Cleaning houses is not easy. If you’re starting a cleaning business, you have experience and you know how strenuous the work can be. Because of this, it’s important that you charge enough for each job. You need to cover your time, your expertise, and your overhead costs. That being said, you also don’t want to overcharge. You want your services to be affordable so you can get new clients. The whole thing is a tricky balancing act. How do you know how much to charge for your work?
This is a question that plagues many business owners, not just residential cleaning businesses. It can be very difficult to make this decision, especially when you’re first starting a residential cleaning business. The good news is that you’re not alone. Many have gone through this before, and they’ve been successful. We’re going to go into some “dos and don’ts” to estimating new jobs. This will help get you started.
Initial Things to Consider when Starting a Residential Cleaning Business
For every cleaning business, there are ground rules. There are things you need to consider before you make an initial pricing list. These things will determine how high your prices go (or how low they go):
- Whether or not you’re going to charge by the hour or by the square footage.
There is no “cardinal rule” on this one. Every housekeeper is different. The majority of cleaning businesses charge by the square footage for commercial buildings and by the square foot for residential buildings. Charging by the hour isn’t as profitable when you’re cleaning commercial businesses because those buildings are often cleaned 5 days per week. Deep cleaning isn’t always required, so you won’t be spending as much time in there. If you charge by the square footage, you’re getting paid a flat rate and you’re making a profit.
- What the space looks like.
As a residential cleaning company, you’re dealing with a mixed bag. Some homes are kept up fairly well, but with others, you’re dealing with built-up dirt and clutter. It’s very difficult to estimate this over the phone. Unfortunately, asking someone if you can come to have a look at their home before you clean isn’t always an option. You may want to ask them to describe the work involved or send you some photos. Clutter adds an exorbitant amount of time to a job, and it can also complicate the job. You’ll be moving people’s personal belongings and there is a risk that comes with that.
- Whether or not your client has animals.
Pets are unpredictable. Some animals don’t leave a mess at all – it looks like they barely live there. Others leave hair everywhere, or worse, a smell that you need to get out. If a client has pets, you may want to consider tacking on another 10% (more or less) to your fee. This is also a problem when you can’t see the home before you clean. You don’t know how bad the damage is until you get in there. Putting a flat rate in place before you clean may help as far as your profits are concerned.
- What are other businesses charging?
When you’re starting your cleaning business, you have to keep your competition in mind. Other cleaning services have been around longer than you have, and they might have regular clients in your area. Competitive rates need to be at the forefront of your mind, especially in the beginning when you’re starting from scratch. When you’ve built up a regular client base and you have regular customers, you can easily raise your rates for new customers. In the meantime, do some research on your competition. Look at their reviews. Find the competitors with the best reviews and work on matching their prices (or even going a little bit under their prices in the beginning).
- Your experience.
This is very important. If you’re a brand-new cleaning company and you have little-to-no experience in house cleaning, it’s not logical to charge as much as the experienced competitors. There are cases, however, where people start cleaning businesses after decades of working in housekeeping. Do not underestimate your worth if you are one of these cases. How much did your last employer charge clients? You might want to match that and get 100% of the profits!
- The area you’re serving.
Different areas have different pricing expectations. This is usually determined by the median income of the city and the cost of living + the standard rate people are being paid (their income restrictions or surplus). If you’re working in a small town or an inner-city district, you may want to consider lowering your prices. Again, this goes back to checking on your competitor’s rates in your districts. If you live in a large, wealthy city – don’t be afraid to raise those rates to match the incomes of your clients.
What Do Most Residential Cleaning Businesses Charge?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that housecleaners who work for large companies make around $11/hour ($5-$10 more in large cities like New York or LA). You won’t be making that. You’re starting your own company. You need to cover labor, taxes, and overhead costs (think of all of the cleaning supplies you’ll be investing in, not to mention licenses and time off), but you also need to make a profit. You’re not starting your own business just to get paid what you were getting paid before! Most residential cleaning companies charge clients an average of $90-$150 per home, according to Home Advisor. Again, this depends on where you live. This is a generally good starting point if you’re serving an urban neighborhood.
Any time you start a new business like this, you need to be prepared for trial and error. It’s okay for you to try out different pricing and see how it goes. You will make some mistakes, but you’ll also have many great victories.
In the beginning, you may want to charge less — to give yourself a competitive edge. But here’s the thing: never underestimate your worth. After you’ve been in business for a little bit, do not be afraid to raise those rates for new customers. You’re providing an extremely valuable service. You’re giving people more time with their families. They’re paying for a sense of calm, and some would say that’s priceless. There is a reason residential house cleaning companies charge what they do: they know how valuable they are. It’s your turn to feel that way, too.
If you have any questions about estimating bids or any other part of the start-up process, call Debbie Sardone, the maid coach. She has years of experience helping businesses just like yours with her comprehensive programs. She’s coaches other companies to success and wants to coach yours also.