Tips for starting a low cost business

Post image for Tips for starting a low cost business

by Tom Watson on June 12, 2012

Going out on a limb and starting a low cost business from home is one of the easiest ways to get started in your own business.

This is not to say it doesn’t have some pitfalls, but with just a little preparation you should be able to avoid the most common issues when getting started.

So with all that said, I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction if you are seriously considering starting a low cost business of some kind.

Now keep in mind that the angle I’ll be coming from is that of a business owner who started his own low cost business about 13 years ago. In case you didn’t know, my business is the cleaning business.

To be specific, commercial & residential cleaning to go along with carpet cleaning and floor care has been my vocation since the day I decided to throw my hat into the ring so many years ago.

Obviously I’m a little biased, as the cleaning business has been very good to me but the tips I’ll provide will help you in the cleaning business or just about any other endeavor you decide on.

Starting a low cost business tip # 1

Make sure you are mentally ready! Yea I know you have been thinking about starting a business for some time, but have you REALLY dug in and thought through each detail? Ask yourself these questions…

A – Do you have the time? We all get only 24 hours per day. Each hour you put into this new business is one hour off your day! This is not to say you need 10 hours per day, but you will need a few each day to get any type of momentum going.

B – Do you have some disposable income to work with? You may not need a lot of money to get started, but you WILL NEED SOME. If you only have small change to work with you might be better served by saving up a couple of hundred to give yourself some margin for error.

C – Can you sell “YOURSELF”? I know that may sound unimportant, but it’s not. When you start a business of any kind you aren’t really selling a product or service as much as you are selling “YOU”. In essence, people need to feel comfortable with you BEFORE they ever do business with you or your company.

Starting a low cost business tip # 2

Do your homework. In other words…EDUCATE YOURSELF! The fastest way to success is not by re-inventing the wheel, it’s by learning from those who have walked before you. Nobody is born with all the knowledge needed to succeed instilled in them.

This means find and follow the folks who have already set out and achieved what you are looking to do THEN do what they say! For instance, if you were looking to start a landscape business, then find a landscaper who has written a guide or course on how to get started.

I wouldn’t stop there either, as I would also probably purchase several other related books about business in general just to give me a better foundation for getting started. Learning from others SAVES YOU TIME AND MONEY in the long run so view your investment in education as part of the start-up costs.

Starting a low cost business tip # 3

Add up the initial start up costs. There is no point is just guessing at this point, as you NEED TO KNOW EXACTLY how much money is going to be needed to get the ball rolling.

Far too many people just “wing it” when getting started in a business. This results in nothing but bad news for the most part because you don’t need any surprises at this point. For instance the cleaning business can be started for just a few hundred dollars if need be.

This would cover the fee to get your name registered, some insurance, flyers, business cards and the other smaller details needed to start on a shoestring budget. After you get that out of the way then you can focus on just good old fashioned hard work to make the phone ring.

Starting a low cost business tip # 4

Put your “To-Do List” in a logical order. This is nothing more than making a common sense checklist and checking it off as you move forward. This should be done each night so that you know EXACTLY what you will be doing the next day. You need to wake-up with a purpose!

Starting a low cost business tip # 5

Keep it simple! I could go on and on about this topic. Way too many people think that need the latest and greatest of everything in order to have success. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This means you don’t need the latest computer, smart-phone, printers, expensive software programs or the other do-dads that cost a lot but provide little tangible value.

Whenever you look at a task, think “how can this been done easier and cheaper”? There may not always be a better or cheaper way, but you should be asking that question all the time to keep your time and money in check.

Starting a low cost business tip # 6

Chip away each day. Rome wasn’t built in a day as one of my old mentors used to say. So just put one foot forward and don’t ever stop! You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish after just a short period of time.

You won’t get rich overnight as many of the “so called gurus” suggest is possible, but great wealth is EASILY within your reach in a shorter amount of time than you would think.

To put this in perspective, I went from starting with a 100 bucks in the cleaning business to having 22 people working for me in about 3 years. I would have never thought that was possible if I didn’t actually go out and do it!

Starting a low cost business tip # 7

Don’t get frustrated! We all want instant gratification, and that’s just human nature but the fact is you will have ups and downs as you move ahead. Learning a new skill will lead to mistakes from time to time.

The key is to not let the mistakes get in the way of your success. We all make errors in judgement in one way or another in both life and business. Keep it all in perspective and learn from EVERYTHING, the good and bad.

Starting a low cost business tip # 8

Treat your customers like GOLD. This is a MUST. In fact one of the benefits of treating customers so good is the fact that the better you treat them, the richer you get. Now why is that?

It’s pretty simple! Customers who buy from you are much more likely to buy from you AGAIN, not to mention refer you to their friends and family. That sure sounds like a WIN – WIN scenario huh? Yea I thought so.

Starting a low cost business tip # 9

Re-Invest your profits. I know…sounds boring doesn’t it? A trip to Aruba sounds better, but the perks will come later if you play it smart in the beginning stages of your new business.

Take the vast majority of your profits and put it into more and more marketing, focusing on what is working the best for you. This approach will lead to more and more customers and more and more money. This is the real secret recipe for getting rich, so make sure you follow it!

Starting a low cost business tip # 10

Expand your reach. You are now making money, and that’s great but now it’s time to think bigger and bolder. Get into well thought out related lines of product or service to expand your offerings.

For instance I started out cleaning houses, then jumped into commercial building because their was more money there. Then I jumped into floor-care services for even more money.

