How To Find Office Cleaning Contracts. A Quick Start Guide For Beginners In The Cleaning Business

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by Tom Watson on November 17, 2010

You are thinking about, or just started, your own cleaning business. You are full of ambition, energy and enthusiasm.

But now you need some cleaning accounts under your belt (at least a few to just get your feet wet and get some money coming in).

Well not too long ago I was in your shoes (about ten years ago) wondering the same thing. I was all fired up but lacked any direction on where to focus my efforts. I kept asking myself one question…

How do the pros find cleaning accounts in their area?

I wasted more money than you could imagine during this process of finding out how the other established companies find cleaning contracts. I could have gone on several memorable vacations with all that wasted cash (I could have gone to the moon and back). So basically I had to learn everything the hard way.

Hopefully you are not going to waste as much money as I did looking for cleaning customers after reading this short list of what works, and what doesn’t. Now keep in mind that your mileage may vary on some of the various methods described below. After all, you may excel in some area that I was miserable at, and vice versa.

With all that said, lets dig in and discuss some of the ways you can get some contracts for your cleaning business. In no particular order, here we go.

Networking for cleaning contracts

Networking should be an extremely important part of your overall game-plan for acquiring cleaning contracts for your cleaning business. The one thing you need to keep in mind is that networking usually does not yield results right away. Networking is all about making relationships, and it takes time to build them.

Networking works by exposing you to many other business people in your region. You get to spread the word you are in the cleaning business and are actively looking for customers. Though many members may not need your services, they may know others that do.

This is the true power of networking, once you know a lot of people, they look out for your interests by referring people to you. All you need to do is think of them and refer whoever you can to others in the group. The secret to having success networking is simple, be consistent and show up regularly to as many meetings as possible. Failure to do so sabotages your hard work.

Joining several different networking groups is highly recommended. Look into as many groups as possible, then do your best to determine which ones will give you the biggest bang for the buck. Ideally you want to join groups that have at least 15 to 20 participants at each meeting, preferably much more than that.

This is a great long term strategy for drumming up business. We have posted extensively on networking because it’s just so important. To learn some more about networking click here.

Using direct mail to aquire cleaning contracts

Probably my absolute favorite way of finding cleaning contracts in my area. In fact, I built my business largely on the back of my direct mail efforts. Direct mail does require a very good sales letter (preferably a 2 page letter) and a flyer that highlights some special offer (one that is irresistible to the potential customer).

Now the tough part is actually writing the winning sales letter. This is not for the faint of heart, as it is a rather time consuming process that requires some specialized knowledge concerning what makes people respond to an offer.

But fear not as I have good news for you, my courses have the actual sales letters (and flyers) I built my business on. Simply use my winning sales letters to build your company (for good measure I included several different varieties of sales letters and flyers in my courses).

Utilizing real estate agents to find cleaning contracts

This is a hidden little treasure trove for cleaning businesses. Many times real estate agents need cleaning services performed either before a house is sold or just after closing. Well…I shouldn’t say the agents need the work done, it’s their clients who do. But good agents handle all those details for their clients.

By actively seeking out agents to refer you business, you can create a nice little supplemental income for yourself. Of course the recession has really hurt this segment of the cleaning business (no homes being sold means no homes to clean). But it’s a great time to build relationships for when the need returns. For an idea on how to market to real estate agents click here.

Hiring a salesman to get cleaning contracts

I thought this was the answer to my problem at one point. Simply hire someone to do sales full-time (it sure sounded easy). I did all the math to make sure it was a win win scenario for the both me and my salesman. Of course my best laid plans went down the tube (like the smokeless cigarette from years ago).

I lay the blame solely at my feet. I completely over simplified the process of what was involved to make it work (sales training, literature, oversight, goals). You name it, I did it wrong on this part.

If I had it to over again I might get better results because I have some experience now. But with that said, I may just skip the whole “hire a salesperson” process and concentrate my efforts somewhere else.

Using newspapers to get cleaning contracts (display ad)

This involves creating ads of different sizes that can be placed in various sections of the newspaper. They can be black and white, spot color (one color generally) or full color. They generally combine text and pictures, but can be all text if so desired.

I tried quite hard to make this particular method work for me. At the end of the day, I did not succeed. I created several professional ads though an ad agency that were visually stunning, they had all the elements that needed to be in there (company name, tag-line, logo, brief text ad and phone number).

