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How to Start a Cleaning Service

image for kzenon / Getty Images
kzenon / Getty Images
  • Decide if you'll be using your own cleaning supplies or those on premises.
  • Figure out how you want to accept payments.
  • Work on your customer service strategy.

At first glance, a cleaning service seems like an incredibly easy and low-cost business to start: How hard can it be to find someone who's willing to pay you to take care of household chores?

There's no question that the market for home cleaning is huge, but the challenge lies in making yourself stand out as a high-quality, trustworthy service provider.

"People think you just need a bucket and mop to get started, but that's not really true," said Meg Roberts, president of cleaning-service franchise Molly Maid. "You're not in the cleaning business; you're in the customer-service business. People have different ideas of what cleanliness is, and if you're not interested in always making the customer happy, this is not the industry for you." [Read related article: 10 Businesses You Can Start for Less Than $100]

If you're thinking of launching your own cleaning service, here are a few things you need to do.

One of the first decisions you'll need to make about your business is whether you will use your own cleaning products or those of your clients. Some customers are particular about the products used in their homes and may ask you to clean with items they've purchased, but if you and your staff use your own supplies, you'll need to figure out an economically smart method of replenishing them.

"Mobile workforce businesses often struggle with figuring out the right way to supply their workers with enough money to cover company costs while limiting the exposure of theft," said Toffer Grant, founder and CEO of prepaid business Visa provider PEX. "Since most of a cleaning business's work is done out of the office, you need the right operational support and cash-management tools."

Grant noted that many PEX clients who run cleaning services request receipts from employees when they pick up more supplies. Even if your business doesn't have many employees, keeping meticulous records of purchases and product prices can help you maintain a good overhead budget. You can also save money on fuel expenses by efficiently scheduling your route, Roberts added.

You may be able to handle your cleaning service on your own in the beginning, but as your business grows, you'll probably need to expand your staff. While a person doesn't necessarily need any special skills or education to know how to clean a home, the individuals you hire to work for you should be committed to doing an excellent job.

"The quality of the staff you hire is a key component to success," Roberts said. "They're out there representing your brand, so they should take a great deal of pride in their work."

As a business that travels to its clients' homes, you'll also have to tackle the issue of accepting payments. In today's high-tech world, mobile credit card processors like Square are a top choice for businesses like cleaning services.

"As smartphone adoption has increased, so too has the number of ways to accept payment via mobile device," Grant said. "Businesses like the idea of closing up receivables by taking credit card payments on the spot. There is a fee, but for some business owners, getting paid faster is the only way to ensure payroll needs are met and money is being used immediately to grow and continue operating."

As Roberts pointed out, being in the cleaning business means being in the customer service business. Building up a relationship of trust with your clients is of utmost importance, and the best way to do that is to go the extra mile for them. 

"Molly Maid's success comes from the fact that we put a lot of time and energy into taking care of our clients," Roberts said. "At the end of the day, it's how comfortable customers feel with the company they're entrusting with the keys to their home."

If you are trying to decide whether to start a cleaning business, consider these benefits:

  • High demand: Cleaning services are in high demand among families, individuals and businesses.

  • Minimal costs to start: There is no need to break the bank to start your cleaning business. All you need are some simple cleaning supplies and materials. If you require more expensive equipment, you can rent or finance those items.

  • Great income potential: Given that cleaning services are in such high demand, your earning potential is limited only by your own restrictions.

How much you should charge for your cleaning services depends largely on where you are located and what types of businesses and residences you are cleaning. However, in general, most cleaning services charge $25 to $50 per hour. The costs can vary depending on the type of cleaning and how many hours it takes. Alternatively, you can charge a flat rate. For instance, you could charge $100 for a one-bedroom/one-bathroom apartment and move up from there.

To start a cleaning business, you need to acquire a vendor’s license. You can apply for this license through your local city hall or county administration. You simply fill out the application and pay the fee, which is typically less than $50. Additionally, if you will be working under a name other than your own, you will need to obtain a DBA (doing business as) license.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.

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