Here we will go through an outline of all the steps you need
to set up and run your new business.
Why Building a Home Cleaning Business Is A Good Idea
Many people would like to have a small business that they can run from home, that gives them a small regular income, that they can fit in around the incessant demands of a busy life. How many people think that starting up a home cleaning business is the ideal job?
At first glance you might think not many. It may be considered a dirty demeaning job that only desperate people do when they have no other option. But as we will show you: as a cleaner you are also a business person. You are your own boss in fact! You are developing important skills that are valuable in the wider world. And you are developing an asset that is yours to sell whenever you want to.
Many people would like to be in this position. But very few have any idea how to go about setting up a lifestyle where they can survive, let alone thrive.
Setting Yourself Up In Business
A budget is how much you intend to spend on something before you go out shopping. It is a list of items that need to be purchased and the amount of money each one is going to cost. The total at the end is how much you will need. If that total is too much you will need to adjust what you spend it on. But there are some things that can’t be left out of course. So a limited budget can mean leaving some items off the list and ensuring others are definitely included.
For an entry level cleaning kit your own supplies may seem reasonable but as you get more jobs and get more professional seriously consider providing yourself with the best equipment you can and it will repay you with less effort and less time and easier, more professional results. You could get started by spending very little as long as you have the basics on hand – cloths, vacuum, bucket and mop, cleaning agents.
Now you might think your vacuum is good enough and that your other equipment is quite adequate. And it may be for a start-up. This will definitely help your budget to spend as little as you can and make it easier to earn some money straight away. Once you get going however get yourself some strong reliable equipment.
Some people will say that there is no absolute need to have a name, to have insurance, to have no more than a minimum of effort spent in setting yourself up in business, and this is true, strictly speaking. You may well not need any of these things in order to go out into the world and start to clean professionally.
But in terms of marketing, in the perception people will have of you, that may not be in your best interests. If you appear to be so hard up you don’t even have a name you will, in my opinion, be perceived as being cheap and unprofessional. And for the long term success of your business you would want to be seen as the best you could be right from the start.
It starts with your name and first contact with the client and finishes each time you drive your car away from their house until it is out of sight. It even includes what people see of you as you drive past in your car with the logo on the side. If you are speeding as you go past, that is also a part of your public perception aka marketing.
You can call this an angle as well, or a USP (Unique Selling Proposition in market speak). If you can come up with some speciality in your marketing you will give people another reason for engaging your services they will be more inclined to give you a try. It also gives more to your advertising.
What about giving away a percentage of your income to cancer research or to help the poor people in Africa or flood victims? Our own angle was to offer environmentally friendly cleaning services. People can identify with that sort of larger objective and feel good about doing more than just getting a cleaner. If you sponsor a sporting team or intellectually disabled people
It is hard to go past a business that not only offers environmentally friendly cleaning, but also helps the handicapped and sponsors a child in Africa. And if you do that, put it on your business card and let people find out about it!
Getting clients is at the heart of any business. Without clients you have no business. And it all depends how many clients you want to have and how hard you want to work.
How many clients do you want?
As a rule of thumb, a regular three bedroom, two bathroom house will take about two hours to clean if you are working on your own. Halve that if you are working with a partner and maybe even less.
Determine how many hours you want to work in the day. How many hours do you have? How much money do you want to earn?
If you do two houses per day, that is 4-5 hours work a day. If you multiply that by your hourly rate see how much that comes to. Are you happy with that figure?
Now if your clients only want to have you come once a fortnight that means you will need 20 clients a fortnight to have a full time business. If that is what you want you will need to do enough marketing to find that many people for your business.
A cleaner is a very valuable person. Despite the popular perception, a cleaner is a luxury that many people can afford and whom they come to rely on for a feeling of well-being and self-nurture. That is a completely reasonable position from which to see the whole industry. Necessary in some cases in terms of hygiene, you provide a wonderful environment for people to come home to.
People really value a clean house and are willing to pay a good price for a good job. But they will not pay for inferior work and if that is what you provide you will lose your clients and go out of business. Or worse yet keep a client that doesn’t respect you and keeps adding to the list of things to do so they feel they are getting their money’s worth.
If you have ever had the luxury of a cleaner you will know the feeling of happiness when you come home to a clean bathroom and freshly vacuumed floors. One service near where we live now offers to change the beds as well so their clients have fresh sheets when they get home. That would make me happy.
