How To Start A Cleaning Service

You've stumbled upon the idea to build a cleaning service and now you're ready to take the next steps.

There's a lot to think about when building a business, so we put together a guide on how to get started, launch, grow and run your cleaning service.

We also provide you with real-life case studies and examples of founders running successful cleaning service businesses (and how much💰 they're making today).

💡 Idea

Is the cleaning business for you?

Now more than ever, the cleaning industry plays a major role in keeping our homes, cities and environment safe.

As long as you're okay with getting your hands a little dirty, creating a cleaning business can be a highly profitable venture for you.

Let's look at the pros and cons of starting your own cleaning business:

Pros:

  • Flexibility One of the biggest advantages of starting a cleaning business is that you can either offer part-time or full-time services. If you like the work and have the experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own. Or, if you prefer to manage the books and instead delegate work to someone else, you can build and manage your own team to do so.
  • Ability to start your business from home: It's not necessary to have an office space to get your business started! You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
  • Little experience required: As long as you meet the needs of your customers and do a thorough job, you can easily start a successful cleaning business
  • Little overhead + startup costs required: To get started, you only need a few essential items! We will go over this in more detail in the startup section below
  • Rewarding work!: If you're someone that enjoys cleaning (or the operation), starting a cleaning service can be really fun and rewarding.

Cons:

  • The physical work is not easy: No matter how hard you try, this part cannot be downplayed. The hours/work involved with cleaning a business or home is no walk in the park. If you plan to clean yourself, it's important to ensure that you are in physical and healthy shape to be doing this as supplies can be heavy and movements are not easy on your body.
  • Crowded space: There is a lot of competition when it comes to the cleaning industry, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and demand in your area.
  • Motivation: If you plan to have a team on board, finding creative ways to motivate them can be a challenge. It's important that you incentivize your team properly and ensure that everyone is happy.

Creating a successful cleaning business means that you will have the ability to sell, provide stellar customer service, communicate with vendors and motivate your team (even if it's down the road)!

Players

Big Players

Small Players

What market do you choose?

There are two main markets in the cleaning industry

1 - Consumer/residential market (ie. homes, Airbnb accommodations).

Although residential cleaning makes up a smaller portion of the overall cleaning industry, the demand for contract cleaning in residential homes is looking to increase in 2020.

This is due to more households coming on the market in the next year and lack of time (and desire) for house-owners to clean their own homes.

2 - Commerical/ nonresidential market (typically targets businesses rather than consumers).

The commercial/nonresidential market accounts for 80% of cleaning service revenue, so there is typically more of a demand with this type of service as businesses have strict health codes and need to keep their facilities safe/clean for both customers and staff.

The type of market you pursue should, of course, depend on the demand in your local area and what competition looks like.

You may want to consider specializing in one of these markets, but know that it's common to offer both types of services so that you can easily expand your services to new customers and markets.

Market Opportunity

Currently, there are a lot of opportunities for growth within the cleaning industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that cleaning services will see a 10% growth in jobs through 2026, which is above the national average for all industries.

This spike in demand is due to COVID-19 and the spread of the virus. Proper and thorough cleaning has the ability to inactivate the virus.

Commercial and residential cleaners are better equipped to meet the proper standards, which has led to an increase in demand for these types of services.

Additionally, in order to meet these high-quality standards, cleaning services are able to charge more to ensure that expectations are met and the health and well-being of the client is in good hands.

Search Interest

Let's take a look at the search trends for cleaning service over the last year:

How to name your cleaning service

It's important to find a catchy name for your cleaning service so that you can stand out in your space.

Here are some general tips to consider when naming your cleaning service

  • Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
  • Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
  • Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
  • As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!

🎬 Start

Write a Business Plan

Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your cleaning service.

Why?

Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.

For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.

You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
  • Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
  • Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
  • Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
  • Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
  • Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
  • Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
  • Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
  • Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.

When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.

The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.

These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.

  • LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
  • S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
  • C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.

Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.

Learn more about securing the right permits and licenses ➜

Startup Costs

If you are planning to start a cleaning service, the costs are relatively low. This of course, depends on if you decide to start the business on your own or bring on a big team at first.

