The average pay for a janitor in the U.S. is $14.59 an hour, and professional cleaners average $12.48, according to Indeed. If you’ve been gaining experience in cleaning services and are considering branching out on your own, this post aims to guide you on how to start a cleaning service.
Why Starting a Cleaning Business Can Be a Good Investment
Starting a business usually requires a significant investment in capital funds, but cleaning businesses can be started with very little initial investment, making it an attractive investment for entrepreneurs looking to be their own boss and go into business.
In fact, if you’re already in the professional cleaning service industry, you likely have all the knowledge and most of the materials and tools you would need to start up. No special certifications or licenses are needed to begin, so you won’t need to spend a lot or take too long to get started.
How to Start a Cleaning Business
- 1. Conduct Market Research
- 2. Choose Your Specialty
- 3. Develop a Business Plan
- 4. Get the Necessary Licenses and Permits
- 5. Secure Funding
- 6. Register Your Business
- 7. Get a Cleaning Business Insurance
- 8. Set Up a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- 9. Invest in the Right Supplies, Equipment, and Tools
- 10. Find and Maintain Clients
- 11. Hire and Grow Your Team
Checklist for Starting a Cleaning Business
Before launching a new janitorial or cleaning business, you’ll need to spend time researching, preparing, and making it legitimate. Here are the first things to do.
1. Conduct Market Research
The cleaning and janitorial industry has historically seen steady growth and changes in consumer preferences and behaviors - prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic - indicate professional cleaning services have plenty of opportunities to thrive and meet demands.
While you may wish to start with a small housekeeping service, it’s important to research the areas you intend to provide services to, to determine if that would be the best route or if, perhaps, a different type of cleaning business would thrive more. To have a helpful and accurate market analysis, you should:
- Research the local cleaning industry- A thorough and accurate investigation of the cleaning industry in your service areas will give you a clear idea of what you need to do, to keep your cleaning business running and competitive.
- Investigate competitors - This information will help you identify and narrow down things you can do to stand apart from them.
- Look for market opportunities - What kinds of needs exist in your service area(s)? competitive edge? What would it take for you to go in that direction?
- Define the market you wish to serve - When you have a clearly defined idea of the ideal customer, you can establish their needs and determine how you can best serve them.
- Identify future challenges - Identify any potential disruptions you’ll face moving forward and develop solutions for them if they do happen.
Once you have a clear understanding of your area’s needs and competitors, you’ll have a solid idea of the direction to take with the next steps.
2. Choose Your Specialty
There are different types of specialties in cleaning services, and it’s important to choose the one most suited to you and the market needs in your service area(s).
Commercial cleaners predominantly work with businesses and government facilities. In some cases, you may need to be properly trained and licensed to work with certain types of cleaners or chemicals (i.e. for schools, cleaners must be safe for children).
Residential cleaners offer cleaning services to clients in their homes or rental properties they own. These types of services entail keeping a clear and tight schedule and paying particular attention to detail.
Beyond these specialties, there are other niches that can be tapped, such as commercial kitchen cleaning or crime scene cleanup. However, niches like these generally require specialized equipment and material, as well as advanced training and certifications.
3. Develop a Business Plan
A business plan is an essential part of starting a cleaning business. It will not only serve as a guide to follow and keep you on track down the road, but a business plan is essential when trying to secure funding.
Decide on Your Business Structure
Tax and financial issues should be considered when deciding on your cleaning company’s business structure. Small business structure options include sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), partnership, and corporation. Research and learn the advantages and disadvantages of each, before choosing what’s best for your company.
Name the Business
The name you choose for your cleaning business should be something that reflects your company’s values and mission and is easy for potential customers to remember.
Set prices for the cleaning or janitorial services you’ll be providing. Be sure to factor in labor costs, materials, overhead, travel, etc. when determining the pricing for your services.
Develop estimates for the costs associated with starting your cleaning business, and operating it for the first year. Provide figures for profit and loss for the same time period, and provide financial projections moving forward over time.
Develop a Service Agreement
A service agreement helps protect your cleaning company as well as your clients. Your service agreement will outline what your clients can expect, such as the scope of work you’ll do on a job, payment terms, length of the contract, and any additional stipulations/requirements important to the jobs you do. It is a great way to make clients feel comfortable and be sure you are not expected to do more than you were hired to do.
4. Get the Necessary Licenses and Permits
You’ll need to set up your cleaning or janitorial business with the proper government agencies and get any license required to perform the jobs you’ll be doing. You should check with your local government agencies to find out the requirements for your particular type of cleaning company, so you’ll know which licenses are required to legally work in your state.
Finally, ensure you have the necessary permits, certifications, and training relevant to the type of work you’ll be doing, particularly if you’ll be doing commercial cleaning or specialty cleaning.
5. Secure Funding
Since cleaning services do not require as much startup capital as other types of businesses, your initial investment will be comparatively low. However, there will still be costs associated with starting a new business, so take time to sit down and come up with an accurate and reasonable amount of funding you’ll need for things like:
- Company vehicle and branding (i.e., vehicle wraps)
- Signage/business cards
- Basic supplies
- Business solutions (i.e. invoices, accounting/accountant)
- Marketing and sales tools
For any additional funding you’ll need, you can start by asking friends and family for help. From there, work with your bank to secure a small business loan if needed, or ask for guidance from the local Small Business Administration. Be sure you have your paperwork - including your business plan - professionally and accurately completed, so you can present it to potential investors or lenders.
