How to Start a House Cleaning Business

How to Start a House Cleaning Business

If you’re looking to start a reliable business that’s in continual demand, a house cleaning service could be a good choice. The house cleaning and maid services industry is growing, a trend that might be partially driven by a greater emphasis on sanitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the home cleaning industry is expected to reach $10 billion by 2026.

Home cleaning is generally an easy field to get into because of the low barrier to entry. You don’t need extensive education or fancy credentials to get started. Plus, a cleaning business is relatively easy to manage and scale up. You may start on your own or with a small team and, as you grow, recruit helpers to support expanding operations

The investment required to start a cleaning business is also relatively low. Along with cleaning products and supplies, of course, you may need basic business start-up components like web design. You can find pros to help with the business side of things online, from graphic designers to create your logo to marketing experts to boost your brand.

While a house cleaning business is pretty straightforward and even possible to start from home, checking off all the tasks on your to-do list when you’re first getting started may seem overwhelming. This can be especially concerning for first-time business owners.

Don’t stress. This article provides valuable tips for these essential steps of starting a house cleaning business. You can also enlist the help of professionals on Upwork to help you get up and running:

  1. Find and complete a few initial jobs yourself
  2. Create a business plan
  3. Brand your business
  4. Choose a business name
  5. Register and insure your business
  6. Open a business bank account
  7. Purchase cleaning equipment and supplies
  8. Find clients
  9. Hire employees, if necessary

1. Find and complete a few initial jobs yourself

Before you put your time, effort, and money into starting a cleaning business, you’ll probably want to confirm that it’s the right business for you. Test the waters. You can start by doing some cleaning jobs for friends or family members. This is an opportunity to actually experience what a day on the job as a cleaning professional will be like.

As you complete your test jobs, keeping notes can help inform your future work. Relevant points worth considering include:

  • How long do certain tasks take, such as mopping a kitchen or cleaning a bathroom? Since you may choose to charge on an hourly basis, it’s important to get a sense of how long jobs take. Plus, you can estimate your capacity, figuring out how many houses you can clean in a day.
  • What additional cleaning supplies or tools could you use? For example, you might realize that you don’t have a good means of cleaning on top of upper cabinets. Investing in a long-handled dust mop can be a solution that will save you time and effort in the future.
  • Are there certain tasks that would qualify as specialty add-on jobs? Regular house cleaning might include things like dusting, vacuuming, and mopping, for example. Additional tasks you might want to charge extra for could include things like deep-cleaning carpets, polishing wooden furniture, and cleaning windows.

Finally, you can use your test run as an opportunity to acquaint yourself with choices of cleaning supplies, solutions, and tools for your business. How are they best used? Do they have odors that might be too strong for some clients’ tastes?

Do you need to take care when using certain solutions? For example, harsh cleaners shouldn’t be used on marble, as they can cause discoloration. What  safety protocols do you need to keep in mind when using specific cleaning products?

Last but not least, be sure to ask for honest feedback from these test clients on any areas where you met, didn’t meet, or exceeded their expectations. Remember that people often have different perceptions of what a “clean house” should look like.

2. Create a business plan

If your test run goes well and you decide house cleaning is the business for you, it’s time to create a formal business plan. A comprehensive plan is a best practice for explaining how your business will be structured and run. A business plan generally includes:

  • Company description: A summary of what problem your business will solve and its target market (such as whether you’ll be doing commercial cleaning or strictly residential cleaning). Also, note any competitive advantages. For example, if you’re planning to establish a cleaning company using only eco-conscious products, highlight that.
  • Market analysis: Research on industry competitors, specifically looking at their strengths and weaknesses. Examining what your competitors do and what works for them can help you tailor your own services to maintain an edge. This can also help you figure out your own niche or unique selling proposition (USP). For example, if large cleaning companies in your area focus on serving large family homes, you might target young professionals with smaller apartments.
  • Organization and management: This is the technical part of your business setup where you’ll detail the legal structure of your company. Common business structures include:
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • Sole proprietorship
  • General or limited partnership
  • S-corporation
  • C-corporation

Note that you will probably have to register your company with the state and fulfill specific tax and reporting requirements depending on the type of entity you choose. A business consultant can help you find the right entity for you and walk you through how to complete this step.

