Starting a Cleaning Business: Checklists to Get You Organized
When you’re starting a cleaning business, a checklist can help you get organized long before you ever pick up a duster.
We designed eight different checklists to help you start your cleaning business—and they’re all rolled into one handy “Starting a Cleaning Business Checklist” PDF.
Download the checklists below, or keep reading to get the details about each list and learn how they can help you get your cleaning business off the ground.
Check these items off your “starting a cleaning business” checklist:
Not sure how to start a cleaning business from scratch? The very first step is figuring out which cleaning services you want to offer.
Deciding on these details now will help you later on when it’s time to make all those other decisions. Here’s how to create a cleaning services list:
- Decide on which clients and spaces you’d like to service. Residential cleaning and commercial cleaning clients have different needs and are usually serviced at different times.
- List what types of cleaning services these clients might want (e.g., deep cleaning, spring cleaning, dishwashing, laundry, regular maintenance, carpet cleaning). Add or remove items based on what services they need versus what you’re willing to provide.
- Create a list of service categories that your offerings will fall under (e.g., bedrooms, bathrooms, floor cleaning). Then organize smaller services (like dusting and wiping) under these categories.
- List the types of equipment and supplies needed to complete each service.
- Estimate how much time each service will take to complete.
- Decide how much to charge for house cleaning services based on labor, time, supplies, and employee projections. If you’re working on the commercial side, you’ll need to figure out what your commercial cleaning prices will be.
- Create cleaning service packages based on services that make sense to be grouped together, like a full deep clean package. You can use good, better, best pricing for these packages—just make sure you aren’t cutting into your profits!
When you’re deciding which cleaning services to offer, start small with just a few core options. Think short and long term—what can you do now, and what can you do later with more money?
There are a few technical details you’ll need to iron out before getting to work. This will help you establish a legal and trustworthy cleaning business that your clients will want to work with.
Here’s the best plan to get you started:
- Come up with some ideas for cleaning company names and pick the one that feels right for you. You’ll need a name before you can do anything else!
- Learn about any local legal requirements for cleaning businesses (here’s a hint—just Google “YOUR CITY NAME + business laws”). You might find you need a business license or permit to get started.
- Register your business in your city or state, if you need to.
- Get an employment identification number (EIN), if your city or state requires it.
- Get any certificates or training that are required to start a cleaning business.
- Explore local cleaning business insurance options. Vehicle, business disruption, health, and general liability insurance are all great options.
- Decide on your business structure. For example, do you want a sole proprietorship? Or would you rather become a limited liability company (LLC)?
- Open a small business bank account that meets your business needs. This makes it easy to create a savings account, accept payments, and monitor cash flow separately from your personal funds.
- Create an expense budget for purchases, equipment, gas, marketing, and any additional overhead.
- Decide what you’ll be paid, then set up an automatic bi-weekly withdrawal so you can pay yourself from your profits (and your employees, if you have them).
You need equipment before you can start cleaning, but you don’t have to buy everything you need right away. Start with a few supplies and tools, then get more as you need them.
First, grab the cleaning business supplies list you created in step 1. Then go through this checklist to start building your equipment inventory:
- Decide on an equipment budget that you can afford right now. Remember, the profit from your first few jobs might help with that!
- List the tools, equipment, and chemicals you need to complete each of the services you plan to offer (e.g., gloves, microfiber towels, extendable pole, bleach, glass cleaner).
- Determine how many of each item you’ll need for each job.
- Assign costs to each item, including the price total.
- Prioritize which items you need right now. Make decisions based on importance, price, budget, and how soon or how often you’ll use them.
- Arrange a company vehicle that can accommodate you and your supplies. Your personal vehicle might work—just make sure to update your insurance first.
If you want your clients to provide their own cleaning supplies, you might be able to skip this step. Just make sure all of your clients know what supplies they need to keep on hand.
What equipment do I need to start a cleaning business?
