Many people have a dream to start a business but do not follow through on their desires because of fear. It can be intimidating to learn all the ins and outs of starting a business. It will take time, effort, and money along the way, but if you have a passion for cleaning and a willingness to push through a challenge, you are in the right place. The following article breaks down each step to planning, starting, and running a successful cleaning business in a way that is both easy to understand and execute.
Here are the steps in starting a cleaning business:
- Complete Market Research
- Decide on Your Niche
- Develop Your Business Plan
- Legally Set Up Your Business
- Secure Funding
- Establish a Team
- Provide Exceptional Service
- Never Stop Marketing
It might be hard to believe that you are only eight steps away from running your very own cleaning business, but it is absolutely possible. After reading the below steps, you will be much more equipped to start the cleaning business of your dreams.
Step 1: Complete Market Research
Think of the phrase “market research” as a way of listening before you speak. Listening before speaking is a valuable practice when fostering relationships and will be essential in the soon-to-be relationship between your business and your community.
The word “market” refers to the environment you will sell to. You can think of this as the community you will target with your cleaning business. There is a good chance that you already know what the word “research” means – it is an investigation into a certain topic.
With market research, you are investigating the community you are preparing to sell to. There are a number of things you need to research to conduct this investigation successfully.
Does Anyone Need This?
This is a difficult question for any budding business owner to ask, but it is an important one. You must know for certain that there is a need for your cleaning business in your area before you take one step further into establishing it. One of the worst situations you could be in is being the owner of a business nobody wants to pay for, especially after all of the time, energy, and money you will inevitably have poured into your business.
Will Anyone Pay for This?
The word “pay” is key.
When you conduct market research, you will find yourself asking a lot of questions. Be sure those questions are not too vague. It is one thing to ask if someone is interested in having a local cleaning business. It is quite another to ask someone to seriously consider how much they are willing to pay for a cleaning business.
Who is Most Interested?
As you are questioning your community, pay very close attention to who is most interested in your cleaning business. It is highly likely that a trend will start to emerge. This trend will be a good indication of who your ideal customer is.
As you start to realize who your ideal customer is, notice the following:
- How old are they?
- What type of career do they have?
- What kind of life do they live?
- How much do they make?
- What is important to them in life?
When a trend emerges, you can even start asking some of these questions directly toward the people that match your ideal customer demographic. Take careful notes during this process as this information will be essential later when you are deciding how to specialize your cleaning business.
Once you have a full understanding of the need for a cleaning business in your area, it is time to investigate the local cleaning business environment. Here are a few questions you can ask:
- Are there other cleaning businesses in your area?
- How successful have they been and why?
- What do these cleaning businesses specialize in?
- What other local businesses could you work with?
Asking these questions will give you a broader perspective of the business arena you are walking into. Some of this information may be difficult to come by, but be creative in your interview process. Consider reaching out to ex-employees or ex-customers to get the inside scoop. You may also be able to discover more information simply by asking around town. This will give you an opportunity to talk about your cleaning business as well as provide you with more background on your competitors.
Is it Profitable?
One of the biggest questions your market research will help you answer is one you must ask yourself throughout your planning process: is this cleaning business going to be profitable? You will base this decision on the amount your ideal customers are willing to pay for your services as well as all of the costs and taxes that must be taken out of this revenue.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in making our dreams a reality that we forget about the reality that this dream needs to make us a sufficient income to survive. Do not let this fact discourage you from pushing onward if your initial numbers do not work out, as there are always ways to reconfigure your plan to make sure it is more profitable. The point is that you are aware of whether or not your business is on track to be profitable.
For some people, this may not matter right away. They may be able to ride along with an unprofitable business for a few months or years as it picks up steam. For others, they need to be making a profit right away so that they can afford their bills. Thankfully, a cleaning business has lower startup costs than most businesses, so it is likely that you’ll have a better shot at early profitability than other startup owners. Either way, as long as you are aware and in sync with the estimated profit of your business, you will be okay.
