If you want to start a cleaning business, by creating an executable strategy, it won’t be too long before you’re on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Unlike a lot of other business ventures, it doesn’t require a lot of up-front costs or training, and you can count on a steady demand for cleaning services over time. To launch your business this year, leverage these key tips on how to start a cleaning business!
Table of contents
- 1. Conduct market research
- 2. Pick your niche
- 3. Choose your services
- 4. Register your business
- 5. Don’t forget about insurance
- 6. Obtain a business license
- 7. Finance your cleaning business
- 8. Create a budget
- 9. Buy cleaning supplies
- 10. Decide on your rates
- 11. Advertise your cleaning business
- 12. Find (and keep) clients
- 13. Create a cleaning schedule for your business
- 14. Grow your cleaning business
- 15. Factor in transportation costs
- Expert tip: Choose your niche first, and then scale slowly
- How profitable is a cleaning business?
- Is a cleaning business worth starting?
- Do I need a license to clean houses?
- Articles related to starting a business
- Start a cleaning business and become your own boss today!
1. Conduct market research
No matter what business venture you pursue, market research is always a critical first step and this applies to starting a cleaning business. After all, you want to know what market you’re getting yourself into, right?
First, get to know the market. Look at other cleaning businesses in your area—and even other cleaning businesses around the country.
Ask yourself questions like, “What types of cleaning services do they offer?” and “What are their rates?” Leverage what you find out to narrow down the services you’d like to offer and the rates you’d like to charge.
Then, get to know the job itself. Research the daily duties of what it takes to run a cleaning business to see if it’s for you.
Leverage platforms like YouTube to gain some insights on what a day as a professional cleaner looks like in real life.
Finally, get to know your own skills! Offer to clean a friend and/or family member’s house(s) to get honest feedback on your work and learn what you need to improve before working with clients.
2. Pick your niche
Cleaning may seem simple, but it can really get specific! If you didn’t already know, there are many different kinds of cleaning you can do for many different kinds of clients.
To narrow it down, first, decide if you want to specialize in commercial or residential cleaning.
Cleaning individuals’ homes (i.e., residential cleaning) is often the easier pick when you’re trying to figure out how to start a cleaning business. People’s houses are typically much smaller than big businesses. Plus, residential cleaning jobs usually require less equipment and simpler cleaning supplies.
As a residential cleaning business, working with just a few weekly clients on a fixed schedule with a time management plan is all you need. You’ll quickly start making a reliable income.
However, it’s worth noting that residential cleaning requires greater attention to detail; you’ll have to remember exactly how clients have arranged their homes so you can put everything back in the right place when you’re done cleaning.
If you start a commercial cleaning business, then your clients will likely be schools, hospitals, businesses, and other commercial sites.
Note that these clients are harder to get for newer businesses, as they often contract with well-established janitorial companies. Plus, commercial cleaning usually requires heavy duty cleaning equipment and a large team to get the job done.
If you’re interested in commercial cleaning, you can get started by contacting smaller, local businesses first.
3. Choose your services
Once you’ve determined whether you want to focus on residential cleaning or commercial cleaning, it’s time to narrow down your specific cleaning niche.
For example, consider some popular cleaning services you can offer:
- Pressure washing
- Carpet cleaning
- Window cleaning
- Basic cleaning
- Deep cleaning
- Spring cleaning
- Move-out cleaning
- And more
As you decide on your list of services, think about what kind of equipment you’ll need for each offering. It sounds obvious, but don’t forget to ask yourself (honestly) whether or not you have the skills to provide all these services well.
It’s easy to be ambitious as you decide how to start a cleaning company. But remember that you can always add more services as you grow your business.
In the beginning, it’s better to do things differently by starting small and providing services that you know you can do well.
4. Register your business
Maybe you chose to begin your cleaning business because it’s one of the easy side hustles. Even if you only make a few hundred dollars a month, you need to register your business—and report your income to the IRS.
