It seems like ages ago when I think about how I started my small cleaning business. But it’s been 10 years exactly. I was 25 years old, and although I’d been cleaning for quite some time, I knew nothing about running a successful cleaning business, let alone knowing how to get clients.
However, I was confident in my cleaning abilities. I’ve been cleaning since I was a little girl, often helping mom and grandma around the house.
Since graduating in 2006, I’ve cleaned everything from hotels, hospitals, small offices, colleges, and daycares.
Some job titles I’ve had are equipment operator, (which is pretty much like a janitor) locker room attendant, cleaning specialist, and housekeeping manager. However, most of my experience comes from house cleaning.
Motivations For Leaving
After about a year or so of working at our local hospital, I would always get asked if I clean houses.
The patients in the rooms would often comment about how detailed I was. For example, they liked the extra care I put into moving their things around and making sure the countertops and over-the-bed tables were cleaned.
I wasn’t just going in there with a spray and a quick wipe down, but taking the time to detail clean, while organizing their items.
Ever Since I was young, I always knew I wanted to work for myself. The thought of me being an entrepreneur would come and go. But I never really thought much of it until hospital patients started inquiring about it.
Taking the Leap
To be completely honest, I don’t believe there was an exact time when I decided I was going to start a cleaning business.
A friend of the family heard that I had been a housekeeper at our local hospital and asked if I would consider cleaning her home. It was like a dream come true!
Up to this time. I had only thought about cleaning homes. I hadn’t done it. Except my family’s homes and maybe babysitting clients.
I knew nothing about quoting for a house or anything. I just followed my gut and went with it and before you know it, I had my first cleaning client.
When I chose to take on this client, I was still working a full-time housekeeping job at the hospital. Not only did I need to invest in cleaning supplies and equipment, but I also needed to make sure I had the available time to clean her home.
My husband and I both worked and had a little girl. It was important to me that I wouldn’t burn myself out cleaning full-time while taking care of my family.
Another challenge that I had was not knowing how much to charge for cleaning. I mean, I knew I wanted to make about $15 an hour. But when I would research how to estimate a cleaning, a lot of advice was talking about learning square footage!!
And if you know me at all, you would know that “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I’m super bad at math, and thinking that was the only way to give an estimate, I almost allowed that to stop me from moving forward.
Thank God for Google & YouTube…
I was able to quickly learn how to do a proper walk-through while making the amount that I wanted to an hour. Although I was able to use the square footage of the house as a reference, I didn’t have to calculate any square footage to properly charge the client.
Because of my background in the cleaning industry, I pretty much knew everything I needed as far as tools, equipment, and supplies.
It was just a matter of making sure I had the money to invest. Depending on the size of the cleaning company you’re starting, start-up costs can vary. It’s possible to start a cleaning business with no money at all.
But if you’re like me, you’re gonna have “shiny object syndrome” and go HAM on ALL the cute, precious cleaning products. And yes, I said cute.
The good thing is my client said she had a lot of cleaning supplies and a vacuum at her home that I could use.
I also had a small amount of cleaning products and tools at my home, so I didn’t need to get much. I believe I invested in a vacuum (just in case I needed it for other clients) a high duster, microfiber towels, and a microfiber mop. It was on and poppin’ after that!
Building a Small Business
After cleaning for my first client after a while, I was able to get some referral clients for doing a good job. Once I got my second client, I knew it was time for me to start taking my small cleaning service a little bit more seriously.
I thought about ways I could grow my clientele and also ways I could appear more professional. For example, I was pretty much cleaning in whatever comfortable clothes I had or a pair of scrubs. I decided to purchase some T-shirts with my business name along with some business cards.
I’d been working at the hospital for some years now and was ready to be done with them. So I was invested in research and learning how to grow my cleaning company so I could do just that.
Since I was making a little extra money on the side, I could afford to revamp my cleaning business by getting better supplies and equipment.
One thing that was super important to me was to get clients in the same neighborhood as my current clients. So I decided to purchase a car magnet with my business name and number on it. Researching ways to gain more clients was often a habit of mine.
I learned about gaining organic traffic like word of mouth, but also learned about postcard marketing and door hangers.
Since I was a small company and couldn’t afford these items, and not even sure if I needed them, I decided to design and print my door hangers at home. Everything was looking up.
Early Successes & Setbacks
After the marketing efforts I had put forward weren’t gaining me any new clientele, I decided to pay for leads by using Home Advisor.
Home Advisor is a platform that allows you to create a profile with all of your cleaning Accolades. Residence can go on the platform and look for professional cleaners to complete a certain job.
Each lead that you accept, you’ll have to pay for, whether you were able to book the job or not. This may not be too bad for the first few times but after a while, if you’re noticing you’re getting charged for leads, but you’re not booking any jobs it’s gonna be a major deficit to your business. This is exactly what happened to me.
