How to Start a Home Cleaning Business
Where there’s muck, there’s money. Cleaning houses can net you more than $50 an hour if you’re smart about it. You just have to be willing to get your hands dirty.
Cheyenne Street started a home cleaning business as a part-time gig.
“We just wanted to make some extra money on the side,” her husband, Jeremiah Street, said.
Five years later, the two are co-owners and operators of Luxe Cleaning Services, a booked and busy business. According to him, attention to detail and warmth are the key to their success.
How to Start a Home Cleaning Business
Do you think you have what it takes to start a home cleaning business? Here’s how to get started.
Advertise Your Services
There is no shortage of frazzled people with messy houses in need of a good cleaning. But how do you find them?
Apps like Taskrabbit, Handy, and Thumbtack connect gig workers with clients.
Taskrabbit is the most popular option. The gig worker platform is one of the first places a homeowner might go for help with tidying.
There are downsides to Taskrabbit. It charges customers a Trust and Support Fee, which can top out at more than 35%! At that rate, if you charged $50 an hour, the customer would pay $67.50. You could lose out on potential clients who won’t pay the premium.
Also, clients are often looking for one-off jobs, not recurring ones. At the beginning of the month, you might have too many jobs to handle; and at the end, you might have none.
Can you just find clients on Taskrabbit, then poach them for your independent business? It happens, but it’s risky. A Taskrabbit spokesperson clarified the company’s policy in an email.
“We prohibit that Taskers take clients off-platform in an effort to ensure ease and safety for all parties involved…Taskers who do so risk account limitation or deactivation.”
People were cleaning houses before the gig economy was a glimmer in a venture capitalist’s eye. There are other options.
There was a Web 1.0 version of the gig economy: craigslist. Post an ad and let the replies roll in: no middlemen, no fees. No protection, either. There are pros and cons.
The slightly updated version of this strategy is posting on Facebook Groups. Check the rules of your local group to see if they allow small businesses to advertise their services.
If you’re willing to invest a bit more time and money, consider launching your own website. Cheyenne Street built Luxe Cleaning’s website and it paid off quickly.
People aren’t necessarily expecting a polished, fully-functional web presence from an independent home cleaner. A good old-fashioned flyer with a phone number attached might be all you need.
Word of Mouth
Happy customers are your best advertisement. Delight them, and their friends will follow. Whether in-person or virtual, positive feedback can build real momentum for your cleaning business. “We got some really good reviews in the beginning, and people started to notice that,” Street said.
To run a cleaning business, you need cleaning supplies. That can get expensive, quick. If you’re not careful, you can spend more money on cleaning products than you earn on the cleaning job.
One option? Raid the client’s supply closet. Some clients even request that you use their cleaning products. A simple “Do you prefer that I use your products or bring my own?” will suffice.
Another option is raiding your own supply closet. If you’re enough of a neat freak to clean for a living, you probably have a well-stocked arsenal. You can always bring it along.
Chances are you will want to fill in some gaps. Here’s a basic checklist:
- Dish soap
- Scrub brushes
- Microfiber towels
Sometimes, brand-name stuff is worth shelling out for. Some cleaners swear by Windex, others never leave for a job without Bar Keeper’s friend.
And if a durable product helps speed up cleaning jobs? That’s a worthwhile investment.
Set Your Prices (Higher than You Think)
It’s a common mistake to undercharge for home cleaning services. But think about it. You are traveling to the client’s home, with your own supplies, to do a literal dirty job. Oh, and you’re handling your own taxes and marketing, too. That’s a premium service – you should charge a premium!
Cleaners on Taskrabbit get a helpful hint about pricing.
“While Taskers always have control of their pricing, the Taskrabbit app incorporates a feature that shows Taskers the rates at which clients are most likely to hire Taskers at their experience level, in their city, for that skill,” a Taskrabbit spokesperson said in an email.
Rates of $70 an hour or more are not unheard of in major cities.
Build Healthy Client Relationships
Cleaning jobs can be so low-effort that they feel like free money or so tough that they feel like punishment. Obviously, you want the former, not the latter. But it can be hard to tell until you’re already on the wrong side of the client’s door.
It helps to request photo and video before you agree to a job. If the images show a wreck, it’s unlikely to be any better when you arrive.
Extreme mess isn’t the only reason to turn down a client. Some potential customers can be confusing, shady or just plain rude. You don’t have to deal with that.
On the flip side, clients have to be able to trust you, too. “We’re in people’s houses,” Street pointed out. “You have to be able to communicate with the client.”
Personability and warmth are almost as important as cleaning skills.
Cleaning involves entering a private space with someone you don’t know. Always put your safety first.
Here are some things to watch out for.
- Biohazards like blood, waste, and hypodermic needles. It’s not worth it!
- Dangerous pets. You can always ask for an aggressive dog to be kept in a crate or separate room.
- Harassment. You never have to tolerate a client who makes you uncomfortable.
Don’t be afraid to cancel a job if it doesn’t feel right.
If you want to run a cleaning business, you’ll need to clean. Sounds simple enough, right? Simple, maybe, but not easy.
“We’re extremely detail-oriented,” Street said.
He cites his mother, who cleaned vacation rentals, as a role model.
“All the t’s were crossed and i’s were dotted,” Street said.
All the clients’ expectations met, and then some.
Andrew has noticed how much clients appreciate when he thoroughly cleans the stovetop.
“I take off the knobs on the stove and someone’s like, ‘Oh my God, thank you so much,’” he said. “For me, it’s a given.”
Go ahead. Fluff the pillows. Shine the sink. Fold the toilet paper. It might just be the extra step that earns a repeat client.
Contributor Ciara McLaren is a freelance writer with work in HuffPost, Insider, and The Penny Hoarder. You can find her on Substack (@camclaren).