“I want to start my own cleaning business…but I’m scared, because I don’t know how. Where do I start?”
Starting any new business can be intimidating, but starting a new cleaning business can be even more intimidating.
There are limited resources for new cleaning business owners, which is why we’re here to help.
If you want to start your own cleaning business, then you should do it.
In this article, we’ll outline what you need to do step-by-step.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be that much closer to fulfilling your dream of being a cleaning business owner.
Below, we’ve outlined the 12 simple steps for starting your cleaning business the right way:
Step 1: Determine How Your Business Will Make Money
In order to be a successful cleaning business, you need to find out how you’re actually going to make a profit.
Before we dive into your business’ setup. You need to answer these questions:
Question #1: Who is your target client that you want to service?
- This is one of the most important things you’ll do. Take the time to dig deep into this answer. Picture your ideal client and fill out this Client Persona Template. After you fill this out, you can create your customer avatars.
Question #2: What services will you provide your clients? This is also known as your mission statement. Your mission statement tells your clients what your cleaning business is and what you do.
- What does your ideal client want from you?
- Do they want their drawers organized with laundry folded and put away? If so, this is a higher service level.
- Do they just want their surface dusted and basic mopping/vacuuming? If so, this is a lower service level.
- What are your primary upsells?
- Carpet cleaning?
- Window cleaning?
- Oven cleaning?
Now that you’ve answered who and what you can create your value proposition.
Why will your clients choose you over the competition? In other words, how are your cleaning services different than everyone else?
Really take the time to create your value proposition. It’s the primary way you’ll gain new clients, because you’ll have an answer for your clients when they ask, “Why should I hire you?” Think of it as a one-liner elevator pitch (sales pitch).
This statement should:
- Be clear and concise (it needs to be an easy-read)
- Answer what you do
- Be SEO friendly (you’ll want to include it on your website so it’s discoverable on a Google search)
- Explain a solution to your clients’ pain-points
- Be bold and visible on your business’ website and/or where your customers contact you
- Answer why you’re better and different than your competitors (What makes you stand out?
Now, you need to figure out how you’re actually going to make money.
Do this by creating a business model. A model will determine overall structure and function of your business.
In your business model, you’ll answer these 9 questions:
- Who are your key partners?
- What activities are you doing every day to fulfill your value proposition?
- What resources do you need to fulfill your value proposition?
- What value do you provide your clients? How does your value proposition address your clients’ pain points?
- What type of relationships will your clients expect you to establish and maintain?
- How do your clients want you to reach them?
- Who are your clients? (This is where the Client Persona Template comes in handy)
- What are your costs to fulfill the value proposition?
- How do your clients reward you for your provided value?
This is the longest step we’re going to talk about, but it’s the most important step you’ll take.
This is the step that defines your cleaning business and your revenue. It’s very important you really think about these answers and take the time to thoroughly answer them.
Step 2: Register Your Cleaning Business
Now that you’ve answered who, what and why, it’s time to register your cleaning business.
There are 3 types of businesses:
- Corporation: When a business is separate from its owners. In other words, the owners act as shareholders, executives, or employees. Owners who are executives or employees will receive wages earned for their position plus shareholder dividends.
- Multi-Owner Business: A business is owned by multiple people. This type of business includes partnerships and LLC (Limited Liability Companies). The owners aren’t employees.
- Single-Owner Business: A business that’s owned and operated by one person. This type of business also includes single-owner LLC. This is a sole-proprietor business that doesn’t have to be registered with the state.
Business structure requirements are handled at the state level, so the regulations and limitations are different for each state. For example, some states don’t allow certain business types.
Now that you’ve chosen your business type, let’s talk legality.
First off, you need to check with your local, state and federal agencies to find out how and where to report your business.
This stuff is true nationally, though:
- US: The Small Business Administration has resources designed to help YOU as a future business owner. They’ll even tell you where to register your business.
- Canada: The Government of Canada provides resources as well. They’ll tell you what permits you need, the resources available to you and will give you business advice.
Why You NEED Insurance in EVERY Cleaning Business
Many small companies try to get away with skipping this step to save money.
Any single mistake has the potential to bankrupt your business (and you).
It’s. Not. Worth. It.
Look into small business insurance (at bare minimal, be sure you’re covered for general liability).
Insurance is NOT optional.
Step 3: How to Profitably Price Your Services
The right price is essential to growing a successful cleaning business (or any business for that matter).
If you’re too high or low, you’ll lose clients, so let’s talk about how to properly price your services.
There are three key ways to price your cleaning services correctly:
- Record your average time cleaning at every property (and each room).
- Set a Pricing Model and Stick with it (hourly, flat rate per room, or square footage).
