How To Start A House Cleaning Business

Learn how to start a profitable house cleaning business.

Today's workers and families are overworked and stressed. After a 12-hour workday, feeding and putting the children to bed, the last thing anyone wants to worry is cleaning the house. Weekends are spent running errands and spending quality time with friends and family members. Therefore, many families are looking for outside assistance with housekeeping. In the past, housekeepers were thought of as the "hired help" and were thus treated like 18th century scullery maids. This is no longer the case. Housekeepers have reached a well-deserved level of respectability for their much-appreciated services. Starting a house cleaning business is do-able for most people because there is very little start up cost involved. To help you get started, I've outlined a step-by-step set of instructions to send you on your way to engaging in this highly profitable business!

The first thing that you need to do before seeking out your clientele is to develop a business plan and policy. For starters, you need a name. Choose a name that denotes an air of sophistication. You don't want a name like, Sally's Cleaning Service or A-1 Cleaners. Those names are a dime a dozen and do not reflect any sort of professionalism. Try something like, Homestead Helpers. Such a name stands out from the many fly-by-night and unreliable services. Once you've chosen a name for your business, the next important step to take is to insure your business. As a house cleaner you are a sole-proprietor. This entitles you to the status of an independent contractor. This means that your profession is no different than that of a plumber, electrician, or a freelance writer.

Insurance is a must have. For one, it eases the minds of your future clientele. Think of yourself --would you want an uninsured person coming into your home, handling your personal articles, and perhaps doing so while unattended in your home? Probably not. Having insurance will put you on top of the list for jobs, as most house cleaners do not carry insurance. The insurance will also give you piece of mind. You will not have to worry about your personal assets being seized in a lawsuit because someone accused you of stealing a family heirloom. Unfortunately, as with many service professions, dishonest people have tarnished the respectability of independent contractors, so you'll want to cover yourself. Liability insurance (for damage that you are accused of) is very inexpensive. Just about any insurance agency offers liability insurance to contractors. Depending on where you live, the cost is usually less than $300.00 a year.

Once you've got your insurance policy, the next thing to do is to get a copy of your background check and police record; and, hopefully you won't have one. Depending on which state you live in, you can pick up the application at the State Trooper Barracks, City Hall or the Police Station. This is a simple form that takes less than 5 minutes to fill out. The fee is generally between $3 and $15.00. You mail it in, and within 2 weeks the form is mailed back to you with an official stamp which states "No record." Make photocopies of this form, as you'll need to give this to prospective clientele with your information packet. The information packet is the next step, and it is what makes your business professional.

The information packet should contain a professional printout or photocopy of your policy and procedures, insurance and background check, references and a sample work order. In terms of your policy, you will need to establish how you want to operate your business. Do you want to work Mondays-Fridays, no weekends? From 6 am to 5pm? Will you work in a house that has a dog? Will you be bringing your own trusted supplies or will the client supply his/her own cleaning products? Do you want to be paid by cash, check or money order? How much will you charge? Per hour? Per job? All of these issues become your policy and they need to be spelled out in black and white for the clients. Also, you should include a sample work order. For example, in cleaning a bedroom, what is to be done? You might write:

*Ceiling fan will be dusted

*Trinkets dusted

*Bedroom furniture dusted

*Sheets changed and bed made

*Carpet vacuumed.

If a client wants something done that is not on the work order, then you can custom create a work order especially for that client. Each time you clean that client's home you can leave a copy of the work order with the items checked off, so both you and the client will have a copy of what was done. This is will alleviate any confusion over "I said" and, "She said" as well as the bad habit of having notes left for you that read, "By the way, why you are at it, could you scrub the kitty litter pan?" Do only what has formerly been agreed to, thus, what appears on the work order. Also, in your packet of information you should include at least 2 references. References can be tough to come by when you are just starting out. A good way to combat this is to volunteer to clean a friend or a neighbor's home for free in exchange for a reference. Quite often community organizations or churches will welcome a free cleaning, and would be more than happy to provide a reference for a job well done.

The best way to advertise a cleaning service is not by posting flyers. Posting flyers may appeal to clients who are looking for high school people to help with summer yard work, but certainly not to a person wanting to hire a professional house cleaner. You can choose to have business cards professionally printed, or you can purchase a business card program at an office supply store and print your own cards from your home computer. On your business cards have the name of the business printed (be sure that the name denotes that it is a cleaning service), your name with the title of Proprietor, and your telephone number. Don't put anything gimmicky on the cards, such as FREE ESTIMATES or CHEAP. You want to present yourself as a person offering a professional service, not someone selling a car wash. Business cards can be placed on bulletin boards in supermarkets, libraries, or community centers. Also, you can run a display ad in your local newspaper using your business card. This saves you money on graphics and design. A business card display ad catches the eye far quicker than a worded classified ad.

Given the independent contractor status, and depending on the tax laws of your state, you are eligible for various tax deductions. For example if you own your own home, you can set up a small office space and take deductions for the square footage of the space, utilities, a computer, office supplies, phone calls, and cleaning supplies that you might purchase. Also, advertising and insurance costs are tax deductible. Many of the same deductions can be used for people who rent their home or apartment. Check with your local state's laws of taxation to see which deductions you can use. House cleaning is highly profitable, with some house cleaners making $15-17 an hour, so be sure to report all of your income to the IRS. As an independent contractor, you can open an IRA account and start saving toward your retirement!

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