Starting a cleaning business can be a lucrative and sustainable business if you target the right market, offer superior service, and market your business effectively.
Before you begin to think about starting a cleaning business, you should weigh the pros and cons to make sure a cleaning business is the right fit for YOU. After that, you need to avoid common problems and exploit lucrative opportunities to build a sustainable and successful cleaning business.
Positives & negatives of starting a cleaning business
A cleaning business can be successful if done right in a variety of markets, the real question is, do YOU WANT to operate a cleaning business? It is important to understand and be realistic about what owning a cleaning business looks like day in and day out.
One unique feature of having a cleaning business is that you can start and operate it with just one person. This mitigates some of the risk of needing to hire on multiple employees before you have made any money.
Another benefit of being the only staff member is that you are in charge of every aspect of the business. This means you can make the business uniquely yours while also having quality control over each part.
Running a business all by yourself is definitely not an easy task. It takes a lot of hard work and it usually takes up more time than you are expecting. This is usually a good starting point for most entrepreneurs because they can build a solid foundation and then expand their reach.
Low start-up costs
Another advantage to starting a cleaning business is that there is not a lot of upfront costs. You will need to buy the basic equipment starting out, such as:
- Sponges, scrubbers, and brushes
- Protective equipment (gloves, masks, goggles)
- Broom with dustpan
- Mop with bucket
- Dusting equipment
- Cleaning solutions (multi-surface, glass, wood, bleach)
- Washcloths and paper towels
- Garbage bags
- Caddy to carry equipment
This is the bare minimum you will need when you’re starting out. But it is also important to factor in things such as:
- Specialized equipment
- Marketing expenses
- Labor costs
- Travel time
- Replacing equipment
Running a lean operation can be a competitive advantage, but you need to make sure you have planned for everything so you don’t get yourself in trouble.
Don’t need an office
Another factor that helps keep your overhead low is that you don’t need a physical office to have a cleaning service business. Customers are almost always going to be ordering your services online or via phone.
Having a cleaning business gives you some flexibility with when and how much you work. Most customers prefer to have you come during the day while they are not around, but each customer will have different preferences.
If you have kids that need to be shuttled to and from school and medical appointments, having a cleaning business gives you the flexibility that a lot of office jobs can’t.
When you are starting out, it’s likely you’ll be working a lot, but hopefully — as the business grows and you move into a management role — you will begin to be able to take time off because you know the business can run smoothly while you are away.
Simple expansion model
As your business grows and evolves, there will be some things that change. But for the most part, the model for growing your business is simple:
- Start small (1-3) employees
- Gain customers
- Hire more employees to meet demand
- Gain more customers
This is a gross over-simplification and we will get into more details in a second, but expanding your cleaning business doesn’t take a huge shift in how you operate.
Any industry with a low barrier to entry and low start-up costs is likely to have pretty fierce competition. Luckily, the cleaning industry is a fluid market that is always changing.
It is estimated that the average cleaning company loses 55% of its business each year due to poor service. This gives new cleaning businesses a chance to enter the market and service those dissatisfied customers.
Cleaning houses and office buildings isn’t easy work. You will be on your hands and knees a lot of the time and some tasks are downright disgusting.
That being said, since it is difficult work that people aren’t willing to do, they will be willing to pay you and your company handsomely to take care of their problems.
As long as you understand what you’re getting yourself into, you should be okay on this front. Hard work is what some people crave and would much rather do than stare at a computer screen all day. If that’s you, a cleaning service might be the perfect business for you.
Wear multiple hats
When you are starting your cleaning business you will likely be the:
- Legal assistant
Just to name a few.
This can be stressful for a lot of people to take on this many tasks all at once. Many people start a cleaning business for the simple fact that they are a great cleaner. Don’t make this mistake, either learn about how to run a business beforehand, or be prepared to hire these tasks out.