I ran the ads in several different publications on a regular basis for quite some time. Unfortunately the ads never paid for itself. In fact they never even came close. Looking back, I now realize that I failed to include a special offer. This probably would have increased the response rate substantially.

The ads that I ran was basically an “awareness” ad. It got my name out in the community, lots of people no doubt saw it, but without any offer to entice people to call, it went nowhere. I have not revisited this method in some time. When I do, I will write a post on the topic.

My advice for beginners is to put your money elsewhere when first starting out. If you are well funded, then it may be a good idea to allocate a portion of your marketing budget to print. I would guess that most folks that start a cleaning business start on a shoestring, and because of that I would add newspapers to the mix later on.

Using newspapers to get cleaning contracts (classified section)

The classified section is a favorite of people looking to advertise their cleaning business. The cost is much cheaper than running a display ad because you are basically lumped together with a bunch of other advertisers (display ads can be placed in all sections of the paper).

I have no direct knowledge on how well this works or doesn’t work. It’s funny that I never ran a classified ad (I’ve done just about everything else), but with that said I do think it’s a good idea (for the right price). I would definitely price several newspapers to see what got me in front of the most people for the best price.

Using menu place-mats to find cleaning contracts

These little items sit on the table at many establishments waiting to get ruined by starving patrons. But before they make their way to the trash can, many get looked over by customers before getting served. I did try to get cleaning contracts with this method for a while and had some success, just not enough to continue with the campaign.

I do think that this can be a good idea for the right price. I would negotiate very hard to see just how low I could get my ad in the place-mat for (this may require several phone calls over a period of time). This medium would work best for a house cleaning service that included a special offer of some kind ($20.00 off first visit).

Using property management companies to aquire cleaning contracts

These folks manage properties for others and are a good source of business. My success with this group has come through direct mail (the 2 page sales letter with attached flyer I spoke of earlier). This is how the process worked for me.

  1. I basically create a list of all property management companies in my area.
  2. Decide which direct mail piece I will use.
  3. Get my sales letter and flyers printed at my local printer.
  4. Address my envelopes, stuff and mail them.
  5. When they contact me after receiving the direct mail piece, we set up an appointment to review their needs, and we just go from there.

Many times a management company will be reluctant to give you more than one property at first. But once you prove yourself, you’ll get the chance to bid other properties as they become available.

Using apartment complexes to get cleaning contracts 

Cleaning apartment complexes is generally a two part process. Part one involves the common areas of the complex, this would included the hallways, foyers and stairs (or elevators). This is a rather straightforward process that is easily mastered.

Part two of the equation is the apartment turnovers. This involves cleaning the units that the tenants have moved out of. You need to clean them so the next renter can move in. Their are many problems with part two. I’ll name a few:

  1. The apartments can be incredibly dirty.
  2. You will get very little notice that a unit needs to be completed.
  3. The maintenance men are probably making a mess doing their job at the same time you are doing yours. This means they may have placed the toilet in the tub (that you have to clean) while they are laying a new floor (that you need to clean) in the bathroom (that you need to clean).
  4. Problem number 3 means you may have to return after the maintenance men are done. This of course wastes time (driving time and setup time).
  5. Apartment turnovers usually do not pay well.

I currently do not clean apartment complexes any more. I got out of that part of the business several years ago to focus my efforts elsewhere. With that said, you can make a small fortune cleaning apartment complexes. At one time I was cleaning over 100 buildings per week just during day shift (keep in mind that my sanity was greatly compromised during this time).

Using the phonebook to acquire cleaning contracts

Advertising in phonebooks is nearing an end. Yes, some do still turn to the pages so to speak when looking for a vendor. But on the whole, the Internet has changed the landscape. I spent my fair share in this medium with not much to show for it. At most I would bold my listing to make it stand out. Going any further than that and you risk throwing your money down the drain.

Using a website to find cleaning contracts

Having a website for your business is highly recommended. It allows you to tell the “whole story” about your business (brochures, business cards and sales letters just don’t provide enough room for this).

Spending a lot of money on this is not needed. I spent several thousand bucks for my first one (way more than I should have). I would try to limit the cost as much as possible (keep it less than $500 if possible). Odds are you will build another one when you have a better idea of where your company is headed.

Making use of referrals to get cleaning contracts

Referrals can be a engine that drives your entire company. Of course you need a customer to refer you first. This is why you must provide “knock the socks off” service for each of your clients (especially the first 10 to 15 customers you acquire). Every chance you get, go way beyond what is expected. If you do that, the referrals will come, the phone will ring and the money will come your way. For more on referrals click here.

