How to Start a Commercial Cleaning Business and Earn $78K/Year
Starting a commercial cleaning business allows you to get your hands dirty and earn a steady income cleaning offices, hotels, apartments, malls, restaurants, and other business facilities.
In this article, we’ll show you how to break into this thriving industry and build a business that has high demand, pays well, and earns ongoing business even in tough economic times.
Here’s how to start a commercial cleaning business from scratch:
- Plan your commercial cleaning business
- Get training and develop your skills
- Choose a legal business structure
- Pick a commercial cleaning business name
- Register your business
- Open a small business bank account
- Decide which cleaning services to offer
- Get commercial cleaning business insurance
- Buy cleaning supplies and equipment
- Create a commercial cleaning marketing strategy
- Hire cleaners and grow your business
(Want to focus on residential cleaning instead? Learn how to start a cleaning business that serves residential clients.)
1. Plan your commercial cleaning business
It’s always a good idea to write a business plan, even if you don’t need one to get a loan. A business plan gives you a clear idea of the goals you’re working toward, which helps you make day-to-day decisions.
Your business plan should include:
- Cover page and table of contents so your business plan is easier to read
- Executive summary to give the reader a quick summary of your business plan, including how much funding you need
- Business overview introducing your business and explaining what services you’ll provide to which types of commercial clients
- Services list and pricing strategy showing which commercial cleaning services you’ll offer to your customers, including prices for each
- Market analysis showing which potential clients are in your service area, what problems you can solve for them, and how much they’re willing to pay for cleaning
- Competitive analysis that outlines competing commercial cleaning businesses and what makes you different
- Marketing plan for how you’ll reach potential clients, including channels and costs
- Employee planning to describe whether you’ll work alone, bring on partners, or hire a team of cleaners, as well as associated timing and costs
- Financial projections, including how much you think you’ll make in the first year, how many cleaning contracts you need to stay running, and what you plan to pay yourself
Should I join a commercial cleaning franchise?
There are pros and cons to joining a commercial cleaning franchise. It’s up to you to decide which option is best for your business:
- Franchises get name recognition, marketing support from head office, and the benefit of a tried-and-true business model. But you’ll also need to pay franchise fees and follow the parent company’s business operation requirements.
- Independent businesses cost less to run and you have full control over every detail. However, you’re starting from the ground up, so you’ll need to learn how to run a cleaning business on your own.
2. Get training and develop your skills
You don’t need special training, licenses, or certifications to start a commercial cleaning business. This means you can easily get the experience you need to confidently offer services and run your business.
Training and work experience may give you an advantage over competitors. It’ll also teach you how to safely use cleaning equipment, apply cleaning chemicals, and prevent disease.
3. Choose a legal business structure
Before you start cleaning, make sure you’re ready to run your business legally. That means you need to choose a business structure and form a legal entity:
- Sole proprietorship is a good option if you’re in the U.S. and you want complete control over your business entity.
- Register as a partnership if you’re going into business with two or more people.
- Go with a limited liability company (LLC) if your business is medium or high risk, or if you want to limit your personal liability if you’re ever sued. Another way to manage liability is with an S corporation.
READ MORE: Should I incorporate my small business?
4. Pick a commercial cleaning business name
Choose a cleaning business name that sounds professional, stands out from competitors, is easy to say and remember, and isn’t already in use. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Achieve Cleaning
- Adept Cleaning
- Blue Sky Cleaning
- Cleaning Unlimited
- Guaranteed Clean
- Impact Cleaning
- Inspire Cleaning
- Pinnacle Cleaning
- Pro Cleaning
- Optimum Cleaning
5. Register your business
Once you have a name, register it with your local registry for business tax purposes. Always check with local governments to make sure you’re compliant with their requirements:
- United States: Check to see if anyone else in your state is using the same name, then trademark your small business name and register your domain name.
- Canada: Register your trade name and trademark it to protect your brand. If your business entity has the same name as you, you don’t need to register it.
- United Kingdom: Register as a sole trader or business partnership, make sure your name is available and not trademarked, and register your company name.
- Australia: Register your business name through the Business Registration Service, ASIC, or a private service provider. You don’t have to register if your business operates under your personal name.
Your city or state might require you to have an employment identification number (EIN), too. If you don’t know local regulations, just Google “YOUR CITY NAME + business laws”.