Then after that I wound up investing 40+ thousand into my commercial and residential carpet cleaning company. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was making the big bucks by combining all these services under one umbrella. You can too!

I would LOVE TO HEAR WHAT YOU THINK! Add your comments below and get the conversation started.

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.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Francisco Blanco June 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Great info Tom!

2 Tom Watson June 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Thanks! It was nice to get back into “writing mode”.

3 Mike D. June 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

This is great information…I’m currently at a cross road of wanting to start a business. A cleaning service is on the short list of options, since the start up cost can be so little. I’ve been cleaning offices and various other locations for many years as a part-time job. I wonder what or if you had any fears when you first started you business? I think mine so far is doubt…

4 Tom Watson June 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Hi Mike!

I hear what you are saying, but I see no reason for doubt. You already know the cleaning end, and all you need to know is the business end. The downside is very little, the upside is quite a bit for just a small amount of cash. I mean if you just landed one or two jobs that would be a windfall for you if you picked up a few good accounts.

5 carol June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hello Mike D, Yes I agree with Tom you have to put your best foot forward and stop holding yourself back. This is what happen with me but I have to stop thinking negative and think positive, when I did that it was so easy for me. I can clean like you know what. But when I did learn the business side it was time to pay the captian.


6 Tom Watson June 22, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Life is played “between the ears” as they say. If you think you can…you can. If you think you can’t, then you can’t. Either way you are right!

Thanks for your comment Carol!

7 Cristina July 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Ok I think just had my first reality check….I stated my cleaning business a couple of months ago with the idea of helping my family. I have a job as an accounts payable manager and I’m very happy with my job, but my brothers and dad are going under and can’t find jobs. That’s how this idea come to life. I just wanted to help my family. I’m not familiar with the industry or giving estimates and to be honest I get anxious when I have to talk to people. I already invested in establishing the business, insurance and advertising/stationery, so I can say that the business is up and running. My plan is to do commercial and residential cleanings but about a month ago I give a move-out residential quote without inspecting the house. That turn out to be a big mistake because I calculated two employees 3hrs at the most. The gentleman told me that the house was very clean, I didn’t go see the house or anything before the cleaning day. The house end up being 5 bedrooms 8 bathrooms the “house”… I should say mansion was enormous. I only quoted him $150. I’m so disappointed at myself, embarrassed with the customer because my two employees were unable to finish the job, they finish all the bathrooms cleaned the whole kitchen and other things, they did the best they could but didn’t finish. That was a two day job and maybe 5 employees.
I don’t know if I can do this business by myself and I don’t know how to give good estimated. Do you have a formula that I should follow to calculate. And can a customer sue me for not finishing? He was not trustful! And I also made a mistake.

8 Tom Watson July 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm

We all make mistakes, yours was nothing new or even that bad to be honest. The take-away for you is to NEVER bid sight unseen. By following that advice, this issue will never happen again. As to being sued, I’m not a lawyer but I would doubt it given the circumstances.

Bidding is not hard, but it’s also not something I can sum up in a paragraph. I have a whole chapter dedicated to that in my courses (

Sounds like you have a very big heart, and that is good as it will help you out a lot if you continue in the business. My advice for you is to continue to educate yourself as far as the cleaning business goes. This means both in practice and in reading. Just remember that mistakes are ok, we all make them and odds are it’s never as bad as you think when you do make them!

9 shunamite August 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm

your story is so inspiring and i think i can do it the moment iam doing house cleaning through the word of mouth the jobs are not consistant .do you think starting with house cleanig is a good way and how do i get more contract in residental homes.?

10 Tom Watson August 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm


Thanks for the kind words! First off, I KNOW you can do this. There is NOTHING SPECIAL about me (or my success), I just keep plugging away. So just follow my lead and chip away each day at the task at hand. You’ll be fine!

YES…house cleaning is a good starting point. You already have your foot in the door, so just expand on that to start. A few tips would be to put flyers out in the neighborhoods that you already clean in. Just go to the five houses on either side of the ones you are cleaning now and leave a flyer with a business card on their doorstep. This is called “5 AROUND” (5 flyers in every direction). If you have more time, hit as many as possible, then go to other areas where you would like to work.

I would join some networking clubs too. This is HUGE. More people need to know you and WHAT YOU DO. Networking groups do that for you better than just about anything else! You don’t need to be a SUPER SLAESWOMEN, just show up, spend 20 seconds explaining that you run one of the best home cleaning services in town and ask them to CONSIDER YOU the next time they or someone they know needs a home cleaned. That’s it!

Realtors are also a GREAT market. They need people all the time to clean properties that are about to be sold, or have sold. Go to Real Estate offices and leave some flyers and business cards. This works wonders over time!

11 Martin chase November 17, 2012 at 9:14 am

Hello business question for you. Just started a commercial cleaning and you gave me and Idea. Is it good to do you your business under one umbrella or set it up in different companies. carpet cleaning window cleaning and so on. Does it make a difference.

12 Tom Watson November 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Hi Martin!

I did it under one company name because I didn’t want to duplicate all the insurance costs, phone bills, accounting expenses etc… Some others do it differently for a variety of legal reasons I suppose, but for me I did it all under one company.

13 frank May 6, 2014 at 9:20 am

Hey I want to start a cleaning business I already have floor care equipment but getting started seems harder then I thought not knowing where to start

14 Tom Watson May 6, 2014 at 9:52 am

Hi Frank! You are not alone, as that happens to tons of people. First question… did you sign up for my mailing list yet? (it’s on the homepage).

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: