How to Start a Cleaning Business

Though the total market for cleaning services is tremendous, you must decide on the particular niche you will target. If you want to do residential cleaning, do you want to clean private homes, condos and apartments, or empty rental units? If you're starting a janitorial business, will you focus on offices, retail operations or manufacturing facilities? And will you target small, medium or large customers? As a carpet cleaner, will you clean residential or commercial facilities--or both? And what services other than shampooing carpets will you provide?

Once you've decided on a market niche, you must then look at the geographic area you want to serve. If you're starting a maid service, you want to be able to schedule cleanings in a way that keeps your travel time to a minimum. The same applies to carpet cleaners. Janitorial crews that must move from building to building have a similar concern.

After you've identified what you want to do and where you'd like to do it, research the demographics of the area to be sure it contains a sufficient number of potential customers. If it does, you're ready to move ahead. If it doesn't, you'll need to reconsider how you've defined your niche or the geographic area.

Part of your market analysis includes your costs to serve that market. A densely populated market allows you to serve a greater number of customers because your travel time is minimal, but it also means you'll be consuming more supplies. This needs to be planned for as well as factored into your rates.

You can build a very successful cleaning business on referrals, but you need those first customers to get started. Where are they? Indianapolis-based Bane-Clene Corp. suggests you start by contacting the following groups:

  • friends and relatives
  • your neighbors
  • former co-workers and employers
  • social groups and clubs, including card clubs, bowling teams, athletic leagues, lodges, fraternities, alumni groups, and neighborhood associations
  • church or religious acquaintances

The Elements of Image

One of your most important marketing tools is the image you project. Jim Cavanaugh, founder and president of Jani-King International, a commercial cleaning franchise in Dallas, says image is made up of several components, including:

  • The way you and your crew look. Are your workers clean and neat, wearing attractive uniforms or at least nice jeans or slacks?
  • Your printed materials. Are your invoices and statements typed neatly or computerized? Do the documents you produce display professionalism, or do you damage your image by using handwritten bills and scrap paper for notes?
  • Equipment. Is your equipment clean and in good repair, or dirty, with loose wheels, taped cords and in general disrepair?
  • Integrity. Do you operate and behave in such a way that building managers and owners are comfortable trusting you and your employees with unsupervised access to their facility?
  • Insurance.Having adequate business insurance, including liability, workers' comp and bonding your employees, builds your credibility and image.
  • Your vehicles. Are your company vehicles clean, running properly and neatly marked with your company name and logo? A dirty, dented truck that belches smoke won't impress your clients.

Start Your Own Cleaning Business, 3rd Edition

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