How to Start a $125K/Month Cleaning Business (2022)

  • by Donna C. Arceneaux
  • 2 years ago
  • Blog
  • 4
Man holding cleaning product in hand

Starting a cleaning business can put you on the fast track to high revenue potential without a substantial up-front investment. Cleaning is a line of work with almost unlimited opportunities and customers. Even a simple operation can see huge profits. We’re going to show you how to start a cleaning business.

Want proof? Look at Christopher Mondragon, founder of the Seattle-based cleaning company Queen Bee Cleaning Service. They make over $1.5 million in revenue and have only been a cleaning business since 2015.

That’s especially impressive because their business has doubled in the last year, and he thinks you can start a cleaning business, too. Chris told us:

This is the best time to start a cleaning business.

We interviewed Chris to find out how he started and scaled Queen Bee. He’s shared great advice, so keep reading if you’re thinking about starting a cleaning business.

Cleaning Industry Outlook

According to Global News Wire, the contract cleaning industry was over $78.6 billion in earnings in 2021 and will grow to nearly $100 billion by 2026. If you want to scrub your way to a successful future, this guide will show you exactly how to do it.

Keep reading to learn how to start a cleaning business. Alternatively, look into buying an existing cleaning business on our cleaning businesses for sale listings. It’s faster and simpler than starting a cleaning business.

Step 1. Get Training and Experience

Training and experience are helpful if you want to learn more about a specific cleaning business, such as pressure cleaning, Airbnb cleaning, or move-out cleaners.

Chris told us:

Airbnb cleaning services have a higher margin than a normal residential cleaning service.

Check out our interview with Chris below: 

Working for a local commercial cleaning company will give you excellent first-hand experience if you want to clean offices.

Taking on cleaning jobs with a successful cleaning business will show you how other business owners manage operations, cleaning supplies, customers, hourly rates, and pricing of their cleaning services.

Alternatively, training with a vocational or community college could be a way to gain some of this knowledge and help you build your business profile. International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) offers certification programs. 

Completing ISSA certifications will land you a place in their database of certified professional cleaners. That’s a high-authority link to your website!

Chris has certifications from ARCSI, ISSA’s residential cleaning services leg, and IICRC. He told us:

ARCSI certification teaches you how to use chemicals properly and avoid creating toxic fumes. It basically comes down to teaching you the chemistry behind each product and how to clean each area (granite, hardwood, fabrics, etc.) and avoid damaging them. IIRCC certification is similar to the ARCSI certificate but focuses on carpet cleaning and tile cleaning.

Cleaning Business Certifications Aren’t Mandatory

While official certifications show professionalism, they are not necessary. Any cleaning experience will serve you well when you start your own cleaning company. 

We also interviewed Corey Edmonds, the owner of Pacific Northwest ProWash. Corey makes $600K yearly as a power washing service. You can read his full story or check out the interview below: 

Step 2. Dust Off Your Skills

Customer service is essential in the cleaning business. All local cleaning business owners tend to have similar pieces, but demonstrating your skills, being friendly, and offering helpful cleaning tips will help customers know they hired the exemplary cleaning service. As Christopher says:

Exceptional customer service will help cleaning companies start making money in days. Two things I do that others don’t is my phone support is available from 7 a.m. -11 p.m., seven days a week. I also have an online system where people can go online, put in their information, and book it without talking to anyone. Customers love it!

So do I! Check out his online booking. If you want to implement this business model in your new cleaning company, check out Booking Koala.

Part of that experience, of course, is your cleaning solutions satisfying customers. How do you make sure that happens? Here are some tips to stand out from other cleaning services. 

Polish Your Soft Skills

Cleaning services tend to be a customer-service business, so practice your soft skills before starting a commercial or residential cleaning business. Udemy and SCORE offer fantastic training.

Tighten Up Your Technical Skills

Customers expect you to be the expert and trust you to work safely. The risk of injury and death is real. So, what technical skills does one need to be a successful cleaner?