  • Service or product line: A description of what kind of services you’ll offer. Identify what kind of cleaning you’ll do, such as vacuuming and mopping floors, cleaning toilets, cleaning appliances, and wiping down counters. You can also highlight specialty services like doing laundry or washing dishes. Note which services will be done for an extra fee, like shampooing carpets or washing windows.
  • Marketing and sales: If your cleaning business is going to succeed, you will need a way for customers to find out about it. In this section, describe your marketing strategy, such as using social media, online content with search engine optimization, or local media advertisements. A marketing expert can help you develop a well-defined strategy to drive sales.
  • Funding request (optional): If you plan to get external funding to cover startup costs, for example from a bank, this is where you can make that request. You should define how much money you’ll need, what expenses it will cover, and when you plan to pay it back.
  • Financial projections: Crunch the numbers for your forecast client revenue to estimate how much you can make. To do this, you’ll have to predict what your expenses will be and know how you’ll charge your clients. You might start with an hourly rate or a variable rate based on the property’s square footage. If numbers aren’t your thing, a finance and accounting professional may be able to help.

As you write your business plan, one best practice is to identify key objectives along with timelines for each milestone. This should include short-term and big-picture milestones. Examples of milestones according to different sections could be:

  • Marketing: Getting X referrals from satisfied customers during the first six months (short term). Getting X number of Instagram followers within X months (long term).
  • Operational: Having X number of clients within X months (short term). Expanding your team to X members within one year (long term).
  • Financial: Making enough money to pay off any business loans within a year (short term). Making a profit of more than $X by year three (long term).

Need help drafting a detailed, actionable business plan? Consider connecting to professionals on Project Catalog™ who can help.

3. Brand your business

Branding can help your cleaning services company shine among other local businesses. Think about what makes your type of business unique from others. For example, you could choose to offer general house cleaning services, or you might focus on carpet cleaning.

Your brand value is composed of everything that distinguishes your business from other service providers. Consider reflecting your unique value in all the ways you present the brand, such as the website design, logo, and colors used in marketing materials like business cards. Your business name is another important part of your brand—more on that below.

A branding consultant can help you identify what makes you stand out from other service providers and how to convey your special capabilities. Because your brand will be something that stays with you for years, serving as a unique identifier that builds customer loyalty, it’s best to get it right from the start. Later changes to components of your brand, such as your business name, can be confusing and may lead to lost clientele—for example, if customers worry that a new name means new ownership, they may be less loyal.

4. Choose a business name

Your business name is a critical component of your brand. A general best practice is creating something original and memorable while clearly reflecting what you do. A startup consultant can help you come up with a unique name. You may want to ensure that the name you choose has a fitting domain available for your future website. This domain name availability checker can be helpful to start your thinking process, with appropriate professional verification before you make a final decision.

Additionally, in some states you may need to register your business with a distinct name or a DBA (doing business as) identifier. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides more details on what a DBA is and how it can be helpful.

5. Register and insure your business

When you’ve chosen your business entity, you’ll need to comply with state, county and municipal laws for operating. You may have to obtain a business license and formally register with the state to establish it as a legal body.  The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a good resource to learn more about how to file for the right licenses and permits.

You may want or need insurance for your house cleaning business. In some cases, this may be required by law. In other cases, it’s a best practice to provide protection for yourself and your business.

Again the SBA is a good starting resource, with information about common types of business insurance. Consider engaging an experienced business liability insurance specialist on Upwork to help you identify the insurance coverage you may need.

6. Open a business bank account

Once you have the confirmation of your cleaning business entity registration from the state, you can open a business bank account. This is highly recommended to make sure to keep your business income and personal finances separate. In many cases, this will simplify future bookkeeping and tax filing needs. Having a separate business bank account can also facilitate the process if you or your company are ever audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

A finance specialist can provide advice on what types of bank accounts are good options for you. They can also provide support for setting up a streamlined bookkeeping and accounting system to make future financial administration go more smoothly. For example, software tools can facilitate keeping track of items like cleaning solutions and supplies, from mops to vacuum cleaners—all expenses you may be eligible to subtract from your business income for tax savings.