Here’s a sample checklist of cleaning supplies you might need:
- Face mask
- Rubber or latex gloves
- Trash bags
- Paper towels
- Cleaning towels
- Microfiber towels
- Scrubbing brushes
- Extendable pole
- Vacuum cleaner
- Broom and dustpan
- Mop and bucket
- Bleach or disinfectant
- All-purpose cleaners
- Soap scum removal cleaner
- Toilet cleaner
- Glass cleaner
- Spray bottle
If you’re going to run a cleaning business smoothly, you’ll want to work out the logistics first. You can make adjustments on the go as you complete jobs and learn what works and what doesn’t.
When you’re planning your day-to-day, here a few things to think about:
- Decide if you’re working part-time or full-time. Part-time allows you to hang onto another job in the meantime, while full-time lets you manage your schedule however you like.
- Choose your work schedule. Will you work on weekdays, weekends, or both? What time are you willing to start and stop working?
- Decide on your work location. You can narrow down your service area by city, mile radius, or some other measurement of distance.
- Figure out how you’ll travel to clients’ homes and where you’ll store materials and equipment. You might be able to manage with your personal vehicle, or you might need a van or a truck and trailer to carry everything. If you’re taking public transit, your clients will likely need to provide their own cleaning supplies on site.
- Decide how you’re going to manage client data. Many businesses use a spreadsheet when they’re first getting started, but cleaning business software keeps you organized and helps you access your data anytime, anywhere.
A standard operating procedure (SOP) helps you handle repeat situations quickly and consistently. There are many procedures you should create one day, but we recommend starting with these:
SOP 1️⃣: Onboarding new clients
When you bring on new clients, you need a process to help you gather all the information you need to do a good job, then organize that information in your system. Here’s what that process should look like:
- Collect client information. Write down necessary details like their name, address, and contact details, as well as the services you’re providing and the rate they’re getting.
- Note service requirements. Make a note of any special requirements, like cleaning preferences, preferred service dates and times, and property access details.
- Upload to your CRM. Add the client’s information to your cleaning business CRM so you can easily access it on the go.
SOP 2️⃣: Providing services
Creating a smooth workflow is the key to providing a consistent level of service and building a sustainable cleaning business. Here’s how to do it:
- Define a service process. For example, when a request comes in, you’ll collect client information, check your schedule, book a visit, send an appointment reminder that day, provide service, send the invoice, and collect payment.
- Create service templates. If you have a cleaning estimate template and an invoice template, it’s easy to tell clients how much your services will cost, then get paid when the job’s done.
- Make a house cleaning checklist. Customize your to-do list to include the services for that job, then share the completed checklist with the client so they know what you did.
- Track your time. Use time tracking to figure out how long it takes you to complete your work, then use that information to more accurately quote jobs and schedule your day.
Sign up for Job Toolkit and create your first cleaning estimates and invoices for free:
SOP 3️⃣: Dealing with damages
Damaged property isn’t something you want to think about, but it can be a reality for any home service business. Mistakes happen, so be prepared by creating a breaks and damages protocol:
- Address the damage. Your client won’t be happy, so figure out how you’ll talk about the damage and what you’ll say during that conversation.
- Make it right. Decide if you’ll pay or otherwise compensate the client. It’s a good idea to get insurance to cover more expensive property damage.
This policy should also cover employee theft or other situations where your client’s items are lost, missing, or damaged.
SOP 4️⃣: Following up with clients
Following up at every point in your service process helps you stay in touch with clients in a way that boosts your efficiency, cash flow, and reputation. Here are a few examples:
- Follow up on quotes. Quote follow-ups remind potential clients about you and provide a way to continue your conversation with them, which can help you close more sales.
- Send job updates. Send on-my-way text messages and appointment reminders so clients don’t forget you’re coming or wonder where you are.
- Follow up after a job. Send follow-up emails after service to make sure clients are satisfied with your work, get more reviews, and remind them to book their next visit.
