What does it cost to start a cleaning service?

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by Tom Watson on August 9, 2011

Many people have been writing in and asking us “what’s the cost to get started in your own cleaning service”.

While there is no real “exact” cost as everyone will do things differently, I can give some ballpark estimates that should clue you in.

But before I get to pricing, I want to make mention that most people make two major miscalculations when considering starting their own business.

  1. They mistakenly believe that a ton of money is required.
  2. They are under the impression that they need all the money at once.

Now let me address those two issues…First, I think you’ll be amazed at just how little is needed to get the ball rolling. This doesn’t mean having more money available is a bad thing, as the more you have the faster the process will go to a degree.

With that said, I firmly believe slower is better in the beginning, as you need time to learn the ropes. Far too many time people jump in wallet first, and waste a ton of money in the process.

Secondly, contrary to popular opinion I might add, you don’t need all the money at once to get started. The goal is simply to spend just enough to get the ball rolling, then concentrate on getting customers to finance the rest of the process.

Most people do the exact opposite unfortunately, spending every last dollar they have in the hope that they will get some customers. Sadly this approach doesn’t work that well. This results in loss of valuable capital not to mention a draining of ones enthusiasm.

Now lets move on and discuss the basic costs associated with starting a cleaning service. Keep in mind that I’m not going to be breaking things down in spreadsheet form here. This post is just going to touch the big issues that most people worry about. Here we go…

Required costs associated with starting a cleaning service.

1 – You need to register the business. This has a lot of variation of course, but the cheap route would be sole proprietor. I live in NJ, and for me about 10 years ago it was only a $25.00 filing fee down at my local County Clerks Office. As you can see, that is quite reasonable.

Now if you were interested in going the LLC (Limited Liability Company) route your costs would be a bit higher. Current rates run about $99.00 to $399.00 by online vendors to get your paperwork completed to become a LLC. Either way you go, the costs are within just about everyone’s reach.

NOTE: Once you get the name registered, you will need a business bank account. Generally you will need to deposit about 100 bucks to open this account. Technically speaking, this money doesn’t really count against the total start up because you are only making a deposit, not spending any money.

2 – Insurance. Now you need to look into liability insurance. When I started it was about $700.00 a year for entry level coverage. Keep in mind, you don’t pay it all at once, it’s usually quarterly and I’m told some states allow monthly payments.

Remember, don’t worry too much about insurance as your customers will foot the bill for this expense. This is because even with a very small cleaning account you should pocket $100.00 profit per month, which will easily cover your insurance payment.

If you don’t know where to start on insurance then check out BOLT Insurance. This company provides free quotes by just filling out a short form. What I like about them is that they give you several quotes so you get to compare prices from different companies.

NOTE: Technically, you are now in business. Not as much as you thought huh? With that said lets add one more item that is a must have.

3 – Get business cards made. This should only set you back about $20.00. You’ll find some great ideas for your business cards by visiting our sister site, which is in partnership with Vistaprint. So to check out some pre made business card designs just for the cleaning business click here.

Could I keep going on and on adding more things in, yes I could. But what I just described is a bare bones set up. After you do the above, you need to spend your energy getting accounts, preferably cheaply. If you need ideas for getting customers on a shoestring budget click here.

Once you do that, the whole operation can be “self funding”. What I mean by that is this, once you get several good accounts under your belt, they pay for your expansion if you play your cards right and reinvest your profits into getting more and more accounts.

Now I know many of you must be wondering why I didn’t include any supplies in the start up cost section above. The reason is there is no need to spend a dime on items that you have absolutely no need for. The moment you need supplies, you simply go get them.

I know this sounds counter intuitive, and maybe it is. But if there is one thing you need to learn when running a business it’s don’t spend money on something UNTIL you need to. Look at is this way…

Would you buy a second set of tires for your brand new car just so that when you needed new tires you had them? No, I didn’t think so. So why do the same here? The focus needs to be on getting a company registered, then start getting customers. It’s as simple as that!

Now when you do land your first account, going out on a limb and purchasing some supplies has no risk associated with it. Besides, supplies don’t cost much anyway. If you went the cheap route AND assuming you have no supplies to speak of the cost would only run you anywhere from $75.00 to $200.00.

