29 March 2021
There’s just something about the scent of a clean floor that gets you. And when a window sparkles? That’s your jam.
Most people don’t love to clean, but you’re not most people. In fact, you continually impress your friends and family with your natural ability to clean. You pay attention to detail, love physical work, and feel accomplished seeing a room shine.
Sound familiar? Then owning a commercial cleaning company may be up your alley. This guide can help you decide. It covers how to start a commercial cleaning business — from planning to execution to growth.
Ready to get started?
First things first — ask yourself, “Am I really ready to start my own business?” The truth is that some people are better suited as employees than they are entrepreneurs. After all, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to build a company from the bottom up.
Here are a few key traits you typicaly need to be a successful business owner:
Drive — Along the way, there will be ups and downs. You’ll need the drive to push yourself through the low points and rise above the competition. Before you get started, make sure you’re fully motivated to keep going.
Organization — Remember, you won’t just be cleaning. You’ll also be communicating with customers; overseeing finances, payroll, bookkeeping, employees; and more. It’s critical to be organized, especially in the early days of business ownership, when you usually have fewer employees to help.
Frugality — To be successful, it’s important to stay budget-minded, especially early on. You’ll want to cut costs wherever possible, but without compromising the integrity of your work or how you treat employees. In short? You’ll need to be smart with your money.
Humility — The road to entrepreneurship can have its share of bumps. How will you handle them? If you can pick yourself up and ask for help, then you’ll be better off. The most successful business owners know when they’re struggling and when it’s best to delegate.
Focus — How distracted are you? If you veer off course easily, business ownership may not be for you. However, if you focus despite distractions, you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals.
Now that you know what it takes, it’s time to examine the market. Remember, you can be the right person for the job, but in the wrong location.
Before starting your business, consider how many companies nearby need commercial cleaning services — and whether they’ll be likely to hire you.
To get this information, conduct market research. For example, you can:
Send out surveys to local businesses gauging their interest. Set up an online survey for businesses in your area. Try sending one out via email or LinkedIn, or set up a Facebook poll. Don’t want to go online? Make phone calls instead.
Review Google, Yelp, and other online directories. This can help you find businesses in your area that may be in need of cleaning services.
Call local business owners. Invite them for coffee. Bring bagels. Offer free cleaning products to try. Consider doing whatever it takes to have a meaningful conversation around cleaning.
The more time you spend on market research, the better. It’s important to make sure you’ll have enough customers to sustain your business — and even grow long-term.
When you talk to local business owners, consider asking questions like:
If they’ve hired other commercial cleaners previously, ask what they liked about their services and what they didn’t like.
Gather as much information as you can. It’ll help you tailor your company to your customers’ needs and carve out a unique approach that gets you hired time after time.
You’ve done the preliminary work, and you’re confident there’s a market for commercial cleaning services in your area. Maybe you even have a few customer leads. Plus, you’re ready to do the legwork that’s needed to build a business.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the logistics of business ownership. Here, you’ll learn how to start a commercial cleaning company, from registering a name to getting insurance, gathering supplies, and mor
First, become official in the state where you’re working. This involves setting up a legal entity for your business and registering it with the state. The most common business structures are:
Sole proprietorships. This setup may suffice early on if you’re working solo. But it also means that your business assets are not separate from your personal assets. So if you get into trouble financially, you could be at risk. On the flip side, though, you usually have the most control over your business.
Partnerships. Going into business with another person? Then you may want to choose a partnership — either a limited partnership or limited liability partnership. It’s best to talk to a lawyer about the pros and cons of each setup. Generally speaking, limited liability partnerships typically offer less risk to everyone involved.
Limited liability companies (LLCs). Many commercial cleaning business owners choose to form LLCs. That’s because they separate your business assets from your personal assets. However, if you own an LLC, you’re still likely considered self-employed, so you’ll need to pay toward Medicare and Social Security with the IRS.
Corporations. Corporations give business owners the most protection, but they can be fairly costly to create. In addition, corporations are taxed separately, and the government requires them to pay income tax on their profits. As you can see, there are a ton of benefits to creating a corporation, but it can be a hassle when it comes to bookkeeping and taxes.
Once you’ve settled on a business structure, the fun can begin! It’s time to get creative with a business name.
Pro tip: come up with a name that stands out from competitors, demonstrates what you do, and why you’re different.
If you’ve settled on a name and entity, it’s time to become official. Learn how to register your business name and get a business license in your state. Doing so can help you avoid hefty fees and also put your business on the radar. Potential customers will be able to find you on the state’s list of licensed vendors.
Plus, you’ll be able to showcase your license on a company vehicle or contract.
Talk about establishing credibility!
It’s critical to protect your business with insurance. Commercial cleaning business insurance can help protect you if there’s an accident or injury while you’re working at a location, or if someone accuses you of negligence on the job.
Without insurance, you could potentially be on the hook to pay thousands of dollars in damage — which is enough to put most businesses under water. Just think, the average claim cost of a customer injury is $30,000!
Could you pay that amount out of your own pocket? Most business owners may not be able to.
