How to Start a Cleaning Business With No Money
Thinking of starting a residential cleaning business? Great idea—there’s high demand, you can make good money, and you can get started without a budget.
In fact, all you need to become a successful residential cleaning business owner is the right checklist—and here it is.
Your Guide to Starting a Cleaning Business
Is it possible to start a cleaning business with no money?
That’s what Grace and Kevin Reynolds did when they started Handmaid Cleaning—now a nationally recognized brand—without much more than a mop and a van.
Grace and Kevin went on to found the American House Cleaners Association (AHCA) with a mission to change the stigma around the cleaning industry. Their goal is to help cleaners get the respect they deserve and the resources they need to grow.
Now they’re sharing their experience about what it takes to start your own cleaning business. You can do it in 10 easy steps—and without needing any money in your pocket first.
PRO TIP: Bookmark this guide and keep it handy while you’re working on becoming a residential cleaning business owner!
You don’t need formal training to start a cleaning business—casual training will do just fine!
Before you start cleaning anything, it’s time to hit the books. Do your research, educate yourself on how to clean properly, and learn how to avoid cross-contamination from one client’s home to the next.
“Do your research on cleaning chemicals, find out what can affect what, what’s going to hurt surfaces, and what’s safe to use. Get that education before you even start cleaning anyone’s home.”
The AHCA offers cleaning certification courses to help you learn about cleaning guidelines, chemicals, disease prevention, and even the history of the cleaning industry.
Money is often tight for an entrepreneur just starting out, so certification might not happen yet. Still, there are other helpful cleaning resources you can use to educate yourself on the basics.
“When I started my cleaning service, I couldn’t find anything on YouTube. Now there’s a ton of stuff. That’s a huge part of starting your business, and it costs nothing to educate yourself.”
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You might already have some ideas for what your cleaning business name could be. First, though, you’ll need to think about your value proposition.
Your value proposition is the heart and soul of your business. It helps you target the right customers and stand out in a crowded market.
Getting your company values on paper will help you carve out your own niche and communicate to homeowners what they can expect from your business.
“Look at your community and pinpoint its needs. Having a niche keeps you focused on what you’re good at. Different types of cleaning require different types of skill and a different mindset about how to get the job done.”
For example, your niche could be clients who work night shifts or non-traditional hours, like first responders, doctors, and nurses. Or maybe you offer maid service specifically for owners with pets.
Even if you don’t define a niche, you still have to differentiate your business. Consider which features or cleaning services solve clients’ problems and help you stand out from competitors.
Here are a few examples:
- Price point
- Vetted and certified staff
- Easy online booking
- Environmentally friendly products
- Target market
- Time guarantee
Once you know what your business values are, you’re in a good position to choose a cleaning company name.
You might choose a name that plays off your values, like using the word “eco” for your green cleaning services, or “speedy” to go with your time guarantee.
You could also choose to let your creative side come up with something catchy! Whatever your business name is, it should be simple, less than three words long, and easy to say and spell.
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You’ve got your name and you know what you want to offer your market. Now you’re ready to start running your business legally with the necessary paperwork and permits.
First, you’ll need to register your name. Here’s how to do that in a few geographic areas:
- United States: Make sure nobody else in the state is using your name, then trademark it and register your domain name.
- Canada: If your business isn’t using your personal name, register your trade name and trademark it to protect your brand.
- United Kingdom: Set up as a sole trader or business partnership, check your name availability, search for a trademark, and register your company name and business.
As part of this process, you’ll need 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 opening your cleaning business with two or more people, you’ll have to register as a partnership.
- A limited liability company (LLC) is best for medium or higher-risk businesses.
READ MORE: Should I incorporate my small business?
Do you need a license to clean houses?
You absolutely, positively need to get a business license before you clean a single house. This is what legally allows you to run your business. You can get in big trouble (and pay a hefty fine) if you don’t have one.
There’s an up-front cost and you need to renew every year, but it’s one step you can’t miss. Visit your city or state website, find their business resources, and look for information about applying for your license.
💵 How much money do I need to start a cleaning business?
Expect to spend $685 (USD) up front to start your cleaning business with a few must-have purchases. Startup costs will vary depending on how much these items cost in your area:
- License and registration: $75–400/year
- Cleaning insurance: $360/year
- Equipment: $100 for a basic vacuum and all-purpose supplies
- Marketing: $150 for a simple DIY website and business cards
💸 What if I don’t have that much money right now?
Not everyone has the money available to start up a cleaning business. That’s okay! Don’t let that keep you from following your dream of becoming a business owner.
Start with only what you need for your first cleaning job—that is, the legal stuff and some basic equipment. Then invest in better equipment and marketing over time.
If you don’t already have cleaning experience, it’s a good idea to work for another cleaning company first before starting your own. This will also give you the startup money you need.
Once your cleaning business name legally belongs to you, you can use your value proposition to transform the business name into a brand.
You’ll use your logo on everything your clients will see or touch. Here are a few examples:
- Business cards
- Email signature
- Social media pages
- Vehicle wrap
- Door hangers
- Estimate templates
- Invoice templates
Remember, your logo doesn’t have to be for life. You can always change your logo down the road! It’s very simple to swap out an old logo for a newly updated version on most items, especially digital ones.