With technology these days you can find cost-effective help via online sites such as:
Do your research to find what combination is most effective for your business. It is much more efficient to pay someone $15/hr to do your accounting rather than you spending hours on it when you could be making $35/hr servicing clients.
Tough to break into some markets
Every market is different and has it’s own challenges and opportunities. Do your research about the makeup of your local market to identify which areas are saturated and which are not being serviced well enough.
If you fail to do this, you could be stuck competing with well-established companies that have a loyal customer base and exceptional service.
If you find this to be the case, look into offering specialized or niche services that these companies aren’t currently offering.
Role changes over time
Another thing that a lot of cleaning business owners don’t account for is how their role is going to change as the business progresses.
This can be viewed as a positive or a negative.
Some people like being on the front lines, cleaning, and interacting with customers every day. Other owners might be counting down the days until they can move into a management role and not have to be scrubbing toilets anymore.
Whatever your situation is, just make sure you have a plan set in place for when this time comes. As mentioned earlier, you can hire these responsibilities out and keep cleaning if you prefer, or you can take on these responsibilities and hire more cleaners, it is up to you.
Starting your cleaning business
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and still feel like a cleaning business is right for you, it’s time to start thinking about how to start and run your business.
If you’re starting a cleaning business, odds are you would prefer to have it be a successful one rather than a failure. In order to create a thriving cleaning business you, need to have a deep understanding of the cleaning market and where your business fits into it.
Follow these guidelines to help avoid common mistakes, identify opportunities, and lay a solid foundation to build your business on.
Problems to avoid
Not having a business plan
If you don’t have a business plan, not only will your cleaning business struggle, but it will likely fail. A business plan is a road map that guides you through the entire start-up process and help your business expand.
Going through the process of making a business plan also identifies key areas that you might have overlooked. Take the time to create a well-thought-out and thorough business plan to make sure you don’t get too far down the road and realize you are missing critical components of your business.
Being like everyone else
It’s important to research local cleaning businesses in your area to get an idea of what the market looks like and to see what is working. Once you have this information, don’t just be a copycat and try to be exactly like the businesses that are already out there.
Find what makes your business different and what will make customers choose you over the competition.
Targeting the wrong market
If you are expecting to service every potential customer in your area, you will end up spreading yourself too thin and not being able to offer a unique proposition for your customers.
The typical market that is in need of cleaners is middle to upper-class married couples between the ages of 35 and 65. You can start with this general market, but if you stay here you will likely face a lot of competition.
Identify ways to niche down your business into smaller segments so you can offer the right services to these customers. These can be factors such as:
- Family size
- What are their pain points?
- What are they looking for in a cleaning service?
- What would they pay a premium price for?
This helps you figure out where there are some gaps in the market and where you can fill that gap. Do you want to go after the super-rich? Or is no one servicing the elderly? The more specific you get the more effective you can make your marketing message.
Not having a marketing plan
Speaking of marketing, if you haven’t thought about how you are going to market your services to potential clients, now would be a good time to start.
Marketing is no longer just putting an ad in the newspaper and waiting for calls to come rolling in. There are a number of ways you should be marketing your business, such as:
- Digital marketing
- Social media
- Print marketing
- Vehicle advertising (Stickers, wraps, magnets)
You should have some sort of presence and activity in all of these categories. You don’t have to go overboard; find what works best for your company and what is getting you the most customers, then focus on that channel.
Focusing on price instead of value
A common mistake for start-up cleaning businesses in their pricing plan is to undercut the competition. This can be a death sentence for a new cleaning business. Not only does it cut your profits, but it isn’t an effective tool for drawing in customers.
A typical customer will not choose a cleaning company because it is $5 cheaper than the other guys. What will make a difference is how much value they perceive you can provide.
When you focus on providing value you will be able to charge customers more, retain customers longer, and have a higher satisfaction rate.
Not knowing your budget
Spending too much or too little can be a serious determining factor in whether you cleaning business succeeds or fails.
If you spend too much, you will be in a financial hole that you have to dig yourself out of — not a good idea when you’re a start-up. If you spend too little you might not have the marketing firepower you need or the right equipment to get the job done.