Step 2: Decide on Your Niche
Finally, all of your hard work researching your market comes into play when you decide on your niche. Your niche is the way your business is unique. It is always smart to choose a particular niche when starting a business so that your ideal customers understand how you are especially suited to meet their needs.
What is Your Community Missing?
Sit with the answers to your market research question. Pay special attention to what your ideal customers are looking for and even closer attention to the ways the current cleaning businesses in your area are not serving them. It is likely that within your conversations your interviewees will let off some steam about why they have not used or stopped using a local cleaner. This may be a good indication of a specialty that your business could focus on. If it is a pervasive need, it might be worth channeling all your efforts into being the one to fill it!
What is Your Passion?
Diving into your passions is another route to determining your niche. If you are especially interested in something to the point that most of your life revolves around it, this might just be a good indication that you can use it as a niche.
For example, if you are a health-conscious individual who uses chemical free cleaning products in your own home, this might be an area you are uniquely gifted to specialize in. Imagine crafting an entire cleaning business around the premise of a 100% natural house cleaning. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is a good chance that if something is particularly important to you, it is important to others as well. In fact, those who find this specialty valuable will likely be willing to pay much more than the standard cleaning fee to have their cleaning done exactly as they wish.
While your passions are important, be sure to balance them with the needs of your community. If your idea does not come up at all in your community interviews, it might be time to re-think your plan so that it fits more with the local need.
Examples of Niches
In case you are still stuck, we thought we would make it really simple for you and provide some ideas of different specialties you could implement in your cleaning business.
As always, you must weigh all of these options with both what you are passionate about as well as your community’s need. If you have zero drive to live out your unique business identity, it will not work. Likewise, if there is no need, then your niche is not likely to land.
The Natural Cleaning Business
We talked a bit about this option already, but you can take this “natural” niche as far as you are comfortable with. This might look like using only organic cleaning tools, avoiding plastic containers, or even offering to take your customer’s recycling along with you for free.
The Last-Minute Cleaning Business
While this business specialty would certainly present its own challenges, focusing on last minute cleaning needs would likely put you on the top of anyone’s mind who found themselves with a last-minute mess that they needed taken care of. If you pursue this niche, pay close attention to how your need to be available at all times affects your mental health and daily life. You may need to hire extra employees just to make this possible. Though this might be an extra burden on your schedule or budget, it is one that allows you to charge much more than the typical cleaning price, so be sure to capitalize on that as well.
The Pet-Loving Cleaning Business
Pet people need a special type of cleaner and you might just be that person! If you love animals and do not mind cleaning after the messes they tend to leave in their midst, this is the niche for you. A pet-loving cleaner offers two different benefits to their ideal customer. First, their customer knows that if they come to clean when no one else is home, the cleaner will be comfortable working around their beloved animals. This could be a huge benefit for those with rowdy dogs, sensitive cats, or other critters. Additionally, a pet-loving cleaner is not afraid to work with dog-hair filled rooms, soiled rugs, or damaged furniture. A pet-loving cleaner will be more understanding of the extra steps these situations would require than a typical cleaner might be.
The Clean-Out or Move-Out Cleaning Business
Some cleaning businesses are willing to assist with moves, others are not. If you make it clear that you specialize in moving-related cleaning needs, your ideal customers will never need to second guess whether or not this type of service is in your wheelhouse. A cleaner who is openly unafraid of taking one step beyond cleaning to actually organize or clean out a cluttered space will come to mind when this need arises before any other cleaner would. Should you take on tasks of this nature, be sure to price yourself appropriately. While one clean-out may take an hour of your time, another may take a few days, so do not trap yourself by pricing all clean-outs the same.
The Heavy-Duty Cleaning Business
A final example of how to niche yourself is to be the heavy-duty cleaner. If you tell others about the ridiculously difficult cleanings you have successfully completed, they may be less worried about sharing their own need with you. Sometimes, emotions hold people back from hiring a cleaner. The fear of being judged, even by a stranger, can paralyze someone to live in their mess long after it is healthy for them to do so. By clearly stating that “no mess is too messy” for your business, your customers will feel no shame in offering you a more challenging cleaning job.
