A Fresh Start: How to Start a Cleaning Business And Get Ahead

Ambitious entrepreneurs who want to launch a business venture may find success in starting a cleaning business.
Katie Flannery Avatar
how to start a cleaning business
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Starting a cleaning business can be a lucrative venture for aspiring entrepreneurs. In a world where cleanliness is important, there’s steady demand for professional cleaning services. Whether a business owner aims to launch a house-cleaning business, a carpet-cleaning business, a remote cleaning business, or wants to offer business-cleaning services, they can navigate the rewarding journey of starting a cleaning business and watching it grow.

“The cleaning industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world,” says Sharon Tinberg, residential cleaning industry expert and a business owner who also designs process and procedure training for the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA). “Covid and post-Covid era has seen an 8 percent increase in the industry. What has grown even faster is the amount of money individuals and businesses are willing to pay to have their homes and facilities cleaned.”

By learning how to start a cleaning business, entrepreneurs will be well on their way to building a successful venture that keeps spaces clean and clients satisfied.

Before You Begin…

Before diving into the process of becoming a house cleaner and starting a cleaning business, it’s important for entrepreneurs to be aware of a few key considerations to ensure a successful and well-prepared launch. These critical points can help a business owner navigate the initial stages of their cleaning-business journey.

While an individual can offer cleaning services to friends and family fairly easily, they’ll need to become familiar with licensing and insurance requirements if they want to create a legal business. The exact requirements vary by state, so aspiring business owners can start by contacting their Secretary of State’s office to determine what, if any, types of business licenses are needed to start their cleaning business.

The business owner will also want to be sure they fully understand cleaning-business start-up costs, as well as the cost of running a business. This means budgeting for cleaning-business license costs, cleaning supplies, cleaning equipment, and cleaning-business insurance costs.

Tips for How to Start a Cleaning Business

  • Research the local market to understand demand and competition.
  • Choose the right business structure.
  • Ensure compliance with local licensing and regulations.
  • Invest in high-quality cleaning supplies and equipment.
  • Develop a competitive pricing strategy.
  • Create a comprehensive marketing plan to build a client base.
  • Network with potential clients and local businesses for referrals.

STEP 1: Research the local market to determine what types of cleaning services to offer.

Even the best cleaning services need to research their local market. To determine what types of cleaning services to offer, an owner can start by conducting market research. It’s recommended they begin by surveying their area and analyzing the cleaning needs of the community; this way, they can gauge the potential demand in their area for an additional cleaning business. The owner may also want to engage with potential clients or community members to gather their input. Conducting surveys or interviews can help an entrepreneur understand each client’s preferences regarding cleaning services.

The business owner will also want to research existing cleaning businesses in the vicinity. Analyzing the service offerings, pricing, and customer reviews of their competitors can provide business owners with insights into gaps or opportunities in the market that their business can capitalize on. Following this, they may consider specializing in a niche area of cleaning, such as eco-friendly cleaning, deep cleaning, move-out cleaning, or post-construction cleaning. Specializing can help the business stand out and cater to specific client needs.

It’s important for a business owner to be aware of any seasonal variations in demand. For example, residential spring cleaning or vacation-rental cleaning services might be a prominent need in the area. The owner can also collaborate with local businesses that could be potential clients or sources of referrals, such as real estate agencies, property management companies, or office complexes.

By carefully researching the local market, the business will be equipped to tailor its cleaning services to the specific needs and preferences of the community. This tailored approach can help attract and retain clients in the area, setting the stage for a successful cleaning-business start-up.

how to start a cleaning business
how to start a cleaning business

STEP 2: Choose a business structure and register your business name.

Selecting the right cleaning-business structure and registering the business name are important steps in the process of starting a cleaning business. A cleaning-business name sets the tone for the enterprise, and it’s crucial that it reflects the owner’s vision and the services offered. These decisions have legal and financial implications, so it’s essential for an owner to make informed decisions.

There are several options when it comes to choosing a business structure:

  • Sole proprietorship. If an owner plans to operate the cleaning business on their own, a sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure. The owner will be personally responsible for business debts and liabilities.
  • Partnership. If the owner is planning on partnering with someone in the cleaning business, a partnership structure allows them to share responsibilities and profits. They can choose between general partnerships and limited partnerships, each with different liability arrangements.
  • Limited liability company (LLC). An LLC provides a balance between liability protection and simplicity. The owner’s personal assets are protected from business debts, and they can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation.
  • Corporation. Creating a corporation offers a higher level of liability protection but involves more complex paperwork and formalities. It’s a suitable option if the owner plans to expand significantly or seek outside investors.