6. Open a small business bank account
Get a business bank account to keep business payments and cash flow separate from your rent and groceries. It’ll also make you look more legitimate to clients and simplify your taxes.
Here’s what you need to set up a business checking account:
- The business’s name and address
- Your legal name, birth date, and address
- Your business’s EIN (or your SSN/SIN)
- Valid government-issued personal ID
While you’re at it, get a business credit card to access startup funding and build a credit history. Choose a card with a low interest rate that offers rewards for every dollar you spend.
It’s a good idea to get an accountant and invest in accounting software like QuickBooks Online. Track income and expenses so you can file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (U.S.), Canada Revenue Agency (CA), Companies House (UK), or Australian Taxation Office (AU).
How much does it cost to start a commercial cleaning business?
You can start a commercial cleaning company for as low as $1,625 (USD). That includes:
- Business license and registration ($75–400/year)
- Commercial cleaning business insurance ($450/year)
- Commercial cleaning software ($400+/year)
- Branded uniform and comfortable, waterproof shoes ($50–200+)
- Commercial cleaning products and equipment ($500)
- Self-made website and business cards ($150)
How much does a commercial cleaner make?
A commercial cleaner’s salary is $9.80–22.54 (USD) per hour, or $20,384–46,883 a year. You can make much more as a cleaning business owner.
FREE TOOL: Get our cleaner salary guide, 100% free
7. Decide which cleaning services to offer
Determine the types of cleaning services you’ll provide to commercial clients, along with pricing for each. You can offer commercial and industrial cleaning services like:
- General commercial and office cleaning
- Janitorial service
- One-time cleaning service
- Weekly cleaning service
- Monthly cleaning service
- Floor cleaning
- Floor waxing and restoration
- Trash removal
- High dusting (vents, ceilings)
- Deep cleaning
- Carpet cleaning services
- Window cleaning
- Sanitizing and disinfecting
- Event cleanup
- Construction cleanup
- Flood or fire cleanup
- Power washing
- Hazardous waste disposal
Pro Tip: Check out local commercial cleaners online to find any service gaps. For example, if competitors don’t do ceiling cleaning, offering that service will make you stand out.
How much to charge for commercial cleaning services
There are a few ways to price commercial cleaning jobs:
- Square footage rate is one of the most common types of cleaning rates. The average rate in the U.S. is $0.07–0.12 per square foot. That rate adds up fast in large spaces.
- Hourly rate includes your labor cost per hour, plus overhead. You can charge $25–100 per worker per hour to cover costs and turn a profit. Hourly rates are best for lengthy tasks, or if you don’t know how long a job will take.
- Flat rate pricing provides one predictable cleaning cost for the entire job—for example, $300 per cleaning. This rate works well when you know exactly how much time it’ll take to complete the job, since you’re rewarded for working faster.
- Room rate calculates cleaning cost based on the number of rooms in the building—say, $75 per room. It works best in office buildings with multiple small rooms.
How profitable is a commercial cleaning business?
A commercial cleaning business can be very profitable, as long as your rates match your experience level and you’re accounting for labor costs, overhead, markup, and profit margin.
Let’s say you complete a 3,000-square-foot office clean twice a week at a rate of $0.10 per square foot. That’s $300 (USD) per day, $600/week, $2,400/month, and $28,800/year.
That’s just one job. You’ll see even higher numbers when you clean larger spaces or fit more jobs into each day. If you can do five similar-sized cleans a week, that’s $78,000/year.
8. Get commercial cleaning business insurance
Entering a client’s business during off hours can be a high-risk operation. If you damage the client’s property or an employee is injured on the job, the cost will come out of your pocket.
Commercial cleaning insurance starts at $450/year. That’s the minimum for a business owner’s policy with:
- General liability insurance in case of property damage or bodily harm
- Commercial property insurance for damage to your equipment or place of business
- Business income insurance to keep cash flowing after an incident or disaster
You can choose to add extra coverage to your small business insurance policy, including:
- Commercial auto insurance if you drive a company car or truck
- Workers’ compensation insurance in case an employee is injured on the job
- Professional liability insurance for claims and lawsuits over professional mistakes
- Employment practices liability insurance for employee-related claims
- Crime insurance in case of criminal activity like theft or vandalism
- Cyber liability insurance in case of a security breach or data leak
- Key person insurance to keep the business going if you physically can’t work anymore
- Commercial umbrella insurance for extra coverage on top of your other policies
Your business should also be bonded, which protects you if an employee steals or damages client property. Many clients prefer to work with bonded cleaning companies, so add that to your insurance coverage.
