Start Your Own Cleaning Business
Are you thinking of starting your own cleaning business?
Here is a great starting point:
Step by step instructions to getting set up for success!
Step 1: First and foremost, you have to decide what area of cleaning you would like to do. Do you have an interest in doing residential or commercial cleaning? With residential cleaning, you will be working in your client's home. With commercial, you will work in office buildings, apartments, restaurants, construction sites, etc. Residential is usually done during the day and commercial is done after hours. Decide what is most appealing to you. You can even do both. It is best to start out small and, once you get the experience, you can move on to offering many services. Set yourself apart from others. If you offer residential house cleaning and you have a lot of competition in your area, you may want to offer a "special touch" to your cleaning services. For example, offer bed turnovers, laundry service (if that is your thing), and dish washing. Never compromise your prices to try to get ahead of the competition!
Now that you know what you are interested in and what sort of business you want to set up, you can get started on the business side of it.
Step 2: The next step in setting up your business is deciding on a business name. You need to set up a business name before you can get a license or insurance. Your name should be catchy. You want your potential clients to go straight to yours. Having a name that ties you to the community works best, in my opinion. For example, if you live in Westtown, you can call your business, "Westtown Cleaning Services". Just make sure no one else took that name first. Try to get creative as well. Many people feel they need to find a name that starts with a letter A. The only advantage this will have for you is you will get to the top of the list in the phone book. This is not necessary. For the most part, your name will travel by word of mouth. That is when your advertising costs go way down or may even be unnecessary. Your customers will look over all the names in the phone book and will first choose to call the one they can relate to or describes exactly what they are looking for. Be sure the name you choose does not limit your services. For example, if you are going to start out with house cleaning but may move to office cleaning in the future, you don't want to name your business Jen's House Cleaning Service. This will limit your services to potential clients to the point you will not even be considered for the job. The best name would be Jen's Residential & Commercial Cleaning Services. This way commercial accounts will call you as well as residential.
Step 3: Now that you have a name, you can get licensed. Here is a link to the SBA (Small Business Association): http://www.sba.gov/hotlist/license.html. This link will list all of the US states. Go to your state to see what sort of business license you will need for your service. Many states only require you to file a DBA (Doing Business As) but it varies. After you check with your state, try your local, township office. Sometimes, they want to know about your business as well and you may need approval. Just make sure all ground is covered so you don't run into any surprises. I actually went to a township meeting this month and they discussed another individual wanting to start a business selling cars on EBay. He said the cars would be in a garage and never seen by neighbors, but he still needed to get approval. This surprised me. I never thought about township approval.
Once you are licensed, it is time to set up the paperwork part of your business.
Step 4: You will need the necessary paperwork to protect your business and keep track of your customers. The most important form is the service contract for your clients to sign with a list of your policies and procedures. This is essential to ensure you will get paid the amount you agreed on. You will also need a checklist to record what you did during each cleaning. You will also need a flyer to advertise your services. Those are the most important and "necessary" forms you will need. Sound overwhelming? Do you have the time and skill to develop these forms? Don't fret. Go to http://www.businessformsstore.com/residential_cleaning or www.businessformsstore.com/commercial_cleaning. All these forms are there for you as well as more you may need. The kick with these forms is that they come personalized. They will come with your business name and logo if you have one. There are also many flyers to choose from which will also have your business name and phone number on it. When you are ready to hire employees or independent contractors, you can get those forms there as well. When I developed my forms initially, it took me, literally, months of research and design and I am pretty creative. It was tough. That is why they are now offered to you all!
Alright, now you have a business name, license and the paperwork.
You are getting closer...
Step 5: Next you need insurance. Insurance is a MUST. There are so many things you can run into and you should be protected. You may think you can get away with it, but, Murphy's Law, something will happen when you are not prepared. Your client's will trust you with their property. If you should break something, especially something expensive, you are responsible. If you don't want to pay for a $1000 item out of pocket, get insurance. For commercial businesses, you will, more than likely, be required to have it in order to get clients. Most commercial accounts will not hire without insurance and even underinsured. Many will require a million dollar policy. You will mainly only need liability insurance, but be sure you talk to the carriers about the best coverage. Make sure you shop around for your quotes. Call your local carriers first (Allstate, Nationwide, State Farm, etc). Some other places of interest may be http://oci.wi.gov/sm_emp/pl_comm.htm and http://www.lowquotes.com/ will give you quotes from lots of companies. If you do a search for liability insurance for small businesses, you will find a lot of companies. One place which offers excellent rates is Acuity Smith at 800-242-7666, but it will vary according to where you live.