Once the owner has decided on the business structure, they’ll need to choose a name that reflects the cleaning business and is easy for clients to remember. It’s recommended that the business owner check the names for cleaning businesses in their area to make sure the name they’re considering isn’t already in use. Once the business has a unique name, the owner will need to register it with the appropriate authorities; this process may vary depending on the location and business structure.

The business structure can impact taxes, personal liability, and management, so business owners may want to consult with a legal or financial adviser, or with one of the best LLC services (such as LegalZoom or Northwest Registered Agent). After the owner has settled on a business structure and registered the business name, they’ll be well on their way to establishing a legal framework for the cleaning business. This groundwork will ensure the business is compliant with local regulations and positioned for future success.

STEP 3: Get the appropriate business licenses.

Obtaining the necessary cleaning-business licenses and cleaning-business insurance coverage is an essential step owners can take to ensure the cleaning business operates legally and responsibly. The first thing a business owner will want to do is research the specific licensing requirements for cleaning businesses, as well as how to get a business license in their city or state. Requirements may include general business licenses and special permits for certain cleaning services.

Once the owner knows what licenses are needed to start a cleaning business, they will need to complete the application process. This often involves submitting an application form, paying a fee, and providing any required documentation, such as proof of insurance or business registration. Depending on the location, there may be zoning regulations that dictate where an owner can operate their cleaning business. The owner will want to ensure that the chosen location is compliant with these regulations.

STEP 4: Get the appropriate business insurance coverage.

When it comes to insurance, a cleaning-business owner may need one or more of the following coverages from one of the best small-business insurance companies (such as NEXT or Thimble):

  • General liability insurance. General liability insurance for cleaning businesses protects the business from financial loss in the event the cleaning business is responsible for property damage, injury to a client, or any other type of accident while cleaning services are being performed.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp provides coverage for medical expenses and lost wages if an employee is injured while on the job; this coverage is often mandatory if the business has employees.
  • Bonding. Some clients may require the business to be bonded, which protects clients against employee theft.
  • Commercial auto insurance. If the cleaning business has company vehicles, the owner will need to ensure they are covered by commercial auto insurance.
  • Umbrella insurance. A business owner will want to consider umbrella insurance to provide additional coverage beyond the limits of the general liability policy.
  • Professional liability insurance. If the business offers specialized cleaning services or advice, professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance) can protect against claims related to professional mistakes or negligence.

STEP 5: Set up a business bank account and create a budget for monthly expenses.

Choosing the right business bank account is important. The business owner will want to research their options to ensure they’re selecting a reputable bank or credit union that offers business banking services. Once the business owner has chosen a bank, they can schedule an appointment with a bank representative to open a business account. The representative will guide the owner through the process, help choose the right account type (business checking or savings), and assist with paperwork. Then, the owner will deposit the initial funds required to open the account. This amount may vary depending on the bank and account type.

Business owners can start creating a budget by listing all their anticipated monthly expenses. These could include rent, utilities, insurance premiums, cleaning-business supplies, employee wages, transportation costs, marketing expenses, and any loan repayments. They’ll then need to organize expenses into categories, such as fixed costs (rent, insurance) and variable costs (cleaning supplies, marketing). The business owner can then research the average costs of each anticipated monthly expenses to create a budget.

Once the business is up and running, the owner will want to regularly review and adjust the budget as the business evolves. They can keep an eye on the actual expenses relative to their estimated budget and make changes as needed to stay on track. It’s important for an owner to remember to track the monthly income from the actual cleaning business. This will help them assess the financial performance and make informed decisions.

How to Start a Cleaning Business
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STEP 6: Purchase cleaning supplies and equipment for business use.

The business owner will need to acquire the right cleaning supplies and equipment. To determine what types of supplies and equipment they’ll need, the business owner will want to make a comprehensive list of the cleaning services they’ll offer. Different types of cleaning require specific supplies and equipment, and this list can be a guide to purchase the right items. Common cleaning supplies include disinfectants, all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, bathroom cleaners, floor cleaners, and cleaning cloths. Depending on the services offered, the business may need equipment such as vacuum cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor scrubbers, and pressure washers.

