Start a Business
Cleaning Homes and Apartments

(Last updated: April 27, 2010)

This page shows how to start a business cleaning homes and apartments. This work mainly applies to the interior spaces, but may include some exterior work on occasion.

Use this information together with the Business Plan for Simple Services page.

You are assumed to have the skills and equipment needed to perform this service. You may have performed this or similar types of activities in the past. Thus, you may have learned the skills and accumulated most of the required equipment from those prior tasks.

The methods and procedures described on this page can be used to help satisfy your needs, and the needs of likely customers.

Here are the topics:

Introduction to idea
Estimated startup costs
Putting idea to work

Other useful information

The Vital Guidelines for Novices page helps beginners who want to start a business. These guidelines provide focused advice and useful insights.


IMPORTANT

Before using this information to start a business be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer

Introduction to idea

This topic provides an overview of the business idea so you can decide if it suits you.

Basic idea

Homeowners, apartment owners, and tenants pay you to clean their homes and apartments. Occupants might not have time to do the work themselves. Residential rental property owners might need a unit cleaned up after a tenant leaves.

Cleaning is an occupation that always is in demand. Getting these jobs usually is just a question of making yourself known to potential customers, being qualified to do the work, and quoting the right price for the job.

This activity is performed by the job. Once one job is finished, you will have to find another job. However, if you do a good job for a large property owner, you are apt to be called back when the next unit needs cleaning.

This is an indoors and outdoors activity that can be performed year round (roads and weather permitting).

Suitability of idea

This idea is best suited for people who are physically fit and enjoy working with their hands.

Skills and equipment required

Primary skills -- You must be able to do a good job of cleaning the interiors (and sometimes the exteriors) of homes and apartments.

Other skills -- You must have driving skills and a valid driver's license.

Equipment owned -- This business idea assumes that you own the following equipment:

Pickup truck or van -- You will use this vehicle to travel to job locations and haul any equipment, supplies, and protective gear needed to perform the work.

Job equipment -- Typical items needed: broom and dustpan, combination cleaning sponge and squeegee, extension poles for squeegee, mop, plastic scrapers, rug shampoo machine, stepladder, utility knife, vacuum cleaner (heavy duty), and water buckets (2).

Protective gear -- Typical items needed: dust mask, goggles, plastic gloves, and work gloves.

Other items -- You need to own or purchase other items, such as office equipment and job supplies. These items are listed under the startup costs on the next topic.

Profitability of idea

In order to show a profit, you will have to sell enough of your services to cover the startup costs and operating expenses. The more income you collect over a certain time period the larger your profits. Therefore, you want to have substantial sales, along with low startup costs and operating expenses.

The fees you charge pay for your time and equipment, and your ability to perform the work in a professional manner. You might charge an hourly rate for your services, or a lump sum for a particular job.

How much should you charge for your services? This depends on how well off the customer is and how anxious both you and the customer are to make a deal. The economic conditions of the local area might also influence these negotiations.

See the Setting the Sales Price page in another section for more detailed information.

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Estimated startup costs

This topic discusses the estimated startup costs for this business idea. Startup costs are what you need to pay in order to be ready to begin business operations. The amount of these costs also helps you decide if the idea suits you.

List of items in startup costs

Note: I am only showing one month for certain expenses. You should be able to get your first job or two in a month. Then these items become operating expenses, not startup costs.

The assumed startup costs for this business idea, using a frugal style of business operations, consist of the following items:

Advertising and promotion (1 month) -- Small classified advertisements and/or or flyers delivered to likely neighborhoods.

Business insurance (1 month) -- Business liability insurance. (Talk to a local insurance agent to see if you need this coverage.)

Governmental requirements -- Local fees and business license. (Note: You might also be subject to state and federal deposits and registration fees, but these will vary. So I have not included them in these startup costs.)

Job supplies -- Typical items needed: assorted cleaning fluids, powders, and sprays; assorted light bulbs; can of crack filler; floor cleaner and wax; lint-free cleaning rags; paper towels; small cans of wood putty in assorted colors; sponges; and trash bags.

Office equipment -- Business telephone; desk accessories (stapler, paper clips, pen and pencils, etc.); and listing adding machine.

Office supplies -- Check blanks for business checking account, file folders or large manila envelopes (for filing papers), lined writing tablets, pads of accounting journals and ledger, and pads of standard job bid forms.

Other operating expenses (1 month) -- Business telephone expense.

Reference book -- Bookkeeping for Dummies (Paperback) available from Amazon.com or other online bookstores. (Note: The "for dummies" series of books are easy to read instructional manuals for normal people, not dummies.)