As you shop for commercial cleaning business insurance, here are three types you may want to pursue:
General liability insurance. Most business owners should consider buying general liability insurance. That’s because it can help protect your business if there’s a third-party accident, property damage, bodily injury, a reputational harm claim, and more.
Workers compensation insurance. Planning to hire employees? If so, most likely you’ll need to get workers compensation insurance too. This type of insurance can help protect your employees if they get injured or sick while working. Otherwise, you may have to pay a percentage of their lost wages and medical bills.
Commercial auto insurance. If you plan to drive a business vehicle (and most commercial cleaners do), you’ll need to get commercial auto insurance. Your personal auto policy may not cover you, even if you’re driving a personal van for work.
Our best advice? Don’t skimp on your insurance coverage. It may be one of the best decisions you make.
To find a commercial cleaning business insurance policy option in your state, check out Simply Business’s free quote tool. In just 10 minutes or less, you can compare affordable quote options from top providers. If you have questions, call one of our licensed insurance agents at 844-654-7272. They’re here to help.
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The paperwork is complete, and you’re fully insured. You’re getting closer to officially opening your business. But first, you’ll need to stock up on the right cleaning supplies.
Before you do, decide what type of products you want to buy. For example, do you want to buy supplies at the lowest cost? Do you want to offer eco-friendly products? Do you trust a particular brand?
When you’re ready, go online or head to a local janitorial supply store to buy equipment and other supplies. You’ll likely want to purchase:
Don’t forget to design a professional-looking cleaning uniform too. This also is where you’ll want to place your company’s name and logo. A professional appearance can go a long way, especially if you’re doing work for large companies. It adds credibility, reinforces your brand, and may even help you get hired in the future. And you’re not done yet!
After you gather cleaning supplies, think about the software and other equipment you may need to keep track of the business side of your company. For example, you may need to purchase:
Without the right software and technology in place, it can get confusing to keep track of customers, receipts, invoices, and payroll records. Plus, tax season is very hectic!
But if you get organized now, you can save time tracking your expenses and finding deductions — and a lot of hassle later.
Next up, it’s time to decide how you’ll get paid. Hopefully, your market research will shed light on what’s best for your customers. But, if not, go back and find out.
The key is to find a payment model that your customers are willing to pay — and that works for you too.
Here are a few payment models to explore:
Hourly — This is a fairly common way to approach payment but may not be ideal for cleaning large buildings.
Weekly or Monthly — This is helpful if you have an ongoing contract with a business.
Flat project rate — Perhaps a customer wants you to visit for a very specific job. When this happens, you may want to choose a flat rate. Beware: you’ll want to know all the details, so you don’t get surprised by the workload.
By square footage — Many commercial cleaning companies charge by square footage (e.g., $1 per square foot), especially if it’s a large building.
Want to learn more about estimating project costs? Check out our handy article here, plus download a free project estimate template.
Do you have customers yet? A few potential leads? If not, it’s time to get to work! After all, without customers, you don’t really have a business.
Fortunately, this is easily fixed by creating a solid marketing and sales plan.
Remember that market research you did earlier? It’s time to pull that out. As you review the information you learned, take time to:
Document your target customer. What size and type of businesses are you interested in cleaning? Where are they located? Who are the decision-makers there?
Set goals and financial targets. How many customers do you need this quarter? This year? Are you looking for one-off projects or regular, ongoing work? How much do you likely need to earn to stay profitable? Think about your expenses, including future employees, equipment, software, and other expenses.
Decide on your marketing strategies. Today it’s easy to reach new customers online, as well as via traditional mailers, door hangers, and fliers. Step into your customers’ shoes and choose methods that will appeal to them. Above all, be realistic about what your customers will respond to and how much you should spend on advertising.
We’ll go more in-depth about marketing techniques for commercial cleaning companies a little later in this article. But for now, just know that it’s a balancing act — advertising spend and getting results.
Remember to spend just enough on advertising to help you stay profitable and grow, especially early on.
Building a business is a lot of work, so it’s understandable if you need to hire a few employees or outsource bookkeeping, customer service, accounting, and other tasks.
Here are a few roles (and reasons why) you may want to consider getting help:
Accounting — You may be a cleaning expert, but you may not be an accounting expert. Look for a reputable accountant in your area to help you find business deductions and organize your taxes on a quarterly or annual basis.
Bookkeeping — Keeping track of your income and expenses can get overwhelming, especially if you have a large number of clients and employees. Find a bookkeeper you can trust to help you manage the details on a daily basis. That way, you won’t get caught without the necessary information you need for tax season.
Legal — It’s a good idea to get acquainted with a local lawyer, especially if you’re creating a business entity, drafting a new customer contract, or unfortunately, getting caught in a lawsuit. Find a professional now, so you don’t have to scramble later.
Human resources — Depending on the size of your team and how quickly you grow, you may need someone to manage human resources. This professional will lead the hiring of staff, payroll, benefits, training, and any employee issues that may arise.