Step 6: The next step is bonding. Bonding is there to protect you and your company against employee theft. The way bonding works is if your client accuses you or an employee of theft, the police are involved. They will do a criminal investigation. If they find you or your employee guilty, the bond pays out and you then repay the bond. Some clients want you to be covered and people will get it as a marketing tool. It is up to you if you want to purchase it. You can ask your insurance carrier if they offer bonding and add it on to your policy.
Okay, you are bonded, licensed, insured and physically ready to start.
Step 7: Now you need to get clients...Marketing is the trickiest, most frustrating and time-consuming part of this business and any business. Once you get some clients, the ball will start rolling more by word-of-mouth, but for now, you need to advertise...Flyers are the cheapest and are best for getting just your area. Go get your personal flyer at http://www.businessformsstore.com/flyers and start distributing. It is illegal to put them in people's mailboxes without going through the post office. However, you can put them on people's doors. Some places may even require you to have a permit to put them on people's cars, so be sure you check on that before you spend the time distributing them. Basically, put them anywhere you go which has a bulletin board (supermarket, post office, supply stores, etc). Keep a stock-pile in your car just in case you may need to display one.
One great way to gain commercial clientele is to compile a list from the phone book of businesses and fax your flyer to them. You will be surprised at how much feedback you will receive.
Other than that, get listed as much as you can on the internet. There are many local websites which will list you for free. Verizon and Superpages offer free listings in their online books. Be sure to do a search as if you were looking for a cleaning professional in your area and see what comes up. Whichever directories come up, list there, even if you have to pay for it. Remember, you have to spend money to make money! Another good advertising technique is the community newspaper. It is cheap, about $10/week and everyone gets one for free. After that we go up in price. Getting in the yellow pages is expensive and you can only get in at the right time of the year when they are publishing their new book. Call for rates. When you are ready, get a website. Once you have a website submitted to the search engines, you will start to come up with the search results. For example, if you live in Seattle and someone is searching for a cleaner in Seattle, your site will come up. This will be very beneficial since most people will search while they are at work.
Alright, now you are advertised and you should be getting that first call any day now...but what are you going to get asked and are you ready to answer questions?
Step 8: Your potential clients are going to throw a lot of questions at you. The most important one will be "what are your rates?". Do you know what you want to charge? Keep it simple. I see people charging flat rates to all these extras. Don't confuse your potential clients and don't make it seem more difficult. This will turn them away. Be straight to the point. Have all you want to offer and rates written out and ready for their call. A good calculator would be to use the telephone reservation form provided on Home Business Forms. It will ask for the details of the home or office and you can figure your rates from that.
Residential cleaning is typically done per hour. Most charge anywhere from $20-$30 per hour. Typically, ovens, fridges, laundry, etc is not included. Make sure you know what you will and will not be doing to determine how much time you think it will take to complete the job.
Large commercial cleaning is generally done by square footage. The amount per square foot varies greatly. If you want a better idea of the going rate in your area, call other companies and see what they charge. Stay competitive with their rates. You don't want to go lower thinking that will gain more clients. It doesn't usually work out that way. Charge what you feel you are worth and your clients will feel you are worth it too.
Next they will ask you if you are licensed, insured and bonded. Hopefully, you can say YES and give them piece of mind.
Lastly, hopefully, they will ask if you are available and will book you!
It may seem overwhelming reading this, but it will become second nature once you get started.
The Home Business Forms website covers all areas of cleaning. Be sure to read all the FAQ's listed in each category and also the newsletter archives for more detailed information on starting your business.
You can also email Stacy with any questions for free!!
Good luck with your business endeavors!
Have a question for Stacy? Ask or leave a comment below!