Skip to content
Jobber Academy

How to Start a Commercial Cleaning Business and Earn $78K/Year

October 14, 2022 12 min. read
Read More Start Trial

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.

(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

READ MORE: Unique cleaning business ideas to kickstart your company

2. Get training and develop your skills

You don’t need special training 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.

If you don’t already have cleaning skills, get them by working for a local commercial cleaning company. You can also get training at a community college, or pursue ISSA, OSHA, or IICRC certification.

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.

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

Once you have a name, you’ll also want to brand your business. Hire a designer or create your own unique logo using a logo generator like Looka.

You can then place your commercial cleaning logo and colors on uniforms, vehicles, business cards, quotes and invoices, and much more.

5. Register your business

Once you have a name, register it with your local registry for business tax purposes and use it to sign up for a business license. Always check with local governments to make sure you’re compliant with their requirements:

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”.

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

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.

You can also get extra funding for your commercial cleaning company through a personal or business loan, government funding, business financing, or a small business grant.

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).

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

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.

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
  • Disinfectant
  • 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.

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.

Join over 200k service professionals that trust Jobber

Get Started