7. Purchase cleaning equipment and supplies

With the administrative points above taken care of, it’s time to think about buying basic cleaning supplies like:

  • Paper towels or reusable cloths
  • Window cleaning solutions
  • Bathroom cleaners
  • Sponges
  • Rubber gloves

Your supply needs will depend in part on the type of cleaning business you open. For example, if you promise eco-conscious cleaning, you’ll need green supplies. Note that if any special requested cleaning supplies are more expensive, you’ll probably want to charge more for the service so these costs don’t eat into your profit.  

In addition to cleaning equipment, you may need some basic business tools and technology to run your company. Examples include:

  • Scheduling software to allow clients to book services and keep track of appointments.
  • Bookkeeping software to help with accounting and keeping track of expenses, check that you’re on track with financial projections, and more. This can also simplify tax filing when the time comes. Tools like QuickBooks are fairly user-friendly and broadly used. You can even hire QuickBooks experts to help.
  • A scanner, so you’re able to scan receipts for business expenses, like cleaning supplies, and save them digitally. This can simplify your bookkeeping, sparing you the hassle of sifting through paper receipts.

8. Find clients

Without clients, your business won’t survive. To find potential clients, marketing is essential. Think of your target audience when planning your marketing. For example, the images and messages—and the types of media—you’d use to target a 40-something stay-at-home parent are probably different from the ones you’d use to target an older individual.

Depending on your market research, you may choose to target a specific niche audience. Think creatively to find possibilities such as these:

  • Cleaning for seniors, helping them reach areas they can’t get to easily because of limited mobility, such as tall cabinets.
  • Cleaning for military families, who often have to move in and out of homes quickly. You might offer pre-move cleaning.
  • Cleaning for young professionals, who tend to have smaller apartments instead of large family homes—and may not have time or interest in doing basic cleaning like washing dishes or cleaning and folding clothes.
  • Deep cleaning before or after special events, like hosting families for the holidays or having a dinner party for a large group of friends.
  • Cleaning for pet owners, who have unique needs to deal with, like getting rid of dog-related odors or removing cat hair from furniture.

For residential and commercial cleaning businesses, word of mouth is often useful for finding first clients. One very powerful tip: If your new clients are happy with your services, ask them to write a review or provide a referral. As you build a strong reputation, acquiring new clients will probably become increasingly easier.

9. Hire help, if necessary

As you gain new customers, you may consider hiring part-time or full-time workers to support your small business’s growth. To prepare for this moment, make your business scalable—easy to expand with minimal hassle.

Here are some tips to make a business easier to scale when you’re getting started.

  • Choose a flexible name. You may not want your name to be too specific. For example, if you start as a solo operation, you might want to name it after yourself, like “Mary Cleans.” But this might become confusing if you add employees later. Something more generic, like “Super Cleaning Services,” is likely to be easier to scale up. Think toward the future so you don’t have to change your business name later, as this might be confusing for customers, resulting in a loss of brand loyalty.
  • Find out what you will need for a business as you scale beyond sole proprietorship. Different business structures may have different requirements for tax processes, licensing, registration, personal liability, and additional elements. If you have a plan for future growth, understanding those requirements right from the start might make scaling and transition easier when you’re ready to expand. Check with the SBA to begin this consideration.
  • Explore investments in business technology. If you start small, you might choose to skip technologies like online payments or scheduling software simply to save money. On the other hand, investing in these tech tools from the start may have some immediate and long-term benefits. They may streamline operations from day one, making later scale-up easier. You’re likely to find easy workflows especially important as your team grows.

Depending on your state’s regulations, you may also need expanded insurance or other changes as you add employees. A business attorney can advise you on what’s needed.

If you’re new to hiring, you might consider talking to a human resources (HR) consultant.

Get your cleaning business off the ground

Starting a cleaning service can be a great way to become your own boss. That said, founding a new business from scratch is a big endeavor. Following the tips above may offer a streamlined and organized approach as you get started.

Creating a totally new business all on your own can be quite daunting. You may find enlisting a little help very valuable in numerous areas, from marketing to accounting. When you’re ready for your next steps, consider connecting with the professional talent you need on Upwork, where you can select ideal experts from a far-reaching global pool.

If you’re new to hiring freelancers, this guide explains how it works. Find the professionals you need today.

Upwork does not provide legal advice, and this article is provided for informational purposes only. Each reader and company should adequately analyze the laws, and regulations, and other requirements that may apply to their business endeavor.Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this resource—these tools and services are provided only as potential options for each reader to consider.

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How to Start a House Cleaning Business
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