According to official statistics, the cleaning services sector has generated around $42 billion in 2015, and by 2020 it will have grown up to $46 billion. If you don’t find this bit refreshing, then here’s another ‘more practical route’: Jobber Academy assures us that over the course of 3-5 years, any entrepreneur can triple their cleaning business in terms of overall revenue.
So, whether you regard the expanding market in general or the perspectives to make a profit three times larger within a short period, there’s one thing for sure – starting a cleaning business of your own seems incredibly lucrative.
In addition to this huge business potential, a company doesn’t need to get ready for high start-up costs or serious barriers to entry since even minimal funding would suffice – it’s enough to stock up on entrepreneurial spirit and a little bit of equipment when you launch a company. But we have even better news: if you feel like plunging into cleaning yourself, your upfront investment might be compared to nothing.
However, that’s not so simple to start, even though it’s really simple. If you want to start a cleaning business in a proper way, you need to understand what contributes to success and why some cleaning companies totally fail to grow in such a particular niche. So now we’re going to explore the topic from A to Z and tell you how exactly to build up the business from scratch.
Decide on the Type of Your Cleaning Business
In fact, one type of services is not equal to another. And if you think cleaning companies cater to customers universally, you take the really wrong way. You can clean carpets or windows only, provide services to homeowners or other businesses, go multiple or monodirectional. Just to clarify a little, compare the difference between two following services: here’s a business that cleans buildings, and there’s a business that serves buildings plus provides window and steam cleaning along with general home cleaning.
Do you think these two businesses cater to the same sort of clients?
As you can see, there are definitely many types of cleaning services that you may provide. But in general, this industry is segmented into three major categories: commercial, residential and transportation.
Commercial cleaning entails special equipment and techniques as the scope of work includes a broad variety of premises – large industrial or business buildings. Residential one, on the contrary, requires no special skills or heavy equipment – you just take a mop in your hands, and you’re a cleaning business already. Carwashes are a different story because you’ll have to become a professional detailer with heaps of experience. So you’d rather go into either commercial or residential cleaning first, and only then consider your business for car or even private jet washing.
What Could I Provide?
It depends. You might want to provide multiple services at a time or concentrate on something specific. Besides, some services are billed as a one-time fee, some customers ask for arranging a cycle with a schedule. But usually the larger the business is, the wider the range of services and scheduling it provides.
In any case, this is what you can do:
- Residential cleaning. This involves general cleaning – floors, carpets, tiles, dryer vents, pools, hardwood or specialty. All in all, you are hired as a housekeeper, but a number of clients might request something concrete, like pool cleaning.
- Commercial cleaning. This includes services provided to business premises, real estates, rental properties, foreclosed homes, institutions. On the whole, commercial cleaning involves quite difficult ‘tasks’ like window and pressure cleaning or parking lot cleaning because it’s a heavily ‘equipped’ field.
How Do I Start?
Taking into account the segmentation, you can start a cleaning business in two ways.
The first one suggests starting a company that will be catering to a narrow range of customers (some large business office, for example, or a shopping mall) under the terms of a contract. In other words, you start a one-sided business based on one-two clients solely. Of course, you can keep growing and attracting more customers in the future, but at the start of your career, there’s nothing better than establishing public reputation and then moving on gradually.
The second way is to choose a particular niche rather than scatter the powder over the big lawn. It may be, for instance, just carpets because this service is rendered twice as often as general cleaning. If you’re a small private business, you can stand out as an expert in some field, focus on a particular range, train your staff accordingly and quickly fill the niche. This way is obviously harder, but can pay off in no time.
Getting Bigger: Open An Office
Starting a business goes hand in hand with commercial premises, and your company cannot do without some ‘headquarters’ where you’re going to manage your business. A virtual call center at home can be more than enough for a cleaning business: you have an employee who receives orders (you can do it yourself, too) and then gives directions to your team. If you have ambitious plans, start a business as an office organization, though.
Your office building should be large enough to contain spaces designed for different purposes: individual workspace for employees, a conference hall or a small meeting room where you could hold business meetings with your customers or other businesses, a storage room, a laundry room with washing and drying machines to take care of uniform and equipment. You can also arrange a reception area with some facilities.
During the first stage of your business, you can make do with ‘modest’ commercial premises less than 150-200 square feet. The thing is your clients may never come to your office directly, but instead, tell you to come to their house right away. The only purpose of opening an office is to find a place where your can store your equipment and conduct negotiations with customers. So you shouldn’t invest in a spacious luxurious office when you start a business. Your monthly rent is estimated to be around $39 per sq. ft if you keep things simple.