Step 3: Develop Your Business Plan
A business plan is essential for anyone starting a business of any type. This document will showcase all of the thought you have put into the start of your business and turns it into a plan. This proves that your cleaning business is not just some exciting idea that you are pondering, but that you are serious about making it a reality.
A business plan also gives you a road map to follow. Without it, you may simply follow what feels good at the time. With it, you are focused and on a mission to make your cleaning business a success. Finally, a business plan will be important if you are applying for a financial loan of any type. Financial institutions will want to see everything laid out on paper, especially the numbers. Even if you do not need a business plan to apply for a loan, it is in your best interest to write one out as you get your cleaning business underway.
What Should Be in a Cleaning Business Plan?
- Company Information
- Mission Statement
- Market Research
- Profitability Analysis
- Marketing Plan
We will dive deeper into many of these components in more detail later, but for now, let’s take a closer look at what each of these sections might mean for your business plan:
The most important reason to include the basics of your company identity is so that readers of your business plan do not need to go elsewhere to find it. You do not want to cause your readers any additional effort, especially if they are deciding whether or not to offer you money. Include your contact information, business structure information, and details on your company management — that will be enough for this section.
This is where you can lean into the niche you decided on earlier. Craft a mission statement that you can live up to with each day. Do not allow your mission statement to be just a set of words that sound good strung together. This is your company’s mission; make it reflect that.
In this section, highlight the most important information from your market research. You will likely have much more data than you can share in your business plan. Take the time to dig through it all to show your readers the parts that confirm your cleaning business is going to fill a need in your community.
This is where you can show your readers how and when you estimate being profitable. It may feel a bit odd to speculate all of this, but all you can do is make the best guess based on all of the data you have compiled.
There are a variety of ways cleaning businesses can function when it comes to the policies they will hold. These policies can include the way your business will interact with safety precautions, cleaning products, chemicals, hazardous spills, and training for each of these dynamics. Having these procedures clearly outlined for all potential partners will demonstrate that you have thought out multiple scenarios and how to keep your team safe within each.
We will dive into marketing more later. For now, just know that your business plan will need a section outlining how you will acquire your initial customers as well as how you will reach out to new ones. This marketing section can should an offline section as well as an online section. Both types of marketing will be essential to your success and so both should be highlighted in your business plan.
Who Gets to See All of This?
Not just anyone! While you do not need to keep your cleaning business plan under lock and key, it is not a document that you just want floating around for anyone and everyone to read. Your business plan contains just what it says, your business’s plan. You do not want your competitors (or maybe even your customers!) to know all of your secrets.
Instead keep your business plan to those within the company and working directly with it. As mentioned, this may include financial partners. This could also include your attorney, accountant, and key employees. You may also want to consider sharing parts of it with your family. It is always good to keep loved ones up to speed on your endeavors and it will probably be helpful for them to know that your dream actually has a plan to go with it.
Step 4: Legally Set Up Your Business
The need to make your business legal is often the most intimidating for people who want to start their own business. While people are often nervous about losing money or time in business endeavors, risking their good status in the law’s eyes is quite another. It does not need to be frightening or difficult to legally set up your cleaning business for success. Simply follow the proper steps and consult professionals you trust along the way.
I Need a Business Structure?
You will need to decide what type of structure you wish to run your cleaning business as. This is a very important decision as it will affect how you pay taxes, operate, and even how protected your personal finances are.
Take your time making this decision as it is difficult, but not impossible, to change later. You can consult with business mentors, lawyers, and accountants to provide additional information along the way.
While a sole proprietorship is one of the easiest business structures, it also protects you the least. You are automatically considered a sole proprietor when you start cleaning for payment, even without registering. This might be perfect for you if you are just testing the waters before diving in deep, but may not be the best fit in the long run.