Business owners should educate themselves about safety concerns involving cleaning supplies. They should inform their cleaners in the following areas:

  • Biohazards
  • Flammable liquids
  • Air contaminants
  • First aid
  • Hazardous interactions between cleaning chemicals
  • Powered equipment and vehicles
  • Asbestos, lead, etc.
  • Protective wear
  • Electricity

ISSA publishes a free manual for cleaning companies called CMI Cleaning 101. Check it out!

Keep reading for information on writing your own cleaning business plan.

Step 3. Write a Business Plan

A team planning on starting a cleaning business

Here’s the Deal: You need a business plan to help guide your decision-making. It keeps you focused on how to start a cleaning business. The plan will help define your vision, objectives, and strategy.

It’s a living document that will help you secure financing or partner with other small business owners. Make sure you write one!

We offer some business plan templates for those considering how to start a cleaning business. 

Templates

These business plan templates will help you prepare to get residential and commercial cleaning jobs. Want to know the best part? They’re all free!

We’ve partnered with Chris to create a Master Course for residential and commercial cleaning services. Sign up to be one of the first people to master the cleaning business model.

It has checklists, spreadsheets, detailed startup costs, marketing guides, a copy of his business plan, and over 10 hours of video for commercial and residential house cleaning service providers.

Resources

It gets better! Here’s a list of free and low-cost resources:

Also, check out our interview with Mike regarding business plans. While Mike is a franchisor for lawn care, his advice applies to commercial cleaning services. Plus, he grew a small business into one of the fastest-growing franchises in the country.

Step 4. Determine What Type of Cleaning Services Business Is Right for You

Research what is right for you. Wikipedia has a list of cleaning companies and what they offer. To understand more about business strategies for house cleaning and commercial cleaning services, you’ll need to research the services each offers. 

Here’s a list of possible cleaning businesses to start:

  • Mobile Laundry
  • Decluttering Services
  • Green Cleaning Services
  • Organizer
  • Airbnb Cleaner
  • Vrbo Cleaning
  • New Home Construction Cleaner
  • Housing Associations
  • New Construction Commercial Cleaning Business
  • Move-In, Move Out Cleaning
  • Home Cleaning
  • Apartment Cleaning
  • Office Cleaning
  • Specialty Cleaning
  • Duct Cleaning
  • Carpet Cleaning business
  • Window Cleaning Business
  • I.T. Cleaning Business
  • Property Cleaning Services
  • Dry Cleaning Business
  • Rug Cleaning
  • Hazardous Waste Removal
  • Mold Remediation
  • Power Washer Business
  • Laundromat, Clothes Cleaning Business
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Boat Cleaning

Queen Bee Cleaning Service provides house cleaning (including Airbnb and move-out cleaning), janitorial services, carpet cleaning, and hospital-grade disinfecting services. 

Recurring house cleaning is our bread and butter, move-in & move-out services can have some surprises. Airbnb can be really profitable. When you get it right, it can be highly profitable.

Austin, the owner of Spruse Clean, a $1 million cleaning company and sustainable cleaning supplies company, agrees. He said, 

If you’re not a giant nationwide company, a commercial cleaning business isn’t worth doing. I focus on residential because there are always residents who need their homes cleaned. Every commercial client we had to negotiate. It wasn’t worth the money. We figured our fit market was residential and tried to dominate it as much as possible.

 Check out our interview with Austin below:

An appealing middle ground can be corporate house cleaning. Cleaning homes owned by large corporations like Amazon or Google for their staff combines the ease of residential cleaning with the bankroll of corporate clients. It’s the best of both worlds!

Green Cleaning

Green cleaning caters to a growing niche market. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidance, including the green seal products search.

Step 5. Select a Small Business Name

What’s in a name? Well, a lot! There are a few things to keep in mind.

Does It State What You Do?

If you wash windows, is “window washing” in the name? Describe what you do, but don’t limit yourself by being too specific because businesses evolve. Keep it loose!

Is It Easy to Spell?

Will potential customers be able to spell your business name in a search engine? Be sure to register alternate spellings as domain names that forward to your website.

Location

Consider including the name of your state, county, or city because it adds credibility. For example, DFW Cleaning includes the abbreviation for the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. It also helps search engines understand where your local business operates.

