How To Start a Cleaning Business from Scratch

Starting a cleaning business is one of the top business ideas in 2021 because the demand for cleaning services continues to see a significant rise – especially now after the Covid Pandemic.

Also, this is one of the easier home-based self employed jobs you can do as you don’t need a ‘skill’ as such, you just need attention to detail when cleaning.

It’s also one of the most quickest and least expensive types of self-employment to start up.

Start a Cleaning Business

And the great thing about learning how to start a cleaning business from scratch is:

  • You don’t need any qualifications
  • You can start with very minimal start-up funds

And although you have to travel to various premises to carry out your cleans, it’s still classed as a home-based business. This means that your ongoing overheads are extremely low too.

So you can see why starting a cleaning business is very popular among people wanting to start a profitable home-based business.

This post is in two parts:

Part 1: 11 Steps to Start a Cleaning Business from Scratch
Part 2: Frequently Asked Questions

So lets get straight to it where I show you how to start a cleaning business from scratch.

Just so you know, I used to run my own house cleaning business so these 11 steps are coming from my knowledge and experience which I’ve gained within the cleaning industry.

Part 1
11 Steps To Start a Cleaning Business

1. Three Types of Cleaning Businesses

First of all, you need to know which type of cleaning business you want to start.

There are many different cleaning services which you can offer, so it’s important to find which one will suit you the best in terms of:

  • Enjoyment
  • Sustainability, and
  • Start-up costs

There are three main cleaning categories.

  • Commercial
  • Specialist
  • Residential

Let’s take a look at each one.

Commercial Cleaning Business

Commercial cleaning services are when you go out and do cleans in offices, schools, colleges or other non-residential buildings.

As an independent self-employed cleaner you would have to negotiate a contract with the building maintenance management of the building. For this reason, commercial cleaning can be quite difficult to break into because the competition is fierce and it’s sometimes challenging to negotiate, and get, your preferred rate of pay.

Specialist Cleaning

The other type of cleaning services you could offer are specialist cleaning.

This would be

  • Oven cleaning
  • Carpet cleaning
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Patio cleaning

With this type of cleaning service you absolutely must know how to clean your chosen specialist area to a very high professional standard.

cleaning products can be hazardous, seek professional training before you offer this type of service.

Residential Cleaning Business

The easiest and quickest route into starting a cleaning business is by cleaning residential homes.

Also known as a house cleaning business or a domestic cleaning business.

There’s no specialist knowledge needed or contracts to be negotiated or drawn up. As long as you have attention to detail and good work ethics, then you can get started with your own house cleaning service.

Choose Your Cleaning Service Type

So taking the above three different types of cleaning services into consideration, which one do you think you would want to actually take the leap to start?

Which is the most important aspect of setting up your cleaning business now, within the next 7 days?

  • Is a quick profit most important to you?
  • What about the lowest set-up fees?
  • The easiest to start?
  • Would you rather specialize in an area first? (i.e. oven cleaning)
  • Do you think the most money is in commercial cleaning? If so,
  • Are you prepared to do more research and planning to go straight into commercial cleaning?

You’ll have to weight up the pros and cons of each type of cleaning services before you go ‘all in’.

Commercial: If you want to start a commercial cleaning business, then you can learn more about that here.

Specialist: If you want to start a specialist cleaning service, then you can learn more about how to do that here.

Residential: If you want to get started as soon as possible with minimum start-up costs and zero experience, then read on.

The remainder of this post will show you how to start your own house cleaning business.

This is because a house cleaning business will appeal to the majority of people reading this post because it’s…

  • The quickest
  • The easiest
  • Has the lowest start-up costs, and
  • Has no special training needed to start.

So with that said, let’s take a look into how you can start your own house cleaning business from scratch.

The first thing you needed to decide on is to choose which type of cleaner you want to be.

2. House Cleaning Business Models

You would think that a simple cleaning business would be straight forward and not overtly complicated, and it’s not really complicated.

But you do have choices which you might not be unaware of.

Did you know that you can choose between three different types of house cleaning business models:

  • Start a cleaning company or join a franchise.
  • Join up to a house cleaning agency.
  • Start your own independent cleaning business.

So let’s take a look at these three different types to help you decide which business model you want to start.

Cleaning Company or a Franchise

This type of cleaning service entails you into setting up your own cleaning company, or to become part of a franchise.

This is what I done. I became a franchisee of a domestic cleaning company.

There are pros and cons in setting up your own company or to become part of a franchise.

For me personally, I hadn’t a clue about anything inside the cleaning industry and even less on how to set up my own cleaning company. Therefore I decided to go with a franchise where everything is set up for you and you follow the franchise managements’ systems and processes.

What Is a Cleaning Company?

A cleaning company is where you run your own management house cleaning business. You manage the business from your home office and employ cleaners to go out and do the cleans.

