If you want to get your hands dirty and earn a reliable, steady income, starting your own commercial cleaning business might be a smart option for you.

The commercial cleaning industry is lucrative and is in high demand, so you’ll have repeat, ongoing business even in tough economic times. As an added bonus, the prerequisites for being a commercial cleaner are slim, so you can get your business up and running fairly quickly.

But to understand how to get that business going, you need a “How to Start a Commercial Cleaning Business” checklist.

Bookmark this list and refer to it as you continue your journey in becoming a commercial cleaning business owner.

The nitty-gritty of owning a commercial cleaning business

The cleaning industry can be broken up into two major markets: commercial and consumer. While the consumer market generally deals with residential cleaning services, commercial cleaning targets businesses.

Commercial cleaning businesses provide janitorial services for offices, hotels, condos, malls, restaurants, medical buildings, dealerships, and most other types of commercial buildings you can think of).

Before you start your business, there’s also a question of whether you’d like to be part of a franchise or whether you’d rather operate your business independently. There are pros and cons to both.

Franchise or independent commercial cleaning business?

At first glance, joining a franchise seems like the simplest and quickest way to get your business off the ground when you’re just starting out. Franchise businesses benefit from marketing support from head office (that comes with name recognition) and they’re typically tried and true business models.

But starting as a franchise can often be more expensive than starting your own. Plus, being part of a franchise means you have less freedom in running your business your way.

The independent business route really is independent: your marketing plan, business plan, how you clean your clients’ businesses, how you train employees, what cleaning business management software you use — it’s all up to you. Depending on whether or not you like following guidelines or creating guidelines, you have to decide what business model you imagine for your new venture.

Starting a commercial cleaning business

1. Establish your commercial cleaning brand

When you think of a business’ brand, you probably immediately think of your logo. While your logo is definitely important, there’s more to a brand than just its color palette.
Your brand is also your value proposition and what you promise your customers when they sign a contract with you.

Before you officially start your business, take time to think about the following:

  • What features or services distinguish your company from the rest (price point, training, vetted and certified staff, online booking, cleaning supplies used, environmentally friendly, time guarantee etc.)?
  • How do the services you offer solve your customers’ problems or pain points?

The answer to these questions will be your value proposition. Turn your value proposition into a short sentence you can use for marketing down the line. Take a look at the business names of these Jobber customers for inspiration. See how they incorporate their value proposition into their names: Bailey’s Renew-ovators, After 5 Property Services, Hazmat Cleanup, Susan’s Green Cleaning, and TimeWise Pro Services.

Use this on your social media accounts and websites. Now that you have this nailed down, you can get started with the more tangible brand design aspects.

READ MORE: The ultimate branding toolkit for your commercial cleaning business

2. Plan for the future

When you start a business, thinking ahead and planning for the future is just as important as running your business.

Before you do anything else, ask yourself things like:

  • How big do I want my company to grow?
  • How long do I think my business will run for?
  • How many contracts do I need to keep my business financially viable?
  • Do I want to bring on business partners right away or in the future?

Setting long-term goals will help you have a clear idea of what to work towards. It’ll also prepare you for the inevitable challenges you’ll encounter as an entrepreneur along the way.

3. Choose your business name and logo

Now that you’re committed to opening up your own commercial cleaning business, it’s time to look the part. And looking the part starts with a strong and catchy name.

Use our guide for how to choose the right cleaning company name for your new business.

Your logo is also a huge part of your brand awareness since you can put it on uniforms, vehicles, business cards, quotes, invoices, receipts, and much more.

You might consider hiring a designer to create a business logo for you. This gives your brand a polished and professional look.

If hiring a pro is a little out of your budget, you can try creating your own logo. Free design services like Canva are great for newbie designers and those interested in learning.

4. Register your business and get insurance

Now that you have your name and logo, you have to make sure you’re ready to start running your business legally.

Before you can register your business, you have to decide what your business structure is. If you’re in the U.S. and you want complete control over your business, you might want to register as a sole proprietorship. If you’re going into business with two or more people, a partnership is what you’re looking for. A limited liability company (LLC) is best for medium or higher-risk businesses. Learn more about business structures.

Cleaning business insurance is incredibly important for commercial cleaning businesses — entering large businesses before and after hours can be a high-risk operation.