We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of a cleaning service and outline the costs you should expect for each:

  • The estimated minimum starting cost = $1,350
  • The estimated maximum starting cost = $17,500
Startup ExpensesThese numbers are based off the average expenses incurred when starting a cleaning service. Min Startup CostsDefined as an cleaning service you have started and plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs. Max Startup CostsDefined as an cleaning service you have started with one other full-time planner. You decided to rent out an office space to set up the business.
Licenses and Business FormationThis refers to setting up your business license and establishing any legal contracts. $250 $1,000
PayrollThis number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary up front and the amount of employees you hire. The average salary for a full-time cleaning service individual is $0 $4,000
Advertising/PromotionThis includes (but not limited to): paid ads, public relations, networking events etc. $200 $2,000
Website and Email HostingCosts to host website, domain names and email $100 $300
Website Design (Outsourced)Hiring an outside contractor to assist with design elements of your website $0 $5,000
RentThis refers to the office space you decide to work in. Depending on the cost of living, this number could vary. $0 $2,500
Liability InsuranceDepending on which state you live in, the costs and regulations vary for liability insurance. You can learn more here. $500 $2,000
Cleaning SuppliesTo get started, you may want to consider getting basic cleaning supplies. Note that you may not need to buy all the tools and supplies at first. You can consider purchasing in bulk down the road. $300 $700
Total Starting Costs $1,350 (min) $17,500 (max)

Raising Money

Since the startup costs to start cleaning service range between $1,350 - $17,500, there are ways you can raise money to cover these costs.

Here are a few ways you can secure additional funding:

Ron Holt, founder of Two Maids & A Mop ($600K/Month) talks about how he raised a random goal of $150K to start his cleaning business:

I made a decision to start a business right then and there. Only one big issue: I had no money. So I created a completely random goal to save $150K before starting the business. I had less than $1K in my bank account at the time,

I sat down and created a plan of attack to save money at all costs, take second jobs on the weekends/evenings, have side hustles to generate extra cash and to completely crush corporate America in hopes of promotions and pay raises.

My solution was to simply save $330 every single week for the next eight years. That’s nearly $140K if you’re counting at home. I felt my keen investing skills could get me over the finish line with a little help from compound interest.

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Ron Holt, on starting Two Maids & A Mop ($600,000 revenue/mo) full story

How Much Should You Expect To Make?

Hourly rates

Depending on the type of service you are providing, the hourly costs range anywhere from $20-$75 per hour.

Here's how this typically breaks down (on average):

  • Carpet cleaning: $25-$75 per hour
  • Window cleaning: $50-75 per hour or $7-$10 per window
  • House cleaning: Flat rate of $90-$150 or $25-$75 per cleaner (depends on the size of home)
  • Commercial cleaning (ie. businesses): $20-$30 per hour, per cleaner or 5-55c per square foot.
  • Commercial litter cleaning service: $20-$50 per hour

Revenue numbers

Two Maids & A Mop

  • $600K/month in revenue
  • 500 employees
  • Serves 82 markets across the country
  • Cleans 400 homes per year

Clean Lots

  • $40K/month
  • 1 employee
  • Startup cost of $250
  • Serves 150 properties
  • Bills out $500,000 per year in litter cleaning work

🚀 Launch

Ron Holt, founder of Two Maids & A Mop explains the importance of community when launching:

Traditional Launch Strategies (that work)

There are various different ways you can launch your cleaning service successfully.

Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your cleaning service:

  • Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
  • Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
  • Live sales to get customers excited
  • Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.
  • I focused on local marketing and tried to interact with anyone and everyone within the community.
  • I scoured the local area for meetup and networking groups.
  • I used my evenings and weekends to drop off door hangers on thousands of doors, all by myself.
  • I connected with every real estate agent and provided them with a free cleaning, no strings attached.
  • I even went so far as to offer a free house cleaning to anyone that would invite 10 of their closest friends over for an afternoon cocktail.

Think of those afternoon cocktail sessions as the house cleaning version of a Tupperware party. I’d answer questions about cleaning, provide a bunch of free booze and everyone would be booking us by the end of the party. I was talking to anyone that would listen to me and using my people skills to my advantage.

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Ron Holt, on starting Two Maids & A Mop ($600,000 revenue/mo) full story

Build A Website

Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).

  1. Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
  2. Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
  3. Make sure you choose the right theme and design
  4. Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)

To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.

📈 Grow

Improve your SEO

SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.

One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."

Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your cleaning service.

Learn more about the fundamentals of SEO ➜ here

The idea of earning a website visitor without having to pay for it seemed attractive. We compete in an old-school industry, so I was able to master the art of local SEO without having to earn a master’s degree.

SEO was driving so much traffic to the consumer sites, and we’ve used those early days to truly master the art of SEO today. We perform SEO work for all of our franchisees, at no cost to them.

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Ron Holt, on starting Two Maids & A Mop ($600,000 revenue/mo) full story

Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to cleaning service.