The answer is going to be different for each business. Some are lucky enough to have extra cash to spend, some have to run things lean and mean. Whatever your situation, you can still succeed, you just have to know your limitations and what you can afford.
Your employees are on the front lines every day, interacting with customers and providing the services that you promised to complete. If you don’t have the right employees, you will have a difficult time creating a successful cleaning business.
Building a great team starts with the hiring process. Make sure you are asking the right questions and are thorough in the interview process.
Once you’ve hired the right candidate, you need to spend adequate time training them so that they understand what the standard is for your business and their performance.
Lastly, if you have an employee that is underperforming or constantly causing issues, you need to get rid of them. Firing someone is never fun and one of the toughest things a business owner has to do. It is not pleasant, but keeping these employees for too long can take a serious toll on the reputation of your business.
Not preparing for the inevitable
According to Murphy’s Law, if something can go wrong, it will. When you fail to account for the inevitable problems that you’re going to run into, they will have a much more profound impact on your business.
You need to have a plan for things like:
- Canceled appointments
- Employee mistakes
- Employee absences
- Bad reviews
When you have a plan in place, these negative occurrences are handled swiftly and methodically so you can move on with your business.
Not doing the little things right
One last thing that start-up businesses tend to overlook is doing the little things right. These things get kicked down the line because the big things seem so much more important. But things like treating your employees right, being friendly to customers, and doing the right thing can really make a difference for your cleaning business.
Opportunities for new cleaning businesses
Once you have taken care of all the common mistakes, it is time to turn towards potential opportunities that can help your cleaning business really take off.
As mentioned earlier, the average cleaning business loses over HALF of its customers due to poor service every year. Providing superior service will help your business two-fold.
- You will be able to gain new customers that recently left your competition
- You will be able to retain more of those customers that are now satisfied with your service
To provide exceptional service you need to focus on a couple things:
- Implementing systems
- Quality control
- Hiring and training
- Customer service and follow up
If you can outperform your competition in terms of service, you will be able to charge a premium rate and be positioned for long-term success.
If you want to go after higher-end clients, being able to offer premium services and products is a great way to set your business apart. Things like green products, fine linen cleaning, and on-call service can all be things to add to your repertoire to service wealthy clients.
Find a niche
As mentioned earlier, if you try to go after all customers, you won’t be able to really satisfy any of their needs. Some niches that you could go after with your cleaning business include:
- Window cleaning
- Outdoor cleaning/landscaping
- Disaster cleanup
- Pressure washing
- Chimney sweeping
- Moving out/in cleaning
Along with these you can target different age groups, income levels, and lifestyles to differentiate your cleaning business.
Unique marketing tactics
Every cleaning business has a different way of doing their marketing. If you research your competition to see where they are missing out, you can then go after that channel. Some marketing channels to consider:
- Local web search (SEO)
- Local print advertisements
- E-mail marketing
Doing what everyone else is doing typically won’t get you great results, especially if you are a new business. Get creative and see how you can get the word out more effectively.
Do I need to get funding or investors to start a cleaning business?
This all depends on your current financial state and how quickly you want to scale the business.
The low-end start-up costs for cleaning businesses are at least $1500. Keep in mind that this is for the absolute basics. You probably want another couple thousand to account for unexpected occurrences and typical start-up surprises.
If you cannot afford this, you can look for government assistance, private loans, or investors.
Is a cleaning business recession-proof?
Cleaning businesses are typically affected moderately by recessions. Middle-class clients tend to discontinue their cleaning service while higher-end and business clients maintain service.
A recession tends to affect lower-quality cleaning companies more than quality businesses. If you position yourself as a premium option with great customer service, a recession could actually benefit your cleaning business.
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.
So you’ve decided to take a leap and start a cleaning business. Make sure you land on solid ground with The ABCs of What To Do Before Opening Your Cleaning Business.
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.