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How to Start Your Own Cleaning Business: The Definitive Guide and Checklist

May 26, 2023 14 min. read
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Starting a cleaning business is a great idea. There’s high demand for cleaning services, you can make good money, and you can get started with little money.

The owners of Handmaid Cleaning, Grace and Kevin Reynolds, started their cleaning business without much more than a mop and a van. Today they manage a nationally recognized brand.

You can do it, too, but make sure you get things organized first. This article will guide you through everything you need to start making good money running your own cleaning business.

You can also watch our “How to Start a Cleaning Business” video series to get advice from experts in action:

1. Choose your cleaning services to offer

Here are some types of cleaning services your business might offer:

  • Basic cleaning
  • Deep cleaning
  • Spring cleaning
  • Sanitization
  • Move-out cleaning
  • New home or construction cleaning
  • Dishwashing
  • Laundry
  • Regular maintenance

When you’re building out your list of cleaning services, look at your competitors’ websites to see what they’re offering. This will show you which services are missing in the market and which ones you can offer-and use to stand out.

Start small with just a few core options for your final services list. Think short and long term: what can you do now, and what can you do later with more money?

READ MORE: Unique cleaning business ideas to kickstart your company

At this point, decide if you’d like to focus on residential (house cleaning), or if you want to be a commercial cleaning business as well, serving businesses in your local area.

You could also offer carpet cleaningwindow cleaningpool cleaning, or pressure washing.

When you know the type of services you’ll offer, you can choose whether you want to run a solo operation from your home, a larger business with other employees, or something in between.

You can also decide if you’ll work part-time or full-time, on weekdays or weekends, and where your service area will be.

PODCAST: Listen and learn how to turn a side hustle into full-time income

Do your research on cleaning chemicals, find out what can affect what, what’s going to hurt surfaces, and what’s safe to use.

Get that education before you even start cleaning anyone’s home.

Grace Reynolds Handmaid Cleaning

2. Get set up: registration, business license, insurance, accounting

There are a few legal and financial details you’ll need to iron out before cleaning your first home. This helps you establish a trustworthy cleaning business that your clients will want to work with.

Register your company name and choose a business structure

The first step is registering your cleaning company’s name. If you don’t have one, here are some tips on naming your cleaning business.

Once you’re ready, here’s how to register your business depending on which country you’re in:

Part of the registration process is deciding what your business structure will be:

  • If you’re in the U.S. and you want complete control over your business, you might want to register as a sole proprietorship.
  • If you’re opening your cleaning business with two or more people, you’ll have to register as a partnership.
  • limited liability company (LLC) is best for medium or higher-risk businesses.

When you’re registering your company, you may need an employment identification number (EIN) as well, if your city or state requires it.

Pro Tip: Not sure what the local ordinances and regulations are for cleaning businesses? Just Google “YOUR CITY NAME + business laws”.

READ MORE: Should I incorporate my small business?

Get a business license

You will need a business license before you clean a single house. This is what legally allows you to run your business. You can get in big trouble (and pay a hefty fine) if you don’t have one.

There’s an up-front cost that varies depending on where you live. You’ll also need to renew every year, at which point you’ll most likely pay the same fee again.

Not sure where to start? Check out our guide to getting your cleaning business license in each state.

Get cleaning business insurance

Cleaning a home without insurance is a high-risk game to play. When it comes to protecting your business and your future employees, cleaning insurance is a must.

The last thing you want as a brand-new entrepreneur is to accidentally cause damage to a client’s home, not have insurance, and get yourself in debt when you cover the property damage out of pocket.

There are different types of insurance available, depending on what you need:

  • General liability insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Business owners’ policy
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Employment practices liability

Insurance gives you a safety net, and it’s an essential part of running your cleaning business. Shop around for the right insurance plan for your business and check out various providers in your area.

You shouldn’t be cleaning anyone’s house without insurance.

You could burn someone’s house down, break something valuable, or scratch something, especially when you’re just getting started.

Grace Reynolds Handmaid Cleaning

Set up accounting and bookkeeping

You can’t run your business out of your personal bank account, so get a business bank account where you can accept payments and monitor cash flow separately from your personal assets.

From there, create an expense budget for purchases, equipment, gas, marketing, and any additional overhead. This is the budget you’ll stick to every month. Don’t worry, you can adjust over time if you need to!

One of the most important expenses is your paycheck. Decide what you’ll be paid, then set up an automatic bi-weekly withdrawal so you can pay yourself from your profits (and employees, if you have them).