When two or more people own a business with a simple structure, it is a partnership. One partner will have unlimited liability, others will have limited liability as well as limited control in the business. Profits are passed through to personal tax returns. The partner with unlimited liability will be expected to pay self-employment tax.
Limited Liability Partnership
This structure operates similarly to a Limited Partnership, but offers limited liability to every owner. This means no partners will be responsible for the actions of the others.
Limited Liability Company
In most cases, your personal assets will not be at risk if you start a Limited Liability Company and hit financial or legal trouble. With this structure you can experience the benefits of partnerships as well as corporations. There is no corporate tax, but members do have to pay self-employment tax contributions towards Social Security and Medicare.
There are various types of corporations. Corporations pay income tax on their profits, and in some cases are taxed twice. However, they can raise funds through the sale of stock which may be a good choice for higher risk businesses, but may not make the most sense if you are a small cleaning business.
If you are interested in starting a corporation, here are the various types to read up on:
- C Corp
- S Corp
- B Corp
- Close Corporation
- Nonprofit Corporation
Cooperatives are owned by those using its services. Profits generated are given to the user-owners. There is often a board of directors, officers, and members with voting power.
Registration, Registration, Registration!
Believe it or not, you will likely need to officially register your cleaning business before you officially begin. This may need to be done through multiple channels.
First, you may need to register your cleaning business with your state. This is usually an easy process on your state government’s website. It may involve a small fee or form fill out, but it is nothing you cannot handle. Depending on your state, you may also need to file specific documents. Check with your state’s website to see what will be required when you register your business.
In some counties and cities, you will need to register your business or fill out a Zoning permit. This permit ensures the property you wish to operate from is zoned for business endeavors. If you plan to use your home address and your home is not zoned for a business, do not give up right away. You may be able to apply for a variance to get around the zoning issues or perhaps explain the fact that you will be mostly operating outside of your home to the appropriate authorities. Be persistent.
Federal Tax ID Number
Depending on the business structure you selected, you will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which will be your businesses federal tax ID. This is a free application and can be done right after you register your business.
Separate Bank Accounts are Important
Once you have your EIN, you will want to decide what bank you will conduct your business at. To open a business bank account, you will likely need an Operating Agreement. Any business lawyer will be able to help you draft up an Operating Agreement based on what you want from your company. After your business bank account is set up, you should keep your cleaning business finances separate from your personal finances. This helps establish a barrier between you and your business, which may be helpful if your business ever runs into legal or financial trouble. This could be what protects you and your personal assets from personal or financial ruin.
Step 5: Secure Funding
There are many ways to secure funding for your cleaning business. Not all businesses will require extensive funding in the startup phase. However, if you do find yourself in need of funding, consider which makes the most sense for your business and lifestyle:
A loan is a financial offering that you will need to pay back. You need to apply for loans, may need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for them, and will likely have to pay interest on the money you do receive. This may be helpful if you find yourself with larger startup costs, but be sure you have a solid plan to pay the money back if you decide to use it.
When someone chooses to invest in your company, they are giving you their funding as an investment with certain strings attached. Investors often want a certain percentage of equity in your company, depending how much they offered you. Others may require interest on the money offered.
Some businesses may be eligible for certain local or state governmental grants. You can also visit grants.gov to look for federal grants that may apply to your endeavor.
The best option to fund your cleaning business may very well be to keep on working a separate day job. This may mean working a full-time job while starting your business on nights and weekends. It may mean continuing to hold a part-time job until you are ready to really get your business off the ground. It could also mean one person in your family works while the other invests their time and energy into business building. No matter how you plan to fund your business, you will also need to personally make sure you have enough to live your life and afford your bills while you do so.
Step 6: Establish a Team
Establishing a team to walk with you on your new business venture will be essential to your success. Not only will you need people to use their professional expertise to help you succeed, but it will also be important to have others in your corner who can encourage you along your way.