This would give you a cheap vacuum and some basic supplies, enough to perform the basic service and get the ball rolling. I would not go crazy and purchase anything beyond this basic setup until you have a need for it.

If you were to get some floor equipment, like a floor machine, wet vacuum or carpet cleaning equipment, it may sit idle for months. That money would be better spent getting some customers who pay you month after month.

Only buy this type stuff when you “know” it will be used within a few weeks. This helps preserve your cash flow and protects you from needlessly running short on money. Why makes things tight if you don’t have to?

Before I wrap this up I would like to touch on getting bonded. Many people worry about the cost of this. Bonding is generally very inexpensive and is nothing to fret over. For a ballpark figure, expect to pay around 3% of the face value of the bond.

In other words, it should only cost $150.00 to get a bond valued at $5,000. Once you get bonded, and someone asks you if you are, all you need to say is “yes, I have a $5,000 bond against theft”. That satisfies the customers!

Saying you are “bonded” is nice, but I would not add it to the mix until you land your first customer. On the whole very few customers will ask you about this anyway. So I suggest you just add it asap when you get your first paying account.

As you can see, it does not cost a lot to get started. It’s probably the single best business to start on a shoestring because the up side is just so high. In fact the upside is as high as you want it to be.

So if you are looking to get started, stop worrying about “all that money” all the naysayers say you need. At the end of the day a few hundred gets you into the game and started in your own cleaning service.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to our RSS feed and get loads more by clicking here. If you need detailed instructions on how to start your own cleaning business, then check out my value packed course by clicking here. If you are badly in need of a first class website to take your cleaning business to the next level then click here.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 eric August 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm

how do you bid on a janitorial contract

2 Tom Watson August 13, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hi Eric!

Bidding is not a hard process to master, but with that said I can’t explain the process in a paragraph or two. My course ( http://wp.me/PO3Aj-43 ) has an entire chapter dedicated to this one question. I can say this though, in a nutshell you just need to determine two things when bidding…1 – how much time is needed. 2 – How much to charge per hour. I know that sounds rather simplistic, but it is that easy!

3 janice grayson August 31, 2011 at 1:34 am

I found your information to be vey informative.Its by far better than any information that i have looked into that did’nt charge anything. It gave me all the basic I needed and did not sway me away with all the this and that you have to have alone with the out of pocket money.Thanks A LOT

4 Tom Watson August 31, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Thanks for the kind words Janice!

5 Roger Woodfork September 8, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I readed your Letter . I liked what you said in your Letter can you please
Help Me start my Cleaning Service? I really want to start my Cleaing Bussiness. Here is my Phone Number XXX-406-3920
Please Help Me!

6 Tom Watson September 9, 2011 at 12:16 am

Hi Roger,

Of course I’ll help you out! I’ll give you a call in the next day or so to discuss how to move forward. Thanks!

7 ketty September 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Hi Tom I really like your information its clear and easy to read and follow my friend and I just talked about starting a cleaning business. Your site really encourage us, we will get in touch with you.

8 Tom Watson September 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm

That’s great to hear Ketty! I look forward to talking to you down the road.

9 Ida LaCour September 29, 2011 at 9:31 am

My friend and I recently became unemployed and we are talking about starting a cleaning business. I ran across your site and we would love to pick your brain. I have enjoyed reading from your site and I am going to share this site with her. I am sure we will be getting back to you to discuss the pitfalls of this business. I am excited!

10 Tom Watson September 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

I’m glad you have found us! I will be here when you are need me.