Track all of your income and expenses carefully so you can report accurately when it’s time to file your taxes. Here’s who you’ll file your taxes with, depending on where you live and work:

READ MORE: 30 small business tax deductions to save money when filing

Here’s how these cleaning business owners got started with zero budget:

3. Get cleaning supplies and equipment

While starting a residential cleaning business is a relatively low-cost venture, you need to buy items from this cleaning equipment list before your first job. After all, it takes money to make money!

Here’s a sample checklist of cleaning supplies you might need:

  • Face mask
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels
  • Sponges
  • Cleaning towels or rags
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Scrubbing brushes
  • Duster
  • Extendable pole
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Mop and bucket
  • Bleach or disinfectant
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Soap scum removal cleaner
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Glass cleaner
  • Spray bottle

Still, you’re starting your business on a budget, so you don’t have to buy everything right away. Here’s how to set that budget and decide on what you need to get:

  • Decide on an equipment budget that you can afford right now. Remember, the profit from your first few jobs might help with that!
  • List the tools, equipment, and chemicals you need to complete each of the services you plan to offer (e.g., gloves, microfiber towels, extendable pole, bleach, glass cleaner).
  • Determine how many of each item you’ll need for each job.
  • Assign costs to each item, including the price total.
  • Prioritize which items you need right now. Make decisions based on importance, price, budget, and how soon or how often you’ll use them.

4. Learn how to price your cleaning services and estimate jobs

Now it’s time to decide how much to charge for house cleaning. First, choose your pricing structure. Cleaning companies charge for services using:

  • Hourly rate
  • Flat rate
  • Room rate
  • Square foot rate
  • Specialty service rate

Some cleaners charge based on square footage and some charge an hourly rate.

However you decide to do it, pricing your services is a huge factor in making your business successful.

Grace Reynolds Handmaid Cleaning

Using that structure, figure out how much a job will cost by:

  • Calculating your labor hours
  • Calculating labor cost using cleaner salary
  • Adding payroll expenses, overhead, and other fees
  • Factoring in profit margin
  • Adding any required taxes

Pro Tip: Create cleaning service packages based on services that make sense to be grouped together, like a full deep clean package. You can use good, better, best pricing for these packages—just make sure you aren’t cutting into your profits!

When you’re still trying to perfect your pricing, a messy, handwritten quote might look like you’re making things up as you go. This can be the reason why a client asks for a discounted price.

But having a professional-looking cleaning estimate template and cleaning invoice template puts the power back in your hands. It tells your clients that this is the price—no negotiating for a better deal.

FREE TOOL: Try our free house cleaning cost calculator

When we started using Jobber and got a digital quote system, we leveled up our business in a huge way.

Having something written out that’s objective, not just scratch writing, is key in starting your business.

Grace Reynolds Handmaid Cleaning

Plus, digital quotes and invoices save you time. Your clients can view the quote or invoice, get it sent right to their email inbox, and approve it online.

They can do the same with payments, too, so the cash stays flowing without any work on your side. Talk about making money in your sleep!

5. Market your cleaning business and get your first customers

Marketing is essential to the survival of your new business. You’ll be competing with a lot of other cleaning companies for visibility and potential customers. But don’t stress – there are lots of ways to get your foot in the door, and a lot of those options are free.

READ MORE: How to promote your cleaning business

  • Get on social media and find local community groups on Facebook or Nextdoor. Promoting your business to your neighbors is a great way to get your first few customers.
  • Create your business brand. Part of being a professional business is looking the part. Building a strong brand will help you do that.
  • Use your personal network. Tell family and friends about your cleaning business and get them in as your first clients (don’t forget to ask them to spread the word, too!)
  • Use Jobber’s free online tool to print some professional tear-away flyers—place them on local bulletin boards and around your neighborhood.
  • Door hangers are another cheap way to promote your business to a specific area.
  • Referral programs are a great way to encourage clients to recommend you to their friends or to book multiple services with you. You can thank them with a service discount or other incentive.
  • Get in touch with with local businesses owners who could make be good partners and refer clients to you, like pet stores, caterers, event planners, or realtors. Cold calling (simply calling the business and discussing your services) is one option here. Even better is to go in person. You’ll have to make a lot of calls or visit a lot of businesses—this method rewards persistence.
  • If you have a company vehicle, apply decals or a vehicle wrap so it becomes a moving billboard. Park it in public spaces so people passing by will learn about your business.

Try these starter marketing tips from successful cleaning business owners:

We know that word of mouth is the best advertising.