Using telemarketing to get more cleaning contracts

Making cold calls for your cleaning business can be profitable for the right person. With that said you need to have a calming demeanor and a stomach for rejection. You also need a plan for making all those calls, but you are in luck because this is a topic we discussed before. You can learn more about making cold calls for your cleaning business by clicking here.

Utilizing Craigslist advertising to get cleaning contracts 

A free classified section catered to a regional audience makes Craigslist a no brain-er. With over 500 cities worldwide to choose from, you should not have a problem finding a metropolis near you. You have nothing to lose in this advertising medium except maybe the few minutes to post an ad. To learn how to do that click here.

Using church bulletins to get cleaning contracts

I did my fair share in this advertising medium. It basically revolves around running an ad in various church bulletins / newsletters. The cost was rather reasonable in my area so I experimented for some time with this technique. The ads did bring in money, just not enough to justify continuing with the campaign at the time.

Church bulletins are a reasonable option to consider if you can negotiate a good price. At the end of the day it is up to you to decide if enough people see your ad to justify the cost. Some churches have very large congregations and tend to support the advertisers who run ads in the church program.

Using Valpak to get cleaning contracts

One of my very first adverting efforts (for our carpet cleaning service) was a Valpak campaign. In case you haven’t heard, Valpak sends out a pack of “advertisements” to households that meet certain income criteria. If you have a housecleaning service this option may be of use to you. I don’t see commercial cleaning working on this medium.

I did not have much success with this form of advertising (I hear the same from many of my colleagues). One tip I can pass on to you (if you use this service) is to have the ad you want to use designed by either yourself (if you have the skill) or a professional. The in house Valpak designers that worked on my ad did me an injustice. I did not know this at the time unfortunately and my results suffered as a result.

Well there you have it, a bunch of ideas on how to get cleaning contracts for your cleaning business. Like I said earlier, your mileage may vary from mine. For me, the print medium (newspapers, church bulletins and phonebooks) yielded very little considering how much money I put out, yet some people do excel in print.

The vast majority of my success came from my direct mail letters, networking, delivering “knock their socks off” service and providing good customer service after the sale (for more on that click here).

In the odd occasion I had an unhappy customer, I went to great lengths to make them a happy camper again (for more on that click here).

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to our RSS feed and get loads more by clicking here.

If you would like to eliminate the trial and error and learn from me, then check out my courses.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 youssef August 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Can you help me get some contract

2 Tom Watson August 31, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hi Youssef! We TEACH you how to do it. So… YES we can!

3 Tom Watson August 31, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Hi Youssef! Signing up for the mailing list is the first step. Go here…

4 Tom Watson August 31, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Hi J! How many jobs have you bid? When you don’t get them, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to ask WHY. They many not tell you all the time, but some do. Anyway… how many rejections?

5 Tom Watson August 31, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Hi J! How many jobs have you bid? When you don’t get them, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to ask WHY. They many not tell you all the time, but some do. Anyway… how many rejections?

6 evanscatel September 10, 2014 at 5:40 am

hi my name is evan i got my own cleaning company and am also looking for more accounts

7 Tom Watson September 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Hi Evan! You are in the right spot to learn about how to get them!

8 Jerod September 23, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Hi my name is Jerod and I own a cleaning company. I would like more insight and direction on bidding for contracts. What to do and what not to do

9 Tom Watson September 24, 2014 at 10:43 am

Hi Jerod! All that is in my email newsletter (FREE 9 part series). Check it out here…

10 ricardo hernandez September 28, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I’m looking to learn a bit more on the best way to get contracts

11 Tom Watson September 28, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Hi Ricardo! Did you sign up for the mailing list? That’s the starting point.

12 Recardo Mayes October 22, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I would like to learn more requiring cleaning contracts

13 Brandy October 22, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Hello I’m trying to get started with my cleaning business, and was wondering if you could direct me in the right direction and tell me how to go about getting contracts with companies .

14 Tom Watson October 23, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hi Brandy! Did you sign up for the mailing list. That is a good start. It’s on the homepage.

15 Tom Watson October 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm
16 Ismail Yusuf October 28, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Hi I am looking for a new contract I just open a new clean company trying to get a new contract.

17 Tom Watson November 2, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Hi Ismail! Sign up for the mailing list, that will get you started.

