Top 10 Records Self-Employed House Cleaners Need To Keep

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When you started cleaning houses, you only had four customers—two per week. Keeping records didn’t seem all that important because house cleaning was just something you did on the side to bring in extra cash. Besides, you had all of the numbers in your head.

You cleaned, collected cash or checks and spent the money——sometimes all in the same day. Nothing could be simpler.

Then you added one customer here, another customer there and before you knew it, you had ten customers per week. Things were not so simple then.

Cleaning had become your main source of income and you realized you were running a business.

Each new customer brought more paperwork and more records to keep track of each day, week and month.

After you went through the expense and aggravation of legally setting up your business, streams of important papers and receipts seem to flow in from every direction.

Now you find yourself paddling through a river of paper at your work space or desk. Unless you’ve set up a system, you might find yourself stashing business records into folders or in messy piles on every flat surface in your home office.

Now tax season is coming up and you’re already feeling a little panicky about organizing everything…😧

Getting Organized

Keeping business records is not the most fun part of running a cleaning business but it is essential. Complete records are especially important at tax time, when you apply for a loan or if you decide to take on a partner.

Keeping good records also helps you spot patterns and problems in your business and correct them before they get out of hand. Good written records are important to your business success.

Basic Paper Recordkeeping Equipment

Basic recordkeeping equipment is not fancy. You can start with paper account books or forms, folders, notebooks and ring binders to store receipts, invoices, inventory sheets and other business related records. You can also store paper records in accordion file folders by month.

Basic Paperless Recordkeeping Equipment

If you prefer to go paperless, when you get a paper bill, invoice or receipt, you can take a picture of the bill with your phone, and email the photo to yourself.

You can also scan the bill or receipt if you have a home office printer with a scanner.

Create a folder on your computer for each month of the year. Simply place all your digital records like pictures or scans in a monthly folder. Then, you can throw the paper receipt away.

For extra peace of mind, you can upload your digital documents to online storage sites like iCloud, Google Drive, Back Blaze, Dropbox or Open Drive.

Bookkeeping Apps

If you are comfortable with computers or prefer phone apps, a bookkeeping program would be a good investment.

Computer bookkeeping software like Quickbooks, FreshBooks, Wave or Xero can handle accounting, checking, billing, purchasing, inventory and produce reports for management and tax purposes.

Your Top 10 Records to Keep

Two people analyzing a spreadsheet
Photo credit: Mikael Blomkvist

The 10 most important records house cleaning businesses should keep include:

Daily Sales Journal

A customer list or spreadsheet with your customers names, payments, payment methods and special notes on a paper form, Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or Google Docs.

If you are in a city or state that requires you to collect sales tax, be sure to make note of sales tax amounts in your Daily Sales Journal.

Sales Invoices

Keep a listing and copies of all sales invoices you send to customers. If you invoice customers after cleaning instead of collecting payments upfront , set this record up with names and dates of work done so you can easily tell how much each customer owes you and for how long.

Check Register

A listing of all income from checks and credit / debit payments from customer sales and other sources deposited into your business bank account.

This same register also records all payments made from your bank account.

You break down your expenses into categories or “accounts,” such as insurance, utilities, car expenses, cleaning supplies and equipment or taxes.

Nearly all banks and credit unions keep digital copies of your cancelled checks for you to view or download.

They will also provide digital copies of your monthly bank statements for you to download and print or store in a folder on your computer or in digital storage.

Cash Expenses Ledger

A listing of expenses or payments made not using your business bank account.

For example, if you pay for gas with cash instead of using a debit or credit card and keep a receipt, that purchase is listed in your cash expenses ledger.

A cash expenses ledger can be set up just like a check register, with a breakdown of expenses into categories.

Customer Service Agreements

Create a folder for each customer that holds Customer Service Agreements, letters, phone notes and any special information about their account.

If there are major incidents, keep paperwork about the incident in their customer folder.

Inventories of Cleaning Supplies and Equipment

A full listing all of supplies and equipment you use for your cleaning business. One inventory form per item.

An example would be one inventory form for all of your yellow microfiber cloths and another for all of your green microfiber cloths.

Your inventory forms should include:

  • item(s) name
  • classification of item(s) as equipment or supplies
  • store code for item if known
  • Purchase date and when item(s) are placed in inventory
  • who you purchased from (vendor)
  • Unit cost for the item(s)
  • number of the items on hand
  • number of items used per week
  • date item(s) were used or tossed out
  • special notes about purchases you make for your business without paying sales tax. You have to pay use tax to your state for those items.

