Starting a cleaning business can put you on the fast track to high revenue potential without a substantial up-front investment. 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, the founder of the Seattle-based cleaning company Queen Bee Cleaning Service. He makes over $1.5 million in revenue and has only been owning 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:
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:
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!
You Don’t Need Cleaning Business Certifications
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:
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
Improve 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:
- Flammable liquids
- Air contaminants
- First aid
- Hazardous interactions between cleaning chemicals
- Powered equipment and vehicles
- Asbestos, lead, etc.
- Protective wear
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
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.
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!
- Our UpFlip Business Plan Template
- One-Page Business Plan
- U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Guide
It gets better! Here’s a list of free and low-cost resources:
- UpFlip: How to Write a Business Plan
- SBA: How to Write a Business Plan
- UpFlip: Our cleaning business checklist is an easy way to make sure you do everything you need for any business.
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: Sign Up for “The 7-Figure Cleaning Business Blueprint”
After launching a million dollar cleaning business from scratch, legendary entrepreneur, Chris Mondragon, decided to put all his “insider secrets” for success inside this groundbreaking online course. Chris will guide you step-by-step into starting your own cleaning company from scratch in under one week. Many of his students started earning $10,000 a month in just 90 days!
Want to learn more? Click here!
Step 5. Choose the Right Cleaning Business 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
- 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.
Austin, the owner of Spruse Clean, a $1 million cleaning company and sustainable cleaning supplies company, agrees. He said,
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!
Sustainable cleaning caters to a growing niche market. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidance, including the green seal products search. The main thing is you want to avoid cleaning chemicals that are not good for the environment.
Step 6. Select a Small Business Name
What’s in a brand 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.
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.
Does your name communicate the brand message you want? Queen Bee Cleaning Service uses a company logo that is picture of a bee with the name of the company. 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.
Step 7. 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
Regardless of the business structure, determine if your cleaning services company requires a business license, permit, or specific tax forms to operate legally. Use the SBA tool to find out what business license you need.
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. Each has different business taxes that might benefit you.
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 8. Consider Hiring A Cleaning Team
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)
Compensating employees is probably going to be your most significant expense. Let’s take a closer look.
Chris told us:
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 an hourly rate works fine for many house cleaning services. If your new business doesn’t require staff to double as salespeople, stick with an hourly rate 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 9. Obtain Equipment and Supplies
Your cleaning equipment depends on the service(s) you provide. You can start with a vacuum cleaner, window cleaner, and a few microfiber towels.
If you’re curious about what cleaning equipment you’ll need for a maid service, check out Jobber’s guide.
Used Cleaning Equipment
You can acquire equipment at rock bottom prices by purchasing an existing cleaning company. Just make sure to check the vacuum really well because it is a crucial piece of equipment. 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.
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 10. Establish a Location
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. Just search Municode Library to find the rules in your municipality.
Store Cleaning Supplies at Home
Starting a cleaning business where children and pets live near hazardous materials is something a business owner must evaluate seriously. The cleaning materials can be toxic and some are explosive if combined.
The EPA offers guidance on handling Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), and the Organic Consumers Association provides a list of safer cleaning products.
Step 11. 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.
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:
Arm yourself with knowledge.
Step 11. Insurance and Risk Protection
We’ve all been there, wondering:
Is 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 13. 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.
We’ve all done it—promise to make a cleaning business 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. You can expect around 80-90% of revenue to go to operating costs.
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: Personal savings, 401k, or just portions of paycheck.
- Loan from family or friends: Sometimes friends and family are willing to help people start a business, at the very least they might higher you to clean their homes.
- Business partner: It’s easier to get twice as much done if you have a business partner. They can be active or a silent investor.
- Government programs: Some people with qualify for SBA loans or other government grants.
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.
If you want to use other sources of funding, consider:
- Crowdfunding: If your business idea is something that can be scaled to sell all over the country crowdfunding is an option.
- Credit cards: You’ll need credit cards to pay for expenses like gas. Each vehicle will need a credit card too. You’ll earn some cash back and help build credit. Like a personal credit score, businesses loan rates are impacted by a credit score.
- Home equity loan: Refinancing your home loan is a great way to get startup
- Rollover for business startups (ROBS): If you start an S-Corp or C-Corp, you can move your 401K from your employer to your new corporation and buy the company stock with the 401K giving your business an influx of cash. During operations, you can provide dividends to the 401K to increase the funds in it.
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.
Create a Pricing Structure
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 First 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.
Step 14. Know Your Ideal Customer
First, ask yourself, who needs and can afford your service at your desired price point? Do some market research to find out where they are located, where they 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:
Step 15. Create a 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:
Market Your Business
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:
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 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 include business cards, flyers, brochures, t-shirts, and even car magnets! Canva is an excellent tool for designing your own business cards.
One of Chris’s marketing strategies is putting door hangers on three houses in each direction after each 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.
Cold call potential clients, issue coupon codes, start a referral program, and take advantage of word-of-mouth advertising!
Chris told us:
Chris has a solid upselling strategy. As he puts it,
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.
Find out some other great tactics Chris is using here, in our second interview with him:
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.
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.
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 Brand Elements
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.
If a customer complains, don’t ignore it or, as Chris warns:
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.
Offer Routine Cleaning
So, take advantage of it! Offer routine cleaning as part of your sales strategy.
If you start an Airbnb cleaning business, you might want to consider opening a laundromat because you’ll have to wash linens or outsource it.
Step 16. Create Standard Workflows
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.
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:
We focus on providing the best content possible. What would you like to know about cleaning businesses?