18 Top's Cleaning Solutions November 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Hello Tom!
I’m now working really hard to start my cleaning business and looking forwards for some directions on how to go this getting to get contracts. Please, I need some hints on getting started!
Khor Top

19 Tom Watson November 26, 2014 at 11:49 am

Hi! Direct mail worked for getting contracts the best (and fastest), but you need to use a range to techniques for best results. Search my site for direct mail posts, they are gold.

20 ms November 26, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Looking to start my cleaning company I need some help

21 Tom Watson November 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Hi MS! Are you on the mailing list? If not sign up. Also… just call me. If I’m in the office I’ll pick up and we can chat.

22 Kelly rucker December 22, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I really like you’re insight

23 Tom Watson December 29, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Thanks Kelly!

24 Zakiyyah Bryant December 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm

please help me get some clients to get started in my Business, I have tried almost everything, now I am stuck and don’t no which way to go or what to do now.

25 Tom Watson December 30, 2014 at 10:24 am

Hi Zakiyyah! Give me a call at the number on my contact page.

26 Tom Collins January 11, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Hi Tom,
I have an cleaning account that my cleaner quit. The account is way out of the way and won’t be profitable anymore. I’m thinking of selling it. I need a contract or some kind of an ageement. What are your thoughts?

Tom Collins

27 Tom Watson January 11, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Hi Tom! Probably a good idea, why just walk away from it when you can sell it. I have no contract for that, just make one up from scratch. Call all the local cleaning companies near that job to see if they wanted to buy the contract. That’s what I would do.

28 Azim January 14, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Hi Tom Collins,

Where is your cleaning account? I am curious about it, and let’s get in to the business, if you still haven’t sold it yet.

29 Azim January 14, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Hi Tom Watson,

Can you please help me on giving and estimate price for cleaning fitness gyms? I have a chance to get one, and they are requiring a proposal. How much shall I tell them per square feet in NY?


30 Adam January 15, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Thank you for sharing! This has actually really opened my eyes to a few new advertising possibilities. I did have one question… I live in a city flush with tall apartment complexes. I would love to get my hands on cleaning some of these, but you didn’t go into much detail on how you make the connections to do this? Any advice?


31 Tom Watson January 15, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Hi Adam! All I ever did was mail out a direct mail letter to each complex. I used a sales letter (the one I give out in my courses is the SAME one I used to get every single complex I ever got) plus my business card. Sometimes I had some special offer included as well, it just depended. The sales letter really did all the heavy lifting. I addressed the letter to the “Office Manager”. It may sound crazy, but it was real simple.

32 tamyra January 16, 2015 at 10:48 am name is tamyra i started my own cleaning business and im stuck at 2 clients i need to kno how to get more clients for homes and i have none for any offices but would like to work in them can you show me how i can get my clientale up?.. thanx and god bless

33 Tom Watson January 19, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Hi Tamyra! Sorry for the delay… went on mini vacation. Anyway… Hand flyers out to the five houses on each side of the ones you already do (that’s called “five around marketing”). From there, go to two / three of the best neighborhoods and either hand out flyers (or better yet, mail them). Offer a nice discount off their first cleaning (like 25%). Make sure your flyers look good (like first class good), as that is what you will be judged by. Include a business card with the flyer (staple it or use paper clip).

34 Tom Watson January 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Hi Azim! I have no idea of what the price is to charge because I would have to go look at it. The price to charge is determined by CONDITION and HOW OFTEN it will be cleaned. So if it was in great shape and was cleaned regularly, then it would be cheaper. if it was in poor shape and only cleaned once per week, the price would be much higher. I would suggest you look at one of my courses, as they explain the bidding process in detail.

35 Lisa Edmond July 9, 2015 at 7:41 pm

Thank you, for all the wonderful details, and advice. My husband, and I are starting a cleaning service now. We are tired of working for other people and are looking forward to getting our hands dirty. This will be his first time but my second go at running a cleaning service.

36 HP November 1, 2015 at 3:53 pm

AWESOME….Thanks for reposting for us NEWBIES!!!

37 Tom Watson November 2, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Hi HP! Happy to do so.

38 Tina May 31, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Thank you all for the info. Good luck to everyone.

39 Seneque January 30, 2018 at 1:10 am

Thank You!!! You information is very informative!!! God Bless!!!

40 val February 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Hello I just started a janitorial service in Houston what is a good way to get accounts and where do I start.

Thank You

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