact other cleaning companies with the intention of hiring their employees on contract to do cleaning jobs for you. Although this cuts into your profits, it ensures that you are dealing with experienced employees who can do the job right.

If you hire subcontractors, you will offer jobs to them which they can then accept or reject. Subcontractors are also responsible for their own equipment, taxes, and benefits - meaning less paperwork for the business owner.

Cleaning Supplies

Purchasing enough cleaning supplies to get you started shouldn’t break the bank. As we mentioned in the budget section, you can buy supplies from big box stores until you grow to a large enough size to order wholesale directly from suppliers.

Here’s a list of starter supplies that will be necessary for your first few jobs:

Insurance and Liability Considerations

Learning how to get insurance for a cleaning business is a necessity for getting started, and many of your first customers will request proof of it before you step through their door. 

General Liability Insurance is step one. This ensures that your company will be protected from hefty lawsuits if property is damaged, or someone is injured while you are providing cleaning services. 

Beyond general liability insurance, many insurance providers will offer industry-specific coverage that provides other protections for your business. Depending on what your cleaning business looks like, this could include:

Above all, as your business grows, be sure to check in with your insurance provider so that you are protecting your business the right way. 

Legal Structure and Business Licensing 

Business licenses and permits vary depending on where you will be starting your cleaning business. However, you can count on choosing between the same legal structures no matter where you live.

If you are starting your cleaning business on your own, you will likely be looking at starting a sole proprietorship. If you are starting the business with a partner, you will instead register as a partnership.

If you live in the United States, a limited liability company (LLC) can also be an effective structure, whereas Canadians can get by with a local business license and liability insurance.

Once you have decided on the structure, contact your local small business office to find out how to register a cleaning business in your area, which will include documents like a business license, employment identification number, or other business documents.

Setting Up a Business Bank account 

Now it is time to start a business checking account with a local bank. Even when you are just starting out, we don’t recommend keeping your business and personal income in the same account. This will save you stress later on for taxes and financial reporting.

Scheduling Employees

Once you start to hire a few employees, you will need to spend time optimizing your scheduling workflow. You can try scheduling software for free or at a low price using tools like Google Workspace (which includes GMail, Google Calendar, and other productivity tools), or other popular scheduling platforms. 

Give your employees enough time to get the job done right. Do not shove as many appointments into the day as you can, since this will inevitably lead to rushed jobs and a poor customer experience.

 

Marketing Your Cleaning Business

You will need to learn how to market your cleaning business if you want to scale effectively and grow your brand as a reputable and professional company. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean plastering your local newspaper with expensive ads to get noticed. 

Referrals will be a large part of your growth early on, so focus on strong customer relationships to allow this growth to happen.

If you use the internet and other physical methods in a strategic way, you can have a large impact on a minimal marketing budget.

Physical Marketing

You should make some initial investments in physical marketing tools when you start your business. Buying uniforms for yourself and your employees is a must. This conveys professionalism, and also serves as a walking billboard as you travel between jobs in your area. A “uniform” can just be a t-shirt with your logo printed on it - as long as it makes your team easy to identify.

Business cards are a cheap and effective tool that you should always have on hand. Leave them behind at finished jobs with a handwritten note so that your client can pass your information along to others in their network.

Once you have a growing customer base and a larger marketing budget, you can start experimenting with lawn signs, flyers, car magnets and other physical marketing materials. Take note of how your competitors are using these strategically in certain areas, so that you can invest in what works best for your market.

Online Marketing

It is essential that you have profiles for your business on relevant local business directories like Google My Business and Yelp. This puts your business on the map (literally) and will be a vital marketing tool.

Other directories like Thumbtack are growing quickly in industries like home services. Key in your cleaning service for your area and take note of whether any other businesses are trying it out - otherwise you may waste your time on a listing that nobody sees. 

When it comes to social media, many business owners believe that they should be represented on all major platforms. But updating these profiles is much more work than it is worth. We recommend sticking to one social media platform, which for many businesses is Facebook, and focusing on learning how to promote your cleaning business effectively with it.

Online Advertising

As you start to reach out to find customers outside of your existing network, you will need to make important decisions about where to spend money on online advertising. Many business owners end up burning through cash trying to find the right platform for them - so we want to set the record straight on effective low-cost advertising methods.

Our first method is entirely cost-free: posting on local Facebook groups. Neighbourhood and special interest Facebook groups are free to join, and many will allow you to post about your business as long as you don’t “spam” the page. Share basic information about your business, or make some “first timer” offers for potential customers in your area.

Another great method uses Nextdoor, a hyperlocal community app to create a free business listing that connects you with people in your area who have posted that they are “in search of” a cleaning business. 

Once your business reaches a significant size, your online advertising strategy should shift to using Google Ads. Google Ads includes the ad listings that appear in the “paid section” Google search results.

Although these ads can be expensive for industries like cleaning, they provide the best potential for customer conversion. You just need to decide whether to learn the basics of Google Ads yourself (by taking a free introductory course offered by Google) or hiring somebody else to do it. 

Creating Quotes

Figuring out how much to charge for your services when you are starting your cleaning business can seem like a daunting task. It’s easy to get anxious about the possibility of losing your first potential clients on the basis of price, but you will also need to pay the bills as you start growing your business.

