Disclaimer: Since this guide is about how to start a cleaning business by yourself as a side hustle, I will not be touching on how to create a company name, how to create a logo, how to form a partnership, set up an LLC, or how to clean.
If you’re looking to make some extra money, there are a few ways to do it, such as working a part-time job at a restaurant, a retail store, or a warehouse. But if you’re someone who wants to be your own boss, work on your own, and make your own schedule, a house cleaning business side hustle is the way to go.
A cleaning business side hustle can work for almost anyone, but particularly well for moms or dads who don’t have a job and whose kids are at daycare or school, college students, or even people looking for extra work outside their regular job.
The Residential Cleaning Industry
There are plenty of opportunities available; according to a survey on Statista.com, there are approximately 142 million housing units in America. These residences get dirty, and therefore, they need cleaning. Either the residents that live there can do it, or they can hire someone to clean it. Since people are very busy nowadays, lots of people would rather hire someone to clean their home than clean it themselves. As a house cleaner, you offer a solution to these people’s problems.
If you are interested in learning how to start a cleaning business side hustle where you are the boss, working on your own, making your schedule, and working as many hours as you want, I have outlined five steps below. But before we go through them, there are some things you need to know.
What You Need to Know Before You Start Your House Cleaning Business Side Hustle
In the cleaning industry, experience is not a must. If you’ve cleaned your house before, you can clean other people’s houses. It is also a side hustle with low overhead and start-up costs and a low barrier to entry.
All you really need to start is below:
- Cleaning supplies
- Work clothes or uniform
- Marketing material/ Social Media
- Insurance and Bonding
I just mentioned that a house cleaning business side hustle can work for almost anyone. And the reason I said that is because if you have any physical difficulties with your back, neck, knees, or other areas of your body that may affect your cleaning, I wouldn’t recommend this side hustle. You could make these areas worse by putting more stress on them when you clean.
Although cleaning isn’t hard, it also isn’t easy. You will need to be okay with cleaning other people’s houses and able to look past messes of all kinds and not have a weak stomach. And referring back to earlier, it’s physically demanding on your body. In the beginning, you will probably be tired after cleaning, but like exercising your body, you will eventually get used to it.
Now that, that is out of the way and if you are still interested in starting a house cleaning business side hustle let’s go to step 1.
Note: When I decided to start my cleaning business side hustle, the first thing I did was research and lots of it. The goal of this guide is to help you avoid spending countless hours researching how to start your cleaning business side hustle.
Step 1 – Preparing Yourself to Start Your Cleaning Business Side Hustle
Once you decide to start your cleaning business side hustle, start preparing for it. You can perform these upcoming tasks in no particular order, but complete them in the first week or two of starting your cleaning business side hustle.
If you are going to clean, you need cleaning supplies. And there is a large variety of cleaning products on the market. Look online or go to any local grocery store or retailer, and you will find numerous types and brands.
There are regular conventional cleaning products, household products like baking soda and vinegar, eco-friendly products, sanitizers, disinfectants, and an assortment of cleaning cloths. I recommend using non-toxic cleaning products consisting of eco-friendly, household, and microfiber cloths.
I use these products because they work, are more affordable, and don’t cause any health issues for me.
Side Note: If you are interested in learning how to clean using non-toxic cleaning products and what my recommended cleaning products are visit marigoldandivy.com/blog.
Below is a list of what I usually take when cleaning.
- Microfiber Cloths
- Light Duty Cleaner
- Heavy Duty Cleaner
- Baking Soda
- Non-scratch Sponges
- Terri Clothes
- Shoe Covers
- Vacuum with Attachments
- Scraper with Razor Blade
- Garbage Bags
- Paper Towels
- Microfiber Mop
- Steamer Mop
- Tote or Cleaning Caddy to Carry Your Cleaning Supplies In
I highly recommend that you get janitorial insurance. Insurance will prepare you in case something unexpected happens. It will also give both you and the client peace of mind.
Insurance can cover accidents like ruining a floor or dropping a valuable antique which can be expensive. It can also cover you if anyone tries to sue you for damages.
Janitorial insurance is also affordable. I only pay around $32 a month for my insurance policy.
Someone may ask if you are bonded. A bond covers you in case of theft or the accusation of theft. Where I live in Tennessee, bonding only covers an employee of yours; it actually doesn’t cover you, so there is no reason for me to get bonding since I’m a solo cleaner. You will have to check with your insurance company to see how getting bonded works in your area.
Side Note: One of the major concerns with house cleaning is trust. The homeowner or resident has to trust that you won’t break or steal anything while cleaning their house. So being bonded or insured or both can really help put their mind at ease.