Shop around for the right insurance plan by checking out various insurance providers in your area.
9. Buy cleaning supplies and equipment
Running a successful commercial cleaning company requires the right tools, supplies, and equipment. Plan to spend $500+ (USD) on commercial cleaning business supplies like:
- Supply cart
- Mop and bucket
- Broom and dustpan
- Vacuum cleaners (industrial/handheld)
- Multi-purpose cleaner
- Spray bottles
- Microfiber cloths
- Sponges, magic erasers, steel wool
- Dusters (long/short)
- Glass/window cleaner and squeegee
- Oven cleaner, stainless steel cleaner
- Toilet and shower cleaner
- Disposable cleaning brushes
- Paper towels and toilet paper
- Hand soap
- Dish soap and dishwasher detergent
- Garbage bags
- Air freshener
- Wood and leather furniture cleaner
- Vinegar or other descaling agent
- Respirator, rubber gloves, knee pads
- Branded uniform and comfy shoes
- Specialty service supplies (e.g., laundry detergent, carpet cleaner)
READ MORE: Should you offer green cleaning services?
If you already have a personal vehicle, use that to transport cleaning supplies to and from jobs when you’re first getting started. Otherwise, you’ll need to spend an extra $5,000+ on a vehicle.
Pro Tip: You may get better prices by buying wholesale cleaning supplies in bulk through a janitorial supply store. You can also rent or finance big-ticket items like a floor waxer or a car.
FREE TOOL: Try our free cleaning receipt template
10. Create a commercial cleaning marketing strategy
Your business is up and running. Now all you need is a list of commercial cleaning clients. Put together a marketing plan and try these marketing tips to promote your cleaning business:
- Build a cleaning website that lists your services and offers online booking. You can also write blog posts to help bring in visitors through search engines.
- Set up social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, and post content that educates or entertains your followers.
- Run cleaning ads on social media or use Google Local Services Ads, which are designed to promote local businesses like yours.
- Hand out business cards with your name, business name, and contact details. You can do the same with cleaning flyers, door hangers, postcard mail, and fridge magnets.
- Set up business directory listings on Google Business and lead generation websites like Thumbtack or Taskrabbit.
- Build relationships with realtors, property managers, and other business owners. They might not become a cleaning client, but they might lead a potential client your way.
- Start a referral program that rewards your current clients for referring a new customer, and ask satisfied clients to leave positive reviews on your listings and social media.
11. Hire cleaners and grow your business
When you first start a commercial cleaning business, you’ll probably have only one person doing cleaning jobs—you. You’ll be responsible for quoting, scheduling, and invoicing them, too.
Here are a few roles you can think about hiring for when you’re ready to expand your team:
- Cleaners: First, hire another commercial cleaner. They can give you a hand with all of your cleaning jobs. From there, you can keep hiring cleaners and growing your cleaning staff.
- Supervisor: When you have enough cleaners, get a supervisor who’s responsible for training cleaners, scheduling teams, and dealing with any day-to-day issues.
- Office Manager: An office manager handles client relationships, sends invoices for completed work, and takes care of employee hiring and payroll.
- Sales: A sales rep is responsible for finding and bringing in new clients, winning new contracts, and renewing contracts with current clients.
Outsource as much administrative work as you can at the beginning. Hire a bookkeeper to manage expenses, get an accountant to help with taxes, and ask a lawyer to help with your legal needs.
With all of these employees in place, you can eventually take a step back and work on your business, not in it.
Is commercial cleaning hard?
Commercial cleaning takes a lot of time, training, and elbow grease. It’s not for everyone, and unfortunately not every employer treats their hardworking cleaners as well as they should.
But it might be right for you if you enjoy making spaces cleaner and healthier for the people using them. As a business owner, you can also make sure employees feel appreciated and respected.
READ MORE: Successful cleaning business stories
You’re ready to get to work—and there will be a lot of work. The steps we listed aren’t set-and-forget. You have to keep marketing, hiring, and looking at new ways to do business better.
But the hard work will also be worth it. Once you’re up and running—and making bank every day—you’ll wonder why you ever waited to start a commercial cleaning business.
First published October 2020. Last updated October 14, 2022.