- Thank your clients. Set reminders to send thank-you notes to customers after they pay—or just to thank them for being such great clients!
SOP 5️⃣: Getting paid
Money keeps your business running, so it’s important to set up a process for taking payment and checking in with clients who haven’t paid their invoices yet. Here’s what that could look like:
- Pick a payment provider. Choose a system to collect client payments, and decide if you’ll take payment up front or after service.
- Send invoice reminders. Send reminders to address failed or missed payments with clients after a certain amount of time has passed.
You’ll likely run into clients who regularly pay late or don’t pay at all, so decide how to deal with that early on, too.
PRO TIP: Commercial cleaning software is easy to use and makes it easy to send invoices and get paid, fast.
Part of being a professional business is looking the part. Good branding will help you do that.
Your brand creates a personality around your company that sets you apart from competitors and provides something for your clients to connect with. Follow these steps to create yours:
- Think about what features or services set your company apart. For example, this could be price point, training, certification, supplies used, or time guarantee. This difference is your value proposition, and it’s the one thing clients need to know about you. Make it into a short, snappy line, then use it on your website, social media, and marketing materials.
- Design your logo, pick your company colours, and choose a clean, easy-to-read font. These are the most recognizable part of your brand, so use them on your uniform and in your marketing materials. You can design a logo using a tool like Canva or Looka, or hire a designer or branding agency to do it for you.
- Choose a uniform that will help you (and your team) represent your company. This can include t-shirts with your name and logo, pants, aprons, hats or headbands, and face masks.
- Get a dedicated business phone number and email address. There are free email options available, or you can pay a little extra to connect your email with your website URL.
- Make eye-catching branded business cards and vehicle decals that include your logo, company name, phone number, website, and email address.
LEARN MORE: Try our 100% free branding toolkit template
Your clients aren’t just going to call you up and hire you out of the blue. You’re going to have to go out in the field, find them, and introduce your business to them. Here’s how:
- Tell family and friends about your business to get them in as your first clients—and ask them to spread the word, too!
- Print some tear-away flyers and place them on bulletin boards in community centres and local businesses. You can also print off and distribute door hangers with more details about your cleaning services.
- Start networking to find new clients everywhere you go. Chat up friendly people at the store, at events, or anywhere else you meet someone who might be looking for cleaning services. You can also promote your new business on Nextdoor.
- Consider offering a referral program for clients who pass your information on to their friends, or who book multiple services with you. A good incentive could be 50% off your second service for new clients, or maybe referrals get a free service. It’s up to you and what your profit margins will allow for.
- Get in touch with local businesses who could be good partners and refer clients to you, like pet stores, caterers, event planners, or realtors.
READ MORE: Find out how to get cleaning contracts
With a core group of customers in place, it’s time to grow your cleaning business even more. Try these basic marketing tactics to get the word out:
- Set up social media accounts on your favorite networks, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest or Tiktok. Then post regular content like how-to videos, before-and-after photos, and business growth tips. Many of these platforms have local groups and chats, so keep an eye out for opportunities to promote your business.
- Create a website using a platform like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or GoDaddy, and get a web address that includes your company name. Already online? Give your cleaning website a refresh to make sure it’s turning window shoppers into clients.
- Create a Google My Business listing. This gives potential clients a place to see reviews, contact you, and request a quote. Current clients can leave positive reviews, too.
- Your clients are online—why aren’t you? Set up digital ads on Facebook or Instagram, or run Google Local Services Ads to bring potential clients to your website for more details.
- If you have a company vehicle, apply decals or a full vehicle wrap so it becomes your very own moving billboard. Park your branded vehicle in public spaces regularly, too, so people walking or driving by will learn about your business.
Every one of these “Starting a Cleaning Business” checklists will help you start your cleaning business on the right foot. Good luck, and happy cleaning!
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Originally published May 2019. Last updated August 4, 2021.