Starting a Janitorial Cleaning Service

In a time of economic downturn, companies and businesses all over are downsizing -- eliminating so-called "non-core" jobs -- in order to cut costs and improve the bottom line. Core jobs are those required to create the product or service that is the company's lifeblood. Non-core jobs are the jobs that aren't directly tied to the production of those goods and services. That is why many companies are out-sourcing their cleaning and janitorial needs to private contractors.

If you're in-between jobs right now, why not consider filling that need for commercial cleaning services?

What about startup costs?

That depends on the clientele that you'll be servicing. In some cases, a couple hundred dollars of supplies and equipment may be all that you need. For cleaning a small office, you may only need Swiffer-type dusters, a decent vacuum, squeegees, scrubbing brushes and cleaners. For slightly-larger jobs, you might need an industrial vacuum, pusher brooms, mop and pail, special floor cleaner liquids, a floor buffer/polisher, as well as rags, dusters and furniture polish. For much larger jobs, an industrial steam floor cleaner and rug steamer may be needed. Again, you can start off small by getting smaller clients.

If you choose to start off bigger, you'll probably need to obtain financing. If that's the case, you'll need to create a business plan. The plan will show, in detail, the startup costs, the costs of doing the cleaning/janitorial work, and the probable revenues from the contracts. You need to know in advance whether or not it will be profitable. That's what a good business plan will show you.

What should I charge?

That depends on the level of service that you'll be providing. First, find out from your potential client what amount of service they will expect from you. Carefully estimate how much time it will take to provide that service. Then, charge between $25 and $50 per hour for the service. That will give you some flexibility in case certain tasks take longer than anticipated, or if the client decides that another cleaning task should be included at the price you've decided to charge.

Carefully list the tasks and services that you are contracting to provide. Be explicit and detailed. Some businesses will try and get you to do things that you hadn't counted upon having to do. If the task list is detailed and considered to be part of your contract, then the client can't continually add additional tasks for you to do.

One neat thing to remember is: as you perform the tasks, you'll develop skills, practices and shortcuts that will reduce the amount of time that you actually spend doing the tasks that you contracted to do. In a way, you'll be working less while making the same amount. The client shouldn't care, since the same level of care and service will be provided for the agreed-upon price.

How much can I make?

To start, you should be able to make $20,000 or so per year. That assumes a small office doing a nightly cleaning job for which you charge for 4 hours. Higher up the scale, if you do a nightly cleaning job where you can charge for 8 hours, and you charge at the higher end of the scale, you could make up to $80,000 per year. If you do good work, and you develop a reputation for good results, you can expand by hiring additional cleaners. In that case, there's no limit to how much money you can make. Remember though, that you won't be hugely successful overnight. It will take months, if not years, to grow into a highly profitable company.

In order to get contracts, you have to let companies know about your services and your reputation. At first, you won't have a reputation, so you'll have to drum up business personally -- smaller lower-paying contracts -- at first, so that you can develop your skills and develop a reputation (and a client list). Once you've managed that, you can advertise in the phone book, in inexpensive (but professional-looking) brochures, business cards and such. Also, you might expect some word of mouth promotion from your existing clients.

Once you've signed up clients, and you provide them with excellent service, you can stop trying to find new business. Your existing clients will like your work so much, that they'll renew their arrangements with you, providing you with a steady source of income for years to come.

As with any new business, you need to learn as much as you can before you commit any time or money. There are dozens of books out there on janitorial services, as well as information on the web. Learn how to write a business plan, how to budget, and how to estimate how long each task should take. By getting the knowledge and the skills before you start up, you'll ensure that your business will be profitable from the start.

Good luck!

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