how to start a commercial cleaning business: women cleaning office kitchen

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

The commercial cleaning industry is easy to break into, has high demand, and pays well. That means reliable ongoing business, even when economic times get tough.

Just follow these steps to learn how to start a commercial cleaning business.

(Want to focus on residential cleaning instead? Learn how to start a cleaning business that serves residential clients.)

1. Plan your commercial cleaning business

Planning for the future is the first step in starting your business. You need to ​​write a commercial cleaning business plan. This plan should answer questions like:

  • What types of commercial businesses do I want to work with?
  • How much are they usually willing to pay?
  • What problems can I help them solve?
  • What hours and days do I want to work?
  • Do I want to operate independently or be part of a franchise?
  • Who are my competitors?
  • What makes me different from other commercial cleaners?
  • How big do I want my company to grow?
  • How long do I want my business to 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?
  • Should I work alone or hire a team of cleaners?

Setting long-term goals in your commercial cleaning business plan gives you a clear idea of what you’re working toward. This will help you make day-to-day business decisions.

Here’s one example of a goal you could set. A commercial cleaner salary is $20,384–46,883 (USD) a year, so set a goal to make even more as a commercial cleaning business owner.

FREE TOOL: Get our cleaner salary guide, 100% free

You might also consider joining a commercial cleaning franchise. Franchise businesses get name recognition, marketing support from head office, and the benefit of a tried-and-true business model.

That said, running an independent business costs less money and gives you full control over your business operations. It’s up to you to decide what’s most important and which path is right for you.

READ MORE: Is it worth starting a cleaning business?

2. Determine your commercial cleaning services and rates

The next step is to ​​determine the types of commercial cleaning services and rates for each. You can offer commercial and industrial cleaning services like:

  • General commercial and office cleaning
  • Janitorial service
  • One-time cleaning service
  • Weekly cleaning service
  • Monthly cleaning service
  • Floor cleaning
  • Floor waxing and restoration
  • Trash removal
  • High dusting (vents, ceilings)
  • Deep cleaning
  • Carpet cleaning services
  • Window cleaning
  • Sanitizing and disinfecting
  • Event cleanup
  • Construction cleanup
  • Flood or fire cleanup
  • Power washing

Check out local commercial cleaners online to see what they offer and find any gaps in the market. For example, if your competitors don’t offer ceiling cleaning, that service will make your business stand out.

READ MORE: Successful cleaning business stories

Remember, your services list isn’t set in stone. You can always add different types of cleaning services to your list as you get to know the market and gain more experience.

Once you’ve finalized your services list (at least for now), you need to know how to price commercial cleaning jobs. There are a few ways to set your cleaning rates:

  • Square footage rate is one of the most common types of cleaning rates. The average rate in the U.S. is $0.07–0.12 per square foot. It may not seem like much, but that rate adds up fast in large spaces.
  • Hourly rate includes your labor cost per hour, plus overhead. Most commercial cleaners in the U.S. make $9.80–22.54 per hour, so you can charge $25–100 per worker per hour to cover costs and turn a profit. Hourly rates are most profitable for lengthy tasks like deep cleaning, or if you don’t know how long a job will take.
  • Flat rate pricing provides one predictable cleaning cost for the entire job—for example, $300 per cleaning. This method works well when you know exactly how much time it’ll take to complete the job. In these cases, it’s a better option than hourly because you’re rewarded for working faster.
  • Room rate calculates cleaning cost based on the number of rooms in the building—say, $75 per room. It works best in office buildings with multiple small rooms—not so much with open floor plans, where the cleaning cost per room will be much lower.

Whichever rate you choose, just remember—your commercial cleaning rates should always match your experience level and account for labor costs, overhead, markup, and profit margin.

FREE TOOL: Try our free profit margin calculator

Get our free commercial cleaning estimate template

Impress clients with a professional-looking, customizable estimate template. Fill it out fast and win work even faster.

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3. Name your commercial cleaning business

Now that you’re committed to opening up your own commercial cleaning business, it’s time to pick a cleaning company name. Choose a name that stands out from competitors, is easy to say and remember, and isn’t already in use.

Need a cleaning business name idea? Here are a few ideas for commercial cleaning company names to get you started:

  • Achieve Cleaning
  • Adept Cleaning
  • Blue Sky Cleaning
  • Cleaning Unlimited
  • Guaranteed Clean
  • Impact Cleaning
  • Inspire Cleaning
  • Pinnacle Cleaning
  • Pro Cleaning
  • Optimum Cleaning

Once you have a name, you’ll also want to start branding your business. Create a unique logo that looks great in lots of applications, choose colors that stand out from competitors, and pick a font that looks great and is easy to read.

You can then place your commercial cleaning logo and colors on uniforms, vehicles, business cards, quotes and invoices, and much more.

Pro Tip: Think about hiring a designer to create a business logo for you. This gives your brand a polished and professional look. Or, if hiring a pro is a little out of your budget, create your own logo using a logo builder like Looka.

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4. Form a legal entity and register your business for taxes

Before you start contacting potential clients, make sure you’re ready to run your small business legally. That means you need to form a legal entity and register your business for taxes.