There are hefty start-up costs involved in setting up this type of cleaning service, and even more so if you join a franchise.

And of course there’s a lot of ongoing overheads and responsibility since you are employing cleaners.

Cleaning Agency

A cleaning agency is when you sign-up to the agency and they find cleaning jobs for you.

This is very popular with people who just want to go out and do cleaning work but without all the added business processes which comes with running your own house cleaning business.

If you join a cleaning agency you don’t have to do any marketing or to find any cleaning clients, the agency does all of this for you.

Of course, the agency doesn’t do this for free.

The agency will take a percentage of your hourly cleaning rate. The agency also sets your hourly cleaning rate.

For example, if the agency sets your hourly rate at $16 per hour, they could take between $3-$5 of this in agency fees.

So your cleaning customers will be pay you $11 for the hourly clean, and you have to give $5 to the agency.

In other words, your customers will hand over $16 to you, and it is your responsibility to hand over the $5 agency fee to the agency.

Self-Employed

Also, please note that even though you would be working for an agency, you are not employed by them.

They are simply the ‘middle men’ to find you work for a fee.

This means that you’re technically, and legally, self-employed and you must sign up with the IRS / Inland Revenue to declare your earnings and to pay tax – when you earn enough money to pay tax that is.

Independent Cleaner

If becoming a cleaner for an agency doesn’t appeal to you because you want to keep all of the hourly rate to yourself, then your best bet is to become an independent cleaner and set up your own house cleaning business.

As an independent cleaner, you run your show:

  • You choose which area to do your cleans.
  • You choose which type of people you want to clean for.
  • You choose what types of cleans you want to do.
  • You choose your hourly rate.

So here you have full control of your house cleaning service.

Don’t worry, this isn’t as hard or as complicated as it sounds.

3. Which House Cleaning Business Model?

If you still want to start a house cleaning business but are unsure of which type, then make sure you do your own in-depth research as it’s really important to get this right from the onset.

Do you want to:

  • Run a management cleaning company?
  • Be a self-employed cleaner using an agency? or
  • Be an independent cleaner with your own business?

At this point I know you might be thinking that working as a cleaner for an agency would be the easiest option, and it is, if you’re not ambitious and are happy to earn the minimum wage / hourly rate.

However, if you’re an ambitious budding female entrepreneur who wants to take control of your own income and business goals, then starting a house cleaning business as an independent cleaner is the best, and most profitable, way forward.

I recommend this because:

  • You get to choose your hour rate, and hence your weekly income
  • You get to choose the areas where you clean.
  • You get to choose your own clients.

So for this reason, I’m going to cover how to start a cleaning business as an independent residential house cleaner.

Now you know you want (or are seriously looking into) starting your own house cleaning business, let’s get started with your financials.

4. What’s Your Budget?

I say your financials because there is no set amount of money that is required to start this type of cleaning service – unlike a commercial cleaning service or a specialist service where you have to invest in supplies, training and other unseen costs.

You can start with absolutely no money at all or you can start with a small budget of say $100-$300 depending on how you want to advertise.

For example, to start with no money you simply would:

  • Use your customers’ own cleaning products, hence you don’t have to buy any cleaning stock.
  • Use word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Wear old, but still decent, clothes.

To start with a small $100$300 budget you would spend this money on:

  • Getting a stock of the basic cleaning products.
  • Buy an apron/tabard and a caddy to carry your supplies in.
  • Use the rest of the money to get flyers and business cards printed.
  • Optional: Pay a local company to distribute your flyers for you.

This is the reason why a house cleaning business is the cheapest and easiest home-based business to start.

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If you want the full guide to learn how to make $600+ per week as an independent house cleaner, then click here.

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5. Market Research

The next step you want to think about is what type of residential homes do you want to clean, and what type of people you want to clean for.

  • Who are you going to target as your customers?
  • What area do they live in?
  • What type of house do they live in?
  • Is it big or small?
  • How are you going to travel to these homes?
  • How big of an area are you going to cover?
  • How are you going to travel from one home/area to the other?

Your Hourly Rate

It depends on what area, and which type of homes, you’re going to target for potential customers as to what your hourly rate will be.

Obviously the more affluent an area, the more you can charge.

Ring around local cleaners in your area and ask what they charge. Here you’ll have to be a bit sneaky and pretend that you’re a potential customer simply ringing around several cleaners to get prices.

It’s based on this research that you’ll set your own hourly rate.

Don’t go for the lowest hourly rate as you want to appear professional and worthy of your hourly rate. Go for the middle/average of all the hourly rates which you’ve gathered in your research.

Your Business Name

You’ll want to have a business name for your business when you register it with the IRS/Inland Revenue.

You also need a business name to put on your marketing materials, i.e. your flyers and business cards.

