How Much Money Can You Make?

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by Tom Watson on March 9, 2011

I get asked how much money can you earn in the cleaning business nearly everyday.

I’m not really surprised by that, after all money makes the world go round as they say.

The answer to this question lies in many factors, and I will be unable to touch upon all of them in this post, but I’ll do my best.

This is how the process will work. I’ll provide a few brief case studies here to clue you in on what you could expect to earn from some accounts once you learn the ropes.  

Each example listed is from an account that we have currently or have had in our career. To figure out what you would earn you’ll just need to figure out how many cleaning accounts you wish to accumulate. So far this is simple huh?

Before I begin, keep in mind that this is only an overview on the topic. I will not be providing any square footage numbers, contract specs, wage details or other information. That would just complicate things, and I like to keep things simple.

In each case study I’m going to include the account frequency, time it takes to clean each visit and the monthly income. You can draw your own conclusions from there.

In addition to what I just mentioned, keep the following in mind as well…

  1. We’ve been in business for a while and know what to look for.
  2. We have a well thought out and efficient cleaning system.
  3. The cleaning times discussed are AFTER spending a few weeks on the job.
  4. We hustle. Enough said.
  5. You may do better than these numbers.
  6. You may do worse than these numbers.
  7. I have accounts with better margins.
  8. I have accounts with worse margins.

Now that we got that out of the way…lets begin!

Case study 
1 X per week cleaning. 1 hour to clean per visit. We charge $410.00 per month.

Case study
5 X per week cleaning. 3 hours to clean per visit. We charge $1,500.00 per month.

Case study
4 X per week cleaning. 2 hours to clean per visit. We charge $1,400.00 per month.

Case study
5 X per week cleaning. 1.5 hours to clean per visit. We charge $550.00 per month.

Case study
1 X per week cleaning. 2.5 hours to clean per visit. We charge $530.00 per month.

Case study
5 X per week cleaning. 3.25 hours to clean per visit. We charge $1,800.00 per month.

Case study
1 X per week cleaning. 1.25 hours per to clean per visit. We charge $275.00 per month.

The one constant thread that runs through the majority of these case studies is this. We clean the accounts much faster than we originally planned for. This is because of a combination of several factors.

The first one is we work hard to come up with an attack plan that gets us done. Then you need to factor in that some customers are neater than expected, thus reducing our work load.

Next up is the fact that some offices are very dusty, while others never seem to get all that bad. This “dust factor” directly affects the time spent on a given job. Lastly, sometimes I just over estimate how long it will take to clean the facility. The bidding process is not an exact science, so you generally will not be “spot on” all the time.

I think you now have an idea of what you can expect to earn once you get started yourself. By knowing this, it opens your eyes a bit to see what’s possible in this business. It also gives you something to shoot for.

To zero in a little better on what you would like to make in the cleaning business you just need to determine how many accounts you would like to have. To be even more accurate you also need to decide if you will be performing the cleaning, or will your staff handle that. 

For some perspective, I peaked at 72 cleaning accounts. Many of these accounts had multiple locations that needed to be cleaned. This kept me quite busy of course. But the great thing about this business is you don’t need all that many accounts to live a nice lifestyle.

While I went all the way to 72 customers, you can have a real nice lifestyle with only 15 to 20 accounts if you choose your customers carefully. Once you get started, you’ll become an expert in no time flat.

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If you need detailed instructions on how to start your own cleaning business, then check out my value packed course by clicking here.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peter Paul April 18, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I would like to know how do I get started with my own cleaning contract

2 Tom Watson April 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm

In a nutshell you need to register your business, open a business bank account then get customers. It is those first few customers that foot the bill for your expansion. It’s that easy. The process is laid out completely in my course “Commercial Cleaning For Beginners”. It walks you through everything from start to finish.

3 Joni Joyner April 20, 2011 at 2:57 am

Please send info on starting cleaning biz.

4 Tom Watson April 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Hi Joni,

Thanks for stopping in!

I have no info to send out concerning how to get started, the website itself is all the info you really need. If your seek detailed step by step instructions you should take a look at my course “Commercial Cleaning For Beginners” (http://wp.me/PO3Aj-43).

The course walks you through the entire process start to finish. It discusses how much you will earn, how to bid, how to keep customers happy and all the other details that go with running a cleaning business.

If you have any questions about the course just touch base.

5 maria May 3, 2011 at 5:55 pm

hello, can you tell me if this course is strictly for commercial cleaning? also, does the purchase of your course also entitle me to some email correspondence along the way…thank you

6 Tom Watson May 3, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Hi Maria,

Yes… the course is geared primarily to commercial cleaning. It goes into great detail concerning how to master the commercial marketplace. With that said, the “principles” I teach work on both residential and commercial cleaning. In fact the principles will work in any service business whatsoever, as they are universal so to speak.

