It wasn’t that long ago that I shared what an underrated opportunity it is to start your own cleaning business. I think that it’s a wonderful business idea, especially for women with children, because of the relatively low startup costs and flexible hours = perfect for parents. If you already have a basic assortment of products and equipment, your overheads and capital needed to begin will be minimal. This is ideal if you are a single-income family without lots of cash to spare. As with starting any business, there are things to consider before you take the plunge. Some are essential, some aren’t – I always recommend doing business in a way that aligns with you. This is by no means an exact formula. However; after building my own clothing business from scratch, with zero knowledge or business experience, all while juggling motherhood and a FIFO husband – I’ve definitely learned a thing or two to share with you in this post!
Residential vs. Commercial cleaning.
Consider whether you’ll be cleaning in a commercial or residential/domestic capacity. For example, in the commercial space you’d be looking at commercial premises, offices, businesses and the like. The more common route for new business owners is residential cleaning.
What I’m seeing out there, and in my experience, there is such a high demand for residential house cleaners. It’s also probably one of the easier markets to tap into when you’re first starting out. The main reason for this is your clientele. When working in the commercial cleaning space you’ll likely be contracted by other businesses and the expectations for your systems, processes and professionalism are generally going to be higher. It can be challenging if you’ve never worked in this field before, to have everything running perfectly. Whereas, working for individuals and families, there’s going to be a bit more flexibility.
If commercial cleaning is your goal, perhaps starting in residential work, so you can ‘hone your chops’ in your setup and your business practices. Then you could move into the commercial space when you’re more confident and have ironed out any of those teething issues that always arise when first starting out.
This post will focus on residential cleaning, although I’m sure a lot of the principles are the same.
7 steps to starting your own residential cleaning business.
Not an exhaustive list, think of these as suggestions and best practices when it comes to getting started in the cleaning world.
1. Register your business name & business structure.
I didn’t even know that different business structures were a ‘thing’ when I started my business in 2016. Most people starting a small business will register themselves as a sole-trader. This kind of setup is generally fine for most of us. However; if you’re going into business with someone else or plan to scale in the future, it’s worth looking into other structures. There’s some really helpful advice around business structures on the business.gov.au website.
NOTE: Registering a business name does not give you exclusive usage rights.
It’s a common misconception here in Australia that once you’ve registered your business name, you have the exclusive rights to use it. In reality though, other people may have trademarked your name despite their ABN not being registered to the same exact name or phrase. When you’re deliberating over different names, it’s worth going onto the IP Australia website and doing a search across the trademark database to make sure you’re not infringing on anyone’s already-patented name. It may seem trivial but you’ll avoid a headache down the track. Imagine when you’ve set up your socials, printed business cards, secured your website domain and then the patent owner asks you to cease using their registered name. Although figure-outable, it’s definitely going to be a big hassle. You can totally avoid this hypothetical situation if you do a quick ™ search at the beginning of your journey.
Check website domains and social handles.
If you’re wanting to set up a website, even if it’s not right now – check your domain name is available. This also gives you an indication if someone is already using the business name, too. If you want to use social media then also double check the handle is available (and secure it!). Sussing these things out helps to keep things consistent with your brand and adds a level of professionalism and ease for your customers in finding you.
Set up a Google Business Page.
This is especially helpful if you don’t have a website. A Google Business Page (GBP) is free and easy to set up – you simply need a physical address for them to send you a verification code (don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you need to publish your personal address on your page).
A GBP is a place for your customers to leave reviews, learn more about you and your business through Google Posts and a way to show up in search engine results even when you’re just starting out
2. Get insured.
Something else you’ll want to look into is insurance. Most small businesses require some level of insurance to cover their operations. Without knowing all the ins and outs. (I’m not an insurance broker) as a baseline you’ll need to be covered for public liability. Make sure you get a few quotes before committing as insurance premiums can vary and you could save yourself a lot of money just by doing some research.
3. Obtain a police clearance.
It’s a gold standard to offer your potential clients a police check before you start working. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time in their personal space, sometimes when they aren’t home. It’s important they feel they can trust you and a police clearance offers a form of liability up front. The price for a police clearance in Western Australia at the time of writing is $49.90. You’ll need to secure a clearance relevant to the state or territory you’ll be working in.
4. Get references or testimonials
As well as the security of a police check, customers often also want references to ensure your work is of a high standard. It can be hard to have references on hand when first starting out. You can offer a reduced-fee clean in exchange for a reference or clean for family/friends to get some testimonials under your belt. Get them to publish their review on your Google Business Page so you can direct your potential clients here. You’ll want at least 2 – 3 good references to start.
5. Cleaning supplies.
This is really the most important stuff because it’s what’s going to allow you to do the best work you can. Good quality work is the thing that’s going to keep your business growing, get you more referrals and customers, making you more money.
Using client products.
As a starting point, you could request that you client supplies their own products and equipment. This is advantageous because it’s cheaper and more convenient – you won’t be transporting all your gear everywhere and being responsible for it’s upkeep. It also gives clients the control over what products you use, if that’s important to them.
The downside is that you may not have used their products or equipment before and your results could be substandard or it could take you much longer. It also relies on communicating with your clients about restocking/maintaining inventory.
Using your own products and equipment
Have a think about the kind of products you’d like to use and be clear in this when customers book with you. What I mean here, is there’s cleaners that offer only low-tox or chemical free cleaning versus traditional cleaning methods. Is this something you want to offer?
Sticking to the same products means you avoid the situation where someone contacts you looking for a low tox clean and then you have to change the methods or products that you use, if that’s not what you’re used to. This will keep your offerings clear and simple for your potential clients. It also means you’re not having to buy additional products that you might not know how to use correctly.