The first step is to decide on your business structure:

  • Sole proprietorship is a good option if you’re in the U.S. and you want complete control over your business entity.
  • Register as a partnership if you’re going into business with two or more people.
  • Go with a limited liability company (LLC) if your business is medium or high risk. Another way to manage liability is with an S corporation.

READ MORE: Should I incorporate my small business?

From there, you’ll need to register your name with your local registry for business tax purposes. Always check with local governments to make sure you’re compliant with their process and requirements:

Your city or state might require you to have an employment identification number (EIN), too. If you don’t know local regulations, just Google “YOUR CITY NAME + business laws”.

You don’t need any special licenses or certifications to start or run a commercial cleaning business. That said, your clients might trust you more if you have ISSA or OSHA certification.

5. Open a business bank account and set up basic accounting

Don’t mix business with personal life—open a business bank account to keep your business payments and cash flow separate from your rent and groceries.

This will keep you from accidentally withdrawing business expenses from your personal checking account (or vice versa). It’ll also make you look more legitimate to clients and make things much easier at tax time.

Here’s what you need to set up a business checking account:

  • The business’s name and address
  • Your legal name, birth date, and address
  • Your business’s EIN (or your SSN/SIN)
  • Valid government-issued personal ID

If more than one person will use this account, you’ll need the same information for them, too. You might also need other documents depending on your business structure.

When your checking account is set up, create a monthly budget for any expenses. This should include your paycheck, insurance, supplies, marketing, and overhead. Your budget isn’t set in stone, though—you can adjust over time.

Keep track of your income and expenses throughout the year so you can file your taxes accurately. Be aware of who you’re filing taxes with, too:

6. Get commercial cleaning business insurance

Entering a client’s business before and after hours can be a high-risk operation. If you accidentally damage the client’s property, or if an employee is injured on the job, the cost will come out of your pocket.

That’s why you need to get cleaning insurance. The cost to get commercial cleaning business insurance starts around $450/year, and that’s the bare minimum with just liability coverage.

Your full insurance policy should include:

  • General liability insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Property insurance
  • Vehicle insurance
  • Business owners’ policy
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Employment practices liability
  • Coverage for independent contractors you hire

You should also be bonded, which means you’re protected if an employee steals or damages a client’s property. You can include this coverage in your cleaning business insurance policy, too.

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

Get a free commercial cleaning insurance quote

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7. Fund your commercial cleaning business

As we mentioned earlier in this article, you’ll need $975 (USD) to get started. But how do you get that money and fund your business?

There are a few different funding options you can explore as a small business owner:

  • Government funding: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several funding programs to help you get started. The best options for commercial cleaning are a business loan or venture capital. The Government of Canada also offers business grants and financing to small business owners.
  • Bank funding: Fund your business with the help of your local bank. Apply for a small business loan or line of credit that you can pay back over time. You can also get a business loan through a direct lender like Funding Circle.
  • Credit cards: Business credit cards give you access to ready money up front that you can pay back later. Some credit cards offer rewards for every dollar spent, which can be an effective way to save while you’re spending. Just make sure you’re paying off the credit card every month so you don’t go into debt.
  • Jobber Grants: The Jobber Grants program spotlights small home service businesses who do great things for their communities. It offers $150,000 in available funding, distributed through 25 grants across three categories.

8. Buy commercial cleaning supplies and equipment

Running a successful commercial cleaning business requires the right tools, supplies, and equipment. You’ll need to invest in commercial cleaning business supplies like:

  • Supply cart
  • Mop and bucket
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Vacuum cleaners (industrial/handheld)
  • Multi-purpose cleaner
  • Spray bottles
  • Disinfectant
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Sponges, magic erasers, and steel wool
  • Dusters (long/short)
  • Glass/window cleaner and squeegee
  • Oven cleaner and stainless steel cleaner
  • Toilet and shower cleaner
  • Disposable cleaning brushes
  • Paper towels and toilet paper
  • Hand soap
  • Dish soap and dishwasher detergent
  • Garbage bags
  • Air freshener
  • Wood and leather furniture cleaner
  • Vinegar or other descaling agent
  • Respirator, rubber gloves, and knee pads
  • Branded uniform
  • Work apron and comfy shoes

You’ll also need a company vehicle to help you transport your cleaning supplies to and from jobs. If you already have a personal vehicle, use that when you’re first getting started.

If you have a niche service, such as laundry service or carpet cleaning, don’t forget to factor in specific cleaning supplies like laundry detergent or carpet cleaning chemicals.

READ MORE: Should you offer green cleaning services?

There’s one more piece of equipment you need

Commercial cleaning business software helps keep your business organized, from quoting and scheduling to invoicing and payments.

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9. Learn how to manage a commercial cleaning business

Work out the logistics of how you’ll run a successful cleaning business before you get your first client. Planning ahead will help you maintain a professional business with organized operations and top-tier customer service.