Business owners will also want to purchase safety gear, such as gloves, goggles, and masks, to protect themselves and their employees from potential hazards associated with cleaning chemicals. They may also want to consider providing employees with uniforms that have cleaning-business logos to maintain a professional appearance.

Although an entrepreneur might be tempted to stick with the cheapest supplies when they’re first starting out, they’ll want to remember that the quality of the cleaning equipment and supplies directly impacts the quality of the services. Investing in the right tools from the beginning will not only enhance the cleaning-business’s reputation, but it will also lead to satisfied, repeat clients.

STEP 7: Price your services.

It’s essential for a business owner to price cleaning services effectively in order to create a successful business. These prices will need to cover the costs of running the business, generate a profit, and be competitive in the local market.

Owners can begin by calculating their overall costs. To do this, they’ll need to consider all expenses, including labor (house-cleaner salaries for the owner and any employees), cleaning supplies, equipment maintenance, transportation, insurance, business licenses, and overhead (rent, utilities, marketing). Then, they’ll need to decide on the ideal profit margin—the amount the owner wants to make beyond covering their costs.

Business owners will want to research the pricing of local competitors. The business doesn’t necessarily have to match competitors’ prices, but knowing what others charge will help owners know how to set a competitive rate. An owner will also need to decide whether they want to charge clients on an hourly basis or offer flat-rate pricing. Hourly rates are more transparent, while flat rates can be more appealing to clients who prefer to know the total cost up front. The owner can also adjust their pricing based on the type of cleaning service that’s provided. For example, deep cleaning or specialized services might command higher rates than for standard cleaning.

Cleaning-business owners can offer contract options for clients who want regular, ongoing services. Providing discounts for long-term contracts can encourage client loyalty. The owner may also want to consider offering introductory rates or promotions when the business is getting off the ground to attract the first clients.

As the business grows, the owner will want to continuously review the pricing strategy and adjust it as needed. Factors such as changes in costs, market conditions, and the business’s growth can impact the overall pricing. If an owner is unsure about their pricing, they can consider testing it in the market. They can start with a particular rate and make adjustments based on client feedback and demand.

STEP 8: Create a marketing plan and build a business website.

The next step is for the business owner to come up with a marketing plan to help get clients for their cleaning business and reach a wider audience. There are numerous ways to market a business, including flyers, business cards, social media marketing, paid advertising, and creating a comprehensive website.

One of the most important steps is for the business owner to have a logo created for the business. Those with experience in graphic design can attempt to DIY this step, but others may prefer to outsource this task to a professional designer. The logo must represent the business and stand out, and the business owner will need to include it on all of their marketing materials.

Once the business owner has their strategy laid out, they can start to market their business. They can visit local businesses and ask to leave cleaning-business flyers and cleaning-business cards for the business owner to pass out to their clients. They can also look into placing an ad in a local newspaper or other circular to spread the word. Digital advertising can also drive leads; posting ads on social media platforms such as Facebook, as well as paying for Google ads to show up in search results, can drive new customers to the cleaning business.

Without a well-laid-out and optimized website, however, digital marketing strategies won’t be successful. The website needs to explain the business’s unique selling point (USP) and must include a list of services provided, along with prices for those services. A clean, user-friendly, and professional website is a must for attracting customers. It’s also crucial for business owners to ensure that it’s mobile-responsive, as many users access websites from smartphones. Using a domain hosting service such as GoDaddy can help business owners create a professional website quickly and easily.

After a professional website is built, it’s important for business owners to populate it with essential content, including a home page with a brief introduction to the business and USP; a services page detailing the types of cleaning services offered; an about page to introduce the team and business history; a contact page with the location, contact information, and a contact form; testimonials or reviews from satisfied clients; and a blog or resources section to showcase the business’s expertise. The website should also include clear calls to action (CTAs), prompting visitors to contact the business, request a quote, or schedule services.

How to Start a Cleaning Business
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STEP 9: Set up a process for invoicing customers and ensuring payment.

Setting up an efficient process for invoicing customers and ensuring prompt payment is important for the financial stability of a cleaning business. The business owner will want to design professional and easy-to-understand invoices that include the business name, contact information, and logo. The invoice can include the services provided, rates, and the total amount due.