Products you’ll need:
- Surface cleaner
- Mould/soap scum cleaner
- Floor cleaner
- Furniture polish
Note: You don’t necessarily need multiple different products for different tasks, there are many multipurpose options, too. My advice is to test products you haven’t used before so you know how they work.
Cleaning equipment you’ll need:
- Vacuum cleaner
- Microfibre/cleaning cloths
- Dusting cloths
- Scrubbing brushes
Transporting your cleaning supplies.
Think about ways to make transporting your supplies easier. Remember, you’ll be lugging this stuff around and then into client houses over and over again. You don’t want to be juggling a tonne of supplies in your arms causing yourself a potential injury or just the hassle of dropping things having to go back and forth for multiple trips to your car.
Look into different tubs, baskets, containers and ways this could be easier. It doesn’t necessarily require you to go out and purchase all new storage containers – look around your house for what you already have to make things more efficient.
6. Logo & branding.
So, you’ve decided on your business name, you know that the website and socials are available. Do you need to have a logo and branding? In a nutshell, no. A logo isn’t essential and there are plenty of fully-booked cleaners without a fancy logo. However; a logo with branding colours creates a more professional look to your business.
You can whip up a simple logo for free using something like Canva. It’s pretty straightforward to use this program to make your own design – keep in mind though that they have copyright over their templated logos. This means you need to create your own unique logo.
Graphic designers will tell you that you shouldn’t be creating your own logo and sure, you could spend $1-2K on a professional logo and branding suite but I don’t think it’s needed to get started.
When you create your design, choose 2-3 colours that are associated with your brand. If you want to go all out, you could look into colour theory and what your colours will communicate about your brand. Or, you can simply ue the colour palette generator on Canva and put together a few nice brand tones.
Download my free guide: 21 Creative Ways To Grow Your Small Business (without selling your soul to socials)
7. Getting clients
Once you’re set up, this is probably the next thing on your mind when you’re starting your own cleaning business. I’ve shared some suggestions here for ways to get potential customers both online and offline.
Word of mouth referrals
One of the most powerful marketing tools in our tool belt is word of mouth referrals. The only way people can refer clients to you, or hire you – is if they know what you do! Don’t be afraid to actually tell people about your new business venture. Tell your family, tell your friends – don’t be shy! If you don’t feel comfortable straight-up asking them to hire you, ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of anyone looking for a reliable cleaner. If they are hesitant, you could offer them a reduced fee or free clean in exchange for a reference and to verify the quality of your work. Word of mouth is such an impactful and effective way of marketing yourself, don’t overlook it!
Potential customers love to read reviews. Utilise your Google Business Page and ask past clients to leave reviews. Online reviews impact purchasing decisions for over 93% of customers. They help with instant know, like and trust factor and are a really powerful way to convert potential customers to actual customers.
Facebook groups, community pages and forums
I always see people looking for cleaners on Facebook groups in my community pages. You could target different community groups depending on the area that you want to service. Just be mindful of the rules around self promotion in facebook groups – you don’t want to be kicked out for spamming. It isn’t always a case of simply posting an ad or promotional post, it could be someone asking the question to the group and you can respond in the comments with your business and contact details.
Despite what you’ve seen or heard, socials isn’t the be-all and end-all for marketing your business. In fact, it often requires a lot of effort for minimum results. In saying this, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok are good tools for increasing your brand awareness which will potentially convert to paying clients. Something that I’ve seen a lot recently, is short-form video content (think: TikTok and Insta Reels) with before and after cleans. There’s something satisfying about seeing a good, thorough clean! You could even capture this content on the job and kill two birds, so to speak. Use an editing app like InShot to speed up your video to make it more engaging. The secondary benefit of videos like this is to showcase the different products you use and the different equipment or techniques you use.
Networking and in-person events
Networking is such a good way of helping to build word of mouth referrals, but also get clients. Think about your ideal client and where they would be networking. There’s lots of different groups around Perth (and I know it’s the same nation-wide) that you can often attend casually. Sometimes free, sometimes for a fee. My advice when it comes to networking is to focus on building genuine, lasting connections over making an instant customer or sale. It can be a turn-off if you jump into the hard-sell, straight up. If you’re Perth-based and keen to build these relationships, I host monthly Honest Biz Brunches. These are an opportunity to have refreshingly unfiltered conversations with other like minded women in business over delicious brunch and a cuppa.
I don’t mean magazine articles here (although if that’s your budget, sure). Keep it simple – print an ad, take it to your local supermarket to post on the local community board. Totally free. You’d be surprised how many people browse those boards when they are waiting for their shopping to be scanned and packed, or waiting for assistance and the frustrating self-checkout counters. Don’t underestimate a letterbox drop too. Create a simple flyer (again, Canva) and distributed around your neighborhood.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the art of structuring the content on your website pages, so that you are more likely to rank higher on Google search results. If you rank at 1 on the Google search engine results page (SERP) data shows 43.6% of searchers will click through to your site. The numbers decrease for each ranking you are below this but it is still a lot of traffic and potential leads to your business site, without a lot of effort – just the know-how to setup your pages.
There’s a lot of potential to be found with long-tail-keywords in the local cleaning niche. If you’re setting up a business website I strongly advise learning the basics of SEO or having your web developer include it in their setup. I offer SEO First Aid sessions for small business owners if you need help understanding and setting up your website SEO.
Sometimes the best way to start is whatever feels easiest. My biggest advice if you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the things, is to just start. The best lessons always come on the job. You can re-evaluate and tweak things as you go!