So you can charge them accordingly.
How much you charge for your cleaning services depends on several factors. But mostly it depends on you and your attitude toward yourself.
You don’t need a lot of equipment to do a good job, but you need good reliable equipment. Don’t compromise on quality and get cheap goods because you think it will save you money. It won’t. It will break down in the middle of a really important job and leave you stranded when it matters the most. Spend the money up front and it will pay for itself. If you buy it right, it will last so long you will get sick of it!
Some cleaners insist on using the equipment and chemicals supplied by the householder, thinking it will save them the cost of equipment.
We do not recommend this.
For a start an ordinary household rarely has a decent vacuum cleaner. It’s likely to be so small it’s like taking a mouse for a walk, and you can’t even stand up straight! It is unlikely that you will do a good job with poor equipment. And since your reputation lives or dies on your doing a fantastic job you need the best you can get, not someone else’s idea of a bargain.
There is a great array of chemical cleaners for all sorts of purposes out there on the market, from sprays and squirts to powders and creams to bleaches and noxious cans. When we set up our business we used a simple concept to distinguish ourselves from the others cleaners out there.
We said we were environmentally friendly cleaners and used only environmentally friendly products to do our work. The cloths I raved about in the equipment section above had their counterpart in highly effective and environmentally safe chemicals that we used with them. Together we had a very good system going.
The only down side of this was that some (a few) people really liked the powerful artificial fragrances that regular household cleaners give off. They liked them because these fragrances said “clean house” to these people. We didn’t actually lose a client because of the odourlessness of our chemicals but we sometimes got a comment or two. You may be the same and like that smell, but you are also free to use our point of difference for your own business too.
Cleaning A House
Obviously the first time you go in to clean a house it is likely to be quite dirty and it may take you longer than you thought at first. Hopefully you have added in a little bit of extra charge to cover you if it takes longer than you thought and over time you will recover the money. But the first time is crucial because the client wants to feel that special buzz of having a professionally-clean house.
Get the house to a good standard first and then maintain it there. Once you have given it a thorough once-over it should basically maintain its reasonable state while you are doing the house regularly. This is why we recommend not doing once-a-month cleans because in that longer time the inhabitants can really neglect it and your good work will have to be done every time. Just remember – you are not desperate for clients.
Bear in mind is that you don’t need to clean everything every time. Most little places haven’t been cleaned properly for ages such as the knick knacks on the dressing table and when you get them right they don’t require much effort to stay that way. Just make sure you keep an eye on them however.
We used to tell our clients that it might take us a few cleans to get the house to our proper standard. Some places were in desperate need of a clean and it was going to take longer than the time we quoted on the first go-through. If you are very clear about this it should sink in that the first time was not going to be perfect. Second time, yes, definitely up to your standard.
If they are reasonable people they will be happy that you have cleaned at all. If they are not reasonable people and ask you not to come back because their house is not spotless, even though you explained it all to them, then let them go. You don’t need them. Did I mention that you are not desperate for clients? You only want the good ones, the ones who think you are fantastic!
Cleaning a kitchen presents no real issues. But a good simple idea is to wipe any crumbs straight onto the floor to be picked up by the vacuuming later. It is easier than trying to clean them off the cupboards without getting them onto the floor which is what we all do at home to avoid having to clean them up. Rubbish goes either in the bin or on the floor. Try to keep the floor as dry as possible however because the dirt will stick to the floor and be difficult to get off with the vacuum.
More than fifteen minutes in the bathroom and you are taking too long. That applies particularly once the house is under control. The shower recess should be only a little dirty, the bath only a quick scrub away from clean. Basins can be messy with stuff but you will get the hang of it.
It seems obvious how to vacuum. You plug in your vacuum cleaner and vacuum the floor. Simple. And yes it is that simple but to give your vacuuming the professional touch there are some tips to make it look better than Auntie Shirley’s upright could do.
Firstly, to save time find a power point in the house from which you can reach all the house without having to unplug the vacuum. In most houses there is a central point that will allow you to do this. In big houses you will need to find a second one, but with your 15 mtr cord it is a very big house indeed.
And vacuum around the edges of the house either clock-wise or anti-clock wise rather than across the house. This way you will quickly work out the most efficient route and the cord won’t get in you way.
