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How Do I Choose A Professional Cleaning Service?

Whether you are a 2-people company or a large corporation that employs hundreds of men and women, you will probably want your workplace to get cleaned at least occasionally. Maintaining a clean and sanitary office environment is, in fact, essential to the success of your business. Your customers demand it, and your employees will thank you for it. 

While cleaning can be fun, a larger workplace will demand more attention and time to maintain a good working environment. This is where professional cleaners come into play; experienced companies will most likely have developed effective cleaning techniques and solutions through their previous experience and be able to provide you with great results in the shortest possible time. But with so many different companies out there, how can you be sure that you choose the right one? Here are a few things you should look for while selecting a professional cleaning company to take care of your ongoing or ad-hoc cleaning needs:

Reputation And Experience Of The Company

A company with access to your workplace when you are not around and work unsupervised needs to be reputable and trustworthy. It is therefore important to do your research:

FAQs About Professional Cleaning Service

Is it physically present in your city, town or service area? This will be very important when a prompt reaction is needed, and emergency meetings or inspections need to take place.

Companies that have years of experience behind them will most likely have developed a system for cleaning and are comfortable handling any cleaning issues involved.

The company working with many accounts tends to be a good indicator of a solid reputation. Additionally, if the company works with facilities similar to yours, it will better understand and accommodate your needs.

Reputable companies will be happy to share references. Contact these references and ask how happy they are with the cleaning services that the company provides; word-of-mouth is a great way of finding out if a company can be trusted.

Before saying 'yes' to a company, make sure they will meet all your cleaning needs. A few questions to ask:

Since 30th October 2019, all cleaning companies have been regarded as labour-hire providers and must be licensed to operate legally in Victoria. Ensure the company has a proper licence to operate as a labour-hire provider. Request proof of insurances to be certain that everyone is covered for any mishaps – an insured company will be responsible if an employee is injured at your facility and liable if anything gets broken or damaged.

A professional company will visit your site to learn your cleaning needs, see the workspace they will be dealing with and finally be able to provide a customised quote. Please make sure the company doesn't charge you for this little trip; a quote should be free of charge and exclusive of any future obligation should you choose not to accept it.

It is most likely that you will not want any hassle with cleaning whatsoever; after all, this is why you are hiring a contractor in the first place. This means that you will want the company to supply their cleaning equipment, tools and chemicals. You may want to take this a step further and explore the possibility of outsourcing the restocking of consumables to the cleaners or even having them manage your waste collection. Think ahead what other responsibilities can be given to the cleaning company to free up your own time, which you can then invest into growing your business.

Define how cleaning is done to make sure the services suit your needs – do the cleaners do washing, scrubbing and sanitising, not just simple dusting and vacuuming? What rooms will need cleaning, and what will need to be addressed in each room? Try and go into as many details as possible to find out what you are getting.

Different types of facilities have different needs and cleaning requirements. Experience matters here, and the company that has worked previously in a facility similar to yours will better understand your needs and know how to meet them. Ask the company to provide you with a few references to check on.

What is the most convenient time or day for you when cleaning can occur? When hiring a cleaning company, you may not want them to deliver cleaning services while working in the office or children have class. Instead, you will want cleaning done after hours or even before opening early in the morning. Make sure you check with a potential cleaning company if they can accommodate your schedule and if the cleaning crew can work unusual hours, even night shifts, weekends or holidays.

Maybe you want to have the house cleaned by professional cleaners twice a week, or you need a major sweep once a month? These are some of the initial areas you'll need to consider before hiring a cleaning company. Ideally, it would be best if you went for cleaning services that will fit your schedule and a cleaning company that will accommodate your needs at times that are most convenient for you.

You will want a company that offers a good deal for their time. Although price is not always indicative of the service level you will receive, try to determine how well the company repays the cleaners. A poorly paid cleaner will surely not bother to mop the floor behind doors or underneath a bin.

Many companies will also offer a discount for the initial clean or add extra services at no extra cost, such as a free window clean. In any case, it is worth asking what you can get. Frequency also matters when determining the price. Usually, the more regular the service is, the cheaper it will be in terms of cost per visit.

Make sure to request a flat rate per service to ensure you always pay the same price, no matter how long the service might take. With a flat service rate, detailed cleaning specifications will need to be defined in writing, so you know exactly what is included in the price. Anything beyond the scope of work will be considered additional cleaning services and will be quoted separately on request.

A quality cleaning company will assign to you a dedicated account manager who will be available for support and respond quickly to your concerns and questions. Having one person to deal with all your cleaning needs ensures that this person understands everything going on at your site and can provide you with the best and most effective solutions.

A cleaning business can be extremely profitable, rewarding and flexible. The start-up costs are low, demand for cleaning services increases, and profit margins can be high. There are many six and seven-figure cleaning businesses operating in Australia today. Most of these businesses were created from nothing by someone in the same position as you are today!

Start with just one or two core services, and add more as you grow. This will keep things simple, help reduce your start-up costs (you only have to purchase one set of equipment or products) & give you time to refine your systems and processes. Then, as you expand your business, you can add additional and complementary services quite easily and quickly.