Legal Team Members
You will want to be sure to have a lawyer you can trust. Lawyers can help you get started with your cleaning business, select the best structure, prepare a secure operating agreement, register your business, draft any essential contracts, and navigate any issues you may encounter along your journey. Some lawyers will be more experienced in certain areas than others. Be selective when searching for a lawyer and verify that they are comfortable handling your specific needs.
Hiring an attorney, whether for special projects or to have on retainer, can be expensive. Prepare yourself to spend a few thousand dollars or more, depending on the amount of legal needs you have, just to get started. Being aware that this will be a larger expense ahead of time may help to soften the blow.
A trustworthy accountant will also be extremely helpful as you get your cleaning business off the ground. This person will help you with taxes, quarterly filings, and how to best keep track of your expenses and income. It is very important that you keep track of your business finances properly, so make sure to find an accountant who is willing to spend the time teaching you how to do everything that you need to. It may be an investment of your time and money to get the process started, but it will be well worth it to know that you have someone you trust leading the way.
Guiding Team Members
Board of Directors
Some business structures will require a board of directors for your legal operation. Others do not, but their owners still appreciate the idea of a varied group of people to help them improve their business over time. If you choose to have a board, make sure there are at least a few people in this group that think differently than you do and have experience beyond your own. This will only help your cleaning company have as many perspectives as possible as you grow.
While not as formal as the board of directors, mentors can be equally as helpful in giving you perspective along your journey as a cleaning business owner. Some mentors may be specialized in a certain area of business that you hope to grow in, others may have gone down the exact route you hope to take with your own cleaning business. Mentors can be people you knew prior to your business endeavor or people that you reach out to start a relationship with specifically for this effort.
The Heart of Your Business
You may not immediately think of your employees as members of your team because they will function under you, but they will be the lifeblood of your business. In fact, some of your cleaning employees may actually interact with some customers more than you do. It is for this reason, and so many more, that you need to hire with exceptional care.
In a way, some of your core customers will be part of the very heart of your business as well. Where would you be without your customers? Nowhere! You would not have a cleaning business. You would just be a passionate person with a vacuum. It is extremely important that you develop a quality relationship between your core customers and your brand. Because you are serving them with your cleaning, it may be necessary at times to survey your clientele to see what they want to see more or less of. Their answers may very well change the direction your business takes.
Step 7: Provide Exceptional Service
This may seem like an unnecessary step to include, but it is, in fact, one of the most important steps you will take in starting your cleaning business: provide exceptional service. Especially when you are first starting out, you need to earn your first few customers’ affection.
As soon as you start cleaning houses, word will certainly travel fast that there is a new cleaner on the block. If anyone has hired you, people may reach out to them and ask if you are any good. If they say something negative about your work, you will find yourself in a very troubling situation. The worst thing you can have is everyone hearing bad things about you before you even get started!
Even if they say you were an “okay cleaner,” you are not in much better of a situation. This does not give potential customers much incentive to go out of their way to contact you, learn about your services, and then actually pay you for them.
Instead, you want your first few customers to absolutely rave about you. The service that you provide for them and the way they feel when they work with you should market your cleaning business for you.
Once you have proved yourself an exceptional cleaner to a few customers, they will be sure to spread the word. Many people enjoy sharing a worthwhile company when they find one and will want to support you if they like you enough.
Go Above and Beyond
The best way to provide an exceptional service is to consistently go above and beyond for your customers. This should start with the very first interaction you have with them and should weave through each touchpoint you have from that point on.
How can you go above and beyond when a client enquires about your services?
- Answer all of their questions, no matter how long it takes
- Offer them something of value – a free estimate could be helpful
- Teach them something about cleaning
How can you go above and beyond with your first cleaning?
- Clean something unexpected, without being intrusive
- Leave a special gift to show you appreciate the relationship you are establishing
- Work around them whenever possible, even if it is an inconvenience to you
Another way you might encourage your clients to spread the word about you is by offering a discount for any referrals they successfully give. This may seem like a way to lose money, especially if you offer them a decent amount off of your established price. However, if you compare this discount with the lifetime income an additional full-time customer or two can offer, it is an extremely profitable investment.
