How to Bid on Cleaning Jobs: A Step-By-Step Guide

Man figured how to bid on a cleaning job and is wearing protective gear to clean a restaurant's kitchen

At first glance, it seems like a simple task: In order to get more cleaning jobs, you need to create a great bid.

Yet as soon as you start creating the bid for a cleaning job, you find yourself stuck on a few questions:

  • Does the client want the cheapest quote?
  • Should you undercut your usual pricing to win the job?
  • What happens if the client ends up requesting more work?
  • How do you figure out what to charge for your hourly rate?
  • What if you need to hire extra help?

If you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head, wondering just what a client wants to see from your house cleaning or commercial cleaning quote, worry no more – we’ve got answers for you.

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Whether you’re new to the cleaning business or have a few years of experience under your belt, check out this article for tips and tricks on how to bid on cleaning jobs.

Let’s get started!

How to Price a House Cleaning Job: A Step-By-Step Guide

Take a look at how to bid on a house cleaning job – the kind of bid that ends up landing you more clients:

Decide who you want to work with.

When it comes to professional cleaning, your clients will usually fall into two categories:

  • Residential clients – houses, model homes, vacation homes
  • Commercial clients – offices, colleges, gyms, retail stores

A lot of cleaners choose to pursue clients in both categories; some cleaners only specialize in commercial cleaning or residential cleaning. Choosing which type of client you want to work is a huge first step, especially when learning how to bid for a cleaning job. The reason for this is simple: Most house cleaning jobs will be charged by the hour, while commercial cleaning jobs are done by project.

So how do you figure out who you want to work with? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you working alone, or with a bigger team?

If you’re working by yourself, it might be challenging to clean a whole office alone without losing out on serious money. Think about it this way – if you charge a flat fee for a commercial cleaning job, there’s a possibility you’ll end up putting in more hours than you originally anticipated (and you’ll lose money). If you charge an hourly rate, you might end up being a more expensive option, since you’re working solo.

  • Do you have business insurance?

No matter which type of client you end up working with, you should absolutely have business coverage. Minimally, your coverage should protect you in case you end up breaking a client’s prized possession or end up getting sued, even if you didn’t do anything wrong.

However, the type of coverage you have can play a big role in the clients you can go after. Commercial cleaning jobs may end up requiring more coverage than your average house cleaning job, since you’re probably taking on more risks (like cleaning expensive equipment or potentially having access to confidential info).

Check out the different types of cleaning business insurance coverage you might need, and how they can help keep you protected on the job.

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  • What has less competition?

This is a crucial technique to figuring out which kind of cleaning jobs you should bid on.

Here’s why: Let’s say you’ve just started your cleaning business and you’re looking for work. You live in a suburban area, so your natural instinct is that you’ll spend most of your time cleaning homes. Yet there are probably a lot of other cleaning businesses in your area – and they’re all competing for the same homes. But guess what? These same businesses might not be bidding on commercial cleaning jobs for the retail stores, smaller offices, and real estate agencies that are in your hometown.

Take the time to research where there’s less competition. You stand a much better chance of successfully landing more cleaning jobs if your bids don’t get lost in a sea of other quotes.

  • What makes you happy?

You started your cleaning business because you wanted to enjoy more freedom. That’s why you should place a lot of importance on taking the type of cleaning jobs that make you happy. If you love cleaning offices, bid on commercial cleaning jobs; if you take pride in cleaning homes, follow your heart.

After all, what’s the point of starting your own cleaning business if you’re not picking the projects you love?

Okay, you’ve got a good idea of who you want to work with. Now what’s the next step in bidding on a cleaning job?

Do a walkthrough.

Whether you find a client online or through a friend, you should always do a walkthrough of the property before giving a cleaning quote. No matter how specific and detailed a client seems, you’ll always find that the project involves a little more work. Plus, you want to make sure that your client is being accurate about how much you’ll need to clean. You don’t want the nasty shock of quoting for a 2100 sq. ft home and ending up cleaning a 3200 sq ft home!

Here’s how to do the walkthrough so that you’re developing the most accurate cleaning job quote:

  • Take note of all the supplies you’ll need to clean the place.

If you need anything outside of what you already have, make note of it, as you’ll need to charge the client for the cost of these materials.

  • Make note of the actual square footage of the residence or office, including how many rooms you’ll need to clean (bring your own measuring tape if your client isn’t sure).

You should also mark down the number of bathrooms and any other rooms that may need more intensive cleaning. If you’re bidding on a commercial cleaning job, write down how many desks, rooms, and bathrooms you’ll need to clean. Don’t forget to note how many carpets, glass surfaces, and hardwood you see.