For many people starting their cleaning business from scratch, providing a domestic cleaning service is the ideal place to start. Start-up costs are very low, and demand increases every year as people look to 'outsource' their home cleaning. All you need to get started are some professional cleaning supplies & public liability insurance – and you are in business. Because the start-up costs are low, it does mean that there can be more competition; however, if you follow our marketing tips, you'll never have to worry about the competition!

If you wish to offer a more skilled 'niche' cleaning service, you'll need to be willing to invest more money to purchase equipment and time to acquire the necessary skills and qualifications. For example, to start a professional carpet cleaning company, you'll need a high-quality portable or truck-mounted carpet cleaning machine (which will cost at least $10,000 and up to $100,000). However, the higher investment costs do mean competition is lower. As a result, you can demand higher prices, which is why we recommend adding on these additional services once you have established your business (& have existing customers to sell to!).

Start Your Own Business or Buy a Franchise?

Deciding to buy a cleaning franchise or create your own business is a decision you'll need to make early on. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, and at the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference and individual situation.

  • Our Advice, Start your own business and enjoy the freedom to create a business that meets your own financial and lifestyle goals (but make sure you get the right help & support along the way!).

Franchise

  • Advantages:
    • Established brand name
    • Proven business model
    • Marketing support
    • Ongoing help and advice
  • Disadvantages
    • Upfront capital / investment required (from $5,000 to $100,000)
    • Ongoing fees (usually a monthly/annual fee and a % of sales go to the franchisor)
    • Restricted growth (small territory, advertising restrictions and limited services)
    • Your success is linked to head-office success (your reputation can be damaged if the parent company gets negative feedback & you are reliant on your franchisor for help and support – some provide it, but some don't!)

Start Your Own Business

  • Advantages
    • Complete control & flexibility
    • Low start-up costs
    • You retain all profits.
    • No ongoing costs or royalties to pay
    • Easier to sell the business in future
  • Disadvantages
    • You are on your own (which can be quite challenging and lonely when getting started)
    • You have to learn by your own mistakes (although there are guides, case studies & start-up plans out there)
    • No established brand

If you decide to buy a cleaning franchise, please make sure you do your research carefully. Ask to speak to current (and previous) franchises and meet with the owners. Unfortunately, we've heard reports of franchisors not providing much in the way of ongoing service and support once the upfront fees have been paid.

The Essentials – Business Registration, Licenses, Training, Insurance & Tax

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Women reading paperwork's important to get set up properly from the start, which means thinking about your business registration/structure, insurance, tax and any licenses you might need. Whilst it may seem overwhelming at first, it doesn't need to be, and you can be up and running this week if you want to be. If you choose the most simple business structure, you can do everything quickly and minimally.

Business Structure & Registration

Before starting trading, you'll need to decide whether to register as a sole trader, partnership, trust or company and apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number). Talk to your accountant and solicitor about the best option for your business.

Sole Trader: Quickest, Cheapest & Easiest Option

As a sole trader, your business is not treated as a separate legal entity, and you can declare all your cleaning income (after expenses have been deducted) along with income from any other sources on your tax return. You'll pay tax at the same tax rates as individual taxpayers.

Partnership

When two or more people are starting a business together, similar to a sole trader, all parties equally share the profits, losses or risks (as set out in a partnership contract).

Company

A company is treated as a separate legal entity. There are additional costs for setting up a company and ongoing reporting and record-keeping requirements. Company tax rates are different.

Getting Started – The Process

Many people start as sole traders (because it's quicker, easier and cheaper) and then change into a company once established.

  • The process is:
    • Apply for an ABN (free & you can do it online)
    • Register a business name (unless you are going to trade under your name). The cost is currently $34 for one year.
    • Set up a business bank account (you can use your bank account if you trade under your name)

Optional:

If you expect to turn over at least $75,000 or more in your first year, then register for GST (if not, you can register at a later date once your projected earnings reach $75,000).

Should you register for GST straight away?

If you register for GST when you start your business, you'll be able to claim back the 10% GST cost on many of the goods and services you purchase; however, it also means you'll need to add 10% on top of the cost of the services you provide. GST registered businesses are required to complete a quarterly or monthly business activity statement (BAS).

State Licenses & Local Council Regulations

Most types of cleaning are not regulated in Australia, and therefore there are no minimum qualification requirements. However, it is important to check with your state licensing body (see links below) & your local council to see if there are any specific requirements you need to be aware of (e.g. health regulations).

Training Qualifications

Whilst there may be no minimum entry requirements or required qualifications, it is worth considering completing a training course before you go into someone's house or business to offer your cleaning services, especially if you have no experience. A recognised qualification will provide you with the relevant skills, knowledge and expertise to complete cleaning jobs correctly and efficiently. In addition, a course will teach you the correct equipment and products to use and show you how to become a professional cleaner. Your qualifications can also become a tool you use in your marketing to stand out from the competition.