To begin, decide what form your business will take. A sole proprietorship, or maybe an LLC (limited liability company), a partnership, etc. The U.S. Small Business Administration website offers insight on how to pick the business structure that’s right for you.
Depending on the kind of business you decide to register, you may also need to create an EIN (or an Employer ID Number) for tax purposes. You should apply for an EIN online with the IRS.
Next, you may also want to trademark your business name and/or claim your business’ domain name so you can create a client-facing website.
Dealing with business registration and all the legal stuff can be overwhelming. But taking the time to do the research and making sure all your ducks are in a row will help you avoid unwanted fees and/or penalties in the future.
5. Don’t forget about insurance
Like business registration, make sure you prioritize insurance when you’re researching how to start a cleaning company.
While not all states require you to have insurance if you want to open a cleaning business, it’s definitely recommended! As a business owner, having insurance is key to protecting both you and your employees in the event one of you accidentally causes damage to an employee’s home.
For example, as a cleaner, you may be at risk of starting a fire, breaking something, causing a leak, etc.
With the right insurance, you can protect yourself from going into debt to pay for all these repairs yourself.
For your cleaning business, consider the following types of insurance:
- General liability
- Business owners’ policy
- Workers’ compensation (if you hire employees)
- Employment practices liability
6. Obtain a business license
In addition to registering your business, you may also need to get a business license to legally found your cleaning company.
Again, to figure out what licenses are needed to start a cleaning business, you’ll need to research the specific laws of the state you live in. Leverage the resource on SBA.gov to get started with setting up the business licenses you need.
In most cases, you’ll have to pay for your business license up-front—and then pay to renew it every year. While this may seem like a headache, this is one step you do not want to skip. Operating a business without a license can result in fines or other penalties down the line.
7. Finance your cleaning business
When wondering how to start a cleaning business, you should know that they do have lower up-front costs than other businesses, but you will still have some start-up expenses to get your new venture up and running.
For example, in addition to buying cleaning supplies and equipment, you’ll also have to consider the price of advertisements, business registration and license fees, insurance, etc.
To make things easier on your budget, remember that you can start small with just the bare minimum expenses and then scale up later as you get more clients.
If you lack the funds to get started, consider turning to friends and/or family to borrow the money (although loaning money to family can be challenging), taking out a business loan, or spending on credit.
Alternatively, if you’re not comfortable asking friends or family for help (and the idea of taking a loan or spending on credit makes you nervous), you can also save up to fund the start-up expenses yourself.
If that sounds overwhelming, don’t stress! This is definitely a doable goal. The key is to break up your spending goal into smaller, more manageable chunks.
For example, you can learn how to save $5000 in 3 months.
8. Create a budget
Give yourself a pat on the back for successfully managing your start-up finances … but don’t stop there! You need to stay on top of your goals for a small business, especially business finances, every step of the way.
For example, as a business owner, you will need to monitor cash flow, taxes, expenses, invoices, etc.
Set up a business bank account
When you start your own business, it is key to separate your business finances from your personal finances.
The easiest way to do this is by getting a bank account.
However, you don’t have to spend money on a special “business” bank account; rather, simply having a separate personal checking account will work just fine. Use this separate account to accept payments from clients, pay taxes, and spend money on cleaning supplies and other business expenses.
Keep track of income and expenses
You might be well versed on how to budget and budget categories from a personal finance perspective. Now, leverage those same budgeting skills to manage your business budget.
You can use dedicated business management software (like HoneyBook or Quickbooks) or go simple (and free) by using Excel or Google spreadsheets (Check out the free Clever Girl Finance business spreadsheets in our worksheet library).
At the end of the day, any of these work just fine. What’s most important is that you track all your income and expenses and use this information to pay taxes throughout the year.
Manage invoices and receipts
With income and expenses comes managing invoices and receipts. While this may not be the sexiest part of being a business owner, it is of utmost importance—and unavoidable!
Again, you can leverage business management software to automate invoices for you. But if you’re on a budget, you can also DIY invoices for free. Try using a graphic design tool (like Canva) to help you, or just work in a free Microsoft Word invoice design template.