Sales — If you’re quickly expanding, you may want to hire a team member to focus on securing new business and retaining your current customer base. They will market your services to other companies, negotiate contracts, and ensure that your current customers are renewing their agreements.
Client services — Want to keep your customers happy? Good! A customer services professional can handle your customers’ questions, concerns, and scheduling. They could even go onsite to inspect your cleaning staff’s work and address issues, if needed.
Cleaning staff — Depending on your company’s growth, you may need a team of employees. These are the people who will be doing the bulk of the actual cleaning. Hire wisely, then keep your best employees long-term by treating them fairly and with courtesy and respect.
Supervisors — If you have a team, it’s a good idea to hire someone to manage their schedules and training. Plus, a good supervisor can help motivate your employees and teach them cleaning techniques that set your company apart from the competition.
Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. Remember, you don’t need all of these roles at the get-go. Pick and choose the help you need along the way. You may even decide to be a one-person show.
But if you do run lean (and it’s just you), remember that you’ll need to take on all of the roles we just described. Be prepared and be realistic about how much you can take on.
Finally, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start cleaning. Once you have a list of customers who are ready to go, grab a calendar and start planning. You’ll want to map out a clear schedule for your customers and staff.
Depending on your contracts, you’ll want to organize a schedule for:
As you assign cleaning staff to jobs, consider the location, route, and length of time their work may take. When you’ve decided on a schedule, communicate it with your customers right away. And remember, you may need to adjust the schedule from time to time, especially if an employee gets sick or needs to take time off.
Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve gotten this far (and have done the hard work). You may want to catch your breath and set cruise control for a while.
This is especially helpful if you want to measure how your business plan is currently working.
But if you’re ready to keep growing, we have more information for you. Next, let’s talk about ways to find even more customers for your commercial cleaning business.
First, pull out that marketing and sales plan you created earlier. How is it working? Are there ways you can expand on your current customer base? Here are a few ideas for growing your business:
It also helps to write down your company positioning statement, or what makes your company stand out from the competition. For example, maybe you:
Next, you’ll want to revisit your initial marketing and sales plans, and expand on your ideas. Write down new companies you’d like to target and the best ways you can reach (and persuade) them to try your services.
In general, there are two main ways to advertise:
The key to great advertising is to find your customers and tap into their needs. If that means distributing fliers in-person, then do it. Here are a few other ideas:
Door hangers — To get the attention of small business owners, design a door hanger. Keep in mind that this technique might not work for larger corporations in big buildings.
Business cards — Always keep business cards on hand. Opportunities can arise when you’re traveling or even socializing with friends. You also can attend industry events and shows, and hand out business cards.
Magnets — Magnets are useful and highly visible. Try mailing a few out that can be displayed in breakrooms, stores, or offices.
Postcards — If done correctly, postcards are very effective. If you mail one, feature a deal, new-customer discount, or another incentive. It’ll encourage more customers to call.
Brochures — Have a few printed pamphlets with in-depth information about your services. This is something you can email to a potential customer or share at an in-person meeting.
These days, digital marketing can generate even bigger results. Plus, depending on what you do, digital marketing can be very cost-effective. Try these ideas to maximize your exposure:
Build a strong website — Spend time and money on your website presence. This might require hiring a web designer and writer to give you the best possible product. Just remember, your website is an important investment. This is where potential customers will learn about your company and request a quote.
Share content on a blog — People rely on Google to find everything, including tips and techniques for commercial cleaning. Position yourself as an expert in your industry by publishing regular, ongoing content regarding cleaning.
Create a social media presence — Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Instagram to share your blog content and connect with the community. Social media channels are also a great place to request feedback and answer questions.
Ask for online reviews — Did you know that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust their friends? Start collecting reviews from your customers on Google, Yelp, and social media. The more positive reviews you can display, the better.
Try pay-per-click (PPC) advertising — Up until this point, the digital marketing techniques we’ve discussed have been (mostly) free. PPC advertising, however, costs, but the results can pay off big-time. Set up a Google account, allocate a set amount of money, and choose the keywords you think your customers may be searching. The best part of PPC advertising is you can easily tweak your campaigns to optimize results.
Want more? Simply Business has a full, in-depth guide on winning new business with digital marketing. Check it out here.
Whether your cleaning business is small or you’re growing by the minute, you’ve made exceptional progress. Becoming an entrepreneur is a major accomplishment! Plus, if you’ve followed the steps in this guide on how to start a commercial cleaning business, you’re probably already experiencing success.
But there’s much more to be done. Take a close look at what’s working — and what’s not. The best business owners continue to make changes to improve their companies.
To learn more about growing your business, check out Simply U’s articles. We have a ton of helpful tips!
But before you go, we want to give you something special just for sticking it out with us. To help you plan your online store launch, check out our FREE downloadable business plan template!
It’s an editable template with plenty of prompts and helpful advice on creating a plan that can help you successfully launch your commercial cleaning business (and did we mention it’s free?).
Best of luck with your commercial cleaning business!
Want some help creating your best business plan? Download our FREE business plan template here!
I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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