Do you want to start a cleaning service at home? If YES, here is a detailed guide on how to start a cleaning business from scratch with no money/experience.

Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample cleaning business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample cleaning service marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for cleaning companies.

The cleaning industry has two primary market groups: consumer and commercial. The consumer arena consists primarily of residential maid services, along with carpet cleaners, window cleaners and a variety of other cleaning services required on a less-frequent basis.

The commercial arena is dominated by janitorial services, which typically provide a wider range of services than maid services, along with other cleaning companies, such as carpet and window cleaners that target businesses rather than individual consumers.

For people who like working outside, the opportunities in service areas such as window cleaning and pressure washing are abundant. Residential maid services offer fairly predictable hours; disaster restoration and cleanup can mean calls at all hours of the day or night. Few industries offer this tremendous range of choices and opportunities, and the need for general and niche cleaning is expected to increase in the future.

Table of Contents


Is Starting a Cleaning Business Right for You?

The fact that people are making huge profits from cleaning business doesn’t mean that if you start the business you will also make millions. The truth is that, if you follow the bandwagon effect to start a business, you are likely going to run at a loss and the business may fold – up if you don’t take out time to do your homework before launching the business.

Before starting a cleaning business, there must be some characteristics in you that will show that you are ready for such business. Here are some guides (questions) that will indicate if starting a cleaning business is right for you;

a. Do You Abhor Dirty and Unhealthy Environment?-: If you detest dirty and unhealthy environment, then you have what it takes to start a commercial cleaning business. If you don’t have the knack for cleanliness, there is no point starting your own commercial cleaning company.

b. Are You Willing to Work on Shift?-: Most cleaning businesses operate a shift kind of job; it is not the regular 9 to 5 job. So, if you know that you are not cut out for shift job, then you should not consider starting a cleaning business.

c. Do you react to Dust or Chemicals that are used for Cleaning?-: There are some people that can’t stand dust or the chemicals that are used for cleaning. If you know that you fall in this category of people, then you should not bother starting a commercial cleaning company. Better still, you may need to reconsider your decision based on your doctor’s advice.

d. Do You Like Wearing Uniforms?-: One thing that is common with cleaning companies is that cleaners wear uniforms at all times when carrying out their cleaning jobs.

e. Can You Manage Contract and Ad-hoc Employees?-: Well over 80 percent of the workforce in most cleaning companies are contract or ad – hoc employees. This is so because most cleaning contracts are for a period of time, so it is wise to hire temporary workers to carry out the cleaning project.

f. Do You Have Passion and Drive for the Business-: Another question that you should ask yourself to know if starting a cleaning business is right for you is to know if you have passion and drive for the business. If your intention of starting a cleaning business is just to make profits and nothing else, then you need to think twice before investing your money and time into the business.

Here are other incentives why you should start a cleaning business:

  • Cleaning Business Revenue Continues to Rise-: Available statistics show that in the united states of America alone, the cleaning industry is worth well over 78 Billion USD and it is still on a steady increase with an average yearly growth if 6.6% within the last 10 years. As a matter of fact, recent projections shows that the industry is likely to generate about 178 Billion USD in the next 3 years.
  • With More experience, more is earned-: In the United States of America, the average cleaning employee who works on a full – time role makes an average of 10.73 USD per hour and it is likely to increase as they gather more experience.
  • Cleaning Job can be juggled with Other Things
  • No Special Qualification Is Required
  • With a Robust Economy Comes the Cleaning Business Growth

How Much Do Cleaners Make Monthly / Annually?

Although, the amount cleaners make monthly or annually in the countries listed above is dependent on loads of factors, yet some cleaners who have attained the celebrity status earn far higher than the average cleaner in the industry. But for the purpose of this course, here is a detailed analysis of what cleaners earn in the United States, Australia, Canada and United Kingdom.

Starting a Cleaning Business from Scratch with No Money – A Complete Guide

  • Cleaning Industry Overview

The cleaning industry provides several different services. Franchises in this large industry mostly fit into one of three areas: cleaning and janitorial services, carpet and upholstery cleaning services, and dry cleaning and laundry services.