Once you have your insurance and are bonded, and while still gathering your cleaning supplies, you can start spreading the word that you are available to clean houses or apartments.
Step 2 – Picking your Cleaning Business Service Area
Depending on where you live and who you know, you may be able to start cleaning houses right away just through word of mouth and by letting people know you are looking for homes to clean.
For those of you who are new to the area where you live or don’t know many people where you live, you will need to market yourself. But before marketing yourself, you need to choose the area you want to clean.
If you ever had a job at a location far away or in a high-trafficked area, you know how it feels to waste your time going back and forth to work for an hour or more a day. In a week, that can add up to five plus hours, and over time, it can add up to a lot of your precious time that you can’t get paid for or get back. Plus, with the price of gas higher than usual, you are also spending unnecessary money when you travel long distances for work.
That’s why you want to find an area close to your home. Start with your neighborhood and go out from there but not going any further than 30 minutes away max. Also, target newer neighborhoods that are more upscale and can afford your prices.
Size of House or Apartment
When it comes to sizes of homes or apartments, generally, the larger the residence, the longer it will take to clean. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a good rule to follow when starting your cleaning business side hustle.
So, I recommend starting off working four or fewer hours a day. This will help you acclimate your body and prepare it for longer cleanings. It will also help you avoid exhaustion or injuries.
Apartments and condominiums are a good option to clean in the beginning, and they usually only take 2 – 3 hours to clean.
Step 3 – How to Market Your Cleaning Business Services
Once you have determined the area you want to clean, it’s time to market yourself. There are various ways to market your cleaning business side hustle. Below are some ways I used in the beginning.
Social media is a helpful way to market and advertise your cleaning services for free, or you can run a paid ad. But when starting, keep costs low by using the free options available through social media.
Neighborhood Facebook Groups
In my neighborhood, we have a Facebook group that you can only join if you live in our neighborhood. It is also open to business owners that live here to advertise their business and services. Our neighborhood and other neighborhood Facebook groups have rules for how often you can post about your business, so make sure not to violate these rules
If you have a Neighborhood Facebook Group where you live, join it. They are a helpful way to spread the word about your cleaning services.
Friends and Family on Social Media
Besides you advertising your business, your friends and family can also make posts for you. If they see someone posting on social media looking for a cleaner, they can tell that person that you are a house cleaner and to contact you.
NextDoor is a social media platform for neighborhoods, and you can advertise your business there. It’s also a powerful and effective platform for people to recommend you as a house cleaner. I was lucky enough to have some clients recommend me on NextDoor resulting in multiple people in local neighborhoods contacting me for cleaning services.
When I started my cleaning business side hustle, I also marketed my cleaning services by using paper fliers. I created these fliers, printed them, then handed them out throughout my neighborhood and other neighborhoods close to my home. A flier can also serve as a business card; if someone asks you for a business card, hand them your flier.
My fliers were black text on white paper and included my name, phone number, email address, and picture (this was a colored image). It also included what cleaning services I offered along with some marketing copy explaining what I did for people and why they needed my cleaning service.
To see what a house cleaning flier looks like, google – “house cleaning fliers”. You will see lots of examples of fliers. Some are pretty elaborate-looking fliers with multiple colors and designs. These are nice, but in the beginning, I recommend you make your fliers minimal with black text on white paper, and if you include a picture of yourself, make it colored.
I recommend that you include in addition to your name, phone number, email address, and picture these statements below.
- That you’re insured
- What types of payments you accept
- 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
- What type of cleanings and tasks you offer
- Your pay rate
Handing Fliers Out
While getting your fliers ready, buy some door-hanger bags (you can buy them cheaply on Amazon). Door-hanger bags will keep the fliers from getting wet, and by hanging them on the door, they shouldn’t go unnoticed.
When you hand out fliers, never put them in the mailbox. You can get a fine for opening someone’s mailbox and putting the flier in it. You may also want to check with your city on the rules and regulations for handing out fliers.
If you want, you can also post your fliers at your church, local restaurants, coffee shops, or grocery stores that will allow you to.
Since everything is mostly digital now, I know some people may not have printers. If you don’t have a printer, you can buy one or go to your local office supply store to print your fliers and get other paper materials you may need.
If you don’t want to create, print, and hand out fliers, just stick with using social media to market your cleaning services.
After you have let family, friends, and neighbors know, handed out fliers, and/ or posted on social media about your cleaning services, it shouldn’t take long to get contacted.