- Base your profit margin on your value, not your competitors’ prices.
You need to collect data on the time it takes to clean each room, because knowledge gives you the power to make educated decisions in your business. The time on a clean lets you know how much you’re making per hour from that job.
The simpler you keep your pricing structure, the easier it is to ensure you’re profitable. Start charging hourly and then branch out into flat rate work.
This protects you and your clients:
If a clean takes longer than anticipated (which WILL happen, especially as you’re learning to estimate), your time is still covered.
If a clean takes less time as you learn to clean faster, the client isn’t locked into a rate that was given based on a bad time estimate, early in the business.
When you copy competitors (or undercut them), you assume several things:
- They know what they’re doing.
- They priced their services correctly.
- Low-balling is a great way to get clients.
Let’s look at each of those:
“They know what they’re doing.”
You don’t know that.
Your top competitor today could be out of business in a week. Don’t trust that they have any idea what they’re doing.
Assume they’re priced too low because their instinct was to undercut another competitor AND they didn’t have the good sense to search out this article.
“They priced their services correctly.”
They probably guessed. Or they looked at a competitor and undercut them a little (just like you’re thinking right now). Maybe they got lucky. Maybe they didn’t.
There’s no reason for you to bet your business on their guess, right or not. Base your business decision on what’s going to be profitable for your business.
“Low-balling is a great way to get clients.”
It’s the worst way to get clients.
Clients who are on the lookout for the cheapest option are the least loyal clients. They’ll drop you when they find a fly-by-night cleaner who’ll clean for $5 less a month.
You don’t want to cater to that kind of client. Ask anyone who’s been in the business: cheap clients aren’t just cheap — they’re demanding, high-maintenance and they never stick around.
You want people who recognize the value you provide and are willing to pay fairly for that value. Low-ball clients don’t recognize value, and they certainly don’t want to pay for it.
Want to find out more on how to properly price your services? 3 Easy Steps to Price Your Cleaning Services Right
Step 4: How to Win Your First Clients
The easiest way to get your first clients is to sell your services to people you already know.
Family and friends who will be patient as you learn. You should only work with family and friends you’re comfortable charging correctly, and who’ll be willing to write reviews and give testimonials to your service.
Word-of-mouth from that initial group of clients is a fantastic way to have controlled growth. Once you have a steady client base, you can start focusing on your first marketing campaign.
Here’s where to start with customer facing marketing:
- Create a Facebook page. This is a great way to collect reviews AND interact with your clients.
- Ask for referrals and reward clients who bring you new clients. A referred client is way more likely to stick around than one you acquire by other means.
- Run your first Facebook Ad. Patrick, our resident expert, will walk you through every step of this process.
Advertising on Facebook is the BEST way to get your feet wet in the digital advertising world. Facebook holds your hand and Patrick has provided great information in the post above.
You can market your business online. It’s not hard. With a little effort, you can outperform 99% of your competition.
Marketing your cleaning business is a HUGE world. Here’s what third-party marketing companies don’t want you to know: the digital revolution has upset their world.
You can learn everything you need to market your business online or in a few books. You don’t need an MBA and you probably don’t need a marketing consultant until way further down the road.
Want more ways to market your cleaning business? 13 Smarter Ways to Market Your Cleaning Service
The Caveat to Hiring a Pro
If you don’t have time to learn how to create your own website (a cumbersome task when you do it well), you should hire a pro.
You want a website that functions well and provides you with decent SEO (search engine optimization) rank.
It’s more time (as business owner your time is at a premium) outsourcing your website is a respectable option, especially while you’re still in the field.
Make sure you have a basic understanding of how SEO works, so that you have a passing knowledge of what your web developer should be doing.
Step 5: Why You Should Start as a DIY Cleaner
Most people who start a cleaning business have a working knowledge of cleaning. You’ve either worked as a cleaner in the past, or you’re proficient in household chores.
You have room to grow and learn. You want to do that basic learning and growth in a place without employees. It’s hard to maintain authority if you’re employees see you flubbing basic stuff.
A small company is nimble. You’re still defining your practices and procedures, you don’t need to be feeding those piecemeal to new employees at the same time you’re writing them.
Working solo lets you ease into the business and get through your trial and error phase without having the added pressure of employees watching and relying on you to pay them.
Step 6: How to Choose a Professional Uniform
Uniforms are an important piece of advertising for your brand. It’s what clients will see in their home and it’s what potential clients see out in the wild.
- Market your cleaning business. It’s cheap advertising for your business.
- Provide recognition for your clients. It gives your business brand recognition.
- Provide a good, professional look. It makes you look like an authority in the business.