Branding

Does your name communicate the brand message you want? Queen Bee Cleaning Service brands itself with a picture of a bee. Simple, right?

Register a Dot Com

Find a name for the .com domain that is available. It’s more mainstream and makes your business seem more established. You can search GoDaddy.

Give It a Go!

Queen Bee does a great job as a brand because it is the hive leader (best of the local residential cleaning businesses), but it doesn’t clarify for potential customers where the service is.

Once you have a name idea, run it by your friends and family. Test it on Google Trends. Read this article on five tools for naming a business, or try our business name generator. The generator connects you directly to NameCheap when you click on one of the business names. Then, you can buy the domain name and other services from NameCheap.

Finally, get your business registration. The SBA has a guide to registering your business name with the government. Use the SBA tool.

LEARN MORE: Find out more about names for your cleaning business.

Step 6. Establish a Legal Structure

You need to establish a legal business structure. Work with an attorney, accountant, tax specialist, or government official for the best results.

Licenses, Permits, and Tax Forms

A keyboard with licenses sign

Regardless of the legal structure, determine if your cleaning services company requires any licenses, permits, or tax forms to operate legally. Use the SBA tool to find out what you need.

Sole Proprietor

A sole proprietorship is the easiest way to start a business. A sole proprietor doesn’t need separate business accounts. Business income can be put directly into a personal checking account when you run a sole proprietorship. However, it does not protect the owner’s personal assets.

You must fill out a tax form called a Schedule C. Sole proprietors can join the American Independent Business Alliance.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

LLC is a favorite choice for a cleaning business because the company protects the owner’s assets. It’s a partnership and corporation hybrid and requires an operating agreement document.

You might want your LLC to file taxes as an S-Corp. Check out our blog comparing S-Corp vs. LLC.

Partnerships and Corporations

Partnerships and corporations aren’t typical for cleaning services. You can learn more on Investopedia. Alternatively, you can read our blog about 11 business structures to see if there is another business structure you might want.

How to Start a Cleaning Business Franchise

Many franchise opportunities exist in the cleaning industry. A franchise consists of a franchisor company and a franchisee in a joint venture to sell the franchisor’s products and services.

In essence, a franchise enables you to enter the market with a ready-made cleaning company. Well-known franchises are The Maids, ChemDry, and PuroClean. Learn more about buying a franchise.

Step 7. Consider Hiring Employees

Imagine what it would be like to have so many referrals and so much business that you can’t handle it all yourself!

While many cleaning businesses are one-person operations, owners often find that it helps to have employees working on cleaning teams for practical and profit-based reasons. After all, you might want to take a vacation!

To learn about hiring employees for your new business, take the next step and read this section.

Employer Identification Number

Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for your company. Apply for one or call 800-829-4933.

Tax Filing and Withholding

Federal and state tax filing requirements apply to new employers. You will need to keep records of employment taxes for at least four years, which involves unique forms and accounting for state taxes.

But don’t worry––the IRS publishes a handy guide for employers that is available here.

Unemployment Insurance Tax 

You will need to pay Unemployment Insurance Tax through the UI Program under the Social Security Tax for employers.

Federal Employment and Labor Laws

Federal labor laws are the next piece of the puzzle. All employers must display Workplace Posters that are downloadable on their website.

Other Requirements Include:

  • Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)
  • State’s New Hire Program
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance
  • Disability Insurance, as required by some states
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Compensation

A lady holding a white iPad

Compensating employees is probably going to be your most significant expense. Let’s take a closer look.

Chris told us:

Labor is my biggest expense.

You can either pay them an hourly rate or pay per task.

Chris pays an hourly rate of about $19, but local businesses can choose which works best. If you’re a busy house cleaning company with lots of customers near each other, both you and the employees can benefit from performance pay.

Other Types of Pay

Paying employees a fixed wage per hour works fine for many house cleaning services. If your new business doesn’t require staff to double as salespeople, stick with a pay-per-hour or salary compensation structure.

To decide, check out this article, “How to Create a Pay Structure That Promotes Team and Company Growth.” You can also check the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Payscale to find out what local businesses pay.

