You are determined to start a house cleaning business. You have no professional cleaning experience, no references, no money and no car. You are starting from square one—without $200 dollars of Monopoly money—and no real money, either. How to get started?
Get Cleaning Experience
If you have never cleaned another person’s home for money, it is a good idea to find out if house cleaning is for you. Cleaning other people’s homes can be hard, dirty work. You need the physical ability to clean, as well as, a strong stomach for some of the messes you will come across in customer’s homes.
Working for another cleaning business for a year or two is a good way to learn techniques for cleaning a home quickly and efficiently. If you don’t have a car, look for a job with:
• a large franchise cleaning company that provides company cars for their cleaning staff.
• a self-employed housecleaner as a helper where they do the driving.
• a hotel or motel housekeeping department you can reach by bus.
Practice Your New Cleaning Skills
Once you have a year or two of cleaning experience working for someone else, you can ease out on your own as contract cleaning service provider for a home services broker like Care.com. Home service brokers generally take care of background checks and provider references to their subscribers.
Care.com’s cleaning providers can range from one year’s experience to more than ten years experience. You can start out as a cleaning provider earning anywhere from your local minimum wage up to three times minimum wage. Just be sure to choose subscribers close to a bus line.
Get Your First Paying Customers
Another way to get started with your new business is to simply tell everyone you know that you are starting a house cleaning business. When I say everyone, I mean everyone: friends, relations, neighbors, former employers, former co-workers, people at church, your favorite bank tellers and your landlord. Ask for referrals to people who may need your cleaning service. Build your business with those referrals, one customer at a time.
I learned how to clean houses over twenty years ago by working for a large corporate franchise cleaning company for one year. Then I started my own cleaning business using the “tell everyone” marketing method. A former employer and some of her friends became my first customers. I also placed a small one inch ad in several local community newspapers. Since this was before the Internet and social media, those cheap, tiny ads kept my phone ringing with people ready to buy.
Launch From Your Cleaning Job
If you’ve been working for another cleaning company and leave your employer on good terms, you can ask the owner or manager to refer customers to you who may not be not a good fit for them such as:
• Customers who want one steady cleaner instead of many different people in their homes.
• Customers who want weekend cleanings (if that is something you are willing to do).
• Customers who want specialty cleaning such as bathrooms and kitchens only.
You can also offer to sub-contract with your former employer when they are short-handed. In other words, try not to burn bridges to former employers when you start your own business. You may be able to start your business with your former employer as your first customer.
Start Out Right With Your Own Customers
If you are working for another house cleaning company when you start your own business, don’t steal your current employer’s customers. Your employer worked hard to get those customers.
If some of your employer’s customers are fans of your work and want to become your first customers, it can be hard to say no to them. Do the right thing and say no——for at least six months to a year after you leave. This is especially true if you signed a non-compete agreement with your employer.
In the meantime, ask those fans to provide referrals to their friends and neighbors. Start your business the right way and get your own customers.
Don’t Skip This Step
Before you go out on your own, be sure to get licensed, bonded and insured. Even if you only have one customer, take the time to set up a legal business that protects both you and your customer. Licensing your business shows that you are serious about your new venture. Licensing, bonding and insurance can also assure new customers that you are not a fly by night operator.
Business insurance and bonding can cover you in cases of major damages like bleach or chemical stains on carpets that need to be replaced (double ouch!) or accusations of theft. Most janitorial insurance policies can be paid month to month so you don’t have to fork over a big chunk of money when you begin. Protect yourself and your customers. Get insured before you start or within a few months after starting to clean other people’s homes.
You are now ready to move to the next few squares of your new cleaning business. You may have a customer or two. You might have snagged your former employer as your first customer. Continue on to Part Two for your next moves in starting your cleaning business from square one.
Just Getting Started?
- Apply for a business name
- Get a business license
- Register to pay taxes
Just click on the map to find your state and get started.
Did you start your cleaning business with more sweat than money? Share how you started your climb in the comments below ⬇︎.
Photo Credit: Two Women by Christina Morillo