You can use your own name or you can come up with a name which best describes your business. When you rang around cleaners in your area to find out their prices, you’ll also will have noticed their name.

Did they use their own name or did they use a descriptive business name?

Use this as a guide as to what you will name your cleaning business.

Cleaning Supplies

As a new cleaning business owner it’s best to have at least a few of the most essential cleaning supplies, especially little bits of equipment to make your life that little bit easier.

Cleaning equipment for productive cleaning ‘hacks’ could be:

  • Microfibre cloths to use on windows and chrome.
  • An old toothbrush to clean around taps.
  • A small soft brush to remove dust from small, fragile ornaments.

You might also want to invest in a spray disinfectant to spray on the toothbrush and mop heads in between cleans.

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If you want the full guide to learn how to make $600+ per week as an independent house cleaner, then click here.

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6. Decide on House Cleaning Services

For this step I mean what services will you be offering?

You need to have thought this through and have these services firmly set in stone before you start your house cleaning business.

Apart from the usual house cleaning, which normally includes:

  • Dusting / cleaning surfaces.
  • Bathrooms & kitchens.
  • Vacuum cleaning and mopping hard floors.

Are you going to offer additional services?

If so, will these be included in your hourly rate, or will you charge extra for these?

Extra services such as:

  • Window cleaning (downstairs only, healthy & safety!)
  • Are you going to offer an ironing service?
  • What about any type of laundry service?
  • Will you include oven cleaning in your hourly rate? or
  • Will you have an additional cost for oven cleaning?

All this needs to be thought through and put down in your business plan.

“Claire, do I really need a business plan?” … I hear you say

Yes you do!

Just because you’re a local independent cleaner; this doesn’t make you any different to any other type of new service-based business starting out.

7. Write Out a Business Plan

Successful cleaning business owners treat their house cleaning service as a business from day one.

If you want to earn a good, decent income and reach your income goals to buy the things you want and to live the life you want, then your little house cleaning business can definitely get you there.

You just have to take it serious.

And you do this by writing up a business plan.

This just needs to be informal, for your benefit only. It doesn’t need to be written up formally to be presented to the bank; because you’re not asking to borrow any money.

What goes into a business plan?

Basically all of the 11 steps which you see on this page answered in detail!

8. Cleaning Business Insurance

Because you’re going into people’s homes, you need to have some business insurance.

At the very basic, you need to have one type of insurance:

  • Public Liability Insurance.

Public Liability Insurance:

This covers you for any breakages in your customers’ home and for any accidents which may occur.

If you don’t have this insurance, then it will be your responsibility to pay for any damages.

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If you want the full guide to learn how to make $600+ per week as an independent house cleaner, then click here.

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9. Business Bank Account

By opening a business checking account you will be keeping your personal and business finances separate.

Whilst this isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s always strongly advised to do so.

Opening a business account will allow you to separate your personal and business expenses to allow you to efficiently track the cash-flow of your house cleaning business.

With a business account, you will be able to organize, manage and track your income and expenditure and your profit/loss, which is absolutely necessary to fill in your tax returns at the year-end.

Be sure to shop around for the best business bank account for you as many banks promote special offers and good deals for first time customers.

10. Become Self-Employed

Now it’s time to register your business with the IRS/Inland Revenue, or whatever else it is called in your country.

It depends what the ‘rules’ are in your country as to how you register your new house cleaning business.

For example, in the UK you can register your business within the first three months of trading.

You also don’t need to register a business name, just register your business as a whole.

In the US, you only need to register your business name, and you only need to register a business name if it’s different from your real name.

Either way, let your governing body know that you’ve started a residential cleaning service and you want to trade as a sole trader.

When you expand you could look into becoming a limited liability company if you wish, but start small and simple by registering as sole proprietorship/sole trader.

11. How to Market Your New Cleaning Business

And lastly, know how you’re going to market your business to potential customers; to get them to become your real, paying customers.

There are a few ways to market your business, but you should focus on the above two methods to get started.

Social Media Marketing

Obviously your house cleaning business is an offline, local business so social media will only work in your favor to a certain extent.

One method of using social media is to open a Facebook business page for your cleaning business then let all your friends and family know about this page. Ask them to forward it to their friends and acquaintances and soon you’ll have dozens of people know that you have a new house cleaning service operating in your local area.

Keep your Facebook business page updated with news and ‘what’s going on’ in your business. People will like and share this information which, in turn, will lead to more people (and more potential customers) liking and following your page.

Printed Flyers

Once you’ve chosen the area where you want to do your cleans, get some flyers printed and put them through the letter boxes of the houses of your potential customers.

As an approximately rule of thumb (from my personal experience) is that for every 100 flyers you post, this will result in 3-4 inquiries, resulting in 1-2 new customers.