The invoice will also need to specify the payment terms, such as the due date and any late-payment fees. It will also need to clearly state the accepted payment methods, which may include cash, checks, credit cards, online payment platforms, or electronic funds transfers.

It’s recommended that business owners send invoices to the clients as soon as the cleaning services are completed or according to the agreed-upon billing schedule. Prompt invoicing encourages timely payments. Owners might want to consider sending reminders for upcoming or overdue payments a few days before the due date and after it has passed. They can use email, phone calls, or automated invoicing software to send reminders.

If the business uses accounting software or invoicing tools, these can automate the invoicing process, send reminders, and even offer recurring invoices for regular clients. Keeping detailed records of all invoices, payments, and outstanding balances can help business owners track finances and allow for follow-ups with clients as needed.

By establishing a well-structured invoicing process and following up on payments consistently, an owner can ensure the financial health of their cleaning business while maintaining good relationships with their clients. Effective invoicing practices contribute to a smooth cash flow and business sustainability.

STEP 10: Invest in cleaning-business software to help manage the business and customer relationships.

Investing in cleaning-business software can help owners significantly streamline operations, enhance customer relationships, and boost the business’s efficiency.

To start, the business owner will need to identify the specific needs of their cleaning business: Does it need software for scheduling, invoicing, customer management, or all of the above? Once they know what features they need, the business owner can research and compare cleaning-business software solutions available in the market. They can look for reputable options that offer the features that are needed; Jobber is a top option. It’s also advisable for the business owner to take advantage of any free trials that allow them to test out software before committing to a subscription.

A customer relationship management (CRM) program can help maintain a database of client information, track communications, and manage appointments efficiently. This enables personalized service and streamlined communication. Owners can also look for software that offers scheduling tools to assign cleaning jobs, manage employee schedules, and optimize routes. This helps in efficient time management and reduces travel time between jobs.

Cleaning-business software can include invoicing and payment-processing capabilities to simplify the billing process and allow clients to make payments conveniently. It can also provide reporting and analytics features to help the business owner track key performance indicators, measure profitability, and make data-driven decisions about their business.

Investing in cleaning-business software can transform the way an owner manages their operations, streamline customer relationships, and optimize the business processes. It’s a worthwhile investment that can lead to increased efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, business growth.

How to Start a Cleaning Business
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STEP 11: Hire employees and train them on your processes.

Once a cleaning business is established enough, the owner can consider hiring employees. Before hiring, the business owner will want to clearly define the roles, such as cleaners, supervisors, or office staff. They will want to outline the specific requirements for each role, including qualifications, experience, and skills. Next, they’ll need to write compelling job listings that highlight the job roles, responsibilities, and qualifications for each position. These listings can be posted on the website, job boards, social media, and local classifieds.

After listing the job openings, the owner can review applications and resumes to identify candidates who meet the requirements. By conducting phone or video interviews, the owner can assess each applicant’s suitability for the job. It’s recommended that owners invite promising candidates for in-person interviews to assess the candidates’ communication skills, work ethic, and alignment with the company culture.

Before making an official offer, the business owner will want to perform background checks and contact references to verify candidates’ work history, reliability, and integrity. This is especially important for a cleaning business, since clients will need to be able to trust any employees they let into their home.

It’s advisable that the owner develop a structured training program that covers essential aspects of the cleaning business. This will need to include proper cleaning techniques and safety procedures, use of cleaning equipment and supplies, client communication and professionalism, quality control and inspection procedures, and time management and work efficiency. Continuous education is also essential. Owners will want to regularly assess the skills and performance of their employees and provide additional training as needed.

By following these guidelines, a business owner will not only lay a strong foundation for their business, but they’ll also be able to navigate the complexities of the cleaning industry with confidence. Whether it’s crafting a comprehensive marketing plan, investing in business software, or hiring and training skilled employees, business owners will want to be intentional in their actions. Each of these steps contributes to a business’s growth and efficiency, helping an entrepreneur turn a startup business into one of the best move-out cleaning services, deep-cleaning services, or commercial cleaning businesses.

The importance of maintaining meticulous records, adhering to safety standards, and continuously improving services cannot be overstated. These practices ensure the well-being of the clients and employees and also enhance the reputation and longevity of the cleaning business.