Stop Giving Your Time Away (And Digging A Hole For Yourself)

Are good intentions losing you time and money with your cleaning customers?
Photo credit: Elnur

Many house cleaners are people pleasers. You are not alone. I am too. We work hard to keep our customers happy with our cleaning services.

Many of us like to go the extra mile in our cleaning to make our customers thrilled to come home on cleaning day.

However, you can go the extra mile and then some. You see something that needs to be done and you do it without thinking.


For example, while cleaning the outside of a refrigerator, you open the door to clean the inside edges and see a jungle of dropped food bits, dried juice stains and globs of sour cream.

Maybe you do a quick wipe on the bottom shelf. The next few cleanings, you wipe down another shelf and another until one day you find yourself cleaning out the entire refrigerator.

That project takes you a good hour or two. Those hours are on top of the four hours you scheduled for that particular customer. Which means, you did not get paid for that extra time or effort.

Very few customers will come home, look at the cleaned refrigerator interior, say “wow” and send you an extra $50 to $100 check for all of that extra effort. They will be pleased, but take your extra effort in stride.

Self-Inflicted Injury

Worse, some customers may come to expect you to continue the extra cleaning that is not in your service agreement. They certainly never offer to pay you for that extra work.

After a while, you have taken on more tasks than you agreed to do in the beginning and you feel overburdened and resentful.

At this point, it’s important you realize you have created a self-inflicted injury. This injury can poison your relationship with your customer if you don’t heal it.

There is a cure for this injury, but it will take several doses of courage to heal.

• First, you need the courage to realize you injured yourself by taking on unpaid tasks.
• Then you need the courage to stop the extra cleaning that has you bleeding time and money.
• Finally, you need the courage to learn from your mistakes and avoid injuring yourself again in the future.

This is far from easy. I know because I wounded myself this way several times over the past twenty years. It took a while for me to see the pattern and not dig a sharp walled pit again.

The Polishing Pit

Shiny copper pot with lid

During the holidays, I used to carry silver and copper polishing creme to my customer’s homes. I would polish a few large silver platters, pitchers and vases.

In other customer’s homes, I would give decorative copper pans and other containers a brilliant shine. I did it as a holiday thank you gift to my customers.

Then one year I fell into the habit of polishing silver and copper items during each cleaning visit at two customer’s homes. All that polishing ate away my time. I began to feel overburdened.

I realized I burdened myself with regular polishing that was not in the original Service Agreement. My customers didn’t put that load on my shoulders, I did it to myself.

To avoid going deeper in the pit I created, I had to stop digging. I had to find a graceful way out of the polishing pit I made. I made the climb with a simple note to those customers. That note stopped the digging and gave me my time back.

Neither customer that got the note was upset. In fact, neither of them ever said anything about my dropping copper and silver polishing as a part of regular services.

Also, neither of my customers ever requested that I polish their decorative copper and silver items as an extra service since receiving that note.


Create A Win-Win Situation

So how can you skip my mistake? Two words: Service Agreement.  Once you work out a Service Agreement with your customer, stick to it. Avoid doing anything not in the agreement.

Remember, you are being paid to do tasks what the customer considers most important. Those tasks are written up in the Service Agreement or should be.

If there are other things you see in your customer’s home that needs attention, promote it to your customer during quarterly specials like:

• Spring Cleaning Specials
• Summer Vacation Specials
• Autumn Specials
• Holiday Home Specials

In other words, sell your customers on extra services as stand alone projects—separate from their regular cleaning. That way, you can charge for your time and energy.

You can schedule hours for those projects during times that otherwise might be a loss for you (like during a cancellation). This ensures you are paid for your time and you are doing work that pleases your customers.

Cleaning specials for extra projects around your customer’s home can be Win-Win for both of you. They get a big hairy project done and you get paid. They are happy and you are happy—with no time wasted digging in a pit of your own making.


How many times have you dug a cleaning hole for yourself with good intentions? How did you get out? Share your story in the comments below. ⬇︎

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