Start by calling every local cleaning company in your niche and finding out how much to charge hourly, per square foot, or for different cleaning jobs like deep cleans or move outs. After putting this data in a spreadsheet, you can make an informed decision about a competitive price.

You will set an hourly rate, which will factor in these considerations:

Consider these factors and your existing overhead costs before setting a price that is competitive and allows your business to grow. 

Estimating a Job

You will need to become efficient at estimating cleaning jobs with potential clients. This is part of why it is important to focus on a specific niche. If you learn the ins and outs of cleaning commercial retail spaces, then you can build a job estimate formula based on factors like square footage and floor surfaces.

The end goal is to have a formula that is so effective, you can trust any of your employees to apply it to new jobs.

Eventually, you can even integrate this formula into a job estimate calculator on your website, which takes out a lot of the work of prospecting.

Services and Skills

Depending on which niche of the cleaning business you choose, you will need to develop some skills in safety and efficiency.

Thankfully, almost all types of residential or commercial cleaning do not require overly specialized skills. There are ways to achieve a consistently “better” clean than your competitors, but many of these techniques can be found on YouTube or in-depth guides like this list of office cleaning procedures.

Training Your Employees 

When you hire new employees, be prepared to spend time with them on the job to ensure that they are familiar with your cleaning procedures. A new employee should never have to go on a job solo.

Build cleaning checklists for all jobs so that your employees can refer to existing processes without having to ask you for help. These checklists should include specific instructions for high-touch areas and any jobs that involve heavy-duty chemicals. 

Most new hires will have a good sense of how to clean. The important part of training will be ensuring that your processes result in efficient workflow with few mistakes.

Incentivizing Your Team

As your employees gain experience with your business, you will need to create incentives for them to stick around. With other businesses, this may look like continued training opportunities. Cleaning businesses are different since once they know how to clean well - there isn’t much else they need to be taught. 

You will need to incentivize them in other ways, using performance pay and bonuses for customer feedback, completing jobs efficiently, and generating referrals

Without these incentives, you could be looking at a revolving door of new employees as your old hires leave for better offers from your competitors.

Customer Management 

Customer management means much more than how you treat your customers. As you build your book of business, you will need to record your current, past, and prospective customers.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software allows you to record previous jobs that you have worked for your customers, and can automatically prompt you to check in with them after time has elapsed so that you can secure more recurring work.

Once you are ready to make the investment, CRM software for cleaning businesses can roll your invoicing, quotes, and client notes into one place - which can dial in your workflow and save you time and money. 

Reviews 

Online reviews are one of the most important ways that cleaning companies can manage their reputation and give off a sense of professionalism.

Sure, you can grow your business effectively through referrals, but reviews are an eye test for potential customers. Bad reviews mean that you are out of the running in the blink of an eye.

Customer service should be your main priority as you establish your reputation. This means encouraging and offering incentives for happy customers to leave reviews, and responding to negative reviews quickly, and offering resolution.

Invoicing

Find a digital invoice template online using Google Sheets or Excel. Not only does this look more professional than a handwritten invoice, keeping your records in a centralized digital location makes it easier to stay organized

Once you have the necessary budget, it will be time to graduate to a paid tool like Wave or Quickbooks, which will combine accounting and invoicing to make your administrative tasks easier.

Digital invoicing is often expected by the customer, especially in the commercial cleaning industry. 

Community VA Service 

The goal of making your workflow as efficient and easy to understand as possible isn’t so that it takes you less time. Many cleaning business operators hope to hand off many of their day-to-day operational tasks to somebody else, and a VA (Virtual Assistant) is a great way to do this. 

Virtual Assistants can be found on marketplaces like Fiverr and UpWork, and are useful for online tasks like lead generation, scheduling, online advertising campaigns, and administrative work.

Using the same account you used to create your logo or build your website, you can find VA’s who have experience with other service-based businesses. 

Throughout your journey of starting your cleaning business, you will have achieved fundamental knowledge in many of the skills that we have already mentioned. But unless you are adept or excited about developing any of these skills, you should let somebody else do it - and that’s where the VA comes in.

Focus your energy on guiding your cleaning businesses overall marketing strategy, and find a reliable VA to handle day-to-day tasks. 

Software 

We have mentioned many different software options throughout this article. Initially, you may be leaning on low-cost or free options like Google Suite to get your business operational.

But in the interest of efficiency, your long-term goal should be to invest in the best software for cleaning businesses that bundles in invoicing, customer relationship management, and more.
Unless you are a whiz with Excel, you will run into issues running a growing business, especially if you have multiple people involved on the operational side of things. 

Durable makes it easy to scale a cleaning business with its full selection of business tools along with support that is guaranteed to do one thing: make it easier for you to make money.

Conclusion

Starting a cleaning business from scratch isn’t a walk in the park. It requires the  cleaning business owner to be willing to learn new skills, manage people, and maintain a strong reputation for customer service.

It is also an industry with constant demand, where you can scale quickly and build systems that allow your business to run without constant oversight and energy.

Want to learn more about how Durable supports business owners with technology, education, and a community of other cleaning and service business owners?


Sign up with Durable today to start building your cleaning business.

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