- Give trust to your clients. It lets your clients know that you’re a legit business.
You can consider t-shirts. They’re comfy, but they sacrifice a little professionalism. Embroidered, collared shirts are a good option that’s comfortable AND professional.
Consider light jackets for the winter. Your employees will wear jackets on the job. If you provide one, they keep advertising your company while they stay warm. Win-win.
Step 7: How to Pick a Name for Your New Cleaning Business
Your name should tell people what you do and where you’re located.
- Dallas Maids
- Plano’s Classy Cleaners
- North Dallas Home Cleaning
Don’t overthink your name. But make it memorable.
Your company name should be a thing someone can see once and remember tomorrow, when they want to Google and find you.
Step 8: Open a Business Checking Account
You need a business checking account separate from your personal account.
The important thing is to separate your money from company money. Do this before you start working.
Your business should not be running itself out of a personal checking account.
If you’re already in business and you’ve got your personal finances tied up in the business, disentangle them. Your accountant will thank you later.
Step 9: Why You Should Consider Hiring a Bookkeeper (SOON!)
Crunching the numbers is hard… and tedious.
Business owners are full of energy for immediate action and crazy busy.
That means a lot of owners end up with their books in total disarray.
Then, they have to hire a forensic accountant (a real job!) to comb through the messy records, and try to save them from getting audited by the IRS.
Don’t be one of those owners.
Hire someone in-house or a third-party bookkeeping service as soon as possible. You’re too busy to rely on the accounting you can squeeze in around everything else you have on your plate.
Unlike other aspects of your business, bookkeeping becomes more time-consuming as your business scales. And problems from sloppy accounting compound on themselves as you grow.
Step 10: Is it Time to Lawyer-Up?
You’re in the planning process for your business.
You’re chomping at the bit to start working. You’ve followed the other steps in this article.
Now’s the time to confirm your plans with a business law attorney.
Here’s what you want to avoid:
You’ve laid awesome plans. But, it turns out a minute detail of that plan was (unintentionally) in violation of the law.
Now you’re open to lawsuits.
You’ll have to hire an attorney and (because of a mistake) you’re in the wrong. You lose. You pay the attorney, you pay the person who sued you, you pay that person’s attorney.
You can hire an attorney now for a consultation and go over your business plan with them. They have you make any necessary changes, and you’ve started a professional relationship with them.
They’re your lawyer now.
If something goes wrong later, you’ve already established a rapport with them as a proactive, responsible business owner.
Step 11: Should You Become a Franchisee or Stay Independent?
Purchasing a franchise is expensive. You’re paying to become part of a pre-existing brand. It can take a lot of the guesswork and trial and error out of launching your business.
This decision can be shaped by finances (maybe you can’t afford to become a franchisee), but more important than money is the philosophy.
Why are you starting this business?
Franchise owners have a modicum of independence, but they’re not truly free to run their business the way they see fit.
What happens when you conflict with the way the brand wants you to run your business?
If you want to run your own business to get away from management decisions you didn’t agree with, franchising is a bad option for you.
If you’re willing to put the work into marketing and growing your business, you don’t need a national brand attached to your business. You can grow it on your own. It might be slower, it might involve some hiccups but it’s yours.
Building your own business? Then build it and send those national companies packing.
Step 12: Set Goals and Celebrate Your Victories
Write down your goals. TODAY.
Look at where you want to be at the end of 2020 — and what you can do to get there.
Here are some resources to help you accomplish your dreams:
- The Profit Roadmap: This podcast will answer just about every question you’ll have about being a crazily, good, successful business owner.
- FutureMe: Send your goals to your future self in 1, 3 or 5 years from now.
Celebrate your victories.
Being a business owner is hard, and it’s very easy to get stuck in tunnel-vision.
You jump from problem-to-problem and only see how much is left to be done.
It’s worth it to glance over your shoulder every now and then to see how far you’ve come.
And while you’re looking, celebrate.
It’s more than alright to celebrate your victories, you have to celebrate them and share that celebration with employees. It’s a valuable part of company culture.
Don’t let fear take your dream.
Use knowledge and business-savvy skills to outsmart fear and leave it where belongs… bad dreams and scary movies.
You can create the company you’ve dreamt of — you’ve got the skills all laid out in this article.
Pick a few actions items and tackle them this week. Don’t wait around, seize the opportunity and become the business owner you’ve always known you could be.
Cody is a copywriter with Service Autopilot. He was writing before he could read, dictating stories to his mom. Of late, he distills business principles and practices learned from his ever-increasing trove of books and his year with SA Support into digestible blog posts designed to provide maximum value to service industry business owners.