For tips on creating an invoice customized to your needs, head to Zapier for ideas on how to create a professional invoice.
Along with your invoices, remember to hold on to all business receipts. If you have paper receipts, consider scanning them and storing them digitally to keep everything organized.
Trust us—developing a system for storing invoices and receipts will make your life much easier come tax season!
9. Buy cleaning supplies
The specific cleaning supplies you’ll need will depend on the services you’ve chosen to offer when deciding how to start a cleaning business.
In general, here’s an overview of some of the cleaning supplies you can expect to put on your shopping list.
- Face mask
- Rubber globes
- Trash bags
- Cleaning rags
- Mop and bucket
- Cleaners for different surfaces e.g. glass, wood, granite, etc
- Spray bottles
Remember that you don’t need to buy everything all at once. If your start-up funds are low, just start small. Prioritize which supplies you need the most, and then scale up your supply inventory as you grow and take on more clients.
Don’t forget that you can often get supplies at a cheaper rate by shopping from wholesale vendors. (Bear in mind, though, that these vendors will often want proof of your business registration before processing a sale.)
Some clients (especially residential clients) may request that you use their own cleaning supplies—which is an opportunity for you to charge them an extra fee.
10. Decide on your rates
Here is where your market research comes in handy. When it comes to how to start a business from scratch, you’ll need to set your own prices.
To get an idea of how to set the rates for your cleaning company, check out what other cleaning businesses in your area charge.
When it comes to nailing down a price, there are several different ways to set rates: by the hour; by the square foot; by the room; or by a flat rate.
For commercial cleaning services, it’s not uncommon for cleaning companies to charge by square foot. For residential cleaning, on the other hand, it’s common to charge by the hour or a flat rate.
To help you set flat rates, first, figure out how long it will take you to do the job. Then multiply that number by your typical hourly rate. After that, increase the price to offset fees for transportation, cleaning supplies, taxes, etc.
11. Advertise your cleaning business
No matter what business you decide to launch, you will have to advertise to get your name out into the world. And advertising your business is not just a start-up activity.
Instead, think of advertising as an ongoing practice—something you do whether you have clients or not.
Set a foundation for your advertising efforts by creating a website for your business, as well as a Facebook business page and a Google business profile. This will help you with how to get clients online for your new business.
Then, establish an online presence on social media. You don’t need to be present everywhere; instead, it’s best to only set up an account where you will be active. Facebook is a great option for a cleaning business because you can join local community groups to get your name out in places close to you.
You can also go old-school by advertising your cleaning business in local business directories and at places like the bulletin boards at your local grocery store or YMCA.
12. Find (and keep) clients
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, have discovered what licenses are needed to start a cleaning business, and know how to begin, it’s time to get out there and start making money!
In other words, you’ve got to hit the ground running to look for clients. Here are a few tips to get started:
Leverage your local network
When your business is just starting out, there’s no shame in turning to your friends and family for support. Ask them if they know anyone who needs cleaning services and if they would be willing to recommend you.
Here are a couple of networking tips: Always remember to carry your business card with you and share readily. (But don’t be too pushy—because an over-the-top salesperson is also a turn-off to potential clients.)
Finally, try reaching out to local businesses in your community and ask if you can put a flyer in their shop window. You never know who might see it!
How to find your first clients
Besides leveraging your local network, you can also find your first clients for your cleaning business online.
Position yourself for referrals
As your business grows, you’ll likely find that most of your new clients are referrals—that is if you do a good job.
The key is to position yourself for these referrals.
When you work with your first clients, ask them if they would be comfortable sharing their contact info and serve as references. References are important for owners of cleaning companies. Prospective clients want to know that they can trust the person they’re letting into their home!
13. Create a cleaning schedule for your business
As your client roster grows, organization will be a key element in the success of your cleaning company.
After all, you don’t want to take on more than you can handle and end up letting down your newfound clients.
To stay organized, create a cleaning schedule and start implementing it from day one.
First, create a routine for your cleaning process. How do you tackle cleaning a room? In what order will you sweep, vacuum, mop, wash windows, etc.?