If you or an employee accidentally damages a property and you don’t have insurance, it’s your responsibility to cover the bill. There’s also the risk of on-the-job injuries. And don’t forget auto insurance for your business vehicle.

Shop around for the right insurance plan for you by checking out various insurance providers in your area.

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5. Build your service list and pricing

Nailing down your services and pricing is a huge part of starting your business and making it successful.

Check out your competitors’ services online and look  for any gaps in the market. If your competitors don’t offer ceiling cleaning services, that’s an opportunity for your business to stand out.

On top of the standard cleaning services, here’s a list of specialty services you could offer:

  • Carpet cleaning
  • Window cleaning
  • High dusting (vent and ceiling cleaning)
  • Power washing
  • Floor waxing and restoration
  • Flood cleanup
  • Fire restoration
  • Disinfecting services

Remember that you can always add services to your list as you get to know the market, your clients, and as you gain more skills and specialized equipment. Your service list isn’t set in stone.

Next, your pricing impacts how much you can grow your business in the future. It also impacts the type of clients you get and your profit margins.

Pricing your commercial cleaning services involves calculating your labor costs, overhead, and markup. Read our guide to commercial cleaning prices here.

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6. Determine what cleaning equipment to buy

You can’t run a successful commercial cleaning business without the right tools, supplies, and equipment. Luckily, the startup costs to start your business is fairly low for commercial cleaners. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be spending any money!

You can split up your tools, supplies, and equipment into two categories: the items you’ll use up and have to purchase regularly (ie. rags and cloths, mops, latex gloves, face masks, all-purpose cleaners, etc) and the items that will last you many years (ie. a vehicle, carts and trolleys, vacuum cleaners, etc.).

This will help you narrow down your list and make purchasing all these supplies easier to manage.

Pro Tip: If you have a niche market, like green cleaning, don’t forget to factor in your specific supplies into this list!

7. Find clients and get contracts

1. Cold-calling: For commercial cleaners, cold-calling realtors and property managers is a great way to find clients. If you’re not used to cold-calling, it can be nerve-wracking and discouraging. But once you make your first dials and close your first sale, you’ll find that cold-calling can be very effective in finding contracts.

2. Marketing: With cold-calling, you find your clients on your own and call them. But with marketing, your clients find you and call you. This is all as a result of your marketing tactics. But how you attract those clients can be overwhelming — social media ads, flyers, referral program, networking. Where do you begin?

You can get started marketing your commercial cleaning business with these tips (without spending a lot of money):

Once you’re more comfortable, you can experiment with Local Service Ads (LSAs), digital ads that cater to local businesses in certain industries like commercial cleaning.

The beauty of commercial cleaning is that the work is recurring — if you can maintain these relationships, you can hold onto contracts for life.

8. Get to work

Now that the planning is complete, it’s time to get to work.

It takes a lot of work to not only start a commercial cleaning business, but get the contracts that will keep your cash flowing. A lot of the steps listed above aren’t just tasks you set and forget.

You have to keep at it — continue networking, marketing your business, cold-calling, asking for reviews, and consistently reassess your pricing. These are tasks you’ll continue to do as you run your commercial cleaning business.

Once you get your first contracts and start working, pay attention to what services your clients are asking for most often. If you get a work request for a service you haven’t offered before, always ask yourself if you’re equipped to offer the top-notch service that your clients need. Think about whether or not you can live up to your value proposition and your promise to your client.

Also take before and after pictures after every job, like a photo of a dirty carpet or window. This helps you demonstrate your work when you try to gain new contracts. But remember, some of the places you clean will have sensitive information around. So, be sure not to take a photo you can’t use on your website!

How to run your commercial cleaning business efficiently

Now that you’re ready to start your commercial cleaning business, it’s time for the fun part: running your business!

Like any good business owner, you should work out the logistics of how you’ll run your business beforehand. As you continue, you can make adjustments based on what works and what doesn’t. Use this process as a starting point:

For example:

  1. A request comes in
  2. Document client information in your CRM
  3. Get in touch with your client
  4. Discuss job details (size of space, type of cleaning, frequency of cleaning, etc.)
  5. Send a quote and automatically send a customized follow-up
  6. Client approves the quote online
  7. Schedule the job
  8. Proceed with a follow-up confirmation email a day or two before you get to the job

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