  • Interesting Statistics About the Cleaning Industry

In 2010 there were about 50,000 cleaning services operating in the United States and about 9,000 carpet and upholstery companies, which brought in a total of about 40 billion dollars in annual revenue.  About 90 percent of the cleaning revenue is accounted for by cleaning companies, versus about 10 percent by carpet and upholstery.

There were 30,000 companies in the laundry and dry cleaning business that brought in about 10 billion dollars in revenue last year, 70% of which were retail laundry and dry cleaning operations, and 30% of which were coin-operated laundry locations.

There were 824,394 workers in the cleaning industry in 2010.  The industry is fairly top-heavy – the fifty largest companies account for about thirty percent of the revenue. About 7% of cleaning workers were self-employed.  There are both small and large cleaning companies.  But small companies tend to be restricted to residential cleaning, since large commercial cleaning requires many employees and specialized skills.

The economic depression of the last few years hit the cleaning industry as it hit most American industries, but the health care industry played a large role in managing to keep the cleaning industry profitable.  As the number of elderly Americans increased, there was a greater need for cleaning services.

Low vacancy rates in office spaces are important to the continuing success of both the cleaning and carpet cleaning sectors, as they depend on getting most of their business from offices and commercial buildings.  When office vacancy rates went up during the recent depression, business suffered significantly. For residential cleaning, the economy is also important.

When incomes are lower, residents will choose to save money by putting off carpet cleaning. Competition may come to cleaning services from larger catch-all companies who offer cleaning as part of a bundled program of many more services, such as parking, snow removal, and pest control. In-house janitorial services operated by buildings and management companies may also serve as competition.

The cleaning industry is one of the fastest growing service industries in the United States. It is predicted that cleaning services will experience a five percent growth rate between 2008 and 2018, and this growth will be largely due to the health care industry, where elderly care needs will only increase over that period.  In addition, personal consumption for cleaning, laundering and repair of clothing is predicted to increase at a compound annual rate of 3 percent from 2015 to 2019.

Starting a Cleaning Business from Scratch – Market Feasibility Research

  • Demographics and Psychographics

A cleaning business owner needs demographics and Psychographics to identify the ideal consumer for his services and develop marketing strategies such as advertisements, business location and pricing.

The cleaning industry is a fast rising industry in the United States because their activities are needed in our day to day activities. Your clients can be small businesses–everything from doctors’ offices to insurance agencies to companies in strip centers and office parks–as well as retail shops.

  • List of Niche ideas Within the Cleaning Industry

Cleaning is a very competitive business and difficult to start when you look like every other service-oriented business. Finding your special niche as a specialty company can help you start a cleaning business that can excel from day one.

  • Air duct and vent cleaning
  • Cleaning foreclosure homes
  • Carpet cleaning
  • Dryer vent cleaning
  • Housecleaning
  • Small business ideas of graffiti and building cleaning
  • Green cleaning
  • Cemetery headstone cleaning
  • Mattress cleaning for health
  • Parking lot cleaning for Employee safety
  • Crime scene cleanup
  • Steam cleaning
  • Trash can cleaning
  • Window cleaning
  • Post death and trauma cleaning
  • Disaster cleaning and restoration
  • Blind cleaning

The Level of Competition in the Cleaning Industry

Demand for cleaning services has been steady over the past five years, largely driven by outsourcing trends and growth in the number of businesses. Organizations have been increasingly outsourcing cleaning to concentrate on core activities and seek out cost efficiency.

A rise in demand for residential cleaning services from high- and dual-income households and the ageing of the population has also aided the industry. Many in-home aged-care programs now offer cleaning services, particularly for disabled people.

The consistent rise in the revenues and also the large number of people Venturing into this business clearly states how highly competitive this industry is, making all cleaning businesses sorting means of retaining their customers.

  • Economic Analysis

The cleaning industry has grown moderately as demand for commercial cleaning services, the industry’s primary product segment, increased in each of the past five years. Additionally, declining office vacancy rates, increasing non-residential construction activity and growth in the number of businesses broadened the industry’s client base, contributing to higher industry demand.

In the next five years, a robust economy will lift demand for cleaning services. The rate of non-residential construction will rise and operators will offer green cleaning services as a way of competing with other companies.

This industry has a low level of capital intensity, which is similar to other service industries. In 2016, for every $1.00 spent on wages, industry operators will typically only spend $0.017 on capital investment. Capital intensity is roughly the same from 2010 through 2015.