But if you want to scale your business and if your end goal is to build an empire, you have to advertise and market. There’s no way around it.

Kevin Reynolds Handmaid Cleaning

Digital Marketing – Get Set Up Online

The Internet is where you’re going to get most of your new cleaning customers long term, so it’s important to understand everything you need for digital marketing.

  • Create Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for your business. Then post regular content like how-to videos, before-and-after photos, and business growth tips. It’s free and easy to set up these accounts and you can direct people to these pages while you’re still getting your website set up.
  • Set up your Google Business Profile (formerly called Google My Business). This will help you show up in local search results when people search for your business or services. Be sure to ask happy customers to leave a 5-star review as well!
  • List your business in local business directories and on lead generation websites. These sites help expand your online visibility to everywhere people in your area find cleaning businesses like yours.
  • Build a professional website that lists your services and gives prospects an easy way to request work. Make sure your URL is short, sweet, and reflects your business name. Check out these examples of great cleaning websites for inspiration.
  • Experiment with Google Local Service Ads, which are digital ads for local businesses. Get some ideas from these examples of real cleaning business ads.

READ MORE: Stay on top of the latest cleaning industry trends

6. Invoice cleaning jobs and manage your cash flow

It’s important to set up a process for taking payment and checking in with clients who haven’t paid their invoices yet. Here’s what that could look like:

  • Pick a payment provider. Choose a system to collect client payments, and decide if you’ll take payment up front or after service. Invoicing software is easy to use and makes it easy to send invoices and get paid, fast.
  • Choose payment methods. Based on your payment system, you can choose to offer payment options like cash, check, credit card, or e-transfer.
  • Send invoices. Use a cleaning invoice template to create your invoice after finishing a job, then send it to the client for payment.
  • Follow up on unpaid invoices. Send payment reminders to address failed or missed payments with clients after a certain amount of time has passed.

You’ll likely run into clients who pay late or not at all, so decide how to deal with that early on, too.

7. Learn how to manage your cleaning business and client relationships

Next, you have to work out how you’ll run your business and give your clients a positive experience. You can make adjustments based on what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s how cleaning software like Jobber can help you run your business every day:

  • Get new business: Potential clients can contact you through the online booking form on your website. This gives you all the information you need to get in touch and talk about job details (size of space, type of cleaning, frequency of cleaning, etc.).
  • Manage clients: Store your clients’ details in Jobber’s CRM, including their name, address, contact information, and service needs.
  • Send quotes: Create a quote with custom line items for all your cleaning services and email it to the client. You can automatically send a customized follow-up if you don’t hear from the client in a while.
  • Manage jobs: When a client approves your quote, convert it into a job and schedule the job in your calendar. Then, when you get to the job site, use a house cleaning checklist on the mobile app to help you provide consistent service.
  • Communicate with clients: Send a reminder text or confirmation email a day or two before the cleaning. You can also follow up after the job, ask the client to book their next visit, and request a review on Google or Yelp.
  • Invoice clients and get paid: Send an invoice when the job’s done, and offer your clients contactless payments online through client hub. Get paid 4x faster when you collect payment online through Jobber Payments instead of by check.

8. Hire and train cleaners so you can grow

Once the work picks up and you start feeling overwhelmed (because it’s definitely going to happen), it’s time to move out of your home office and start hiring cleaners. Here’s how:

  • Figure out who your ideal employee is, what they need from a job, and how you can find them.
  • Write a house cleaner job description so you (and your future employee) understand the role and responsibilities.
  • Create a job posting and share it on job-finding websites like LinkedIn or Indeed, or other places where your ideal employee spends time.
  • When you start getting applications, shortlist the best ones and interview the candidates. Include a paid audition as part of your hiring process to see how candidates work.
  • Hire the best candidate for the job and do your best to keep them on the team.

Invest time and effort in training cleaners, too, so they’re prepared to work out in the field. Tools like job checklists, employee handbooks, and regular evaluations will help you keep your cleaners’ skills sharp.

Ready to start your own cleaning business?

A cleaning business is one of the simplest types of businesses you can run. It’s easy to get going and start earning revenue right away, and you don’t need to take out a business loan.

You also get to be your own boss, set your own standards, and do work that makes a real difference for your clients and your community.

The most important thing is the passion and the mindset. If you want to start a cleaning business, you will start a cleaning business. Failure is not an option.

Kevin Reynolds Handmaid Cleaning

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Jobber Academy in November 2016. It was last updated in December 2021 for accuracy and to be up to industry standards.

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