Step 4 – Bidding Cleaning Jobs
After being contacted about cleaning a residence and the residence is the type of residence you want to clean, the best thing to do next is ask to come to see the residence and do a walkthrough of it.
A walkthrough is where you walk through the house with the resident discussing various things such as what they want to be cleaned and what you are willing and able to clean. Then at the end, you can give an estimate of the time and the cost to clean the house.
The reason I prefer a walkthrough is that I can see how dirty the house is. Over the phone, a potential client probably isn’t going to give an accurate description of how dirty it is. And I have shown up to homes without a walkthrough and was surprised to find out how dirty it was, and the cleaning took longer than I had scheduled.
However, sometimes the resident will want the house cleaned right away, so you won’t have time to do a proper walkthrough. These types of clients don’t usually care as much about the cost of the cleaning and instead want the residence cleaned.
If this is the case, let the client know you will show up 15 minutes early to do a quick walkthrough. This is actually a good situation to be in. Since you are already there you don’t have to worry about them turning you away due to cost or inexperience.
Preparing Yourself for the Walkthrough
Even though you may not have experience cleaning other people’s houses, you want to look like you do. This means showing up for a walkthrough looking professional. What does a professional house cleaner look like and carry?
When you first start, wear a uniform consisting of a nice comfortable solid-colored shirt and nice comfortable solid-colored pants or shorts depending on the time of the year. When I started, my uniform consisted of a green polo shirt and black pants or black cargo shorts. I eventually got rid of the black slacks and bought some comfortable gray working pants. Dressing like this makes you look professional, and that you know what you are talking about.
Documents to Bring
House Cleaning Worksheet
A house cleaning worksheet will contain a list of every room in a home, along with what to clean in that room. You can google house cleaning worksheets and find templates for them or put a list together based on your house. Leave space on the worksheet for notes.
Cleaning Business Rules and Regulations Sheet
While preparing (cleaning supplies, fliers, and marketing yourself ) for your cleaning business side hustle, you need to start thinking about the customer service side of it.
Since you are doing this as a side hustle, you will likely have less time for dealing with clients, so it’s good to think about the questions clients may ask ahead of time and your answers. This is where creating a cleaning business rules and regulations sheet will come in handy when performing your walkthrough.
The main topics and questions on my rules and regulations sheet that I address during my walkthroughs are below. Before your first walkthrough, thoroughly think about these topics and questions and how you will cover them.
- Cancellation Policy
- Special Projects or Cleanings
- Work Hours
- Alarm Systems / Keys
- 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
- Price is good for a year and may go up in the future
Questions to Ask Based on the Home and May Not Be Necessary for Every Walkthrough
- What type of floors are these?
- Do you want me to clean the antiques?
- Do you want me to bring my vacuum or use yours? (Some people would rather you use their vacuum instead of your own because they are concerned about you bringing germs into their home.)
- What types of payments are you going to accept?
- When is payment due for your cleaning services?
Besides what you wear and carry, you also need a clean car, a smile, and excitement in your communication with the client.
How to Calculate an Estimate
At the beginning of my cleaning business side hustle, I had no idea how to estimate the cost of cleaning a house. I did some research and discovered that on a per-hour basis, the cleaning industry standard was $25 to $45, and $25 is what to charge when you first start cleaning.
$25 is easy for you and your clients to calculate. A house that takes four hours to clean will earn you $100. $25 X 4 hours is $100.
But since the pandemic and the uprise in inflation, that minimal per hour amount has risen to $35 per hour. And this may depend on where you live. As I mentioned earlier, you want to work in the wealthier neighborhoods close to your home because, in some areas, the residents aren’t going to pay that much.
So a house cleaning at $35 per hour and lasts 4 hours would be $140.
Side Note: If you charge $35 per hour and work around 18 hours per week, you are looking at a $625-a-week cleaning business side hustle and $2500 a month working part-time. An extra $2500 can help you in many ways.
How to Word Your Estimate When First Starting
When I finished the walkthrough, the client wanted to know how much it cost to clean their home. I didn’t give them an actual figure; instead, I told them what I charged ($25) per hour. I also told them I wasn’t sure how long it would take to clean because I was not familiar with cleaning their house, but I would work as thoroughly and efficiently as I could until done without taking any breaks.
By wording my estimate this way, I came off as honest and hard-working, and since I was charging a low price, the client was willing to try me out, and your potential clients should do the same for you.
People who need a house cleaner are usually busy and don’t have time for multiple house cleaners coming to their residences to do walkthroughs. If you come off professional and nail the walkthrough, they should allow you to clean their house.
