She wants to work while her kids are in school

Starting a House Cleaning Service

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Starting a House Cleaning Service?

I would like to start cleaning houses a couple days a week while my 4 year old is in preschool. After she starts school I can add more. I have no idea where to begin to be effective. If anyone has suggestions or thoughts I would love the advice. I am a stay at home mom of 3.

Highly Recommends Jeff Campbell

Pick up the book by Jeff Campbell on his website He has written a book about starting your own cleaning business as well as several other books. He is the owner of one of the largest house/commercial cleaning companies in San Francisco.

Ideas That Have Worked

After starting a fairly successful business and residential cleaning business several years ago, here are a few tips that really worked.

  1. Advertise in Your Local Paper: A simple text ad under the 'Services Offered' in your local paper or weekly freebie paper is a good start. Make it short and simple. Something like 'Housecleaning, please call Jane at 555-5555'.

  2. Flyers: If you'd like to clean offices or businesses, although generally that would be for early mornings, nights, or weekends, print up a flyer, it can even be hand-written, just make sure it is neat. By folding it in half and taping it closed, you can send it to local businesses or homes through the mail. Using the yellow pages for business addresses, and either the white pages or a reverse directory for residential addresses. Depending on your area, you might even be able to go door to door in neighborhoods you'd like to work in and pass out your flyers. You cannot put them in mailboxes, but depending on your local laws, you can personally hand them to the homeowner or put them on or in the front door. You can also hang them on public bulletin boards.

  3. Business Cards: If you'd like, you can print your own or there are several online sites as well as office supply stores where you can get simple business cards printed inexpensively. Have some printed with your name, what type of cleaning jobs you are looking for and a phone number.

  4. References and Referrals: Make sure that you have a few people who are willing to give you a good reference, even if at first they are friends you've known for a while. In any advertisement you create, make sure to mention that you have references and give them to any prospective customers who ask. As you start cleaning one or two houses, ask those customers if you can use them as references also. I used to give customers a free cleaning if they referred a friend. You can even advertise that in your flyers or business cards.


Words of Experience

I started a house cleaning service in 1988. Just put an ad in the Newspaper or Service Directory under carpenters, gardeners, etc. Run for one month for a better rate. The phone will start ringing off the hook. Bid by the job not by the hour and stick with the basics of general cleaning until you get used to it. Normally a 3/2 bath should run around $50-$75 each time you do it. I would recommend putting the new clients on an every week or every other week schedule. Bring your own supplies and use their vacuum. Extra like ovens, stoves etc. charge $10 - $15 more. Also you want to be paid upon completion of each job. Don't forget to get a business license and keep a calendar to do your taxes for IRS/state. Be sure to keep all you receipts and gas mileage.

Advertising Ideas

Ways to advertise include:

  1. Printing up flyer-ads to hang on doorknobs with stapled-on rubberband,

  2. Cold-calling well-off neighborhoods out of the phone book ("Hi, this is 'Sweeping Beauty Housecleaning' just calling to see if your family might be interested in a cleaning service," etc.,

  3. Putting ad in Services section of newspaper for a month or just the weekends of a month,

  4. Sending out post card 'discount' or 'coupon' ads to select addresses. Of these methods, I found the last one doesn't seem to work as well as the others. At any rate, expect only about a 2-5% return, i.e. a one-month ad might bring you one or two customers. But if you do a good job, they might become permanent and schedule you for regular times.

There's once only, once a month, bi-weekly, once weekly, and on-call (a real pain if you already have a schedule filled up). Cold-call real estate companies, construction companies, property management, landlords, etc. Assume that you'll have to supply the tools but never volunteer to do it and ask that they do it but assume they won't have the right tools and be prepared to use your own anyway. I'm not shocked any more at how many people don't own a mop or broom or bottle of Windex. Their ignorance is why they call you. I've taught otherwise intelligent people how to clean their ovens, etc., many a time.

Research cleaning tips at the library; you'll learn timesaving tips like how to put a damp rag in the microwave for 3 minutes to soften caked-on food. Speediness impresses customers. You can never be fast enough or strong enough (they often want you to move heavy furniture to clean under), but don't overdo and injure yourself, in fact don't move heavy furniture unless you really like them or they help you. Rush the first time if you must to get the client, then just get real and go at normal speed. Bottom line is they can't be bothered and they'd rather let you do it for the money, so don't kill yourself for the $16.00 an hour or whatever the starting rate is there. Call around and see what others charge - maybe even have someone come over and do your place just to see what they do.

There are no benefits unless you provide them, like medical insurance, retirement, etc. I do recommend getting licensed. It's the law and usually cheap and easy. Bonding and insurance is optional and may not be necessary if you feel your customers will treat you with trust and fairness. If I break something I replace it or pay the value (or work it off) immediately. It's all tax-deductible, as are expenses for supplies and mileage, advertising, etc. You are responsible for reporting your income and paying your taxes; they are not.

Suggestions to Consider

My sister-in-law owns her own cleaning business, and she does exactly what this reader wants. She works only when her son is in pre-school half days, 2 days each week. She's been cleaning since college, and has gone from full-time with 30 clients a week down to about four clients now.

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If the reader has never done this before, some suggestions:

Don't underprice. The major cleaning companies charge approximately $30 an hour per person (though the worker only gets $6-7, but that's a whole other issue...). Do some research by having other cleaning companies come and do estimates to clean your home. Get a feel for the market, and then charge just slightly less (maybe 5%) than the big companies. Charge by the job, not by the hour, if you can. If a client knows they have to pay $50, they don't care if you take 1 hour or 5. But if they know they're paying you $20 an hour, they might hover.

Many potential clients are worried about having a stranger in their home, potentially stealing their stuff. To allay fears, get bonded. This is like being insured.

Spread word-of-mouth. Do local churches or schools have "service auctions", where people donate a particular service (tutoring, babysitting, tax work, cleaning) and someone else bids on it, with the money going to the church or school? While you're giving your services away, it's for a good cause and you are networking.

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