There’s so much to consider when starting a cleaning business. It can be hard to keep up with everything. That’s why we’re creating a cleaning business course with over 10 hours of information and templates to help you succeed.

Step 8. Obtain Equipment and Supplies

Your cleaning equipment depends on the service(s) you provide. You can start with a vacuum and a few microfiber towels.

If you’re curious about what cleaning equipment you’ll need for most cleaning businesses, check out Jobber’s guide.

Used Equipment

You can acquire equipment at rock bottom prices by purchasing an existing cleaning company. We have some excellent advice on evaluating the worth of a business—read the complete guide.

There are some special considerations cleaning businesses will face. Consider the following sections when purchasing equipment and supplies.

Allergies

Some clients have terrible allergies. Cleaning companies must be sensitive to this aspect when performing cleaning jobs. If a client has pets, consider using their equipment to keep the pet hair isolated to their home. 

Also, make sure to ask about pets in bidding. Some housekeepers may have pet allergies. You might need to classify them for office cleaning only, offer to get them the allergy shots to help them develop immunity to the allergens, or help minimize their risk in other ways. It may cost a bit, but it will protect your business insurance from allergic reactions.

Step 9. Establish a Location

Man checking for the right location on iPad

Perhaps you’re wondering if you need to rent a space to run your cleaning business. First, most cleaning businesses operate from home for the following reasons:

  • Home-based businesses have lower startup costs.
  • Equipment and supplies can be stored at home.
  • A room in the home can be converted into an office.
  • Work is performed outside of your home, so clients won’t come there.
  • Most homes are well-suited to starting a residential cleaning business.
  • With enough parking and storage space, performing commercial cleans can also operate from home.

Chris runs his small business from home, and his business expenses for rent and utilities are only $750 per month (and most of that is actually on-paper costs and legal accounting strategies).

Know the Local Ordinances

Local ordinances might not allow you to operate your cleaning business from home. Why does starting a cleaning business have to have so many rules? Just search Municode Library to find the rules in your municipality.

Storing Cleaning Supplies for a Commercial Cleaning Business at Home

Starting a cleaning business where children and pets live near hazardous materials is something a business owner must evaluate seriously.

The EPA offers guidance on handling Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), and the Organic Consumers Association provides a list of safer cleaning products.

Step 10. Practice Safety

Most cleaners have employees work in teams because it increases the number of jobs each vehicle can work per day. Cars are expensive and accidents happen, so fewer vehicles on the road means safer employees.

In addition, a crew member could slip in a commercial building and break their leg. If the crew member is the only person in the building, no one might know until the morning. For specific safety guidance, refer to OSHA guidelines about the cleaning industry.

You’re Essential!

Think about this for a moment: Cleaning businesses have the responsibility of protecting everyone by keeping spaces clean and free of disease-causing pathogens.

Chris even offers a hospital-grade disinfecting service. He told us:

Eliminating germs & pathogens requires more than just a wipe of a towel with bleach. We use an electrostatic sprayer to apply the disinfectant, the sprayer “loads” the mist with a positive charge making the disinfectant stick to all surfaces killing 99% of the pathogens Our hospital-grade disinfectant is an EPA-certified product safe to use around children & pets, safe on ALL Surfaces.

Arm yourself with knowledge.

Step 11. Insurance and Risk Protection

We’ve all been there, wondering: 

Is the expense of liability insurance worth it?

Commercial clients require a cleaning company to have it, and experts recommend it. General liability insurance covers property damage and bodily injury.

For additional information, read this article. Check out our blog about how to get business insurance before you contact insurance companies that provide liability insurance for businesses. I find Hiscox is the easiest way to get business insurance.

Step 12. Finances

Cleaning businesses often use several tools to handle their finances, including estimating software, CRM, accounting software, and pricing structure. We’ll cover how to budget, get financing, and other considerations that you need to know when starting your business.

Budget

A man holding a white notebook with drawing

We’ve all done it—promise to make a budget and stick to it. This is even more important in business than in your personal life.

Chris started Queen Bee with less than a $5,000 budget. He estimates you can start for less than $2,800 if you have a car. 