Nailing down a cleaning routine and doing it repeatedly will help boost your efficiency—and make sure you never miss a thing.
Next, create a schedule, or time management plan, for your roster of clients. You can leverage online appointment booking tools like Acuity Scheduling, Vagaro or Calendly that you can add to your website where clients can book you.
If you can, try to schedule clients who are located near each other on the same day. Note which clients are recurring—and how often.
Set reminders in your calendar one day or a few hours in advance so you never forget about an appointment.
14. Grow your cleaning business
You may choose to start your cleaning business as a side hustle, wherein you take on both the cleaning and the administration tasks by yourself.
After going full-time, the next step, then, is to scale your business by hiring cleaners. This allows you to take on more jobs than you can handle yourself so you can increase your profit.
Find contractors to work with online—you can even put job postings in the same places you looked for work, such as Care.com and TaskRabbit. Then, train your new hires so they all understand your cleaning system and schedule and can provide the same service for every client every time.
15. Factor in transportation costs
When it comes to business expenses and how to start a cleaning company, there’s more to it than just cleaning supplies.
You also have to get to and from the places where you’ll clean—and this takes both time and money.
To keep your car expenses down, look for clients in a specific geographic radius so you can be more efficient with your time (and gas money).
And don’t forget to always have a backup plan for transportation! After all, you don’t want to risk not showing up for the job due to car trouble when learning how to start a cleaning business.
Expert tip: Choose your niche first, and then scale slowlyStarting a new business is exciting, and it’s natural that you’re going to want to throw all your energy into it in the beginning. But don’t let yourself get too carried away! Remember, if you want to build a truly successful, profitable business, then you’ve got to play the long game.
Rather than jumping into a giant service offering and attempting to hire a huge team of contractors from the get-go, start slowly.
Begin with a smaller service offering that you know you can really crush when it comes to quality. This will make it easier to build a loyal clientele who support your work. From there, you can expand beyond your niche to hire more contractors and offer different cleaning services to grow your business.
The worst thing you can do is become overwhelmed with the work and end up letting down your clients. Remember the golden rule of business: Underpromise and overdeliver!
How profitable is a cleaning business?
A cleaning business can be very profitable. Cleaning may not sound like a glamorous job but hard work can be very well rewarded!
ZipRecruiter explains that the average yearly salary for the owner of a cleaning business is $109,000 (or an average of $53/hour).
To build a profitable cleaning business, the key is to scale up your clients over time so you can hire employees and take on more jobs (for more profit) than you can handle just yourself.
Is a cleaning business worth starting?
One of the top reasons to learn how to start a cleaning business is that you can count on pretty reliable demand.
After all, people always need stuff to be cleaned. And if you do a good job, they’re almost guaranteed to be repeat customers. Because once things are cleaned, they inevitably get dirty again.
Plus, with seemingly the entire world worrying about AI and what it means for the knowledge workforce, a cleaning business has a stable market outlook. (AI isn’t going to be cleaning the gunk out of the sink anytime soon!)
Do I need a license to clean houses?
Whether or not you need a business license to start a cleaning business depends on where you live. This is why market research is one of the most important steps when figuring out how to start your business.
Before you do anything else, make sure you research the relevant business laws in your state. For extra guidance, consider hiring a legal advisor. If that’s out of your budget, companies like LegalZoom are great places to turn for affordable, reliable legal information.
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Start a cleaning business and become your own boss today!
Starting your own cleaning company is a great opportunity for both new and seasoned entrepreneurs. With low up-front costs and reliable demand, this business idea has real, long-term profit potential.
Of course, you don’t get something for nothing. Starting a cleaning business always takes a lot of work—especially if you’re doing all the cleaning yourself before you can grow and hire staff.
To start and grow your business, it’s key to develop a growth mindset. While starting a side business or full-time business can be considered one of the comfort zone challenges, you can do it! Also, check out Choosing to Prosper by Bola Sokunbi to find out more about achieving your money dreams!