  • Write down if the layout is unusual in any way.

For example, if a client wants you to wash walls in a home with cathedral ceilings, you’ll probably need extra materials (like a ladder) to accommodate this otherwise-normal cleaning request. Bottom line: If the layout makes it tougher for you to do your job, make sure your cleaning quote reflects that.

  • Add in any special requests the client might have that fall outside your scope of work.

Be as detailed and thorough as possible during your walkthrough. You’ll use these notes to create your house cleaning or commercial cleaning quote – and if you miss out on any details, you’ll end up making less money than you deserve.

Learn how to price cleaning jobs.

To develop your most accurate cleaning quote, figure out if you’re going to charge by the hour or by the job. Here’s how to learn how to price cleaning jobs:

  • Want to charge by the hour?

Figure out how many hours it will take you to clean the home or office. To do this, break out each task you’ll need to do, and how much time it will take you. For example, cleaning a bathroom might take 30 minutes, vacuuming the living room could take 15 minutes, etc.

Add up these estimates to get the final number of hours you’ll need to perform the job. Remember to be generous in your estimation; if you estimate that a job will take 3 ½ hours to perform, round up to 4. If you’re too conservative, you could end up shortchanging yourself.

  • Want to charge by the job?

Charging by the job can be the best of both worlds: your client knows precisely how much you’ll invoice for, and you could end up making more money than if you worked an hourly rate.

Charging by the job could entail figuring out what the job would cost you on an hourly basis and adding on a small mark-up. Keep in mind though that you’ll need to be disciplined to charge by the job – you’ll still make that flat fee even if it takes you a lot longer to clean the home or office.

Whether you charge by the job or by the hour, make sure you outline what’s included in your fee. You stand a much greater chance of landing a cleaning job if you’re specific about what you’ll be doing.

Your clients want to know what they can expect from you, so the more detailed you are, the more comfortable your clients will feel about working with you.

Note: Your cleaning quote should be reflective of your skills and expertise. That’s why you should resist the urge to provide a super-cheap bid. Don’t get caught in this vicious cycle; it’s definitely a quick way to price yourself out of business. Plus, clients might not necessarily want to work with the cheapest quote, since they might see “cheap” as synonymous with “bad work”.

So what’s one way you can land a job, get paid well, and end up building up a steady income? That’s where the next step comes into play.

Offer frequent customer discounts.

A great way to land a residential or commercial cleaning job is to offer discounts for repeat business. For the first cleaning job, you should charge your standard rate; however, if the company chooses to keep working with you, give them a monthly or annual discount rate. For example, let’s say you’re placing a bid for an office cleaning job at $150 for a single two-hour visit.

The client has the potential for a lot of work, so you could let them know that you’ll lower the rate to $100 per two-hour visit if they request a minimum of six cleanings per month.

It’s a win-win situation because you’ll end up with a consistent client, and your client will save money on cleaning fees over the long run. So if you offer a discount or are willing to negotiate, let your client know.

Keep trying!

If you’re a new cleaning business, chances are it’s going to take you a little while to build up a clientele base. That’s okay – even the most successful cleaning businesses started where you are today. And it can get discouraging if your cleaning bids keep getting passed over for your competitors. But no matter what, keep putting yourself out there. If you’re still having trouble landing work, try these tweaks:

  • Ask other cleaning companies for their advice.

You might find out that you’re not pricing your work high enough, or your cleaning job quotes are too vague.

  • Find work through real estate agents.

A clean home can make or break a real estate agent’s showing; that’s why they’re much more likely to use or recommend cleaning services to their clients. Work out a deal where you offer a discount to clients who are referred by an agent.

  • Use direct mail to reach out to more clients.

This is a great way to increase your clientele base, as you cut through your online competition to directly reach out to customers. Make sure all direct mail – whether it’s in the form of leaflets or postcards – looks professional and contains your contact info. Bonus points if you offer a discount through direct mail!

  • Encourage word-of-mouth reviews, especially as you start getting work.

For example, if you worked with a client who was thrilled with your work, ask your client to review your work online and to let friends know about your services.

No matter which type of client you want to work with, remember this: Your client wants your cleaning bid to be simple, straightforward, and reasonable. If a client fully understands the cleaning quote and feels as though it meets their needs, you stand a good chance of landing that commercial or house cleaning job.

*Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on July-September 2023 data of 10% of our total policies sold.

Mariah Bliss

I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner – I’ve had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.