11 aj October 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Hi, your site gives a lot of info, and is truly apperiated. I have a question I am trying to start a business, I have covered every thing u talked about. There’s just one thing how do I know what to charge? A lot of cleaning companys I call won’t tell me( I act like a customer )without a consultation. I don’t want to short change myself or get a door slammed in my face. What is a estimate like bathroom ,lounges, waiting rooms. And mine includes buffing or stripping floors. I would apperiate any info. I’m new to this help. Please feel free to personaly respond to my email..thanks

12 Tom Watson October 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Hi AJ!

Thanks for stopping by. Bidding correctly is the WHOLE key to landing accounts. Bid too low and you will probably get tons of accounts. Only problem is you are just wasting your time cleaning them all for peanuts. Bid too high and you go home empty handed because nobody will hire you (losing valuable time and advertising money in the process). Chapter 7 (http://wp.me/PO3Aj-43) of my course Commercial Cleaning For Beginners tackles that topic head on and teaches you how to find the highly profitable “middle ground” without throwing your time and money down the drain.

13 Terry Kimbrough October 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

Please send me a first time cleaning business manual. Thanks

14 Tom Watson October 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Hi Terry!

I have a free series available via email that helps with the general outline of what needs to be done to start a cleaning business (you can sign up for that here http://wp.me/PO3Aj-QN). If you need step by step help with getting started then my course is the answer. You can learn about that here http://wp.me/PO3Aj-43

15 chantal December 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Hi. I really want to start a cleaning business.I want to know do I need a license to start a cleaning business in New Jersery.

16 Tom Watson December 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm

YES. You have several options to do that. The cheapest way would be to get set up as a sole proprietor. You would do this at the county clerks office that is located in the county you reside in. Other more expensive options are LLC and INC. You’ll need to do a little homework to see what is best for you. Here is a link that spells out each type of business structure… http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Business-Structures

17 Telisha February 11, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hi! Thank you for the information that you provided on your website. It is very helpful. I currently reside in Las Vegas, Nv, and my husband and I are considering starting a cleaning business. We are unsure of where to really start? Whether with residential or commericial? If it would really be lucrative here in our area? And just how much would we need to start? 1,000, $2,000 $5,000? Also, does it require having to get any personal loans etc. as we are not in the best credit status and are still working on this. We are seriously looking to work for ourselves and stop punching a clock and we feel this business is the simplest way to go, and we can gain great profit in the long run? Can you help please? :)

18 Tom Watson February 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

Hi Telisha! All I can tell you is that I didn’t have a lot of cash to start, and the methods we teach in our courses (http://www.cleaning-4-profit.com/start-your-own-cleaning-business/) show you the best ways to get accounts on a shoe-string budget based upon what worked for us when we first started out business. Yes… you can earn a lot of money, especially if you are doing the work yourselves in the beginning. I would not advise any personal loans. You need a few hundred at the least, but I would not spend a lot of money getting started. The goal is to get a few accounts quickly then spend their money to grow from there.

19 C. Smith April 11, 2013 at 11:20 am

Your information is Superb!

20 Tom Watson April 11, 2013 at 11:52 am

Thanks!

21 jaime April 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Hi, Tom you have really inspired my future. I was always so afraid to jump out here,but now i believe i can do it.I have a friend that used to clean out apartments,and i would like to know have you ever done this, if so what was your experience.Also would this area be a good start for my partner and i? Thanks a million Mr.Watson!

22 Tom Watson April 12, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hi Jaime! You can do whatever you set your mind too! Anyway… I wrote an article on apartment complexes here (it should help you) http://www.cleaning-4-profit.com/2012/12/19/cleaning-apartment-complexes/

23 Abi October 27, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hey Tom,
All your info is really useful I am planning to start up the cleaning business and I would like to know couple of things more if you interested to help so you can email me back if your willing to help.
Thanks.

24 Tom Watson October 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Abi! I’ll touch base via email.

25 Bristan January 20, 2014 at 1:45 am

Hello I have a quick question for you. If I did register my business with the county/city clerk, would I have the option of changing it to an LLC later?

26 Tom Watson January 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

Hi Bristan! You should have no problem (that’s what I did when first starting out).

27 joy Lindsay February 18, 2014 at 4:19 am

hi tom, great info you just gave me.. im really still confused on where to start.. please help

28 Tom Watson February 18, 2014 at 8:55 am

Hi Joy! Did you sign up for my mailing list? You get a free 9 part series on getting started. Tons of good stuff… check it out here if you haven’t already: http://www.cleaning-4-profit.com/join-my-email-list-its-free/

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