There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.

Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:

  • Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
  • Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
  • Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
  • Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
  • LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses

It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:

Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:

  • Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
  • Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
  • Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?

From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!

Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.

Build a Referral Program

In the cleaning service, word of mouth is one of the biggest forms of marketing and retaining customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage others to get the word out.

A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.

Just remember, the cleaning service is all about clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.

Here's a great example of a referral program from Lilly's Cleaning Service.

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  • A great incentive for the customer to refer business
  • Simple, easy transaction
  • The reward is applied after the third cleaning, so you are guaranteed to have a new consistent customer out of the referral (vs just a one time cleaning).

Diversify Your Product Line

Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.

It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.

Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product

  • Meeting the needs of your customers
  • Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
  • Resistance to downturns/trends fading
  • Create new revenue streams

While it's important to specialize and be the best at one thing, there may be opportunity to offer new services (as long as it makes sense for your business).

There are several different ways you can expand your services in the cleaning industry:

  • Expand your offering to other markets (ie. residential, non-residential)
  • Offer lawn care services
  • Party/event cleaning services
  • Offer cooking services or additional help around the house (this concept is more common outside the U.S

Brian Winch, founder of Clean Lots explains the importance of offering new services, but not to the extent of hurting your reputation:

You can specialize and be the very best at one thing (product or service), and develop related products or services. But don’t stray too far from your core.

Early on we had a couple of clients ask us if we could provide other services such as snow removal and lawn care.

We obliged fearing we would lose them if we didn’t. We found that the service hours didn’t mesh, we didn’t enjoy this other work and didn’t do as good a job. We stopped the extra work and lost only one client. Don’t risk your reputation.

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Brian Winch, on starting CleanLots.com ($40,000 revenue/mo) full story

🏃🏼‍♀️ Run

How To Retain Customers

Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your cleaning service.

Often times, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.

Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer, than you are a new customer.

That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.

Here are some ways you can retain customers for your cleaning service:

  • Responding to comments on social media
  • Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
  • Provide valuable content, for free
  • Write hand written thank you notes
  • Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers

To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here

Brian Winch describes how he builds relationships with clients, and as a result, gets referral business:

Referrals are a result of satisfied clients.

Offer extra value over what you do. We act as an “extra set of eyes” for our clients.

We notify them of any property damage, burned out lights, graffiti or illegally dumped items such as mattresses and sofas the first opportunity to do so when we’re on-site cleaning. This helps build and cement a relationship. Who do you think they’ll call when they need someone to clean their other properties? We’ve had some clients for up to 30 years!

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Brian Winch, on starting CleanLots.com ($40,000 revenue/mo) full story

Differentiate Your Brand From The Rest

There's a lot of competition within the cleaning industry. It's important to do your research and identify ** what others aren't doing** and capitalize on that thing.

The perfect example is when the founder of Two Maids & A Mop created a plan that allowed customer feedback to directly control employee wages.

It sounds crazy, but at the end of the day, their phone lines were blowing up and their employees were happier than ever.

Here's how it works:

Basically, a customer rates their level of satisfaction on a simple scale from 1-10, and we use that rating to determine the employee’s compensation level.

There was some initial shock to the system within the two offices, but everyone became excited once the first paychecks were printed.

We started using the pay for performance plan as a sales tool. We talked about it every time someone called for a quote and always led with it during in-home estimates. People started to eat it up, and we quickly started to grow even faster than before.

There would never be another time in the future when we didn’t talk about the compensation plan. It would become part of us, no different than our own business name.

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Ron Holt, on starting Two Maids & A Mop ($600,000 revenue/mo) full story

Outsourcing

If you can afford to hire someone to help support your cleaning service, outsourcing is a great way to save you time and energy.

Most importantly, outsourcing can help you focus on the core growth of your business, versus spending your time on day to day tasks that other people can do just as well!

If you do plan to outsource your work, it's important to be hyper-familiar with the actual work involved.

Why is it important to be hyper-familiar with the work?

  • So you can understand how long it takes
  • So you understand the full process, edge cases, things that can go wrong.
  • So you can explain it in detail to your employee.
  • So you can make sure it actually works (for example - how do you know cold email works for your business if you’re not on the ground floor trying it out?)
  • Understanding the tasks at a deep level will save you a lot of time and money.

Tools to get started:

As a cleaning service, there are some tools and platforms you may want to consider when getting started:

Resources

Books

Website/Videos

Case Studies

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Samantha Walls,   Founder of Starter Story Blog

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