Many entrepreneurs choose to start a cleaning business. It is low tech and can be easy to start with limited resources. As easy as it sounds, in reality it can become complicated quite quickly, especially when you consider it as a business rather than just a hobby.
Starting a residential cleaning business can be as simple as finding one client who pays you to clean their house followed by slowly building more clients through word of mouth and referrals. To move faster and increase revenue, start thinking like a small business owner from the start. That said, setting up a small business can be a daunting challenge and most people do not know where to start. There are start-up costs, business licenses, advertising, etc. — all before any actual cleaning.
Define Your Niche and Staffing Needs when Starting a Cleaning Business
Starting a cleaning business, whether it is a small single person operation or a large with hundreds of employees, it is important to know what you want to develop. Will it be a residential or a commercial practice? Will you provide traditional cleaning services or focus on specialty tasks, such as green cleaning?
A residential green cleaning service is like providing a personal maid service for a several individual homes. Whether it is a one bedroom apartment or a large mansion with more bathrooms than bedrooms, people want a “clean space”. Many independent service providers start with the owner serving in all roles. Others will start with the owner and a small staff. If you, as the owner, handle the administrative chores, chances are you will not need to hire office help right away. In most cases residential cleaning jobs are completed during traditional work hours when the client is at work.
For a commercial cleaning business, janitorial services for offices, manufacturing, or commercial facilities are provided. Starting a cleaning business may be possible with no employees, or just one or two part-timers. The cleaning services are mostly provided at night, since the client is working during the day. Some staff is required to handle the records and answer the phone during the day and others that will be required for cleaning during the night. Do not forget to schedule time for YOU to sleep if you are beginning with a small practice and you are working all night.
If you start a speciality cleaning business such as window cleaning, carpet cleaning, or floor maintenance, there are additional considerations including necessary equipment, required training, as well as additional insurance and bonding requirements. As with starting a cleaning business for commercial clients, specialty cleaning initially requires one or two service persons, along with staff experienced in clerical work who can book appointments and handle administrative chores. Some prefer to start with this niche, others choose to add this as additional services to an existing residential or commercial business later as a part of future expansion plans.
Today many select the green cleaning niche, whether residential or commercial, when starting their cleaning business. As Stewart Udall states, “Plan to protect air, water, wilderness, and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man,” many see this cause as their purpose in life. With a purpose driven value system, an owner often feels compelled to create a green cleaning business. The good news is that this niche is oftentimes under serviced for the volume of demand. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, a green cleaning company may not cost more to operate, but may enable the owner to charge a premium for the service.
Determine Your Business Model For Starting A Cleaning Business
Choices abound, each with their pros and cons.
Becoming a franchisee of a known brand and a successful business can be advantageous, especially initially. The franchisor will work closely with you as you start your cleaning business and take it to the point where it is running smoothly and profitability. Once established and financially secure, however, a franchise agreement can prove to be expensive and a decided disadvantage.
If you want to own your own business but want proven system rather than gambling on developing your own system, a franchise is the way to go. Note, since most franchises provide a degree of marketing support, particularly in national advertising and name recognition, this is extremely difficult for individuals to match.
On the other hand, as an independent cleaning company you are not tied to any pre-established formulas for concept, name, services offered, etc. As with anything, this is both an advantage and a drawback. The greatest pro is that you can do things your way.
On the flip side, the biggest drawback is that you have no guidelines to follow. Everything you do, from defining your market to cleaning a bathtub, becomes a result of trial and error. For an independent owner, every aspect of the business is the responsibility of the owner, both before and during your business’s lifetime. The good news is ultimately operating costs can be lower since you are not tied to a franchise fee or the rules they established on how to clean and what equipment and supplies that must be used.
The ultimate choice in the business model selected when you start a cleaning business will depend on the size of the operation, small or large; the desired speed of growth; the amount and type or funding you available; type of business entity (as in a corporation, LLC or remain a sole proprietor) that will be created.
Start Up Costs with Starting a Cleaning Business
Once the preferred business model is identified, it is important to understand start-up costs and where / how required funding will be obtained.
Start-up costs are many, some are expected and obvious, other costs are not so obvious. Knowing these costs, as well as the source of funding becomes the outline of your business plan. Not only is a business plan superb to provide a roadmap of the next steps, but it is also often required to secure funding necessary to implement the plan. The 7 category checklist below can help you understand the costs of starting a cleaning business.
- Staff: Will you do it all, have a partner, or start with a team? Will that team serve in the capacity of cleaners or administrative staff?
- Location: Will the base be commercial office or space in your home?
- Equipment and Consumables: Which green cleaning products and what supplies (such as color-coded microfiber cloths and Fluffy Microfiber Duster by CleansGreen®) will you select for your cleaning tasks? (The CleansGreen® Cleaning Kits from Green Cleaning Products are an excellent way to start any cleaning business.)
- Technology:A cleaning business is generally a low tech industry. None-the-less, there are many options that will help you conduct operations such as bookkeeping, scheduling, and invoicing whether a spreadsheet or formalized program. Which will you use?
- Vehicle(s): Will you dedicate a single vehicle or a fleet? Will the vehicle(s) be provided by the employee or the company?
- Insurance / Bonding: Cleaning requires a high level of trust while working in private offices and homes. Bonding can help your customers gain the necessary level of trust. Additionally with staff it is important to protect them be it worker compensation and / or health insurance. Since insurance selection is a risk management exercise, what risks are you willing to undertake?
- Business License(s): Every community / state / government has some form of licensing or permitting requirements for businesses. Additionally some organizations offer certification(s) that you may choose to obtain. While not required some of these certifications may assist you in building the desired reputation. Which will you pursue?
- Marketing and Advertising: Marketing a cleaning business is different than advertising. That said, without people knowing that you exist they will not be able to take advantage of your services. Both are necessary. What will you do and how much will it cost to ensure the word is out?
Funding When You Start A Cleaning Business
For anything you do, no matter how simple or complex, funding is required. So determining your initial source of funding is critical. Will it be your own, from your family and friends, from government programs, partners (silent or active), or a traditional bank loan. Each source has its own set of requirements.
Once initial funding is obtained it is critical to know how you will manage cash flow. Although many businesses are successful sales-wise, ultimately poor cash flow management leads to their demise. So it is paramount to understand the pricing, billing practices, and even how you will respond to Request for Quotes (RFQ). Without clarity in these areas necessary ongoing funding will not be in place for long term survival of the cleaning company.
Look and Feel (aka Company Brand)
In developing and growing a cleaning business it is as important to know, and develop, the “Look” as it is to know the niche. “The Look” includes your name, brand and logo, uniforms (if any), marketing literature and brochures, company vehicle(s), even your invoices and customer communications.
There are so many questions to answer, but it is a great industry to be involved in since it has a low cost of entry and it is more recession proof than others. As long as a strong company culture of continuous improvement is initially established, success will follow, as is the case with Green Cleaning Products LLC.
When you start a cleaning business it is an exciting time, have fun with it!