Operations: The Day to Day
Getting your cleaning business up and running is only the first step, after that, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of the day to day operations.
“A cleaning business is a lot of moving parts. I had five teams, with each team cleaning three houses a day. That’s 15 clients every day that you have to make happy—or 75 bosses a week.”
How to Staff Jobs and Customize Cleaning for Each Client
Some companies staff one cleaner per job, but we recommend two-person teams consisting of a supervising cleaner who’s in charge, the manager, and an assistant. Here’s why:
- Two people clean faster than one person.
- A two-person team helps you justify a higher hourly rate.
- Training with teams of two is a fast, easy way to get new staff started, which is ideal if you plan to grow your business quickly.
Our industry expert Katie Pearse also recommends keeping the same two people working together as a team as much as possible.
Match Each Client with One Cleaning Team
Your clients will have a better customer experience with your company if you match each of them up with a particular cleaning team.
“A lot of companies will not guarantee your cleaning team. You can have different people all the time. So this was a huge competitive difference for us,” says Katie. “Why on earth would you want different people at your house every time? That’s the opposite of what I would want as a client.”
“So my idea was to match you up with this wonderful cleaning team of two people who are almost like your personal staff.”
Clients are impressed with this more personal service touch. It also makes cleaning more efficient, because the cleaners get to know the needs of a client very well. But most importantly, it will create the opportunity for cleaners and clients to build loyal, long-term relationships with each other. These loyal relationships are a cornerstone of any successful housecleaning business.
How to Match Clients with The Right Cleaners
So how do you decide which cleaning team goes with which client? “It’s a matter of finding out what your clients’ priorities are and then matching them up with the perfect team to deliver that,” Katie says.
“Some people just want the cat fur gone or their bathroom cleaned. Some people need help dealing with their clutter, and they want their home to be beautifully staged, almost like a show home.”
“Likewise, I had some cleaners who were especially good at decluttering. I also had certain staff who knew how to fluff the pillows and fold the end of the toilet paper in that fancy way and make a home look absolutely beautiful.”
To be a good matchmaker, find out how your cleaners clean by talking to them about their cleaning style and observing them in action. And to find out what your clients want, have all your new clients fill out a client profile.
How to Run a Cleaning Business
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Customize Cleaning with a Client Profile
The client profile is a form that asks your new clients to provide detailed information about their cleaning needs so that you can customize your cleaning for them.
“That client profile is incredibly important,” Katie says. “I would ask them everything. I would really make them spend some time. But it was all about customizing that appointment to them—we want to know your pets, we want to know what’s important… Do you want help with decluttering, or is it your showers?”
“The more you customize, the more they feel that you know everything you need to know when you’re coming in to clean. That puts them at ease. They appreciate that.”
“It also helps them clarify their priorities and own their decisions, because it gets them to say, ‘Yes, this is what I want,’ and ‘No, this is what I don’t want.’”
“You need to know how your cleaners clean, and you need to understand what your clients want. Then you can connect each client with the right cleaners.”
Download Our Free Client Profile Toolkit
Want to start collecting your own client profiles? Download this free client profile toolkit to get started. A print and web version are both included with this toolkit.
2 Ways to Cut Down on Admin Staff Costs
These two helpers make admin work highly manageable, radically reducing the amount of time and energy you need to put into admin. They’re so effective that you might not even need to hire admin staff if your business is smaller.
Buying one or two software subscriptions will run you somewhere between $40 and $200 a month, while a receptionist service can cost less than $300 a month.
“That’s nothing compared to paying your own admin person—even one that’s part-time,” says Katie, who’s a big fan of both tools.
The Virtues of a Receptionist Service
Katie was thrilled when she found Ruby Receptionists. A Portland-based company, Ruby Receptionists will answer the phone using your company name, and they can also take care of tasks like scheduling your cleaning appointments and making outbound calls.
“Having that live human voice is so important,” Katie says. “And nobody knew they weren’t my staff because they answer with your company name and have access to your records. And the guaranteed quality of service they provide… They’re just amazing.”
As with software, we encourage you to research different receptionist services and choose the one that’s best for you. (Katie just happens to love Ruby Receptionists.)
A Better Way to Think About Your Company Structure
The old way of thinking about company structure is that the owners are the head honchos “on top” of the company. Employees are a level “below” them. If we put it in an org chart, it looks like this:
But in the housecleaning business, the owner is not the most important boss—your clients are. They’re the ones who everybody needs to focus on, because if they’re not happy, you don’t have a business.
Also, unless you’re out cleaning, you’re not going to know your clients directly. Who does? Your staff.
“Your staff really are the faces of your company, the ones who your clients know,” says Katie.
“I wanted the staff to develop those relationships with the clients. I always felt like I was at the bottom to support my staff to go out there and make our bosses happy. You’re working for your staff in a way, lifting them up as opposed to looking down on them.”
So how should you think of your company structure?
In this “bottom-up” company structure, the owners empower the cleaners to go out and make their own decisions about how to best serve the most important bosses, the clients.
This fed straight into Katie’s philosophy of empowering her staff while also making her work easier. “The staff were the ones who knew everything,” she says. “They’d tell me what clients were saying and what clients needed.”
Think of your company structure this way, and you’ll find yourself in a mindset where you’re focused on serving your clients and empowering your staff—two habits that can launch you far ahead of the competition. And, as Katie can attest, it’s the kind of mindset that sets the stage for vigorous company growth.