However, over the past decade, industry operators have invested in green cleaning products and equipment, such as floor scrubbers that use less chemical products and machines that ionize water to help lift dirt particles. These investments can help attract environmentally conscious clients and save industry operators chemical cleaning costs over time.

Is a Cleaning Business Worth Starting from the Scratch or Buying a Franchise?

For people who want to own their own business but would rather choose an opportunity that has proven successful for many others rather than gambling on developing their own system, a franchise is the way to go. Also, most franchises provide a degree of marketing support–particularly in the area of national advertising and name recognition–that’s extremely difficult for individuals to match.

So for the sake of this article, buying a franchise is far better than starting from the scratch in the cleaning business due to brand recognition and trust.

Possible Threats and Challenges of Starting a Cleaning Business

Just like any other business, there are various challenges that someone can face in the cleaning business. It is vital to have the backbone to overcome these challenges and the only way to achieve this is by being knowledgeable and tactful. Business school teaches you how to start your own cleaning business but it will seldom prepare you for the challenges in the real world of business.

The first challenge that always comes up is penetrating the current market. Competition is very stiff in all areas of business. It may take quite a while before your first client approaches you. The best way to overcome this challenge is by remodelling your services and aggressively marketing them.

For instance, carpet cleaning should not just to promise the client a clean carpet when you’re done but also a healthy and microorganism free environment with clean air circulation and lasting carpet quality.

Another challenge that usually comes up when starting a cleaning business is service delivery. Clients expect you to be effective at very high speeds. If a client is going to pay money for cleaning services, they will expect you to do an impeccable job in just a short time. If you are offering per hour services, this can be a major concern. It is much better to have fixed rates and a good speed at offering these cleaning services.

Finally when you start a cleaning business, always take advice from other professionals in the business, whether they know it or not. Check out what other cleaning businesses have to offer and be bigger and better.

Starting a Cleaning Business from Scratch – Legal Aspect

  • Best legal entity for a cleaning business

Choosing from all the different business structures – LLC, partnership, sole proprietorship, or corporation – for your business can be difficult and will depend on your preference and business size

Whenever you start a business, you will have to select one organizational type from out of all the different business structures. This choice determines how your business will be set up and organized. In most instances, you will probably have to choose between a Limited Liability Company (LLC), a partnership, a corporation or a sole proprietorship.

For the sake of this well researched article, the LLC is the best legal entity for a cleaning business.

LLCs or Limited Liability Companies are a very popular business form both overall and in the cleaning business industry in particular. LLCs combine the best aspects of a corporation and partnerships while taking away some trouble these forms come with. Like S Corps, Limited Liability Companies practice flow through taxation.

To register an LLC, you’ll have to submit an operating agreement which will clearly state the purpose of the business, how revenue will be split among the owners, what happens if one partner leaves the company etc. While LLCs are NOT corporations, they carry nearly the same weight to match the benefits. They are expensive to form and maintain and there are annual fees that need to be taken care of.

The Best Insurance Needed for a Cleaning Business

Choosing insurance for your Cleaning business doesn’t have to be confusing or overwhelming. It is important that you acquire all the necessary insurance that you will need.  Here are little Insurances needed to protect your business;

  • Business liability insurance
  • Property insurance
  • Building coverage
  • Business income and extra expense coverage
  • Employee dishonesty coverage
  • Employee Benefits Liability Coverage
  • Hired and Non-Owned Auto Liability Coverage
  • General Liability Insurance
  • Product liability insurance
  • Crime and Fidelity insurance

Intellectual property protection in the cleaning business

Intellectual property can consist of many different areas, from logos and corporate identity through to services and processes that differentiate your business offering. Almost all businesses have undoubtedly benefited from the internet, where products, services and marketing communications can reach vast audiences at relatively low costs – but this has also increased the chances of intellectual property theft.

Companies of all sizes are at risk of having their unique ideas, products or services infringed upon, even if they are on the other side of the world, making intellectual property protection more important than ever.

Is Professional Certification Needed to Start a Cleaning Business?