Here’s how to manage a commercial cleaning business and provide great service at every step:

  1. A potential client fills out your work request form, and you receive an email asking for a commercial cleaning services quote.
  2. Add the client’s details to your commercial cleaning business software.
  3. Contact the client and discuss job details (space, services, frequency, etc.).
  4. Create an estimate using our commercial cleaning estimate template and send it to the client. (You can also send automated follow-ups if you need to!)
  5. The client approves the estimate online through client hub.
  6. Schedule the job in your cleaning software and assign yourself (or a cleaner) to the job.
  7. Send a follow-up confirmation email 24 hours before the job to remind the client.
  8. Follow professional cleaning checklists on the job to ensure quality control.
  9. Take before-and-after photos of your work. Make sure they don’t include any confidential client information.
  10. Send a work completion form or filled-out cleaning checklist to show the client everything you did that day.
  11. The client receives an automated email or text thanking them for their business and asking them to leave a review.
  12. Use our commercial cleaning invoice template to invoice the client for your work, and send automated invoice follow-ups if they don’t pay on time.
  13. The client pays in person or online through client hub using credit card processing.

You can always update this process as you discover what works best for your business.

Pro Tip: Once you get your first clients, pay attention to what services they’re asking for most often and try to accommodate. But if you get a work request for a service you haven’t offered before, make sure you’re equipped to offer the top-notch service your clients need.

10. Promote your commercial cleaning business and get clients

Your business is up and running. Now all you need is a list of commercial cleaning clients. Put together a marketing plan and try these marketing tips to promote your cleaning business:

  • Cleaning websites are the first step in marketing any cleaning business. Build a website that lists your services and offers online booking. You can also write blog posts to help bring in visitors through search engines.
  • Set up accounts on Facebook and Instagram, and post content that educates or entertains your followers.
  • Run cleaning ads on social media or use search engine advertising like Local Services Ads, a type of Google ad that’s designed for local businesses like yours.
  • Hand out business cards with your name, business name, and contact details. You can do the same with cleaning flyers, door hangers, postcard mail, or even fridge magnets.
  • Create a free Google My Business listing and ask your commercial cleaning clients to leave positive reviews.
  • List your cleaning company in local business directories and on lead generation websites like Thumbtack or Taskrabbit.
  • Take time to build relationships with realtors and property managers, then ask them about their cleaning needs.
  • Network with other local business owners and see how you can help each other. They might not become a cleaning client, but they might lead a potential customer your way.
  • Start a referral program that rewards your current clients for referring a new customer.
  • Buy t-shirts or uniforms to wear on the job, and use a vehicle wrap or decal to promote your services on the go.

READ MORE: How to get clients for cleaning business owners

11. Learn how to write a commercial cleaning contract

As a commercial cleaning business, it’s important to know how to get cleaning contracts. That know-how starts with putting together a cleaning contract.

Your clients might have their own contracts, especially if you’re bidding on a government contract, but it’s still good to have one of your own.

Work with a lawyer to write a cleaning services contract that protects both your business and your clients. Your business or office cleaning contract should include terms about:

  • How long the contract is
  • What services you’re providing
  • What properties you’re cleaning
  • When, how, and how much you’re being paid
  • What conditions might end the contract early

Pro Tip: Don’t use a template to create your commercial cleaning contract. It might seem easy, but it won’t be specific to your business—and it might not give you the protection you need.

You’ll also need to know how to write a cleaning proposal. This is a document that includes more information about your company and what you offer, like:

  • Your history and experience
  • An introduction to your team
  • Your commercial cleaning services
  • What makes you different from competitors
  • Your pricing structure and service quote
  • How often you’ll clean and how long it takes
  • Proof of cleaning business insurance and financial health

Invoice faster with our free template

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12. Hire and train commercial cleaning staff

When you first start your commercial cleaning business, you’ll probably have only one employee. You won’t just be doing cleaning jobs—you’ll be responsible for quoting, scheduling, and invoicing them, too.

Here are a few roles you can think about hiring for when you’re ready to grow your team:

  • Cleaners: The first person you should hire is another commercial cleaner. They can give you a hand with all of your cleaning jobs. From there, you can continue hiring cleaners and grow your cleaning staff one employee at a time
  • Supervisor: When you have enough cleaners, you’ll need a supervisor who’s responsible for training cleaners, scheduling teams, and dealing with any day-to-day issues.
  • Office Manager: Your office manager is in charge of your clients and your cleaning staff. They handle client questions and concerns, send invoices for completed work, and take care of employee hiring and payroll.
  • Sales: A dedicated and experienced sales employee is a great way to reach new clients and grow your business. They’re responsible for finding and bringing in new clients, winning new contracts, and renewing contracts with current clients.

Pro Tip: Outsource as much administrative work as you can, at least until your business grows big enough. Hire a bookkeeper to manage your expenses, get an accountant to help with taxes, and work with a lawyer to help with all your legal needs.

READ MORE: Do I need an accountant for my small business?

You’re ready to get to work—and there will be a lot of work. The steps we listed aren’t set-and-forget. You have to keep marketing, hiring, and looking at new ways to do business better.

But the hard work will also be worth it. Once you’re up and running—and making bank every day—you’ll wonder why you ever waited to start a commercial cleaning business.

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First published October 2020. Last optimized March 10, 2022.