Create Contract Templates
An agreement defines the relationship between you and your client. Though it might seem an unimportant detail at this stage when you have no clients and no relationships, you need to create a few different templates of contracts to protect your business’ interest in the future. A crucial aspect about contracts is that they outline how much responsibility both parties have in case of accidents. Contracts also define compensation, schedules and hours, when and how much you’ll be paid, which services you provide and where. As you can see, agreements with clients allow to keep tabs on everything, and you definitely shouldn’t let you business float in a disorganized way.
Market Your Business And Draw Customers
Never lead your cleaning business in a vague direction: remember that clarity and consistence are the keys to growing big. So, as we’ve already covered, you have to decide on the particular niche, and only then hire workers, purchase equipment and adorn the corners. Also, keep in mind that when you’re a newbie in the business, advertising has little effect, so a great plenty of companies started their business ‘locally’ – through personal connections and word-of-mouth communication.
You need to choose something that requires regular cleaning. ‘One night stands’ are good, but there’s no stability in that at all. And don’t forget that your clients pay once in some unclear period of time while you pay to your staff regularly. Don’t break the company’s bank.
How would you find clients for your business? Consider shopping malls and office buildings, especially ones where there’re several offices under one roof. Contact local businesses, ask your friends and relatives, run a mild advertising campaign – for example, you can leave leaflets at offices around your city.
Cleaning Business Needs Good Staff
Staff usually consists of an HR manager, a customer manager and workers, but you can also hire an accountant to ensure that your business operates efficiently. During first months, you may bear responsibilities of an HR manager: employ workers, negotiate with them, run documentation, carry out interviews. Customer managers will monitor the quality, control supplies usage and equipment. As a rule, one manager is responsible for 90,000 sq. ft. of a cleaning area.
The number of workers depends on the area your company covers. It’s estimated that one worker is capable of managing around 8,000 sq. ft. per 8-hour shift. Experienced entrepreneurs recommend to allocate workers in proportion to the following numbers: one cleaner maintains 5,500 sq. ft. of business offices and 9,000 sq. ft. of shopping malls. Each of your workers must have a uniform.
Train Your Staff
Despite the fact that cleaning is considered unskilled labor, everyone operating in this business agrees that cleaners must be trained, nonetheless. Large cleaning businesses or training centers may offer such courses where people are taught to apply chemicals in accordance with surfaces, what techniques are used to save time.
Equipment You Need to Buy
Professional equipment and cleaning products can be bought from large retailers or special companies.
Basic items of equipment include mops, pads, brooms with long handles ($60 per item), rolling tool caddy with a few sections for chemicals and a rolling waste bin ($250), scrapers ($15), cloths ($10). In addition, you’ll need to buy the full set of equipment for vacuum and window cleaning if you plan to go commercial. We’d highly recommend you to purchase an industrial cleaning machine as well, though the price ranges from budget $2,500 to exuberant $15,000. One machine is able to replace several cleaners and allows to considerably fasten the process of cleaning, to say the least about quality. It’ll be a sensible investment.
Start Up Costs and Return on Investment
The amount of money you invest in your company when starting a cleaning business depends on the area you’re planning to cover, so it’s critically important to estimate how much space you’ll be able to clean even before purchasing anything. Let’s put it this way: if your first site is a gigantic shopping mall with literally kilometers of specific floor covering, you’d have to shell out a penny and start with buying lots of heavy equipment. Compare this area to a single-story house where a couple of mops that would do.
Profitability ratio depends of the type of cleaning you chose for your business. It’s not exquisitely high for residential cleaning – 10-15% – while for commercial cleaning the index doubles numbers and goes up to 40% of return.
Speaking of perspectives, there are two directions which you can take for your cleaning business in the future: ‘technical’ direction meaning that your business will be widening, deepening and advancing the range of services and ‘customer’ direction meaning your business will be mainly focused on people and where they live. Your future direction also plays an integral part in the amount of investment.
Example: Financial Plan For a Cleaning Business With Nine Cleaners
- Equipment and materials – $3,600
- Work uniforms – $350
- Washing machine – $500
- Office equipment – $2,000
- Phone line – $800
- Rent – $750
- Phone line payments – $20
- Accountant salary – $3,000-$6,000
- Customer manager salary – $3,000
- Cleaners salary – $12,600-31,500
- Office supplies – $25
- Chemicals – $100
Total: $19,395 approximately.
Keep in mind that start up costs vary greatly due to different types of services – some companies might spend less when starting a cleaning business than others.