Step 8: Never Stop Marketing
Marketing is important for any business, and we believe it is equally important that a business owner never stops marketing. This means you will need to invest time, money, and energy into keeping your business in the eyes of your potential customers from day one and every day forward.
This is a huge commitment. In fact, it may be best for you to actually hire someone to constantly keep tabs on your marketing efforts so that you can worry about other important facets of your cleaning business.
The most important piece to remember about your business’s marketing plan is that it must provide value to your prospective customers. Too often, business owners think that marketing means just sharing what they do or why people should buy their products or services. While it is always valuable for your clientele to be aware of your promotions, this is not all of what your marketing should be. In fact, most of your marketing should not be this at all.
Instead, in the same way your exceptional service was a way to market your cleaning business, your value provided also markets your cleaning business. You can provide value to your potential customers by teaching, demonstrating, sharing your experience, or otherwise helping them learn how to be a better cleaner. This will require a great deal of effort and the fruits of your work may not be immediately seen. However, it will exponentially increase your reach which will only help your cleaning business in the long run.
While traditional offline marketing includes well-used tactics such as hanging fliers or sending mailings, you might wonder what it looks like to provide value offline.
Providing value offline may include teaching a free class at a local community center. It might look like a demonstration at a local fair, showing others what cleaning product is the healthiest for their home. It may even mean offering a consultation to local schools or businesses, pricing out the cleanest and most cost-effective cleaning solutions for their buildings. Whatever you do, it may seem like your efforts are all for nothing, especially if you are working for free, but in reality, you are showing your expertise to your entire community.
Not only that, but you are also helping your community trust you and want to pay you back for all of the value you have offered them. If you are good enough, they just might do so in the form of hiring you!
Just as you did offline, you will want to provide value online as well. Providing value online can mean a multitude of things. What it should definitely include is helpful content produced by you and your business. This content can be in the form of local videos, updates, infographics, or photos. No matter what platform or format your content comes through, make sure you are educating your customers or otherwise making their lives better.
When you provide value online in this way, people will begin to remember you as the “cleaning expert in your area.” They may not even plan to purchase from you, but if they ever need assistance with their cleaning, you will be the first person they remember.
The potential trouble with producing this content online is that it will likely go far beyond your local community, so it will be important to keep your content as local as possible mentioning local events you will attend, local businesses you work with or just mentioning your specialized area. Otherwise you will spend your time and resources on people who follow you that may never be local enough to purchase your services.
If you do get more and more customers due to this, you may even consider raising your prices in response to the demand!
Frequently Asked Questions
Which social media platforms should I be marketing on?
The more important factor in digital marketing is that you are comfortable on the platform you do choose to use. We would recommend going deep in your use of one or two platforms rather than trying to dabble with many different new platforms all at once. Our recommendation would be to first create a website and then a Facebook page, all the while focused especially on video content. People love to watch videos and video will be especially helpful in showing off your services.
How much do cleaning businesses make?
As with any small business, there is always the ability to make more money based on how low you keep costs, how well you market yourself, and how many people you have working for you. Some small cleaning businesses make over $100,000 per year, but a new cleaning business may make closer to $50,000.
Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.
About the author. Entrepreneur and Cleaning Business Fan.
Hi! I am Shawn and I am a happy individual who happens to be an entrepreneur. I have owned several types of businesses in my life from a coffee shop to an import and export business to an online review business plus a few more and now I create online cleaning business resources for those interested in starting new ventures. It’s demanding work but I love it. I do it for those passionate about their business and their goals. That’s why when I meet a cleaning business owner, I see myself. I know how hard the struggle is to retain clients, find good employees and keep the business growing all while trying to stay competitive.
That’s why I created Cleaning Business Boss: I want to help cleaning business owners like you build a thriving business that brings you endless joy and supports your ideal lifestyle.