Start a Cleaning Business
Are you thinking about starting a cleaning business? There's great potential in cleaning services, whether you want to work in people's homes or on a commercial level. Starting a cleaning business is like starting any small business; you'll need a solid business plan and a good marketing strategy to help you succeed.
Designing Your Business
- Decide to be a commercial or consumer-driven business. When you start your cleaning business, you can choose between offering services primarily for commercial spaces or residential spaces. The clients you choose to cater to will determine what type of equipment you'll need, how much you'll charge, and the nature of the cleaning services.
- Commercial spaces, such as office buildings, usually require nightly or weekend-only janitorial-style cleaning. Washing the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, emptying trash cans, cleaning kitchen areas, and washing doors and windows is often included in this type of service. This type of work is steady and pays well.
- Homeowners hire maid services to do general cleaning and often tasks specific to the clients' needs. The maids usually work while the client is at home. Gearing your business toward residential cleaning services will mean having a diversity of clients, since most homes only need to be cleaned once a week or so.
- Figure out what services you want to offer. Not every cleaning service is all-purpose; some businesses specialize in one type of cleaning. When you're deciding what services to offer, think about what your abilities are and what niche you can fill in your community. Here are a few types of services you could consider offering:
- Carpet cleaning or floor waxing services.
- Window washing services.
- Janitorial services.
- Private residence maid services.
- Organic cleaning services.
- Consider opening a franchise or running your own business. If you're concerned about stability, operating as part of a franchise might be the way to go. This gives you the security that comes with operating under a known brand that has already experienced a level of success. If you start your own business, it's up to you to build trust with clients, but you'll have a much higher level of flexibility.
- Choose a location. Your business has to operate out of a space, whether that's a room in your house or a commercial space you decide to lease. There are pros and cons to each type of space, so think carefully about your needs before making a decision.
- If you work out of your home you won't have to pay for a commercial space. You'll save some money, but you'll have to store the cleaning equipment in your house.
- Having a commercial space will allow you to have clients meet with you in a professional setting. You can set up a desk with comfortable chairs for your clients to sit in while you describe the services you offer.
- Having a storefront will help you to advertise and build your brand. You'll be able to display your name and logo for everyone who drives past to see.
Making it Official
- Pick a name. You'll want something that sounds both professional and catchy. Make it both unique and search engine friendly so that your business will pop up when people are searching for the services you're providing.
- Check to see if the name you picked out will make a good web domain name. Make sure it's available.
- Check to make sure the name you pick hasn't already been registered as a business.
- Design a logo to go with your name. Make it look modern and sleek, since you'll want to print it on business cards, use it on your website, and use it in other promotional materials.
- Get your business set up. You'll need to Open a New Company or Register a Company by filling out forms at the register of deeds office. If you're hiring employees, get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and fill out the proper tax forms.
- You may also need to get a license or business permit to operate a cleaning service in your city. Contact your local Small Business Bureau to find out more information.
- Get liability insurance. It's necessary to insure your business in case you accidentally cause damage to a client's home. This type of situation can sink a cleaning business that doesn't have basic liability insurance in place. The policy you choose doesn't have to be unaffordable. Talk to a legitimate and well-respected insurance company about covering your business activities for a price that fits into your startup budget.
- Obtain start-up capital. Because a cleaning business is a business based on physical services on-site at client properties, there are some fundamental things that you will need in order to start this kind of enterprise. Either save the funds to secure these items or create a borrowing arrangement that lets you start up your cleaning service with lower overhead.
- Going into business with a partner and pooling resources is one way to approach funding if you can't swing it on your own and you don't want to take out big loans.
- You could also look into grants as an alternative option.
Getting Set Up
- Get your equipment ready. Depending on what services you're offering, you'll need to purchase equipment such as floor cleaning supplies, trash bags, an industrial vacuum cleaner, and so on to set up your business. Get heavy-duty equipment that will be able to endure a lot of wear and tear and last for many years.
- Make sure you have the right safety equipment to keep you and any employees you might hire safe on the job. Gloves and masks are a necessity if you're going to be handling toxic cleaning chemicals.
- Try renting equipment for the first few weeks so you'll have the chance to make sure it's up to your standards before making a purchase.
- Buy a company vehicle. You'll need a car, truck or van for transportation to and from your cleaning jobs. You may be able to use vehicles from an employer or other source, but if not, you'll need to lease or buy your own business vehicle. Reliable transportation is crucial for providing cleaning services to clients.
- The look of your company vehicle is important. Driving around in a van that's run down with a lot of chips and dents isn't good advertisement for your company.
- Consider having your logo screen printed on your vehicle as a way to advertise.
- Hire or subcontract workers as needed. Cleaning services may start up as sole proprietorships, where the owner/operator actually does all of the work, because cleaning doesn't have to require many sets of hands. However, as your business grows, you may need to hire more people. Make sure you know about all of the legal requirements around this process as well. Also make sure you know your workers well.
- Create a pricing structure. Taking into account the cost of labor, materials, and overhead, figure out how much to charge for your services you'll be making a profit. Do research to determine what the industry standards are for services like floor cleaning and janitorial services. You're free to negotiate prices with each new client, but it's good to have a baseline in mind so you'll be able to stay in business.
- Set up an accounting system. You'll need to keep track of what your clients owe by sending them invoices that lay out requirements for payment. Let your clients know you expect prompt payment, and keep track of who has paid and who still owes you money. Make sure you're also accounting for business expenses, tax expenses, and all other expenses your business has.
- You can use accounting software to process and send invoices.
- When your business grows, consider hiring an accountant who can competently keep track of your expenses.
Building a Brand
- Promote your business. You'll want to reach out to prospective clients in any way possible to build a beginning roster of customers for your cleaning service. Even just a few regular customers can help you make ends meet while you market yourself to an ever-broader target audience.
- Advertise in local newspapers and magazines. Offer deals to first time customers.
- Set up an account on Facebook and Twitter where you can advertise your company.
- Make sure you have a professional-looking website that lists your services and contact information.
- Be trustworthy. As you begin working for clients, it's extremely important to do your job well and respect your clients' space. Any sign that personal property has been tampered with, damage has been caused and gone unreported, or something has been stolen can ruin your reputation as a cleaning business.
- If something gets broken while you're on the job, let your client know and either replace the item or reimburse your client right away.
- Put items back where you found them after cleaning them. Don't touch people's personal items unless you've been instructed to do so.
- Stay out of rooms you haven't been instructed to clean. You don't want to be accused of something you didn't do.
- Think about investing time and energy in researching specialty cleaning products. Much of the classic cleaning agents include potentially harmful VOCs (volatile chemical compounds). Newer cleaning items have thrown out formulations including VOCs and built a more health-friendly method for cleaning. Providing low or non-VOC cleaning methods to your clients can help you stand out from the crowd.
- Ensure you do quality research before diving head first. Make sure you know your target market, your competitors, and anything else that is relevant to your situations and where you plan to offer your services.
- Be sure to not go overboard and create too much overhead when you start out. This will lead you to be stressed from all of the bills and may lead to closure of the business if it continues.