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What Makes a House Cleaning Business Successful?

Dreamworker has a lifetime of successful business, relationship, career and financial experiences she enjoys sharing with her readers.

People who do well cleaning houses know how to run a business, have good social skills and do good work.

People who do well cleaning houses know how to run a business, have good social skills and do good work.

A good number of people who have turned to cleaning houses for a living due to the downturn in the US economy.

Some think that because they cleaned their own homes, they are qualified to do the same for other people and can make money doing so.

In some cases, this is true, but in others, not so much, because some people have better social skills and work ethics and also understand the basics of running a business.

Whether people want to admit it or not, housecleaning is a business. If it is not operated like one, it will fail.

Although I have never personally owned this type of business, I have successfully owned others. I also have had a fair number of people clean my home for me over the years and have seen firsthand why so many of them don't do well.

This article explains what you should and should not do if you decide to start your own cleaning business so that you won't waste your time trying to accomplish a fruitless goal.

Where to Begin

Before you make a final decision about operating your own housecleaning business, it would be a good idea to spend a few months working for somebody else who is already established and has a successful operation.

This will allow you to see what is involved before you invest your own money into products, equipment and advertising.

The average employed house cleaner earns approximately $12 per hour, so you won't earn much.

However, what you will learn (if you pay attention) can help you significantly.

What to Look For

If you decide to follow this route, here are the things you should be asking yourself as you work from one day to the next:

1. How does your boss market his business? Does he advertise in the local paper, on Craigslist or through a referral service?

2. What types of cleaning supplies does the business use?

  • Where do they get them?
  • How much do they pay for them?
  • Do they use their own supplies or those of their customers?

3. Is your boss licensed, bonded and insured?

5. How much does he pay you for your services?

6. How does he deal with clients?

7. Is your boss overly friendly or strictly professional?

8. Does he make himself easily accessible by phone or email?

9. Can clients count on your boss to show up on time and/or call if he cannot come or will be late?

10. How does your boss dress? Does he show up in dirty, sloppy clothes or in work clothes that are neat and clean?

11. Does your boss show respect for the homeowner's property and belongings?

The answers you find will explain why your boss is or is not doing well.

If you mimic what he is doing, is it likely that you will be able to make a living cleaning houses also?

Always use ecologically friendly products when cleaning another person's home.

Always use ecologically friendly products when cleaning another person's home.

First Things First

Before you begin, you will need to do a cost analysis to help you figure out what you will have to pay for things like business cards, flyers, materials, licenses, gasoline, equipment, and other overhead items.

Doing this will also give you some idea as to what you will need to charge for your services and will tell you whether you will be able to hire employees.

Additionally, you will have to become licensed, bonded and insured. There is a great amount of liability involved in the cleaning business, so doing this will protect both you and your clients. It will be difficult to get people to employ you if you do not have them.

Unless you are very good with keeping books and handling taxes, you will also have to employ a reasonably priced accountant to handle these matters for you.

Promote Loyalty With Fair Prices

You will have to figure out your expenses and how much to charge so that you can earn enough to make a living. Therefore, you need some guidelines.

  1. You wouldn’t charge the same amount of money for a well-cared-for, single-story 1500-square-foot condo that you would charge for a four-bedroom, four-bathroom two-story house.
  2. Nor would you charge the same in every situation because some people’s homes are crammed with possessions, while others have no extras whatsoever.

There will be a temptation to ask your highest price, but in many cases, this will send your customers running to someone who charges less.

If you are always fair with your pricing, you can create a base of loyal customers that will provide you with a steady income. This is a better plan than overcharging and constantly having to spend time and money seeking out new clients!

What Not to Do

Here are some mistakes that people in this line of work make that lose customers and income for them.

  • Taking personal calls during your cleaning time.
  • Burdening customers with your personal problems.
  • Showing up late without giving a warning phone call.
  • Making appointments with clients and then changing or forgetting the details.
  • Telling clients you will call them back and then not calling.
  • Cutting corners while thinking homeowners won’t notice.
  • Refusing to do basic chores that are part of normal cleaning.
  • Talking about other clients and their habits.
  • Not doing what you agreed to do.
  • Smoking, drinking or taking drugs while in a client’s home.

Any one of the items on this list is grounds for dismissal, and all are common behaviors that house cleaners exhibit regularly.


You need regularly scheduled clients if you plan to succeed. The best way to cultivate them is to offer them a reduced rate if they will have you come once each week.

A person paying $50 for you to come every other week might be more likely to have you come every week if you tell them you will work for $40 each time. This will help you to normalize your schedule, keep a steady income and build loyalty. It will also increase your income by $720 per year for each customer that takes your deal.

If you don't do this, you will exhaust yourself trying to run from one situation to the next randomly and will constantly be forced to pay for advertising and waste time with the task of giving free estimates.

Just make sure that you are available on the agreed-upon dates so that you do not interrupt the flow of business and income.

Managing Your Time

People who employ cleaners do not want them to take all day to finish their work.

Thus, if you spend too much time or schedule your timing poorly, your customers become frustrated and feel you are wasting their time.

To make better use of your time, you must

  • start as early in the day as possible,
  • arrive on time,
  • only clean what must be cleaned and
  • use materials and equipment that save time.

For example, the person who cleans for me right now insists on showing up at 10 AM. She consistently arrives late (and gives me an apology and an excuse but no warning phone call), takes time unloading her materials, and then wastes time talking instead of working.

As a result, she cuts my day right in half.

If she came at 8:00 instead of 10:00, she would finish by noon. This would allow her more time to get to her next appointment and would also free up my day.

If she would offer me a deal, I would use her weekly. As it is, she comes every other week. Because of this, the house is dirtier and takes more time to clean. Furthermore, she cleans items that do not need to be cleaned regularly, such as my leather sofas.

She does do a terrific job, which is why I keep her, but she could make more money with less work if she handled her business more professionally and used good time management skills.

Use Good Products

Many people who clean houses for a living use products such as household bleach which can affect their own health as well as that of their clients. Strong chemicals may be less expensive to use but can produce noxious odors that are both irritating and toxic.

A better choice is to use products that are ecologically friendly and will not affect the health or comfort of people using it. Safe, healthy alternatives to toxic products are better for cleaners and better for the people who employ them.

This choice also this sends a clear message to clients that you respect their health and their homes.

Success Takes Effort

If you run your business in a professional manner, show respect for your clients and their property and follow the guidelines in this article, your house cleaning business can create a good income for you.

Knowing what to do to create a successful cleaning business makes it easy for people to hire, like and respect you, and keep you coming back.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How much should I charge to clean a house?

Answer: That depends on whether you want to charge a flat or hourly rate, as well as what section of the U.S. you live in. For a single person doing all of the cleaning, the rate can usually go from $10 per hour to $25 per hour. It would be more in the big cities such as New York or Chicago, and less in smaller cities and towns. You can always start relatively low, and raise prices over time. Or you can give discounts to people who use you more often. Where I live, the going rate seems to be about $25 per hour.

© 2015 Sondra Rochelle