The Mailbag Volume 4: Answering some common questions about the cleaning business…

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by Tom Watson on November 22, 2015

Once again I’m digging into the “mailbag”. This means I’ll be sharing my answers to a few questions that people have asked me lately.

Today makes the fourth installment of this series. The third one is here, the second one is here and the first one is here in case you missed it.

If this is your first time here, I’ll make mention that I try to answer as many questions as possible via email. So if you have any, you can always reach out to me via my contact page. Anyway, let’s get started!

Question: What is the difference between linear low density or high density liners?

Generally speaking linear low density liners have a heavier feel and are more opaque in appearance (you can’t see through them). High density liners on the other hand feel thinner to the touch and are able to hold more weight at lower gauges.

When deciding which is needed, ask yourself… Are sharp objects being thrown away? Yes means linear low density can liners are recommended. If not then go with the high density can liners.

Question: Are movie theaters worth marketing to?

That is an interesting question. I can say that I have had experience cleaning the carpeting in several movie houses (networking contacts was the reason I was hired), but I never performed the general cleaning duties. The carpet cleaning that I was hired to do was profitable, however the carpeting was horribly soiled.

My advice would be to try and see what happens. A good sales letter, flyer (that has a special offer on it) and business card sent to the General Manager would be my angle. If you were able to offer several services (cleaning, windows and carpet care) it would no doubt increase your chances of getting hired for at least one of those duties.

Question: What is the best portable carpet cleaning machine you would recommend for me?

Choosing a good machine comes down to matching performance with your available budget, so there is no one size fit all approach. I can say that I am a fan of Powr-Flite, U.S Products and Sanitiare. I don’t think you could go wrong with those vendors when it comes to quality and dependability.

Question: What market did you focus on when getting started, residential or commercial?

I took whatever I could get. I needed money to come in through the door, so whether it was cleaning a house or a business I was going to do it. I probably focused a little more on houses because they were easy to get hired for, but once I had regular money coming in I switched gears and went commercial.

Question: What were your most profitable services outside of the cleaning?

Carpet cleaning was hands down the most profitable add on service for me. You can earn a lot of money in a short amount of time if you play your cards right. After that it was construction clean-up services, window cleaning and tile & grout services in that order.

Question: What did you do for references in the beginning?

I didn’t have any. If someone asked for one I had friends and family say good things on my behalf (I did some cleaning for them at no charge / low cost, so technically they were my customers).

Question: Can I succeed without a website in the beginning?

I didn’t have a website from day one, and things turned out fine for me. I do recommend one as soon as you can afford one as it is important, but the fact is, if you don’t have the money it can wait a bit (you will be just fine).

Question: Do I need to be bonded?

In most cases the answer would probably be no. With that said, you may run across jobs that require it. I would recommend you get bonded (it’s VERY INEXPENSIVE) because it makes a great SELLING POINT and it takes away one more objection to them doing business with you.

Well, this wraps up this weeks post. I hope you enjoyed it! I like revisiting the mailbag regularly because it touches on several different topics within a single post. Anyway… if you have questions of any kind just leave them in the comments below.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andres November 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Good Morning Tom,

I do have a residential cleaning license, however I am still confused as far as, cleaning occupied houses, I’ve heard that will fall under commercial houses, that being said.

What can I and can not do with a residential license?.

2 Andres November 23, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Good morning Tom,

How do we bid an occupied house cleaning, lets say it is a 3 bedroom 2 bath house and they want 2 people for 3 hours.

Thank you in advance

3 Tom Watson November 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Hi Andres! We don’t have that issue in the USA, so I’m not sure how to answer. Where are you from? I’ll see what I can find out.

4 Andres November 23, 2015 at 1:38 pm

HI Tom

From San Diego, CA
I heard it from one of my peers and not sure if he knew what he was talking about.

Whats the difference between commercial and residencial licenses?

5 Tom Watson November 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm

HI! Well that would be 6 hours total cleaning time (two staff TIMES 3 hours = 6 hours of cleaning time). Now that you know you need 6 hours of cleaning you need to ASK YOURSELF “how much will I pay my staff?”. Whatever that number is, DOUBLE IT (at the least) to reach a price. You may even be able to triple it.

So if you pay 10 per hour, then you will pay 60 to staff (each one makes 30 bucks), and you will then charge 120 to customer. If you triple it, you still pay 60 to staff, yet you charge customer 180.

6 Tom Watson November 23, 2015 at 1:49 pm

The only two things I can think of is that perhaps a given CITY has special conditions for doing business. I never faced that where I did business. The other thing is maybe they was talking about INSURANCE (where they were covered cleaning residential but not commercial). Hard to say!

7 Andres November 23, 2015 at 1:50 pm

That sounds real good.

I forgot to ask about travel time, does it make any difference if they are within 15 mins or 45 to an hour?

Thank you Tom

8 Tom Watson November 23, 2015 at 1:54 pm

You have to make sure it’s all worth it to you. If the job was marginal (low pay), you just have to make sure it’s worth your effort to get there. If not… just pad the monthly bill to reflect your time. You don’t work for free, just don’t gouge the customer (because you wont get the job if you do).

9 Andres November 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Thank you Tom

Very valuable info.

Much appreciated.


10 Pauline Ila November 25, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Hellow Tom,

I am leaving my currently employment, kindly send all your emails to this address: (@gmail). This is my business address, was using company’s email address.

thank you.

11 Tom Watson December 1, 2015 at 10:08 am

Hi Pauline! I took care of that for you. Thanks for the heads up!

12 Samantha January 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Hello Tom, My question is how do you address customers who ask you to do more cleaning than you originally quoted. Example my long time client now ask me to fold her laundry and occasionally move boxes to the garage. Im not sure how to mention the extra services. She told me that she already pays me alot which I disagree. She never tips either. She was one of my first reoccuring clients. I started off bidding too low . Is it ever ok to change the price on a reoccuring client? If so how would you go about doing this?

13 Tom Watson January 25, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Hi Samantha! When people want more, just say something like “I can work up a price for the added service. Would you like me to send that over to you or call you in the next day or two?” That puts the conversation in a different context for them (if you want more, you pay more). This can be a little awkward the first time you say this, but if feel like you want more, which is your right, then these conversations need to be had. If they object after you say that, just reply… “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I promise you I’ll be fair due to then fact you are a long term customer”.

14 Straight To The Source May 29, 2016 at 12:02 am

Hi Tom..

I have a question..

I’d like to know if you know of anything I can use to stick flyers to vehicles so more people actually see them and not get upset if left under wiper blade on their windshield….!!???? (To be stuck on the driver side window so they see while unlocking their door)

Thank you on advance..

15 Tom Watson May 29, 2016 at 10:00 am

Hi! I don’t know the answer to that one. If you are going to go that route, the under the blade may just be the best way. Sorry I don’t have any suggestions!

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