Just as certified accountants, plumbers and mechanics project a higher level of competency in their fields, and just as members of the American Medical Association and American Bar Association set themselves apart through training, experience and comprehensive examination, certification helps to immediately identify the cleaning, restoration and inspection industries’ most skilled and dedicated technicians and businesses.

Here are few certifications for cleaning businesses:

  • Institute of inspection cleaning and restoration certification – IICRC
  • British Institute of cleaning services – BICSc
  • International janitorial cleaning services certification – IJVSC
  • House cleaning technician certification – HCT
  • Cleaning business owner certificate – CBO

Legal Documents Needed to Run a Cleaning Business

Whether you run a window cleaning business, maid service, or upholstery cleaning company, you need to navigate a variety of legal documents, which may include

  • Business license
  • Insurance policies
  • Surety bonds
  • Clients contracts
  • Janitorial Bond / Housekeeper Surety Bond
  • Tax
  • Heavy machine licenses

Writing a Business Plan for your Cleaning Company

Any successful cleaning business has a Business Plan to ensure the roadmap it established.  Just as when you are headed to a new location, having a map is critical.  The easiest way to start the daunting task is to have a table of contents to serve as your initial outline.

Typical Table of Contents for a Cleaning Business Plan:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Summary
  • Company Structure
  • Key Personnel
  • Industry Analysis
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operational Strategy and Implementation
  • Financial Plan
  • Funding Need(s)
  • Appendices

While important to ensure the business plan is being developed as a formal document, it should be designed as something YOU will use. This plan is a great roadmap for you to the implementation of your next steps, whether you are in the start-up, maintenance, or expansion phase of your business.  Additionally this document will be read by those unrelated to your business, oftentimes banks and/or investors.

Detailed Cost Analysis for Starting a Cleaning Business from Scratch

Starting a cleaning business requires planning and commitment, it is not a business you can just venture into without doing the necessary research. For the sake of this article, here is a detailed cost analysis of starting a cleaning business

  • Registering your cleaning business – $500
  • Opening a bank account – $100
  • Insurance – $500
  • Purchasing cleaning tools and products – $500
  • Develop business and promotional materials – $200

According to our detailed cost analysis, you will need at least $1800 to start a cleaning business. In the beginning, you may also prefer to do most of the work to avoid or reduce salary expenses. The challenging part is getting an initial client base.

To do so, you can try reaching out to friends and small business owners and offer your services. As with any business owner who is starting out, perseverance and hard work is crucial especially in the early stages. A medium cleaning business is envisaged at $7500 and a large scale cleaning business at $12,000.

  • Financing a Cleaning Business

Starting a cleaning business is relatively easy and inexpensive. The cost of supplies is fairly small and most entrepreneurs do the work themselves, at least initially. But you should understand that no business survives without enough funds.

Ways of financing your cleaning business may include:

  • Lending networks
  • SBA loans
  • Factoring your invoices
  • Business line of credit
  • Personal savings
  • Family and friends
  • Credit cards

Choosing a Suitable Location for a Cleaning Business

Many industry Veterans believe that in order to achieve authentic business growth, you must get out of the home and into a commercial facility. Certainly, doing so will help you create a successful and professional image, but before you begin shopping for an office, think carefully about what you’ll need.

Your office area should be large enough to have a small reception area, work space for yourself and your administrative staff, and a storage area for equipment and supplies. You may also want to have space for a laundry and possibly even a small work area where you can handle minor equipment repairs. Depending on the size of your staff, consider allowing for a small break area.

Regardless of the type of cleaning business you have, remember that chances are slim that your customers will ever come to your office. So look for a facility that meets your operational needs and is in a reasonably safe location, but don’t pay for a prestigious address–it’s just not worth it.

You should always bear in mind that Efficiency and good location are imperative to successful dry cleaning companies.

Starting a Cleaning Business from Scratch – Technical & Manpower Analysis

One of the nice things about starting a cleaning business is that you don’t need to purchase a lot of supplies to get started. In most cases everything your needs can fit in just about any vehicle. This is because the vast majority of jobs you will land in the beginning stages of your business will be of the smaller variety, allowing for a minimal amount of supplies that will be needed.

