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.

{ 196 comments… read them below or add one }

151 shelicia January 28, 2014 at 9:39 am

Hi I have a small cleaning business looking for leads in contracts for buildings

152 Tom Watson January 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Hi Shelicia! You are in the right spot to learn about getting those contracts. I would suggest you take a peek at my start-up guides courses, they will help you BIGTIME.

153 Daneld Fixall January 29, 2014 at 9:17 am

Wow!! Am really impressed, for the first time after my long search on the web i finally got a detailed and nice article that addressed my questions on getting a cleaning contract.
Please keep up the good job you are doing.

154 Tom Watson January 29, 2014 at 9:24 am

You are very welcome Daneld!

155 Squeeky Clean February 4, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I just lost a contract I had for the past 2 years, to a higher bid from another cleaning company… I have a small cleaning business, and am now in search of leads in the New York, and Long Island area..

Sal D.
Squeeky Clean Cleaners Co..

156 Tom Watson February 6, 2014 at 11:28 am

Hi Sal! We have all been there, so I feel your pain. I would just run with a sales letter, flyer and magnetic business card and hit all office parks (either mail them which is preferred or go door to door and hand them out). Nothing fancy, just getting the word out.

157 Edwin February 8, 2014 at 5:58 pm

still building my website at the moment I have a franchise accounts through a bogus company trying to figure out how to get my feet wet by the summer can I get some advice from anyone on how I should approach office accounts.

158 Tom Watson February 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Hi Edwin! Old school methods work best in my opinion (plus they are cheaper). Go with the sales letter and mail to a bunch of companies or do some flyers. Just make sure both look professional, as that is key to getting cleaning accounts.

159 Carolina Bilbaeno February 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm

He!! Tom after two years I started my cleaning. I took your Cleaning 4 profit course. Can you recommend me a good Insurance company that is not so expensive and what is the right coverage for now. I appreciate a lot if you can email me back.

San Francisco Ca

160 Tom Watson February 18, 2014 at 9:00 am

Hi Carloina! The best way to get insurance is by just checking out some local companies near you. This way you get to meet them in person and ask questions. Just type in “commercial liability insurance” PLUS your zip code into Google and you should get a few to go look at.

161 Reginald chandra February 20, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Hi im looking for office cleaning account i have a family cleaning business honest relable low cost

162 Tom Watson February 20, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Hi Reginald! Sign up to my mailing list to learn more (on the homepage).

163 Jackie Livingston February 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm

My name is Jackie and I’m starting with my cleaning business Commercial and Residential. I really need help with how to advertise my business? I tried a lot of daycare centers but, they say they only use in house the daycare workers only. I’m really trying too find out how do I get contracted in with the banks, and doctors offices, law offices etc..

164 Tom Watson March 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Hi Jackie! Forget about the banks for now, they go with more experienced companies (you can aim for them in a year or two). Law offices are also tough (they don’t get all that dirty), so they can be hard to land. And even if you do it’s not a great account moneywise in my opinion.

Go for the doctor offices, as those cleaning contracts can be great money. Use one of the sales letters on my site and modify it to suit your needs. Mail to them with your business card and a SPECIAL OFFER of some kind. That is the best angle to aim for.

165 Malik Ibrahim March 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

I have my own cleaning business and I need help to get cleaning contract. Can you help me?

166 Tom Watson March 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Hi Malik! That’s what we do! Sign up to my mailing list to get started…

167 salah March 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm


168 Tom Watson March 13, 2014 at 11:30 am

Hi Salah! YES…Our courses teach you everything about getting cleaning contracts, so that would be my recommendation. Check them out here…

169 Mike March 13, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Hi I have some questions is their away to get your number to discuss further ? Thanks Mike

170 Tom Watson March 13, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Hi Mike! SURE. My contact info is here…

171 Samuel Dupree April 7, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Hoe do u buy in a contract that someone has already

172 Tom Watson April 8, 2014 at 7:58 am

Hi Samuel! Buying contracts is a VERY BAD idea. The only way it’s workable is if you buy another company that is going out of business. To do that just look online or in your local paper.

173 john hinton April 15, 2014 at 12:29 pm

need help finding contracts for cleaning

174 Tom Watson April 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Hi John! Sign up to my mailing list to get started.

175 Lemy April 28, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Hi i have my own cleaning business and i need help to get cleaning contract in edmonton.Please help me.thanks

176 Tom Watson April 29, 2014 at 7:28 am

Hi Lemy! Did you sign up for my mailing list? That’s where you start.

177 TerryT Executive pro May 2, 2014 at 12:31 am

Tom,I have been in business since 2012 in Daytona Beach and is not growing,I spend a some money in the past advertising but its not working ,Can you give me some help >

178 Tom Watson May 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Hi Terry… I’ll touch base via email, and I’ll see how I can point you in the right direction.

179 swati May 7, 2014 at 3:55 am

hiiiiiiiiiiiii Tom… registration compulsory for starting a new bussiness?

180 Tom Watson May 7, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Hi Swati! Yes… you need to register to be legal.

181 Reginald June 1, 2014 at 1:29 am

Hi! I would like to know if you can recommend a software for cleaning and I was having a hard time looking for the search bar. I really find your site helpful. Thank you for sharing.

182 Tom Watson June 2, 2014 at 11:10 am

Hi Reginald! I have no recommendations for bidding type software if that is what you are referring to (sorry). Happy you enjoy the site! Touch base if you need me.

183 emily givens June 6, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Hi! I just want to say thank you, I am starting a office cleaning services in charlotte N.C I knew that it is a easy job but, when I went on I realize that it’s not easy. thank you for the ideals!

184 Tom Watson June 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Hi Emily! You’ll be fine. Good luck!

185 Daljeet Singh June 13, 2014 at 6:23 am

I want to take cleaning contract, can you tell me please how I have to take.

186 Tom Watson June 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Hi Daljeet! Sign up for my mailing list, that will get you started!

187 Wendy June 18, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Your sales letter and flyer idea have the company line ringing on a daily basis!! Now I am having to hire many employees just to keep up! Would you have a recommendation on how many employees is doable for a 400 unit apartment complex? Thanks oh so much!!

188 chandra June 19, 2014 at 5:24 am

i newly started a cleaning company in Dubai, and i”m looking for cleaning contract in school and offices, pls help me.

189 Tom Watson June 21, 2014 at 11:36 am

Hi Wendy! I just LOVE hearing that, so thanks for sharing. To your question… that is hard to say, as it depends on what they want. They are all so different. Some places want the works done, which means more staff, while others just want the basic (so you may be able to get away with just one or two).

190 Tom Watson June 21, 2014 at 11:38 am

Hi Chandra! Did you sign up for my mailing list yet? You start there!

191 Ferenicia Smalls Macon June 29, 2014 at 12:07 pm

I have a cleaning company business at this present time I have one building and I am looking for at least two more buildings in the Pittsbugh area

192 Tom Watson June 29, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Hi Ferenicia! That’s great… you got your first one out of the way. Use some of the tips found here to get more contracts.

193 Jarrod July 21, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Hi I started my business September 2013. At firstbibwas really profitable. But now I’m barely breaking even. Please help.

194 Tom Watson July 22, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Hi Jarrod! Give me a call, as I need more info.

195 kirk hodges August 4, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Can you help me get some contract

196 Tom Watson August 6, 2014 at 11:06 am

Hi Kirk! What are you currently doing to drum up business?

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