It is a good idea to keep purchase and shipping receipts in paper or digital folders with the vendors names and other information.

Incident Reports

Incident form on a laptop computer
Photo Credit: Anna Nekrashevich

Written records of damages or incidents in your customers homes. When you get back to your office or home, add any damage you caused in a customer’s home to an incident report spreadsheet.

If the thought of spreadsheets make you sweat, keep notes about the damage on your phone, computer or written in a special incidents or damages notebook.

Incidents and damages can include everything from you breaking a couple of wineglasses to finding a deceased person in the home when you come to clean.

Everything out of the ordinary, no matter how minor or major needs to be recorded by you on a daily basis.

Keep everything related to individual incidents or damages in a separate paper or digital folder.

That includes all emails, texts, copies of notes you sent or received, photos and insurance information.

When the incident or damage has been resolved, file the incident folder with the customer’s folder.

Related: Oops! How To Handle Breaking Something In Your Customer’s Home [Includes Bonus Oops! Toolkit]

Daily Wash Log

If you wash cleaning cloths and mop heads at home or in a laundromat, keep track of wash loads.

If you use a a laundromat, keep a record of number of wash loads and how much you spent for business wash loads.

Washing cleaning supplies like microfiber cloths is tax deductible.

Vehicle Mileage Log

If you use your car, truck or van for business it is a good idea to keep track of your mileage:

  • to and from customers homes
  • to purchase equipment and supplies
  • to business meetings and events

You can purchase paper mileage books in office supply stores or use a mileage app on your phone. Some bookkeeping software also includes mileage tracking apps for your phone.

Federal, State And Local Income Tax Returns

Keep copies of all tax returns plus worksheets you use to figure out tax amounts. Keep copies of these tax records:

  • City and county tax returns
  • State tax returns
  • Federal tax returns
  • Self-Employment Tax forms (state and federal). Also keep all certified mail forms and return receipts of your quarterly federal self-employment tax payments
  • State and federal partnership returns
  • All copies of letters and notices from the IRS or your state and local tax authority

Related: Cleaning Business Tax Basics

Recordkeeping Time Tips

It is a good idea to buy a RECEIVED stamp from an office supply store. Whenever you get any paper form, letter or receipt, take the time to stamp and date the document. You can then file the paper or digital copy.

Received stamp example on a bill
Time to re-ink my RECEIVED stamp?

You will have a record of when you received the form, letter, bill or receipt.

Just keeping a record of when I received a document has been a great help for me over the years in disputes with utility companies, suppliers and customers.

How long should you keep your records? A minimum of 3 years to a maximum of 10 years if you are cautious.

In case of an audit by the IRS, your state, county or city tax department, the records you keep will be used to determine if you reported and paid your taxes correctly.

Gliding Down The (Paper) River

Woman paddling a canoe on the river
Photo credit: Virginia State Park Staff

Whether you choose to handle paper or go paperless, you will need to create a system to handle recordkeeping for your house cleaning business.

Your system should include ways to classify all of your records by type, date, customer, vendor or government agency. Your system should make finding records easy.

There are financial records to keep for tax purposes. Plus you need a system for recording customer payments, incidents and requests.

If you choose to hire employees, you will have a whole new stream of records to keep.

Keep Your Records Safe Offsite

Finally, your system of storing records must include a way to keep your records safe from fire, floods, thieves and wild weather.

Which means your most important records or documents should be kept online in digital storage.

A lot of cloud storage sites like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OpenDrive and BackBlaze have free options up to a certain size limit.

Records Are Tools For Your Business

It helps to think of business records as tools for reading your business. In time, you will be able to see patterns in your records.

Being able to see those patterns in the same way an experienced boater reads clouds, winds and currents will help you avoid ramming headlong into avoidable business difficulties.

If you do find yourself stuck, keeping good records will help you drill down to where problems began and help you fix them.

If you’ve been paddling down a river of business papers and getting nowhere fast, make a habit of keeping the Top 10 records in your cleaning business.

Those records will help you form systems for gliding down the paper river—and keeping your business afloat.

How do you handle the river of paperwork that flows into your cleaning business? Share your favorite tips in the comments below. ⬇︎

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