The manpower needed for your business depends on the size and scale of operation. Equipment to start cleaning business include:

  • Vacuum cleaner with attachments
  • White cloth rags
  • Paper Towels
  • Toilet brush
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • Broom
  • Dust pan & brush
  • Dry mop
  • Wet mop & bucket
  • Latex gloves
  • Wet floor signs
  • Extension cord
  • Window cleaner
  • Disinfectant cleaner
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Furniture polish
  • Soft Scrub product for sinks
  • SOS pads
  • Feather duster
  • High duster
  • Caddy with handle to keep your supplies in

Service Processes of a Cleaning Business

Cleaning services include general services like trash pickup and floor polishing, and also include more specialized services like window washing. Carpet cleaning services not only clean carpets, but also can clean leather, tile, or offer water damage restoration services.

Starting a Cleaning Business from Scratch – The Marketing plan

  • Marketing strategies and ideas for a cleaning business

Once you’ve launched your cleaning business, you will need to focus your efforts on finding customers. There are a number of ways to do this. Some will require more of your marketing budget than others. Most will require an investment of your time, but once your reputation has been established, your business should continue to grow due to referrals from satisfied customers and you will need to spend less time and money on marketing.

Here are some great marketing steps to take;

  • Decide on Target Market

Cleaning services vary greatly. Some cleaning companies focus on residential customers while others prefer to clean commercial buildings. Other niches in the cleaning industry include carpet, upholstery, rug and window cleaning.

  • Begin With Professional Image

Professional image is composed of several factors, starting with the appearance of your cleaning crew. They should always wear clean and neat clothing, perhaps even a uniform with your company logo. Your vehicles, cleaning equipment, marketing materials and invoices should likewise be in excellent condition and carry the company logo and phone number or website where possible. All of these things will contribute to a professional image.

  • Yellow Pages and Classifieds

Advertise in the Yellow Pages and in the classified section of your local newspaper. You can begin with a small advertisement in the Yellow Pages or a simple classified consisting of two or three lines. Decide on one or two selling points that you believe will be most important to your potential customers and create a concise ad highlighting those benefits.

  • Distribute Fliers

Design an appealing flier or door-hanger advertising your services. Keep your message clear and simple, highlighting your company’s strengths and how your services will benefit your customers. Consider ways in which your business stands out among your competitors and use this as your unique selling point. Include testimonials from satisfied customers. Mail or personally distribute your flier and business cards to homes or offices in your target area.

How much you charge for cleaning someone’s house depends on the size of the house, the degree of the mess and how long you spend cleaning it. The number of people it takes to get a cleaning job done will also determine how much you should charge.

If you set your rates too low, you won’t earn any money and may find it difficult to raise them as your cleaning business continues. If your rates are too high, you may struggle to get any customers. Ways to get a right service pricing includes:

  1. Set an hourly rate for yourself. Keep in mind that you will need to charge the customer more than the hourly rate you’d like to take home to make up for the cost of materials and other overhead expenses. Use the hourly rate as a baseline for determining the entire cost to the customer.
  2. Use past overhead expenses to help you determine what to charge on top of your base hourly rate. If you are new to cleaning houses, research the averages for the industry since you won’t have past expenses to use. Odds are likely that your overhead will be low, especially if you are home-based. Examples of expenses you are likely to have include the cost of driving to and from the houses, the cost of printing advertisements and invoices and utility costs such as your telephone and Internet service.
  3. Choose between charging customers a flat rate or by the hour. You may end making less money if you decide to charge a flat rate, as some houses may take five hours to clean and some may only take an hour, even if they are the same size. If you are doing a routine maintenance cleaning of a house that will take less than hour, charging a flat rate may be more profitable.
  4. Decide how you will charge customers for the cleaning materials you use. Materials such as vacuums and brooms, which last longer and are reused, may be part of your overhead expenses, while cleaning supplies such as bleach and ammonia may be charged as materials, since you need to replenish them after each job and may use more or less depending on the size of the job.
  5. Add the cost of overhead and materials to your baseline hourly rate. Usually, overhead and materials are expressed as a percentage of the hourly rate. For example, your overhead expenses and cost of materials may total 5 percent of your labour costs. In that case, add 5 percent of the hourly rate to the baseline.
  6. Type up an invoice to present to customers at the end of each job or within a week of completing a cleaning job. Clearly delineate the costs to the customer on the invoice, such as the rate per hour and any extra costs for additional materials or surcharges for a particularly messy area. Include any details the customer will need to know on the invoice, such as when you expect payment and if there is a penalty for late payment. Clearly state on the invoice the amount of the penalty and when it will be applied.