6. Register Your Business
You’ll need to register your company with the state you’ll be working in. In some cases, you may need to register with local agencies. Most often, these are either the Secretary of State, the Business Bureau, or a Business Agency.
Once you’ve registered your company, you’ll need a federal employer identification number (EIN) which is free through the IRS and can be done easily online.
7. Get a Cleaning Business Insurance
Insurance provides you with added protection against many issues that can cause problems for your business. The types you get will depend on your needs, the size of your company, and your budget. Some insurance, however, is required.
- General Liability
- Business Owners Policy
- Worker’s Compensation
- Umbrella Policy
You can also get a Janitorial Bond which provides prospective clients with peace of mind because they’ll see you have an insurance firm backing your company and protecting clients from theft, breakage, damage, etc.
8. Set Up a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
You’ll need a business bank account and credit card to help keep your bookkeeping workflow organized and accurate. Having a credit card will also provide you with a buffer for funding in times of slow cash flow.
9. Invest in the Right Supplies, Equipment, and Tools
Although a cleaning business doesn’t require a costly initial investment, you will still need to invest in the things that will allow you and your crew to do the best work possible. This means making a list of the cleaning supplies, equipment, and tools you will need to get started.
For a residential cleaning business, for example, you’ll need to include these cleaning items on your purchase list, so you’re prepared to provide exceptional service.
- All-purpose cleaners
- Window cleaners
- Dish/dishwasher soap
- Stain remover
- Air fresheners
- Laundry detergent
- Carpet cleaner
- Microfiber cloths
- Microfiber mops
- Garbage bags (various sizes)
- Abrasive cleaners
- Floor cleaner and polish
- Furniture polish
- Bathroom cleaner
- Oven cleaner
- Mop bucket
- Scrub brushes
- Paper towels
- Spray bottles
- Toilet brush
- Disposable rags/towels
- PPE (i.e. latex gloves, masks, shoe protection, etc.)
- Cleaning cart
- Antibacterial hand cleaner
- Vacuum cleaner
- Computer/laptop and printer
- Office supplies/furniture
- Appropriate software (accounting, time tracking, scheduling, etc.) to make running your business easier
While you may not be able to get everything at once, you can organize your supplies, tools, and equipment needs according to priority, and stock up as you’re able.
10. Find and Maintain Clients
Having the best cleaning services won't guarantee customers will find your business. Invest in marketing your cleaning services to get your name in front of potential customers. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Set up a website that showcases your cleaning services, provides contact information, and features testimonials from satisfied customers. This helps you establish credibility and makes it easier for potential customers to find you online.
- Create social media accounts for your cleaning business and post regular updates about your services. Engaging with your customers on social media builds relationships and shows potential customers you care about the clients you serve.
- Advertising platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads help you get your cleaning services in front of the right people in the right places. This is a cost-effective way to attract new customers.
- Creating a free Google Business Listing increases your online presence and helps potential customers find you when they search for cleaning services in your area. Your business will show up on Google Maps in the “near me” category, as well as in search results, so customers can find and contact you more easily.
- Invest in door hangers. They are low-cost, easy to personalize, and highly effective.
11. Hire and Grow Your Team
As your cleaning business begins to grow, you’ll need to bring on more employees. Before you do, make sure you have a job description and an idea of the types of people you want on your team.
Share job openings on career sites like Indeed or Glassdoor, as well as any local bulletin boards or community media. Set aside enough time to dedicate to reviewing applications, making phone calls, and holding interviews.
When you have built a team of professionals to represent your cleaning company, you’ll be able to continue to grow and reinvest.
Get Started With Your Cleaning Business the Right Way
Starting a cleaning business is an attractive investment when you’re looking to be your own boss because it requires very little initial investment. Following the steps in this post will help you get started off on the right foot. Be sure to invest the right amount of time and resources, to stay competitive and profitable.
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Do I Need Any Certifications or Qualifications to Start a Cleaning Business?
Most often, you don’t need specific certifications or qualifications to start a cleaning business. However, having experience in the cleaning industry - or taking courses on cleaning techniques and equipment - can be beneficial to gaining clients.
What Types of Insurance Do I Need for My Cleaning Business?
Liability insurance will protect your business in case of property damage or injury to someone while you're working and if you have employees, you’ll want to get workers' compensation insurance.
How Do I Find Clients for My Cleaning Business?
Word of mouth is a great way to get clients for your cleaning business, so start by asking friends, family, and acquaintances for referrals. You can also advertise online, distribute flyers or business cards, or attend local networking events.
What Should I Include in My Cleaning Business Plan?
Your cleaning business plan should outline your business structure and any legal and licensing requirements, and include a description of your services, target market, marketing and sales strategies, financial projections, and market analysis.
What Are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Cleaning Business?
Not doing enough research is a common mistake to avoid because it can lead to underpricing your services or creating a cleaning company that is not viable in your area. When hiring employees, avoid hiring the wrong people. Be sure to vet your team before bringing them on board. Don’t skimp on business tools that make it easier to run your company. Technology and software make it easier and faster to get important jobs done in the right way, more accurately, so you can spend more time on the things that help grow your company.