Udemy offers inexpensive courses on budgeting that are worth checking out. Consider accounting software, such as Xero or QuickBooks. Many service professionals prefer Jobber.

Admire the Many Facets of Funding

Ever wondered why so many people get into the cleaning business? It has a low barrier to entry. The initial investment in starting a home cleaning business can be one shopping trip to a home improvement store.

Funds to start your cleaning service can come from:

  • Personal funds
  • Loan from family or friends
  • Business partner
  • Government programs

Check out our article about business funding. We cover 17 ways of funding a business to help you decide which practices are best for you.

Alternatively, the SBA offers free courses on financing options and funding programs. The Hartford published the pros and cons of using personal funds to start a business.

Alternative sources of funding include:

  • Crowdfunding
  • Credit cards
  • Home equity loan
  • Rollover for business startups (ROBS)

Don’t forget to check out our lending partners.

Make Sure the Price Is Right

One of the reasons Queen Bee attracts and keeps so many customers is that its prices are highly competitive, and it’s more convenient than other companies.

They still pay their staff well and grow their profits year after year, too. As we told you initially, Chris told us there’s no better time to start a cleaning business than now.

The following chart shows the monthly revenue and margins for Queen Bee. His gross margins include everything except marketing (which is a non-standard application of gross margins) and net margins are after marketing. This also includes the salaries of both Chris and his wife.

Develop a Pricing Structure

A lady searching for the right pricing for a product

Chris uses a combination of time, square footage, and tasks desired to create the most accurate estimate. He also gives discounts for using subscription-based pricing. Discounts range from 10% for monthly cleanings to 20% weekly.

Any business owner who takes the “Starting a Cleaning Business Course” will get access to his pricing structure, but you can check it out on the QBclean website.

Charge More for the Initial Cleaning

Initial cleaning takes longer because a deep cleaning happens first. Make sure you allow time to find out where everything is, such as electrical outlets, which you will need. The first cleaning may actually equate to a spring cleaning.

LEARN MORE: Get help pricing your cleaning services.

Step 13. Know Your Ideal Customer

First, ask yourself, who needs and can afford your service at your desired price point? Jump right in by reading this great article on making your own customer avatar on Forbes.com. After that, make an effort to find these people!

Chris has diverse markets, which means he has multiple target markets. He uses Google local ads and posts his prices right on his website to help eliminate customers who can’t afford his pricing.

The transparency reduces quotes to people who aren’t his ideal client. He shares his Facebook ad strategy in our master course. It’s surprisingly simple but gets a return to ad spend (ROAS) of 16-41X. He told us:

I believe family visiting and friends coming over (makes people) want to have a clean place for the holidays.

Step 14. Have a Sales and Marketing Strategy

Before starting a cleaning business, make sure you research the local area to define your target market and competitors for the cleaning services you offer. Then focus your efforts in the area where you want to do business.

Chris finds local ads highly valuable. He told us:

I use an automated quoting system and a call center that helps me take calls until 11 p.m. I want to be available when the customer wants to get a quote.

LEARN MORE: Learn how to get clients for your cleaning business.

Market Your Business or Watch It Go Down the Drain

Marketing is one of the biggest expenses in Chris’s budget. He spent an average of $4,212.50 per month on marketing, primarily on Google Local Ads, but he also spends a portion on Yelp!, Craigslist, and Facebook. He told us:

Craigslist ads are low-cost and have done really well. You should definitely include them (in the list of places you run ads).

Chris has become highly ranked on Google, Yelp, Nextdoor, Yelp, Houzz, Thumbtack, HomeAdvisor, & Porch. Focusing on building your business presence on highly ranked websites helps increase your site’s authority.

When using paid ads, consider something like this on Google:

Digital Marketing

A laptop with illustration showing how to do digital marketing

Digital marketing includes email newsletters, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO). Neil Patel is a renowned authority in this area. Check out his website.

Printed Materials

Printed materials include business cards, flyers, brochures, t-shirts, and even car magnets! Canva is an excellent tool for designing your own materials.

One of Chris’s marketing strategies is putting door hangers on three houses in each direction after each house cleaning.