Dollar amount of startup costs

Here are the dollar amounts for a frugal business operation:

 

Estimated Startup Costs

  Advertising and promotion (1 month) $ 75
  Business insurance (1 month)   50
  Governmental requirements (local fees and licenses)   50
  Job supplies   110
  Office equipment   120
  Office supplies   100
  Other operating expenses (1 month)   50
  Reference book   15
     
       Total estimated startup costs $ 570

Note: See the Planning costs and expenses subtopic in the Business Plan on another page for ways to reduce these startup costs.

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Putting idea to work

This topic satisfies the Starting business operations subtopic in the Business Plan page.

Preparing for business operations

Completing the startup requirements -- This is the last step needed just before you start business operations. See the Listing the startup requirements subtopic in the Business Plan for the items remaining to be completed.

As a minimum, you should have discussed the business idea with your family, set up your business entity, and satisfied all governmental and insurance requirements.

Local information needed -- You need the location of local dumpsites, fees charged for dumping, restrictions on materials allowed to be dumped, and rules for hauling trash.

Operating the business

Soliciting customers -- Place classified advertisements in your local newspaper and/or the newsletter of the local property owners association. You also might want to deliver flyers to likely neighborhoods (where rich people live). Use a simple, honest description of your services. Once you become well known in the community, you should benefit from word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers.

For additional ideas on soliciting customers, see the Sales Methods page in another section.

Getting jobs -- Hopefully, some of the people who read your advertisements or flyers will inquire about your services. During this initial telephone conversation, you should determine if you are willing and able to provide the desired services. If so, you may want to discuss the tentative cost of the cleaning service. However, in most cases you probably want to inspect the job site before quoting a price.

I recommend that you meet with customers in their homes or offices, or at the job site. Your neighbors may object to having a stream of strangers arriving at your home. Also, meeting with customers in your home may violate the zoning rules in your town or city.

See the preceding Profitability of idea subtopic for my thoughts about setting your fee.

Job procedures

Preliminary job activities -- After greeting the customer at the job site, you need to determine the desired level of service or get a detailed list of the cleaning chores desired.

It also would be a good idea to identify what is or isn't trash. For a vacated apartment, garbage normally includes the contents of cabinets, cupboards, and refrigerator (except for any obvious valuables). Garbage also includes spoiled food, regardless of where located.

The customer may be in a hurry and want you to work on a holiday or weekend to get the job done soon.

You can use your job bid forms to estimate the costs of cleaning the premises. This bid should include the fees for any extra services to be performed, such as working on weekends or at night, and hauling away any trash. The bid probably should include a completion date. If the customer accepts your bid, you both can sign the bid form.

If doing the work later on, you need to set the time and date, and arrange for access to the property.

Main job activities -- If you don't already have a list of the desired cleaning chores, then prepare one now. (If you bring your own checklist, tick off the chores you normally complete for the level of service the customer wants.)

Here are some typical cleaning chores:

General considerations

  • Remove all crayon and other markings, if possible
  • Wipe off exposed surfaces of all cabinets, cupboards, and furniture
  • Clean and polish tops of all tables
  • Make a note of any water drips or leaks
  • Make a note of any missing handles or knobs on cabinets, cupboards, and furniture
  • Make a note of any missing light shades or damaged light fixtures
  • Make a note of any doors that sag or don't close properly

Kitchen and laundry

  • Clean inside of all cabinets and cupboards
  • Clean the flat exterior surfaces and handles of all appliances
  • Clean the range top, burner pans, and inside the oven
  • Clean the inside of refrigerator
  • Clean sinks and faucets
  • Clean all counter tops
  • Defrost the refrigerator, if needed

Bathrooms

  • Clean bathtub and shower
  • Clean the toilet bowl
  • Clean wash basins and faucets
  • Clean all counter tops

Doors (exterior and interior)

  • Fill all holes with matching wood putty
  • Clean and polish all door knobs

Walls and ceilings

  • Remove all cobwebs
  • Fill all nail holes with crack filler
  • Clean all surfaces of ceiling fans
  • Clean all surfaces of light shades
  • Replace any missing or burned out light bulbs

Floors

  • Sweep and mop all non-carpeted floors
  • Wax all non-carpeted floors
  • Vacuum all carpets
  • Shampoo all carpets

Windows and mirrors

  • Use spray glass cleaner on all mirrors
  • Wash inside of all windows
  • Wash outside of all windows

After completing your checklist, you now can perform all cleaning chores as desired by the customer.

Additional job activities -- As you gain more experience, you might agree to perform additional tasks. Here are some examples:

  • Painting walls and ceilings
  • Painting kitchen cabinets
  • Fixing the problems per your list of defective items
  • Removing weeds
  • Mowing lawns

Final job activities -- Inspect the premises to verify you have finished all required tasks. Remove all your equipment and supplies. Gather all the trash bags you have accumulated.

Provide customer with your notes about various defective items encountered.

Collect your agreed upon fee from the customer. Haul the trash to the dump, if part of your agreed upon services

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