However, it’s worth noting that replacing your logo on physical items like uniforms or vehicle wraps will be more expensive and time-consuming.
DOWNLOAD: Get our free branding toolkit
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Cleaning a home without insurance is a high-risk game to play. When it comes to protecting your business and your future employees, cleaning insurance is a must.
“You shouldn’t be cleaning anyone’s house without insurance. You could burn someone’s house down, break something valuable, or scratch something, especially when you’re just getting started.”
The last thing you want as a brand-new entrepreneur is to accidentally cause damage to a client’s home, not have insurance, and get yourself in debt when you cover the property damage out of pocket.
There are different types of insurance available, depending on what you need:
- General liability insurance
- Business owners’ policy
- Workers’ compensation
- Employment practices liability
Insurance gives you a safety net, and it’s an essential part of running your cleaning business. Shop around for the right insurance plan for your business and check out various providers in your area.
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When you’re building out your list of cleaning services, look at your competitors’ websites to see what they’re offering.
Knowing what competitors offer will help you decide which services are missing in the market and which ones you can offer. That’s an opportunity for your business to stand out.
Here are some types of services you might offer:
- Basic cleaning
- Deep cleaning
- Move-out cleaning
- New home or construction cleaning
READ MORE: How to start a commercial cleaning business
But while you can use your competitors’ services and pricing as a starting point for your business, don’t get too concerned with what they’re doing.
“The best way to deal with a competitive market is to not see anyone as high competition and more like, ‘They’re there. I want to be there, too. How do I get there?’”
With your services list in place, it’s time to decide how much to charge for house cleaning. First, choose your pricing structure. Cleaning companies charge for services using:
- Hourly rate
- Flat rate
- Room rate
- Square foot rate
- Specialty service rate
READ MORE: Learn how to set commercial cleaning prices
Using that structure, figure out how much a job will cost by:
- Calculating your labor hours
- Calculating labor cost with workers (if you have any yet)
- Adding payroll expenses, overhead, and other fees
- Factoring in profit margin
- Adding any required taxes
PRO TIP: Get a business bank account to keep your personal finances separate from your cleaning business finances. It’ll make everything go much more smoothly at tax time!
“Some cleaners charge based on square footage and some charge an hourly rate. However you decide to do it, pricing your services is a huge factor in making your business successful.”
💰 How much does a cleaning business make in a year?
In one year, your cleaning business can easily make $39,000 in gross revenue. This assumes you’re working 30 hours a week and charging a $25 hourly rate for basic house cleaning services as a new business owner.
Your gross revenue can be higher or lower, depending on your pricing method, average rates in your area, and how busy you are. You can also charge a higher rate if you have more experience and offer specialty services.
🤔 How much do cleaning service owners make?
Cleaners in the United States typically earn $9.31–18.82 per hour. As a cleaning business owner, assuming you work 30 hours a week, you can earn $14,524–29,359 per year. If you work more than that, you’ll make more!
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While starting a residential cleaning business is a relatively low-cost venture, you need to buy items from this cleaning equipment list before your first job. After all, it takes money to make money!
🪣 Things you need to start a cleaning business:
- Essential cleaning supplies (vacuum, mop, bucket, rags, paper towels, duster, rubber gloves, etc.)
- Common cleaning products (multi-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, dishwashing liquid, etc.)
- Marketing and office supplies (computer, tablet or phone, printer, business cards)
- Cleaning service apps and software
Equipment and supplies come in two categories: items you’ll use up and have to purchase regularly, and items that will last for many years.
Start by getting less expensive, regularly purchased items that will help you start cleaning. As you get more jobs and cash flow improves, you can invest in expensive items that will last a long time.
How do you start a cleaning business from home?
- Pick a spot in your home where you can set up a workspace.
- If you don’t have a work surface or chair, find them in your local online marketplace. (It’s much less expensive than buying new!)
- Get cleaning business software to cut down on paper clutter.
- Think about getting a PO box for mail delivery to keep your home address private.
- Make sure to claim any work-from-home write-offs on your taxes.
One of the most important tools in your cleaning toolkit is residential cleaning business software. It helps you schedule jobs, communicate with clients, send quotes and invoices, and get paid.
It’s always a good time to introduce a tool like Jobber, but especially when you’re just getting started. You’ll be starting out on the right foot with processes that grow with your future team and your business.
“The sooner you can get on a program like Jobber to organize your business and look more professional, the better. That allows you to build all your systems as you go.”
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What’s the best way to market a cleaning business?
Kevin from AHCA says word-of-mouth marketing is always going to be the most effective way to get clients for your cleaning business.
But if you really want to grow your cleaning business, you have to think beyond person-to-person conversations.
“We know that word of mouth is the best advertising. But if you want to scale your business and if your end goal is to build an empire, you have to advertise and market. There’s no way around it.”
Start marketing your services with these advertising strategies for cleaning businesses:
- Website: Build a professional cleaning business website that lists your services and gives prospects an easy way to request work. While you’re at it, make sure your URL is short, sweet, and reflects your business name.