This direct marketing method is the number one way you’ll nail down and get your dream house cleaning customers.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Once things start moving, you continue to do professional and amazing cleans, and have a bunch of happy customers, then natural, organic word-of-mouth marketing will begin.

This is the best type of advertising because:

  • People recommending you is an endorsement for your services, and
  • It’s free!

So pick two marketing methods which you think will be most effective for your house cleaning business and go with them. Nothing is set in stone and you can always swap and change things up.

In my House Cleaning for Profits guide I show you my formula on how to earn $600 per week and with a budget of less than $100.

Starting a Cleaning Business Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist to help you start a your own cleaning business:

Your Cleaning Business Checklist

  • Understand the three different types of cleaning services.
  • Choose a cleaning service which suits you.
  • You’ve decided to start a house cleaning service*.
  • You’ve decided to start an independent cleaning business.
  • Calculate your budget for start-up costs.
  • Do your market research, you need to decide on…
  • Which area and types of homes you want to clean.
  • Your hourly rate.
  • Your business name.
  • Buy initial cleaning supplies.
  • Which house cleaning services will you offer?
  • Write out a business plan.
  • Get house cleaning business insurance.
  • Set up a business bank account.
  • Register your business with the IRS/Inland Revenue
  • Decide on how you want to market your business.

*This is for the purpose of this guide.

Part 2:
Frequently Asked Questions

Although I believe I’ve covered all the basics in the above 11 steps, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions when it comes to learning how to start a cleaning business from scratch.

Q. Is Owning a Cleaning Business Profitable?

Yes. Once your business is set-up, the overheads are extremely low with this type of home-based business.

Your overheads will include keeping a stock of essential cleaning products and your travelling expenses. So you can see that there’s not a lot of overheads which makes a cleaning business extremely profitable.

Q. How Much Do You Need To Start a Cleaning Business?

You can actually start with no money at all.

This is what my mother-in-law done. She just used the customers’ cleaning products and used word-of-mouth for her marketing.

So it can be done with no set-up costs.

However, if you do have a bit of money I would suggest that you buy an initial stock of essential cleaning products and use some money on getting flyers printed for marketing and getting your first five customers.

Q. How Much Does a Cleaner Make Per Hour?

It depends on which country you live in and which area.

In the US, the cost of a cleaner will vary from state to state, and then within each state, it will vary on the town or city.

How Much Should I Charge For an Hourly Rate?

You need to carry out research in your area by ringing around some local cleaners and asking them how much they charge to clean in xxx area (xxx meaning the area which you’re thinking of cleaning in), and then set your own hourly rate based on this research.

Don’t charge the cheapest rate though because you not only want to make a decent profit, but you also want to come across as professional.

Q. How Do I Get a License for a Cleaning Business?

Again it depends on which country you live in.

Here in the UK you don’t need a license as such, you just need to register your business with the Inland Revenue and get some insurance.

In the US, you do need a business license but this will depend on where you live as a business license is issued at the government level, at local level and then the municipal, county, city and then state level. So make sure you check with your local government body about licenses and other legalities to run your business.

Q: Do You Have To Get Insurance?

No, you’re not legally required to get business insurance.

However, what would you do if you broke a valuable ornament or you accidentally damaged a carpet or wood floor with cleaning fluid?

You would likely to have to pay the customer for these damages.

However, if you got Public Liability Insurance, then you would automatically be covered for the cost of any damages which accidentally occur.

For peace of mind, and your bank account, this is why it is strongly advisable to get Public Liability Insurance for your house cleaning business.

Q: Do I Use My Own Cleaning Products or The Customers’?

This depends entirely on what your customer wants.

Some customers will insist that you use their own cleaning products, while others will expect you to bring and use your own.

I suggest that you get an initial supply of the essential cleaning products so you’re covered with all your customers, and future customers’, preferences.

Q: What Do You Do About Your Children During School Holidays When You Need To Do The Cleaning?

This decision needs to be thought out and included in your initial business planning stage.

Ask your friends or family in advance if they will be able to look after your children during the school holidays (or if they are sick) so you can continue with your weekly cleans.

Your customers can, and will, easily find a new cleaner if you cancel on them during school holidays.

Your house cleaning business is no different to any other type of business; so you need to be ‘open for business’ during week days.

What About My Vacation?

Let your customers know in advance of your vacation and asked them if they want to schedule in a clean just before you go away or just after you come back from your holiday.

What Next?

I hope that this guide has given you some food-for-thought and answered some of your questions if you’re thinking of starting your own cleaning business.

If you want to start a house cleaning business as an independent cleaner, then you might be interested in my instant downloadable PDF guide which shows you step-by-step how to get it set up and it also shows you my formula for earning $600+ per week simply by cleaning other peoples’ homes.

>> Learn more about my House Cleaning for Profits guide here

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