Lastly, for the truly professional look, particularly on soft carpet, vacuum yourself out of the room! Vacuum away from yourself while walking backwards so that you wipe out your footprints as you go. You start in the far corner of the room and move back from there towards the door, vacuuming facing away from the door and erasing your shoes marks on the carpet.
Mopping is done last usually. The way out of the house will often be through the kitchen or laundry or a tiled entry. If you are the dry person of the pair of you be considerate of the other person because the other person may well be waiting for you to finish so they can finish. Get into a routine with them in regard to this part of the job
Running Your Business
Running this type of business is not difficult. There are not a lot of tasks to be done but all of those tasks needs to be done regularly.
A schedule of activities at the end of each day might include:
- entering in a journal jobs done that day and the amount earned
- putting dirty cloths through the wash
- topping up chemicals for the next day
- emptying the vacuum cleaner
This can take only ten minutes and gets you set up for the next day.
The main activities that will require your attention are:
Invoicing – you can get cheap respectable invoice books from the local stationery shop. They should be in duplicate, that is there should be two copies for each invoice – one to give to the client and one to keep for your own records. You will not need to give your regular customers an invoice each time. The invoices are really only for people who need to claim the expense of a cleaner for tax purposes.
It is a good idea to do any invoicing at the end of each day so that the details are fresh in your mind, especially if you have done anything special in the clean for which you need to charge extra.
Suppliers – the people who supply you with your equipment are just the same as you and make their living from providing good service. Don’t let them down at any time.
A good idea is to get accounts with as many of your suppliers as you can. The hardware shop, the petrol station, the lunch shop if you want to so you are not expected to hand over the cash every day. But always pay your bills on time and you will have a good relationship with these people.
Bookkeeping – if you are going to make a full time living from this work it might be a good idea to engage the services of a bookkeeper to help you with the intricacies of the accounting world.
This of course does not excuse you from doing your own bookwork for them to work from. It ensures that you are keeping tabs on how much you are earning as well.
Banking – it is worthwhile to keep a separate bank account just for your business. – preferably with cheque book because that is how you will pay your bills. An EFTPOS card is probably even more relevant these days as it helps with paying for things such as petrol but we recommend both from the one account if possible.
It is not advisable to use your own bank account because it makes it hard to sort out who paid how much for what, and you don’t want the tax office asking questions that you cannot answer clearly. This way there is no difficulty. Some banks allow you to open one in the business name, others require a company name with registration which might be beyond your scope. You can still open one in your own name and use it exclusively for business.
The other reason for doing all this and going to these lengths is that the ultimate aim of all your efforts is to be able to sell the business to someone else. So you will need to be able to give them evidence of how much you have earned and what your expenses have been. The bank account will give you a clear record to show them.
Do your banking regularly, of course. Keep a record in your accounting book of how much you put in and how much is in there. If you want to be precise about it you might like to reconcile the monthly account statement with what you have written in your daily journal but usually it is enough to give a glance each month over what the statement bank sends you to see if there is any major discrepancy between the two of you. Refer the rest to your bookkeeper!
Selling Your Business
For this part of the system we recommend you get information and advice from as many different sources as you can find and inform yourself as to what is involved and what it takes, how much you could expect to sell it for and lots of other bits of information. Answer all the questions you might have and then you will be in a better position to either do it yourself or get help from a professional business broker.
There are two things you are selling when you sell a business. You are selling the systems you have set up, that is, the way you run your business, and you are selling the list of clients. These are the things you have spent the time establishing and building and developing. The more clients you have and the more income you can generate from them the more valuable the business will be to someone who does not want to spend the time doing it themselves. That’s why you did it all yourself.
This is the time to reap the rewards for all your efforts. Not only have you earned an income from your work but you have also built this asset for yourself and for someone else to take over from you. It is valuable because it earns money and someone else will want it.
In order to sell it, everything must be in good shape. Your records need to be up to date. There needs to be a clear trail of how much tax you have paid and how much profit there is in the business. You need to have been taking care of the books the whole time you have been running the business. You need to be able to show the buyer what you have been doing, how well the business is running and what sort of money you have been making. The clearer this is the more the buyer will be able to see it. So you have to do it from the beginning.
You have learned a lot about what is involved in setting up and running your own cleaning business.
There is always more to learn of course.
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