These fliers give first-time customers discounts. Many customers who took advantage of this sale were so impressed with the service they happily joined his subscription plans.

Direct Contact

Cold call potential clients, issue coupon codes, start a referral program, and take advantage of word-of-mouth advertising!

Chris told us:

Use SMS messaging. It has lower competition and helps bring in more business.

Upsell or the Suds Will Go Flat

Chris has a solid upselling strategy. As he puts it,

Every quote we provide bids for add-ons so they can choose them if they want.

He uses this strategy to get more business from the interaction. Forbes.com published a great article on upselling titled “How to Upsell Any Customer” that tells you how to do it.

Outshine Competitors with a Sparkling Image

There are plenty of customers to go around in the cleaning sector. The trick is to make your cleaning company one that customers can trust. A lot of this is based on the image you present to your customers. Here are a few ideas to keep your brand as pristine and spotless as a freshly cleaned home.

Uniforms

It’s a dirty job, but don’t leave the house with messy hair, sweats, and old shoes. Get a uniform so you can be a walking advertisement for your business!

Chris suggests a two-pocket cobbler apron and a t-shirt as the uniform.

Vehicles

Brand your vehicle with a car magnet or a vehicle wrap. Just think about it: When your parked vehicle is in front of your customers’ establishments, others will see that someone hired you. It’s great advertising!

Other Image-Enhancers

Keep your equipment, vehicles, and language clean. Be punctual. Maintain an appropriate online presence, and use professional-looking marketing materials that are free of spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors.

LEARN MORE: Check out our article on how to get cleaning contracts.

Be Responsive to Customer Complaints

A black notebook and a cup of coffee on a desk

If a customer complains, don’t ignore it or, as Chris warns:

I try to be proactive to prevent them. The day after we clean a person’s house, we call them to see if they have any feedback so we can improve. If they leave an online review we respond immediately and ask what we can do to correct it.

Responding promptly to customer concerns and issues is a huge part of earning their trust—and securing those word-of-mouth referrals that can be crucial in building a client base.

Cleaning Is a Job That’s Never Done

So, take advantage of it! Offer routine cleaning as part of your sales strategy. 

Step 15. Establish Repeatable Processes

Chris has tons of resources to help you start your own cleaning business. We’ll be sharing them with you shortly.

He emphasizes the importance of getting every facet of his business down on paper to build repeatable processes. His clients appreciate the transparency he provides with his pricing. You can be confident in your endeavors if you seek to model your business after Queen Bee.

That’s how to start a cleaning business,

Conclusion

To recap this guide on how to start a cleaning business, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know how to start a house cleaning business?
  • Do I understand the insurance requirements for commercial cleaning?
  • Is it worth it for me to start a cleaning business?
  • Do I know how to start cleaning business offices?
  • Will I be comfortable speaking to clients?
  • Do I understand the insurance requirements for commercial cleaning?
  • Am I starting a cleaning business this year?
  • Why am I starting a cleaning business?
  • Do I need additional help and advice?
  • What will I need to feel successful?

Take the next step. Now that you know how to start a cleaning business, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Chris has a straightforward four-ingredient recipe for success:

Use Google Local Ads. Make it as easy for them to buy from you as possible. Provide great customer service and use text marketing when you have slower times.

We focus on providing the best content possible. What would you like to know about cleaning businesses?

Join The Discussion

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4 thoughts on “How to Start a $125K/Month Cleaning Business (2022)”

  • Bill

    Thanks !!!

    Reply
  • Michael Moore

    What software does he use for his cleaning business?

    Reply
  • Move in cleaners Dubai

    Thanks a lot for sharing kind of information. Your article provides such a great information with good knowledge. Here we would like to inform you as we are professional cleaning & painting service providers in Dubai! Regards

    Reply
    • Brandon Boushy

      You can email info@upflip.com and ask for the podcast interview application.

      Reply

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Start Your 7-Figure Cleaning Business With Just $5,000…

UpFlip brings Chris, founder of Queen Bee Cleaning Services, to help you start your cleaning business from scratch. Join the waitlist today and get first access to the step-by-step blueprint to your own 7-figure cleaning business