As to help after the purchase, I am ALWAYS available to help you out. All you need to do is email me whenever you run into trouble and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. Many people even call me for help after the buying the course. Like I tell everyone….if I’m in the office when you call, I’ll pick up the phone and talk. If I’m not there just leave a message and I’ll call you back.

7 Diane July 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Do you have a form on your site to give to prospective customers in which I can provide them with a quote. We received our first call. It is for a condo complex, all the common areas. Should be about 10 hours a week. We need a proposal or quote form.

8 Tom Watson July 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Hi Diane! No we don’t… that information is in our courses (along with the contracts, cover letters etc…). Details here… http://wp.me/PO3Aj-43

9 Tony September 3, 2013 at 12:07 am

Hi Tom! I am VERY interested in starting my own contract cleaning business within the next few weeks. I have a monthly marketing budget in the range of $600-$800 to get started. Does your course cover marketing in depth (who to market, what types of marketing works best, how to secure contracts quickly, etc.)? Besides your course, what would you recommend as a trusted source of information (or associations) for a new entrepreneur in the commercial cleaning industry?

10 Tom Watson September 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Hi Tony! The marketing part is well covered. I talk about what worked for me and what didn’t. I also discuss who to market to in general as well as who is the BEST customer to go after (lots of regular PLUS bonus money with this group). To your second question… subscribe to Cleanfax Online (I get the magazine sent to me, so sign up for that). Lots of good info there! Check them out here… http://www.cleanfax.com/

11 Tracy October 30, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I have 25 clients now but want to boost it up a notch. Any suggestions

12 Tom Watson October 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Hi Tracy! Are you commercial or residential?

13 Tracy October 31, 2013 at 8:01 am

I do both! Any advice is great!

14 Tom Watson October 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm
15 gerald January 14, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Thanks tom for the great advice

16 Tom Watson January 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Hi Gerald! Happy to help!

17 Tom Watson January 15, 2014 at 7:41 pm

No problem!

18 Quentin Edwards March 25, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Hey Tom! My name is quentin edwards/Facilities Maintenance Tech. I was curious to know some info about the cleaning business. i work for a company that hires a cleaning business to maintain our facilities. Mostly all coporate business have a budget to maintain. so my question is, how can i get my company to hire me to do the cleaning responsibilites for the facilities?

19 Tom Watson March 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Hi Quentin! I would be asking the “higher ups” about that. Be honest and say you were thinking about branching out on your own down the road. I would think that it would be a tough road for you to get hired. They probably want experience (in running a company).

Generally you start out on smaller type properties THEN move up to larger corporate offices. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it would be easier to start small then grow from there. With all that said, just ask the big bosses as they hold the answers.

20 marvin clay May 26, 2014 at 11:03 am

Should you start out on your own in commercial cleaning or go with a Franchise?

21 Tom Watson May 26, 2014 at 11:43 am

Hi Marvin! I’m not a fan of them on the whole. I did a podcast on the topic. It’s number 038, tune in here… http://www.cleaning-4-profit.com/podcasts-2/

22 Sherah Bennett January 24, 2015 at 5:47 pm

I know of someone starting a cleaning business and is trying to create a business plan. How do we obtain financial information on other cleaning businesses to include in our plan? We are from Ohio…thanks!

23 Tom Watson January 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Hi Sherah! Sorry for the delay, been on the road traveling with limited email. Anyway… I don’t know the answer to that one. I was never aware that creating a business plan requires you get financial data from competitors. That doesn’t seem like it’s achievable.

I would suggest that you take some rules of thumb for income and apply some projections based on HOW MANY accounts you think you could land in a given year. A house cleaning account may yield 100 per visit, with an average of each account being cleaned 2.5 times for month (to account for all the different varieties of accounts like weekly, bi-weekly and monthly). How many can you get per month, each and every month? That is the question to reach financial projections.

For commercial accounts this can vary greatly due to the various sizes of accounts. For small accounts (which is probably your market in the beginning) expect to bring in maybe 450 per month for each one you land. These numbers should help you reach some sense of a number that is worthy of being placed in a business plan projection.

