Make Cash for Cleaning: How to Start a Cleaning Business From Scratch

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Oct 22, 2018

Oct 22, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

Spending all day cleaning doesn't sound fun for most people. For others, they see dollar signs and thrilling competition in a $61-billion-dollar market. The commercial cleaning industry is booming having many seeking the answer to...

..."How to start a cleaning business?".

That's the question that brought you here with its prospect and low startup costs. There are very few barriers from entering the cleaning industry. This post will turn your passion for cleaning into an incredible business opportunity.

Starting a Cleaning Business: It's More Than a Mop and Bucket

There's a thrill seeing everything in its place, looking sparkly clean. There's even a best-selling book about tidying up and keeping things spic and span. If you're that type and see money-making potential then work through these stages.

Stage 1: Develop Your Skills

Cleaning is largely a set of "soft" skills -- activities learned by doing. These skills progress as you shift toward professional cleaning activities.

Hone your cleaning skills:

  • Cleaning and organization courses
  • Identifying toxins and chemicals
  • Business management and marketing
  • Safety and regulations

There's a contrast in cleaning for fun and skills at identifying real safety concerns. Could you identify issues like mold toxicity levels? Invest to learn more about topics like this and others because your client's health relies on it.

Stage 2: Create the Business Entity

How do you plan to operate?

  • Independent or franchise
  • Residential or commercial

Landing a gig cleaning friends and family's homes earn a few bucks. Attracting businesses require extra finesse and a legal structure. You are accessing private property -- sometimes needing clearance.

This is the time to also think about the:

  • Business name
  • Management structure
  • Funding

Create a business plan as guidance through the startup process. This plan cements the direction and actions you'll take when forming. A business plan makes your business available to bank-backed loans, too.

You may need a state license to operate a cleaning business, too. Check with your local business bureau for licensing information.

Stage 3: Get Things Ready

You'll need a few basics when starting the business:

  • Uniforms
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Transportation
  • Contact channels

Simple uniforms are available at big-box retailers like Walmart. You could dawn nursing scrubs or simple business attire. Splurging for a logo on uniforms can improve branding and your professional appearance.

Cleaning supplies you should consider include:

  • Cleaners
  • Scrub pads
  • Gloves
  • Cloths
  • Mop and bucket
  • Trash or laundry bags
  • Knee pads

These cleaning supplies are readily available at retailers. Or, you could order them through online services like Uline. You could create DIY cleaners, too!

Transportation includes your car and contact channel is your cell phone. You can choose to update these after the business shows a return.

Stage 4: Attract Clients

Understanding your targeted clients will expedite your efforts to start a cleaning business. You will create a "customer avatar" representing the person you want as a client. This avatar includes their demographics, location, and personality.

Why you create the avatar:

  • Identifies lead sources
  • Helps determine rates
  • Aligns marketing efforts

Try starting small, pitching services to family members and friends. Keep notes how they respond which you'll use when building a marketing plan. This includes answers to questions and concerns, plus what benefits you'll pitch.

You may choose to "niche down", too, offering specific services versus generic cleaning. This lowers the competition by specializing the work. Plus, you could increase rates for the refined work and skillset.

Stage 5: Do the Work

The work you do depends on the businesses you serve.

Work could include:

  • Scrubbing bathrooms
  • Vacuuming rooms
  • Emptying wastebaskets
  • Changing linens
  • Dusting
  • Polishing
  • Wiping windows
  • Reorganizing items

Your work can take you to various households to business locations. You could find your way into nursing homes, amusement parks, or private estates, too!

Do great work and you'll create happy customers willing to bring you back. Plus, refer your services to others creating more income opportunities.

Stage 6: Develop a Referral System

Client retention is one of the hardest aspects of running a business. Your cleaning business relies on repeat clientele. Any gaps in your schedule are lost money.

One way to keep a steady flow of work is by developing a referral system:

  1. Underpromise and overdeliver your work
  2. Ask for referrals within a client's network
  3. Offer an incentive like a free cleaning or discount for referrals
  4. Do your excellent work with the new client
  5. Offer a similar referral incentive to the new client

You could use online referral systems, too.

Online referral systems like mention-me are installed on your website. Once running, you can provide referral resources to participants. Plus, track and reward for referrals within the system.

Stage 7: Expand with Ads and Marketing

How can you attract clients to your new cleaning business?

Word of mouth

Asking prior clients if they'll refer your business to people they know. Or, providing an incentive like a discount for every referral they send. You could gain referrals through cross-promotions with related businesses, too.

Business cards

Print and leave business cards at locations people may inquire about cleaning services. You can design and print biz cards for cheap with or VistaPrint.

Small business website

Launch and promote a local website complete with Google and Yelp listings. Start one using free site builders with Wix or Squarespace. Then, apply SEM strategies to improve your Google rankings.

Service listings

List services on:

  • FB marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • Oodle
  • Angie's List


Take out ads in local publications or distribute brochures to interested parties. Go simple by placing a car wrap with your details, advertising as you drive from client to client.

Stage 8: Scale the Business Operations

What limits your ability to earn? Your time.

You're only one person with X amount of hours each day. A stacked schedule may make it impossible to attract new clients, too. You're locked in your success, unable to scale.

How to scale:

  1. Create a cleaning "template" to your process
  2. Develop a strong business and marketing plan
  3. Hire help and train them with the template and plans
  4. Reinvest into operational resources, keeping the business lean
  5. Expand into teams or consider franchising

It's tough work but the business will grow as clients and employees increase. Before long, you could operate in several towns or cities.

The Grimy Opportunity of learning How to Start a Cleaning Business

Did you imagine how far this opportunity could go when looking up how to start a cleaning business? Cleaning services have few entry barriers while offering high upside and income potential. It's incredible!

Perhaps you're fed up with office work. Or, simply love scrubbing and organizing items. A cleaning business is right for you.

Want to hustle a different way? See our trade business articles for more ideas!