Advice on starting a cleaning business?

gypsysunriseNovember 7, 2008

I am interested in starting a small house cleaning/domestic assistance service (in rural sw. VA).

Anyone on here have any good advice for someone just starting out?

Some questions I have...

*Is it better to charge by the hour, the job, or the specific size of the home?

*What would be a fair price to charge to a basic, but thorough, cleaning?

*What is usually included in a "basic" cleanining job?

*What are some extras, and do you charge extra for them, or?

*Good places to advertise a new small business?

*When someone has their house cleaned, are they usually home at the time?

*Is it standard to bring your own supplies (personally, i'd prefer it this way)?

Any and all advice would be appreciated. =)

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OT, but would you be interested in comming over in to Eastern KY? I know someone there who would be very interested in your services.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 11:08PM
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I prefer someone who charges by the hour. I had someone working for me who charged to "clean my house" and I found that when I wasn't home it only took her about an hour to spray a lot of lemon pledge around and vacuum down the center and leave.
A basicw eekly cleaning is vacuum rugs and bare floors,w ipe the baths and kitchen floors, clean tubs showers and toilets and wile any visable spills off the kitchen cupboards and the woodwork elsewhere.
Some like to include changing the beds and others include a "room of windows" every week.
And that's why I prefer someone who works by the hour.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:04AM
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I have a successful cleaning business, and here is my advice.

* I charge by the house, not by the hour. This might be hard for someone starting out, as you don't have a feel for how long the job will take, so you could start by the hour (a new client's home will take you longer for the first several times you go---make sure they know not to expect everything to get done in 3 hours the first few times you clean). How long it takes will depend upon the size of the house, how dirty it is, how many kids and pets there are, if they're smokers, etc. Most homes take me either 3 hours (if I clean weekly), or 4 hours (every other week jobs). I have one large home that I go to twice a week.

* How much you charge depends on the market you're in. Do a little research and find out how much services and individual cleaners are charging. Remember that you will be paying taxes (inc. social security) and you should carry some disability insurance, so factor that into your fee as well. In my market (Upper Midwest) cleaners charge between $20 and $35 an hour. Expect payment on the day of the cleaning.

* My basic service includes dusting all surfaces (including frames and blinds); cleaning kitchen counters, cupboard fronts, outside of all appliances, inside of microwave; scrubbing tub, toilet and sink & cleaning mirrors; vacuuming all floors, rugs and stairs; vacuum and wash kitchen and bathroom floors; empty wastebaskets and take out trash; washing other floors if that is agreed upon in initial estimate.

* I do only the tasks listed above as part of my regular cleaning. I do extras for people when they go on vacation (windows, inside of fridge, cleaning cupboards, etc). It's good to be clear with clients whether it's okay with you to switch some task on a day of usual cleaning for an extra. I'll do this occasionally for weekly clients, but not for every other week folks.

* Advertise at grocery stores and coffee shops in the neighborhoods where you'd like to work. Let as many people as possible know that you're starting a new business. People are ALWAYS looking for a good, reliable house cleaner.

* I ask that clients not be home when I clean. When I'm there it becomes my place of business, not their home. Most people have a hard time getting that even "grabbing a quick sandwich" while I'm cleaning the kitchen really does get in my way. If you have great references most people are comfortable with you alone in their home, but might want to be around the first few times.

* I don't provide supplies other than my little canister vac and my own rubber gloves. I do pick up the supplies of my choice for the clients (unless they have specific requests) and leave them at their house (they pay me back). Try to clean as "green" as you can to avoid a lot of nasty fumes and toxic cleaners. Most people wouldn't mind if you got your own supplies as long as you weren't using products they didn't approve of (harsh chemicals, for example.)

* A few last words of advice: Be Reliable. If you are scheduled on Monday from 9-12, BE THERE. Never, ever fail to show up without a good reason and a phone call or email. Always do the job you'd want a cleaner to do for you. Don't cut corners. If you can't work because of an upcoming event or vacation, give plenty of notice. Ask them to let you know immediately if there is something you are missing, or doing wrong in their eyes. Communicate with your client and you'll become an invisible, yet valued part of their family.

* The other side of that coin is to be fair to yourself. Don't feel guilty for setting limits. If a client asks for extras, charge them for the service. My policy is to charge for cancellations, although if someone's sick or there is another serious reason, I don't do so often. My clients are happy to do this as I am reliable and a hard worker (and have had many of the the same clients for 17 years!) Go to cleaning websites like this one and for tips and ideas about cleaning (the latter sells a great book called "Speed Cleaning" that has been an enormous help to me.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 11:25AM
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From a customer's standpoint here are my top 3 requests:
1) Use MY vacuum cleaner
2) Be there the same day each week - if a problem arises, give 24 hours notice just like you'd expect from a customer
3) Be consistent. Assuming the customer tells you exactly what they want and you agree to do it, then consistently do it - whether YOU think it needs it or not. :)

Another thing, I prefer to pay by the hour. That way if I need something extra - I pay for it. If I am extra picky, no biggie if you're being paid by the hour, right?
I wouldn't use a service that required that the house be unoccupied. For one, we have a home based business so that's not feasible. We've had success working around each other, but our business is just one room. When she's ready to clean that room - we take a break and go do something outside or in another room. If we didn't have the home based biz, I wouldn't just hand a stranger a key to my "little palace" until after we'd gotten to know each other awhile.

As far as advertising, I'd give Craig's List a shot. It's free - and will help to keep expenses down while you're just starting out. I'd also suggest getting bonded and insured, for your own protection.