24 Michael March 23, 2015 at 11:04 am

Tom,

I’m sure you have been asked this question before but I am considering going the franchise route (Cover All). Is it better on your own or through a franchise and why? I am a Former Marine, I worked for a janitorial service about 20 years ago before I went to the military and was handling about 10 accounts on my own. I have a degree in business and I am currently an Accountant. I am also looking to help new start-ups with their accounting needs as a niche market since I have some knowledge and experience in the janitorial field. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

25 Tom Watson March 24, 2015 at 9:16 am

Hi Michael! That is very hard to answer in a paragraph. The pros to a franchise are they lay out the framework of how to operate (the operations manual). Depending on the company you choose to open, odds are it has lots of valuable info on hiring, policies, marketing and other intangibles (I’m sure some franchises do a better job than others).

The cons are they cost a few grand (at least), they limit your territory (NOT good) and worst of all, they take a percentage of your profits (VERY BAD). The margins can be thin in some cases, and yet you MUST give that percentage in FOREVER. I don’t think the business is so hard that you need to give away the farm in order to learn it.

I’m more of a “do it yourself type”, so I built my company on my own. I think all the stuff the franchises gives you can be found much cheaper if you just look elsewhere and piece it together. I learned some tough lessons doing it my way, but many of the lessons would have happened either way in my opinion.

If you need more info, podcast 038 touches on this topic. You can always call me (my number is on the contact page) if you like as well if you have specific questions. I may not know every last thing, but I can share what I do know on the topic.

26 Alicia May 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Hi Tom!

Is there a certain percentage you add to each cleaning if the cleanings are less frequent? In other words, if a customer would like cleanings once a week instead of 5 days a week, how much would add to the labor rate since it will require more time to clean? Thanks for any info you can provide!

27 Tom Watson June 7, 2015 at 10:26 am

Hi Alicia! Sorry for the delay… in the process of moving. To your question, YES I do. I look at pricing my services through this philosophy… Retail Versus Wholesale.

So if someone wants me DAILY, then they get a wholesale type price (maybe 21 per hour), if someone wants me 3 times per week it may be 25 per hour and if someone wants me once per week then it’s 28 per hour. If they only need me every other week then it’s 35 to 40 per hour. That is a simple way to look at it. There is a little more nuance to it, but that is the general way I view it.

28 Alicia June 7, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Thanks, Tom! That’s a great way to put it (retail vs wholesale). I’m still trying to master the costs here in DC, but I must be doing pretty well since I just started back in February and landed a 2300 sq ft dental office in April and now a smaller doctor’s office!!! I purchased your book for beginners a while back so thanks again! Different topic, but direct mail does work:)

29 Troy October 13, 2015 at 2:15 am

Hello, Thanks for all the info.

Your case studies are confusing.

For # 1 and last one. Case study 1 X per week cleaning. 1 hour
$ 410.00 per month and the last = $ 275.00

Your man hrs are all over the 🙂

30 Tom Watson October 13, 2015 at 8:27 am

Hi Troy! GREAT QUESTION. That is just how it works at times. I explained that both before and after the numbers you are quoting. Some jobs LOOK HARDER (when you price them) but once you actually CLEAN THEM you go MUCH FASTER than anticipated.

Why? Lots of reasons, but consider this simple explanation. Sometimes the employees who work at the job you are hired to clean at one job are NEATER than you expect (or sloppier, which makes it take longer). That happens all the time (like I mentioned in the post). There is NO WAY to be ABSOLUTLY PRECISE when bidding. Not EVERY JOB will work out to what your best case scenario “per hour rate” is.

Also… not every job will work out to THE EXACT SAME PRICE due to other reasons. For instance… what if one job you go bid tells you they pay $500 per month. And that is HIGHER than what you would bid (maybe in your head it’s only a $300 job)… Do you STILL BID your lower bid? Or do you up the price because that is what they are expecting?

HINT: I would charge the higher number (that skews the “per hour numbers” to the high side, but SO WHAT… the goal is MAKING MONEY, not being wholly consistent is some imaginary pricing game). Once you collect a bunch of accounts you’ll see that your own jobs are “all over the place” as well.

Also… some jobs may be priced lower because you already clean a “sister property” and you gave them a price break. Or you gave a price break because you clean a property right around the corner (which makes it real EASY to staff because you are already in the same part of town).

31 Binda Kebohula November 28, 2015 at 10:10 am

Hi Tom,

Your system is quite appropriate but big fear is how to penetrate the market since I a m a starter.

32 Tom Watson December 1, 2015 at 9:57 am

Hi Binda! Stop worrying about being a beginner. You are only trying to get hired to take out trash, mop floors, vacuum carpet and clean toilets. You can do that!!!

33 sherry January 2, 2016 at 6:29 am

Hi Tom. Ive had my residential cleaning company for 15 years now. Ive been thinking of mixing in some commercial cleaning but not to sure on how to price commercial.