I was able to gain a few clients with Home Advisor, but after a while, I decided that they were too expensive and decided to just find clients my way by utilizing social media, word of mouth, flyers, and the newspaper.
A lot of the jobs I did were one-time only jobs, but ultimately I was able to keep about 8-10 recurring cleaning clients.
Lessons Learned Along The Way
You know that saying “If you knew better, you do better?” That’s me starting as an entrepreneur.
One of the first mistakes I made was trying to clean for everyone (I as you can see from my business card).
When we are first starting, we are just trying to get work! Not only that but some of us may still need to learn what type of cleanings we want to do.
The only way to know is if you have experience with many different kinds of cleanings. However, I found out soon enough that was not the move!
Do you remember when I mentioned creating my own door hangers and passing them out in the neighborhood?
I never do that today. lol, I mean not saying that it doesn’t work. But it’s also soliciting. I’d rather not have to worry about that. Not to mention I designed the door hangers and flyers myself, so not only was I soliciting, but my designs may not have been the best.
How about fully vetting your prospects over the phone before driving to their house for an estimate?
So much time can be saved if you have a standard questioning system that allows you to determine whether this individual is a good fit.
Which brings me to my next lesson, being too anxious to book a job.
There’s something about desperation that just likes to reveal itself. You never wanna be so desperate to book a job that you end up not fully vetting your client to see if they are right for you, and vice versa.
You also don’t want to be so desperate that you end up undercutting your prices.
Remember. It’s all a Learning Experience
Listen, don’t talk to me about past mistakes and lessons learned because I could be all day. But you know what, I didn’t let it stop me.
Being able to recognize your mistakes and then fix them is crucial when running a business. You need to be able to put your pride aside and put your clients first to make sure that you are meeting all of their needs.
I’ve been cleaning for 18+ years and I think most people just want honesty you know? Someone they can trust. Someone that they don’t have to worry about being inside their home. As long as you’re willing to learn, change, and grow, you can’t really go wrong.
Here are a few tips to help get you up and running.
5 Tips For Starting Your Cleaning Business
If you’re thinking about starting a cleaning service, here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Decide the type of cleaning business you’d like to start
I did residential and office cleaning, but there are many different cleaning businesses such as window cleaning, restaurants, daycare cleaning, car detailing, crime, scene, cleanup, and so much more.
2. Calculate your start-up cost
I mentioned earlier in the article that you can start some cleaning services with little to no money that’s probably easier to do with residential cleaning because you could find clients that have everything you need to clean.
However, when it comes to cleaning for businesses, you’re most likely going to need your own cleaning tools and equipment not to mention uniforms and business cards, and so forth.
Make a list of all the equipment and tools that you’re gonna need to get started. Come up with an initial start-up cost. Note that you may not need to purchase every single little thing but you at least need to set up with the basics to get you up and running.
3. Start getting your name out there. AKA, sell yourself.
If you have business cards, start handing them out and letting people know the type of business that you’re in. If you don’t have business cards, just tell them. Most people are walking around with their phones anyway. You could simply give them your number to save. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. This is probably the best advertisement you can do.
4. First impressions are everything!
When talking to a prospect, Try your best to keep it professional while also showing your personality. When it’s time for you to clean, do the best you can. If there are any mistakes or mishaps, be honest about it. You will run into clients who are not nice, but for the most part, most people will be understanding. But if you’re not honest or transparent, they will most likely never give you a callback.
5. Follow up.
After completing a job, follow up with your client and make sure everything is as it should be. This small but significant step ensures your client’s needs are being met and also shows you care.
Considerations & Pitfalls
Starting your own cleaning service could be a scary venture, especially if you have no prior experience in running a business. To go from being an employee and having all the decisions made for you, to being the one making all the decisions is intimidating.
Just know that learn anything that you need to know, and you can perfect anything with time and patience. You will have pitfalls and that’s ok, it’s a learning experience. The more you mess up, the more you learn what not to do.
- You may accidentally damage someone’s belongings
- Employees may forget to lock your client’s door
- You might accidentally let the dog out.
- People may complain about your service.
It’s inevitable! Mo Money Mo problems. What do you do? You address the concern respectfully, do what you can to fix it, and move on. That’s it.
Starting a cleaning business is an easy way to start working for yourself. Depending on the type of cleaning you’re doing, you can have a low start-up cost. You’ll learn professionalism, promptness, people skills, and most importantly how to sell or market yourself.
I hope the considerations and pitfalls have not deterred you from possibly starting your cleaning business.
Taking the leap may be the hardest part, once you do that, everything kinda just falls into place. Hopefully, this article has provided some insight into how you can get started in the cleaning industry.
If you are interested in starting a small cleaning business or learning about emerging cleaning products, Subscribe to my email list. Good luck and Happy Cleaning