How to Price and Quote Your Services
The hourly rate for cleaning varies a lot depending on the company. The lesson is that what you decide to charge per hour is very much up to you. And don’t be afraid to experiment with your pricing.
“I would test the market all the time,” says Katie. “If things were slow, I would say, ‘Okay, let’s change the prices a bit and see what happens.’”
Another important lesson: you’ll be able to charge higher rates if you come across as a high-end, professional company. This is what Katie’s company did, and over seven years they were able to triple their hourly rate from $62 to $180. You might not want to pursue an hourly rate that high, and that’s fine—we just want you to think about the possibility that you could charge more.
“A lot of housecleaning companies are undercharging. They could charge a lot more.”
How Speed Cleaning Can Triple Your Revenue
If you don’t use speed cleaning techniques, you need to start. Speed cleaning can literally triple your revenue. Here’s how:
Say you’ve got a cleaner who charges $35/hour. It takes her 3 hours to clean a 1,000 square foot condo. But with speed cleaning, the same job takes an hour or less, and the quality of work is just as good or better. So it’s reasonable for a speed cleaner to charge an hourly rate that is three times as high as a slow cleaner, because the price will be the same for the client—or even less.
Looking to learn more about speed cleaning? These 13 speed cleaning rules are a great place to start.
How to Prepare Quotes and Estimates
Quotes and estimates are another part of business that gets easier to do when you use software. With Jobber, for example, you can prepare and email quotes while you’re out in the field with Jobber’s mobile app, and you can filter quotes by status so you know which ones you need to follow up on.
A lot of companies visit new clients in person to prepare a quote, but you can also set yourself up for online quotes. This is what Katie did. She prepared quotes with the help of an online form so that the first in-person visit from her company was the first cleaning appointment.
To get an online quote from Katie, people would fill out a simple Get a Quote form on the company website and provide some basic information about their home. For example, the form would ask for the square footage of the home. Katie would then apply standard time estimates for how long it takes to clean a home with that square footage.
“I also included a disclaimer with quotes,” Katie adds. “It basically said that if we feel we need more time once we arrive and see your place, we will inform you. In those cases we would talk to them and say something like, ‘The house needs more work than we estimated, so we might need an extra hour. Are you okay with paying that?’ If they weren’t, we would ask what to focus on within the time limit because we wouldn’t be able to get to everything.”
“But for the most part, people are okay with a little extra time now and then. And it was rare that our estimates didn’t work.”
You might prefer the personal touch of visiting a new client in person to prepare the quote. If so, great! That’s an equally valid way to prepare quotes, and you can make it part of your customer service philosophy. But if you’re interested in taking your quote process online…
Make the Payment Process Easy for Both You and Your Clients
A cumbersome payment process—like asking your clients to set up their own e-Transfer to pay you—can annoy them and make them less likely to pay you promptly. To learn how to accept payments in the field, set up ePayments for your clients and otherwise make paying as easy as possible for them, check out the Jobber Academy article 5 Strategies for Getting Paid Fast and Managing Your Cash Flow.
Also: if you’re busy or plan to be, you better set yourself up to handle a high volume of payments, or else some of your money could fall through the cracks.
“We used invoicing software, and I don’t know how I would have run that business without it,” says Katie. “We just emailed the invoice, they clicked, they paid—otherwise I don’t know how we would have kept track of everything.”
With Jobber software, you can invoice in batches and use payment tracking to keep a close eye on which clients owe you money. And with Jobber’s ePayments feature, you can email invoices with a Pay Now button. All your clients have to do is click on the button to pay you online with their credit card.
Jobber is also integrated with Square, which sets you up to take credit card payments from your clients with your smartphone or tablet.
You might feel like it’s too early in your business to use software for payments, but the earlier you get started, the better. If you have software in place before business is booming, then you won’t have to worry about getting started with it when you’re super busy.
“Without software, it’s much easier to miss payments or forget something because you’re handling so much money all the time.”
Why You Need to Use Software
In this chapter, we’ve noted a few times how software makes operating a cleaning business easier than ever before. We talked about how it makes admin work so quick and straightforward that you might not need admin staff. We also mentioned how it can streamline the quoting process and make payments easy and painless for both you and your clients.
In short, a whole bunch of processes that used to be manual—like quoting, scheduling, invoicing, and mapping your driving routes to jobs—can all be automated through affordable software like Jobber. Software will save you time and money like you wouldn’t believe. For example, just the route optimization feature in Jobber could save you thousands of dollars by helping you cut down on drive time and mileage pay.
And don’t let software intimidate you. Software these days is designed to be easy to understand and easy to use. Even if you don’t have much experience with software, you will be able to learn it. We promise! At Jobber, we also give you training and customer support as part of your subscription package. We’ll help you solve any problems you might run into and show you how to get the most out of our software.
If you’re not quite ready to start paying for software, we suggest you start with free software. Google Apps are some of the best free software on the market, and Google Calendar will help you with scheduling your cleaning appointments.
When you’re ready for more, you can graduate up to a free 14-day trial with Jobber. And if you don’t like it, you can walk away without paying a dime.
And now we leave you with a 3-minute video about how our customers use Jobber.
“Now, with technology, you can run a very lean, flexible business. You can be a profitable cleaning company that lasts thanks to technology.”