Best of luck with your new business! I wish you much success.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 12:37AM
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Where I live $20 per hour is the going rate. Customer provides all the supplies and vacuum (never share vacuums among houses!).

My SIL has been cleaning houses for 15 years. Her strong preferences is the home owners not be present. I strongly agree.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 10:31AM
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A friend and I cleaned apartments one summer to make some extra money. We each got paid $10 an hour and used our own supplies.

Normal services included cleaning the toilets, shower, floors, kitchen counters, vacuuming, washing windows and mirrors, dusting, using pledge on wood surfaces, etc.

Things we didn't do as often were cleaning the oven, cleaning the inside of the fridge/freezer, and taking down light fixtures and washing them. Even with those were harder and not done as often, they were included in the hourly rate. The usually took longer so we were paid more in the long run. I've seen places that charge more if they use "green" products.

Usually the owner wasn't home or if they were, we didn't see them. I would put ads up in stores that women frequent since they're usually the ones to hire you. Coffee shops, boutiques, and fitness centers are great places to post your information. Make sure you include your pricing and details about what services you provide because people are more likely to contact you if they have all the information to begin with. Hope that helps! :)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 7:16PM
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My cleaner started her small business just over a year ago and she has cleaned for me about a year. She comes once a week and does a thorough job. She charges $75 per cleaning of my 3 bed, 2 bath 2200 square foot house. Her invoices indicate this is for three hours work at $25/hour. She bills me once a month (at my request so that I can pay her with online banking). I gave her a $75 cash bonus last December.

She has always done the following tasks which I modified from a list in the book Home Comforts:

Weekly Housecleaning Chores List

1) Change the bed linens and bathroom hand towels. Take dirty linens to the laundry room.
2) Vacuum carpet (in bedrooms, hall, and living room), upholstered furniture, and lampshades.
3) Wash all washable floors (bathrooms and corners where Scooba doesnt reach)- terrazzo and Florida room floors as needed.
4) Dust all dustable surfaces and objects, including pictures, mirrors, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and light bulbs.
5) Wipe all fingerprints or smears from doorknobs, woodwork, telephones, light switch plates, and mirrors.
6) Wash down entire bathroom, toilet, sink, tub, shower, wall tiles, toothbrush holders and all fixtures, cabinets (exterior), mirror, floor. Empty trash.
7) Clean entire kitchen: wipe down refrigerator and refrigerator drawer unit, stove and other appliances inside and out; clean sinks, counters, and tabletops. Wipe backspash wall as needed. (microfibre cloths and hot water or Dr BronnerÂs on most surfaces) (No stainless steel cleaners except maybe on fridge drawers!)
8) Take out trash; wash out and sanitize garbage cans.
9) Take boxes to Charity Shop as needed.

As you can see this is a customized routine suited to my needs.
She mostly uses her own cleaning supplies (and vacuum cleaner after mine died!) unless I ask her to use something of mine. I also use iRobots' Scooba and Roomba almost daily so she does not have to do a lot of scrubbing of hard surface floors.

When she first began it took her at least three hours, but after she got into a routine it began to take her less time - but she always does a good, complete job so I don't mind how long it takes her as long as the work gets done! Now that she has a helper she is at my home for about 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours. I am always home (as I am handicapped and don't often leave the house) and my husband is sometimes home too working in his home office. The ladies clean the rooms we are not in and we move to another room when they are ready to clean the rooms we are in.

My Cleaner does a great job and I greatly appreciate her work! She is reliable, flexible, trustworthy, and a hard worker.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 8:01PM
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I never had a cleaning lady, but most of my friends and coworkers do. Among the complaints- the cleaners break things and then hide or dispose of them, cleaners don't show up as promised (grrr!), and the cleaners don't want the homeowner "hanging around". Most of these were covered by previous poasters. On the plus side-my SIL always gives a "special assignment" to her cleaning lady, who comes once a week. Assignments include vacuuming drapery, cleaning the oven, anything nasty that SIL doesn't want to do herself.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 10:25AM
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Let me add just a couple thoughts; 1.See if nail salons and beauty shops will let you post advertising there. It might be worth going to a printer and have flyers and business cards printed up. 2. Some people will want to stay in their homes when you clean. Perhaps they can remain in one room while you work? They wouldn't be "prisoners" but they would be able to see and hear you work. Personally, I stay either in my bedroom or my family room watching TV while cleaners are here. I stay out of their way. I'm a customer only. But I've hired cleaning services. I like the professional services since they do all the bookkeeping, taxes, etc.I insist on the same person every week, and no "teams".

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 9:11AM
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Before starting any business everyone has to setup a plan for business, yes you can charge according to the size and hour, you can charge as per your need, according to the things you are using for cleaning, if you do extra work then you can charge, there are many online places where you can give advertisement for your business, well cleaning business is one of easy business to setup, you can also give advertisement on the paper, there are many businesses also wants to clean homes and business.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 6:03AM
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I prefer hourly charge - they all say that once they get used to cleaning a house it takes less time. i have recently called 2 cleaning services for prices and they were both around $50/hour for 2 people and said it normally takes about 3 hours/2people to thoroughly clean a new client 2000 sq ft house. i find it hard to believe since i keep my house pretty clean and it takes me alone 4 hours on the weekend. The services both agreed that i can hire them for 2 hours and they will work hard to do as much as possible. (this if for the initial trial service to see if I want to continue them for maintenance).
I think Angies List would be a great resource (if it's used in your area) --customers who post reviews include price they paid for the service and what the service was, gives their complaints or compliments. Businesses sometimes reply to the complaints -helpful to see as well. I learned a lot as a homeowner to ask the important questions when I called for service.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:11AM
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