Possible Strategies of Winning your Competitors in the Cleaning Business

Many people start a cleaning business only to end up “a small fish in a big pond”. The cleaning industry is highly competitive, so it pays to target a small, yet profitable niche. Here’s how to stay strong and win competitors in the cleaning business:

  • Never stop learning
  • Tap all your resources
  • Clean it like it’s your own
  • Develop systems
  • Be careful
  • Don’t undersell yourself
  • Take care of your employees
  • Find a niche
  • Develop your computer skills
  • Track labour costs
  • Invest in customer service
  • Keep your eye on the economy
  • Don’t take every job

Ways to Increase Client Retention in your Cleaning Business

Much like the client hunt strategies, client retention strategies are also heavily reliant on your ability to understand the psychology of your customers and tap into their inner thoughts and cravings. Listed below are few ways of increasing customer retention in your cleaning business.

  • Stand Out from the Crowd, Stand Up for Something
  • Never bruise your Client’s Ego
  • You MUST Reward your Clients’ Loyalty
  • Develop a Personal Relationship with Clients of Your Cleaning Company

Since the cleaning business is highly service oriented, you have the added responsibility of teaching your cleaning staff and managers how to develop a personal relationship with the customers. In all the services that your company provides, there must be a personal touch intended to sweeten up the day for your old customers.

Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate identity in the Cleaning Business

To ensure your business gets the best visibility possible, consider a wide variety of marketing strategies and options. This is very vital because the more tentacles you spread, the more you are sure to attract more and more people to your business.

  • Leveraging the Web
  • Create a social media presence
  • Advertise using traditional methods
  • Using the word of mouth advertisement
  • Starting a blog about cleaning
  • Holding cleaning seminars and workshops
  • Employing different social media platforms

Suppliers /Distribution Network of a Cleaning business

Networking is the best way to meet people and build relationships, which is the cornerstone of growing a successful cleaning business.

If you feel uncomfortable with the thought of networking, then change the way you think about it. Most of us think that networking is an activity, an event to attend, or “something I need to do” to market the business. Instead, view networking as an attitude or a skill to develop. It is something that can become a part of what you do every day.

Ways to improve your cleaning business supplier /Distribution Network may include:

  • Plan ahead
  • Set a goal
  • Be prepared by always having your business card
  • Have good conversational skills
  • Be proactive
  • Listen to your customers
  • Start a contact database
  • Go through your database regularly
  • Write comments on the back of the cards you receive

Tips for Running a Cleaning Business Successfully

A cleaning business can be profitable, but you can also waste a lot of time if you aren’t careful about the way you run your business. To maximize your profits, you need to charge as much as you can, reduce your costs and reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning each home. Making some small tweaks to your business plan can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful business. Spend time on the business end as well as the cleaning end.

To start and run your cleaning business successfully, you need to understand and put together the few points listed below:

  • Specialize in a certain niche market to obtain more referrals. Rather than being a general cleaner, try to target a particular audience — such as commercial businesses, busy workers or seniors. When you do this, you gain experience in the specific cleaning issues for your niche. Additionally, your current customers may refer you to new customers.
  • Purchase your cleaning supplies in bulk. This reduces the cost and increases your profits. Concentrated cleaners that you mix with water can save you even more money. Develop a system for cleaning each home or office. If you bounce around from room to room, you’ll be wasting time. Find the cleaning methods that minimize the amount of time that you need to clean. For example, you may want to clean everything in one room at a time or you may want to do the basic cleaning in each room, then vacuum the whole house or office.
  • Attract new customers with discounts. Increase your business with more customers. Offering a discount for the first cleaning can attract new business. You can also offer a money-back guarantee in case the customer isn’t satisfied.
  • Schedule house cleanings by neighborhood; clean homes in the same area on the same day. This reduces the amount of time that you spend traveling to each location.
  • Charge enough to cover your time and expenses. Factor in the cost of the cleaning supplies and the time that it takes you to travel to the home. This gives you a true idea of how much it costs to clean a home, and you should charge accordingly.