So you did your walkthrough, and hopefully, you landed your first client! Congratulations! What else do you need to know and do to start a cleaning business side hustle?
Step 5 – What Else Do You Need to Know about Your Cleaning Business Side Hustle?
We’ve covered a lot in the first four steps; now, step five is informing you of a few more quick things I think you need to know to be successful and reduce the stress you may encounter with your cleaning service.
Punctuality and Consistency
I strongly believe that being on time and doing what you say you are going to do are the two most important things you can do for your cleaning service clients. You don’t have to be the best cleaner or offer different types of cleaning services to please your clients.
What clients really want is someone to show up on time consistently and clean the areas of their house you have agreed on. If you can do that, you will keep your clients happy for a long time.
If you start this type of side hustle, it’s probably because you have some blocks of free time during your week. And there are times during the week that you can’t clean for whatever reason. So set up your week in time blocks, preferably three to four hours a block. Try to make the blocks of time either 8 am-12 pm, or 9 am-12 pm (morning) and 12-4 pm or 1 – 4 pm (afternoon).
When it comes to keeping track of my schedule, I use a free version of cleaning scheduling software. It helps me to see my cleaning schedule for the long term. Google calendar or another scheduling software can also work.
I also use one of the large desk calendars. It makes it easy to quickly look at my schedule for each day of the month.
Tip: The day or two (24-48 hours) before I go to clean a client’s house, I text the client to let them know the day I will be coming and the time I will be there. It not only reminds them but also they can respond and let you know if something has changed since the last time you were there.
If you are going to be five minutes or more late, let the client know by texting or calling them.
If you do a good job and your first client likes you, you may not have to do any more marketing for a while. That’s because the first client can refer you to others or write a review for you on NextDoor, Google, or Yelp.
This is similar to what happened to me. After I cleaned for one of my first regular clients (she found me because I left a flier on her door), she referred me to someone else in her neighborhood and wrote a very nice review of my cleaning service on NextDoor. And because of the review, I was able to acquire more clients and I didn’t have to worry about marketing my cleaning business for a while.
Cleaning Business Taxes – Sole Proprietorship
When a client pays you, you are responsible for taking taxes out of that money to give to the government. Some cleaners don’t report any taxes to the government, but I advise against this. As a cleaning service provider, you must pay taxes on the money you earn.
If you are going to do your cleaning business side hustle by yourself, you are considered a sole proprietor by the IRS. This means you can also claim any money you use to run your business and the miles you drive for it. To learn more about sole proprietorship, visit here. You will also need to check your state’s tax laws for being a sole proprietor.
Brief Description of the Types of Cleanings
When you first talk to someone on the phone or during a walkthrough, the client may ask about doing a deep cleaning, cleaning all the windows, cleaning the refrigerator, or if you offer one-time cleanings. Below is a brief description of the types of cleanings you may be asked about.
Regular or Routine Cleaning
This is the most popular type of cleaning and is on your cleaning worksheets. You will clean the areas in the rooms in the house that are most often used, collect the most dust, and get the dirtiest. They will usually only require light-duty cleaning supplies.
A client will usually request a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or even one-time regular cleaning.
A deep cleaning is when you clean areas in a house not cleaned when you do a regular cleaning. It can be ceilings, high shelves, doors, scrubbing baseboards, ceiling fans, closets, etc.
A deep clean may require stronger or heavy-duty cleaning products and a step stool or extended poles for dusting and cleaning. Deep cleans are usually priced differently, done on a different day from the regular cleanings, and different for each house.
An initial cleaning is when you do the first regular cleaning for a client and depending on the house, may require strong heavy-duty cleaning products to remove stains.
A cleaning project is when you only clean all the small appliances, or only the refrigerator and freezer, or the oven, or even a room that contains a valuable collection of dolls, guitars, trophies, etc. Cleaning projects are usually priced differently and done on a separate day from the regular cleanings.
I hope you found this guide to starting your cleaning business side hustle useful. It’s really just five steps to start. In the beginning, getting clients may be the most difficult step you have to do, but if you get turned down (it’s happened to me) don’t give up.
When I started my cleaning business side hustle, it was during the pandemic, and I wasn’t sure if anyone wanted someone coming into their house. Still, I found that people needed their houses cleaned because their previous house cleaners had quit cleaning to be at home or for other reasons due to the pandemic. This left a void for me to fill in my area and got my side hustle going quickly, so you never know what will happen until you start.
Justin Crowley is the owner of Marigold & Ivy Cleaning Service, serving the Nashville, Tennessee area.