- Flyers and door hangers: Create and distribute flyers and door hangers to talk about your services and build your client base. Try them out and see if this type of tactic works well for your community. You might find an ad in the local paper works, too.
- Business directories: List yourself in local business directories and lead generation websites. Create a Google My Business listing and ask your happy clients for reviews. Grace also recommends advertising on NextDoor when you’re just starting out.
- Social media: Grace and Kevin were on the Facebook Small Business Council and recommend creating Facebook and Instagram accounts for your business. They’re great channels to show before-and-after cleaning images (with your clients’ privacy in mind).
- Referral program: Start a referral program and ask your customers for referrals. Your clients are doing you a favor, so make sure to give them something valuable in return, like a discount or another incentive.
- Online ads: Experiment with Google’s Local Service Ads (GLSA), which are digital ads for local businesses. Get inspired by these examples of real cleaning business ads.
- Uniforms: Uniforms don’t just look nice—they’re a marketing tool! Invest in yours right away, even if it’s just a branded t-shirt, so clients recognize you and take you seriously as a professional.
“If you show up at the door, looking like you’re cleaning your own house, your clients are not going to trust you with their homes. If you want to run a professional business, you have to present yourself like a professional.”
Grace and Kevin also swear by getting involved in your community to get the word out about your business, to sell your house cleaning services, and to give back:
- Neighborhood groups: Kevin suggests joining your local Chamber of Commerce and neighborhood Facebook group to provide value, demonstrate your expertise, and show the importance of a clean house, not just constantly push out ads.
- Cleaning groups: When you join online cleaning groups like the AHCA, you can talk to fellow cleaning business owners, ask questions, and see the latest trends in residential cleaning.
- Facebook group: Grace and Kevin lead a Facebook community where over 25,000 cleaning professionals share tips, advice, and moral support. It’s open to any cleaning professional to join.
“One of the cheapest things you can do is to get involved in your community. Help people in need and that will come back to you. That’s probably the best marketing advice we can give a new cleaning business owner.”
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Almost done! Next, you have to work out how you’ll run your business and give your clients a positive experience. You can make adjustments based on what works and what doesn’t.
Your workflow might look something like this:
- A request comes in through the online booking form on your website
- Document client information in your CRM
- Get in touch with your client
- Discuss job details (size of space, type of cleaning, frequency of cleaning, etc.)
- Send a quote and automatically send a customized follow-up
- Client approves the quote online
- Schedule the job and set it to recurring
- Proceed with a follow-up confirmation email a day or two before the cleaning
- Get to the job using GPS tracking
- Use a house cleaning checklist on the mobile app to make sure you remember everything and deliver consistent service
- Send an invoice upon job completion, or whenever agreed upon with your customer
- Accept contactless payments online through client hub
Grace says that once she implemented digital estimates with Jobber, her business instantly looked more professional.
“When we started using Jobber and got a digital quote system, we leveled up our business in a huge way. Having something written out that’s objective, not just scratch writing, is key in starting your business.”
When you’re still trying to perfect your pricing, a messy, handwritten quote might look like you’re making things up as you go. This can be the reason why a client asks for a discounted price.
But having a professional-looking cleaning estimate template and cleaning invoice template puts the power back in your hands. It tells your clients that this is the price—no negotiating for a better deal.
Plus, digital quotes and invoices save you time. Your clients can view the quote or invoice, get it sent right to their email inbox, and approve it online.
They can do the same with payments, too, so the cash stays flowing without any work on your side. Talk about making money in your sleep!
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When you’re just starting your business, doing all of the cleaning yourself is an obvious way to eliminate labor costs.
Cleaning everything yourself comes with other perks, too. You can book cleaning jobs around your schedule, whether that’s around another full-time job or on weekends.
You’re your own boss—you make the decisions!
Doing the cleaning yourself also allows you to ease into your new business by doing a little at a time. There’s less pressure to find a long list of customers right away to keep employees busy.
By taking it slow, you can focus on quality service, perfecting your workflow, and building your reputation, rather than relying on low cleaning prices to build your client list.
“Even if you’ve read 1,000 blogs on how to clean and watched 150 YouTube videos, you won’t have that system down until you start doing it on a regular basis. For quality and financial ability, wait until you’ve established that client list.”
Because you did the cleaning yourself in the beginning, you’ll have the knowledge you need to train your employees and prepare them for work out in the field. They need to learn from the best—and the best is you.
Is it worth starting a cleaning business?
A cleaning business is one of the simplest types of businesses you can run. It’s easy to get going and start earning revenue right away, and you don’t need to take out a business loan.
You also get to be your own boss, set your own standards, and do work that makes a real difference for your clients and your community. So if you’re wondering why start a cleaning business… that’s why.
Like any business, getting started might feel intimidating. But you have this guide to help, and you have the qualities of a successful entrepreneur to keep you going. Don’t worry—you’ve got this!
“The most important thing is the passion and the mindset. If you want to start a cleaning business, you will start a cleaning business. Failure is not an option.”
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