Being a small business owner in a recession can be a stressful and risky venture. Every industry is affected differently with its own unique challenges and opportunities. If you own or are wanting to start a cleaning business during a recession, make sure you educate yourself and take the right precautions in order to be successful.
A cleaning business is not recession-proof, but if you target wealthy and commercial clients, you will set yourself up for success even during difficult times.
How a recession affects customers
During a recession, people cut down on spending, especially for non-essential and luxury items. For a lot of customers, a maid or cleaning service falls into these categories. However, for some customers, it is a different story. These are the customers you need to be targeting during a recession.
The middle class is usually the group that is most affected during economic downturns. Whether they lose their job, don’t have adequate savings, or are just cutting back, these customers will typically end their cleaning service when times are tight.
You can try to mitigate these cancellations by offering discounts or payment plans. If you choose to do this, make sure you are still making enough to cover expenses and make a profit.
For the most part, it is best to look elsewhere for profitable clients.
The upper class is a great market to target during a recession for a number of reasons.
For one, wealthy clients have much more discretionary spending available than your typical middle-class client. This means that when a recession hits, most wealthy clients will be able to continue paying for luxury items and services, such as house cleaning.
Another benefit of targeting wealthy clients is that they typically have higher job security than those who are in the lower class, so they will likely still be employed and too busy to clean their homes.
Wealthy clients view house cleaning as more of a regular expense than a luxury. Positioning your business to service higher-end clients will give you a strong competitive advantage during a recession.
A recession will affect each business differently, but for the most part, businesses will still need basic janitorial services performed on a regular basis.
By doing a little research, you can find some businesses that are more recession-proof than others. This will help you create a list of businesses that would be good to approach during a recession.
During an economic downturn, some businesses may be looking for ways to save some money, including cleaning services. This could be an opportunity to get your foot in the door and gain some new clients.
How to thrive during a recession
When a recession hits, you will need to adapt and adjust to the changing times. There are a number of things you can do to protect your cleaning business during difficult times and even set yourself up for success.
Service wealthy clients
As mentioned before, wealthy clients usually aren’t very affected by a recession, meaning they will still want cleaning services performed at their houses. For these customers, it makes sense to pay $25/hr for a cleaning service when they are still making $75/hr. To effectively position your cleaning business to satisfy the needs of the higher-class, follow these easy guidelines.
Focus on value
When servicing higher-class clients, focus on providing exceptional, unbeatable service rather than a cheap price. Your customers care a lot more about having a spotless home cleaned by someone they can trust than saving a couple of bucks.
If you’ve been servicing the middle-class you will need to change your marketing message and material to reach your new target audience. This doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul, but it does need to show what you offer and how you can serve their unique needs.
Look the part
Wealthy clients expect their house cleaner to be the best available and they expect them to look that way. You don’t have to wear a tuxedo with white gloves, but make sure that you are professional in your appearance and your behavior.
Build a professional-looking website
Having a basic website or social media account might be acceptable for some customers, but if you are going to be charging a premium for your services, your customers need to know they’re getting a reputable company. Building a professional-looking website gives off a powerful first impression that immediately builds trust with your potential client. You can easily build professional websites using services like Wix and SquareSpace
Service commercial clients
Another sector that you can go after during a recession is commercial clients. Businesses don’t view a cleaning service as a luxury — for them, it is a necessity.
Servicing these clients is a little different than residential clients because you will be providing more janitorial type services instead of house cleaning services. Pivoting your cleaning service to a commercial cleaning service only takes a couple of easy steps.
Get the right equipment
Offices have different needs than homes. There are typically more windows, tile floors, and surfaces that need to be cleaned. Investing in proper equipment will help.
Some items that should be purchased are:
- Commercial-grade vacuum
- Window cleaner and squeegees
- Large mop and bucket
This is a limited list, but it will be enough to make cleaning large offices much easier.
Have an introductory offer
During a recession, businesses will take a look at their finances to see where they could cut back and save some money. During this time they will be shopping around to see if there is a better cleaning service available for less than they are paying now.
If you have a great introductory offer you will be much more likely to entice businesses away from their current cleaning service provider. Make sure your deal is meaningful enough to make the business take action.
Commercial clients can be a little more difficult to market compared to residential. If you leave a flyer at a business, it is unlikely the flyer will reach the person who is making the decision.
Think about your friends and family who might know someone who owns or works at a company that could potentially use your services. Having a contact within the company or having a mutual acquaintance can be the foot in the door that you need to sign a new client.
Offer special services
Both residential and commercial clients might cut back on some of their cleaning service needs during a recession, but some will still need specialized services done no matter what.
These services are usually performed because clients lack the ability, equipment, or motivation to do these tasks. Some are restricted to certain areas and certain times of the year, but it might be enough to keep the lights on for another month.
Cleaning gutters is a good way to differentiate yourself and typically only involves the purchase of a tall ladder. This service is typically performed in the fall but some places might need it year-round.
Windows are another specialty item that not everyone can perform, especially exterior windows. This usually calls for a ladder, squeegees, and window cleaning solution.
Steam cleaning carpets will always be in demand due to renters moving out. It is pretty standard for a tenant vacating a rental to need to get the carpets professionally cleaned.
You can market this service by getting in touch with property managers in the area. They usually have a handful of preferred companies that they will recommend for their tenants.
Lawn care is another service that some customers either can’t accomplish due to age, or they just don’t want to do it. Things like weed pulling/spraying, gardening, and sprinkler maintenance are all services that you can provide.
If you want to go a little further, you can purchase a lawnmower and weed eater to position yourself as more of a landscaping company.
If you’re in a cold climate, this service will be in demand with elderly clients. Shoveling driveways can earn a little bit of money, but shoveling rooftops can really make a substantial income. It’s hard labor but customers will be happy to pay a premium to avoid roof damage.
Another option is to purchase a truck with a plow attachment. I know this is getting pretty far away from cleaning, but during a recession, you need to be flexible and open to whatever the market is in need of.
Nothing comes easy during a recession. You will need to keep expenses low, narrow down your client base to only the most profitable, and to get creative when trying to find ways to generate income.
The good news is, a cleaning business can survive and even thrive during a recession. You may need to adjust your services and get a new definition of what normal looks like, but if you find things that work, you will have more services to offer once the recession is over.
Can I just lay off some of my employees to get through the recession?
As a business owner, firing employees is typically the last thing you want to do. But during a recession, sometimes these tough decisions have to be made.
Getting rid of some of your employees can help your business save on expenses and make you run a little bit leaner.
You can offer to have some of your employees stay “on-call” where if you have extra work you will send it their way to help them out.
Should I decrease my marketing efforts during a recession?
If you’ve been spending a lot on marketing, you should take a long hard look at where the money has been going, and what kind of return you are seeing from each service. If there are some that aren’t doing much, you can get rid of them. But if there are some that are performing well, keep those.
If you haven’t been spending much on marketing, it might be a good time to look for marketing opportunities at a discount or opportunities that your competition isn’t utilizing.
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.