34 Tom Watson January 7, 2016 at 10:37 am

Hi Sherry! Sorry for the delay. Been on the road. The short cut method is to charge the customer TWICE what you pay an employee. So if you pay ten per hour, you charge the customer 20 per hour (MINIMUM) to do the work. You can go up to 3 TIMES what you pay the employee (it depends on the circumstances). The KEY is to ACCURATLY estimate how long the job will take. That is the FOUNDATION of the pricing.

35 Noe March 9, 2016 at 10:01 pm

The time it take to clean depends on how many people are working on the cleaning account and I can’t draw a conclusion on how much I would be make without knowing the number of people doing the job per visit. For example 1 x per week. 1.25 hours to clean. We charge $275.00 per month. How many people are you referring to as “we” I can’t do the math without know the number of people working the the cleaning account. Thanks

36 Tom Watson March 10, 2016 at 11:45 am

All my examples were based on one person.

37 sabrina May 28, 2016 at 12:24 pm

That was actually comforting to read. I’m just starting my business and within two weeks I have two contracts, and 5 locations that’s needing cleaned immediately. I started getting overwhelmed because I’m seeing how easy it is for me to obtain the type of clients I need for my business and is soon going to have to make a choice to stay or leave my current job.

38 Tom Watson May 29, 2016 at 10:07 am

You are doing something right! Keep it up Sabrina!

39 Binda Kebohula May 29, 2016 at 11:32 am

Hi Tom, and I would like to congratulate people like Sabrina who reports that within two weeks there are two contracts and five locations for cleaning. I am in my fourth month but struggling having only one small cleaning account.

The other thing I am always thinking about is scheduling the cleaning jobs in case I get more customers.This is not covered in your book which I purchased earlier this year. Do I have to purchase a vacuum cleaner for example for each customer if they want cleaning done on Mondays at 8 am? Please advise me about scheduling.

40 Tom Watson May 31, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Hi Bindu!

Don’t get frustrated, everyone moves at a different speed. You will be fine in the long run. Scheduling is up to you really. You need to fit the jobs in where you have time to clean them. YOU set the schedule, not the customer.

If you are tight on cash, buy one vacuum and carry it around. Generally if a job is once per week or twice per week, I bring the vacuum to the job site. If it gets cleaned more often, they get a dedicated vacuum that stays there.

41 David June 10, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Hi Tom,

You mention that 15 – 20 accounts (the right accounts) can provide a nice lifestyle. What kind of monthly profit would that be..say on average?

42 Tom Watson June 10, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Hi David! That really depends as to how the accounts work out. Some will give you let’s say 200 per month and others maybe 600 on average in profit. A few will be a lot more perhaps (it just depends on the luck of the draw). Some may even be less… it just depends.

If I was taking a guess (there is NO WAY to know for sure), on twenty accounts, maybe you get three that give you 600 per month, three that give you 200 per month and the rest average in the middle at 300 each, it works out to… $6,600 just for making sure everything goes right. If you did a few of the jobs yourself that would INCREASE that number becasue there would be no payroll for any job you do.

Just remember, it could be more or less, it just depends on who you market to and whether or not you can close the deal. I would market to doctor offices (the sales letters I used for this segment are in my courses) that need 5 to 7 day per week service (or others that need daily service that is more “high end” and NOT low paying jobs where profit margins are tighter (or don’t exist).

43 Max June 15, 2016 at 11:36 am

Hello Tom!
I’m here in Texa, and for some reason I’ve been finding more luck with bigger buildings(30,000+) than the smaller ones(mostly have their personal cleaning lady cleaning for them).
Our issue here is that we are finding a little trouble on how to appropriately bid on the big buildings. When we do the math we usually get a net profit of $2000 with employees. Is that a good number for a bigger building or is it higher?? We are barely starting so we are not to sure about it.
Thank you!

44 Tom Watson June 15, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Hi Max! If you are pocketing 2K per building, then you are on the right track (you certainty aren’t making many mistakes).

My question to you is what percentage is the profit in relation to the overall bid. Is your profit margin 10%, 15% etc…?

The answer will tell what (if any) money is being left on the table.

45 Max June 16, 2016 at 12:03 am

We are looking at a profit roughly between 30-35%

What I’m most concerned about is my calculation of labor hours. When bidding smaller places; determining the labor hours is pretty straightforward and easy. But using the same method I use with the smaller facilities, on the 50,000+ building seems to me impractical and overly complicated.

Seeing a $ 2000 profit is great, but I’m afraid I may have miscalculated the labor hours. And in turn may end up loosing money.

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