Insurance

It would be best to take out public liability insurance ($5 million minimum; however, some commercial clients will require up to $15 million) to cover any accidents or damage that occur whilst working at a client's property. If you take on employees, you'll need workers' compensation insurance to cover them, too. In addition, there are other types of insurance you may want to consider, including business vehicle insurance, business interruption insurance and income protection insurance. Talk to your solicitor to confirm the specific insurance requirements for your business.

Keeping Business Records & Tax

Get an accountant from the start. They will help you set up your business and put the correct accounting practices in place. A good accountant will save you money in the long run as they will be able to explain all of the possible deductions you are eligible to claim to reduce your taxable income. Make sure you keep all invoices and receipts (you must keep records for a minimum of 5 years). Once you have a system in place, record keeping and tax doesn't have to be a long, difficult process as long as you keep on top of it. If you don't set up the right system from the start, you will be chasing your tail, in the long run, to get it back into line.

Choosing the Right Equipment and Cleaning Products

The cleaning equipment you need will depend on the cleaning business you have decided to launch. You can start residential cleaning service with just a few basic supplies, and you don't need to purchase anything until you've landed your first client. A good quality vacuum cleaner will probably be the most expensive item of equipment, but you don't need one with all the bells and whistles to get started with.

Move Over Competitors – How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Be different when you look around your local area. It might seem like there are already lots of competitors out there – and the truth is, they're probably are. However, it doesn't take much to stand out from the crowd and attract new clients and customers. Very few companies provide exceptional customer service, but those who do rarely have to advertise their cleaning business because their clients do it for them. Spend time making sure you exceed customer expectations, and you'll instantly stand out from the competition. This could be as simple as making sure you always sound friendly when you pick up the phone and ensuring you turn up when you say you will. Little touches such as leaving a handwritten note, offering a discount for repeat customers, or sending a card on a client's birthday all make a big impact (and cost very little to do).

Become a Specialist

Clients will usually choose a specialist over a generalist where there is one available. So, for example, an office manager will probably choose an experienced office cleaning company to clean their large office, rather than a 'general' cleaning company. Because they know, they'll have the skills and experience needed to get the job done quickly and be used to working unsociable hours to clean when the office is empty. One way to stand out from the crowd is to become proficient and well-known for providing a specific service (think the end of lease cleaning, office cleaning, commercial carpet cleaning). Also, don't forget about outdoor cleaning options such as gutter, exterior pressure washing or window cleaning.

Pricing – Getting It Right!

Don't try and compete on price. We know it's tempting, especially when you see your competitors offering crazy deals, but you'll end up with low-profit margins and feel like you are working for nothing. In our experience, the worst customers and clients are the ones who haggle over price. Put a value on your service and be proud to tell people what you / your services are worth. You'll find that people are prepared to pay more for quality service. By positioning your cleaning business as a 'premium quality business, you'll be able to raise your prices and attract the best clients & customers.

Finding Your First Customers

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Women looking for clients any people think they know how to start a cleaning business and jump in; however, the thing people often forget to think about is the most important part: finding people or businesses who are prepared to pay for your service. Without customers, you don't have a business – and unfortunately, they won't just appear magically one day when you 'open your doors. There are many ways to find clients, and it will take you a bit of trial and error to find the most profitable ones for your business.

  • Lifetime Customer Value
    • One thing to keep in mind is the lifetime value of your customers. For example: imagine you offer a commercial carpet cleaning service in Sydney, and your average job is worth about $500. You might know that most clients have their carpets cleaned three times a year, and they stick with you for about three years, so your lifetime customer value is $4,500. So you can see when you look at the lifetime value, rather than the value of the first job, you can spend a bit more on marketing to gather your initial customers.
    • Referrals are the Best Way to Get New Customers!
    • If you follow step 5 and go 'above and beyond to provide a great service, you'll find people start referring their family, friends and colleagues to you. You can, and should, encourage referrals by offering your existing client a discount (e.g. an hour's free cleaning) for every new client they refer to you.
  • Offline Marketing Techniques
    • The most effective techniques usually involve building relationships with other companies who have an existing client base, such as real estate agents and property managers. Other forms of marketing such as local community events, flyers, leaflet drops and some newspaper advertising can be effective (especially in community publications). Suppose you are planning to offer a general cleaning service. In that case, traditional directories like the Yellow Pages will probably not prove effective, as most people now go online to find the information they need.
  • Online Marketing Ideas
    • It is impossible to ignore the internet, and at a minimum, your business should have a professional-looking website.
    • Most people now go straight to Google (and other search engines) to find a cleaning business in their local area, so you need to think about making your company visible when people search online.
    • Being listed at the top of Google really can bring in a steady stream of new leads every single day. You can either purchase advertising (e.g. Google Adwords) or work with a company that specialises in getting your cleaning service website to the top of page 1 on the search engines organically (this is known as search engine optimisation).

No More Cleaning! Employing Staff & Systemising Your Business

Grow a cleaning business; our goal should be to 'get yourself out of business as quickly as possible. When you are doing all the cleaning work yourself, your income is limited to the number of hours you can work. If you are sick or want to take a holiday, you don't get paid (and might lose clients to your competition).

To create a business that allows you to live the lifestyle you've always wanted, you need to start working 'on the business rather than in it. Start this by creating a process for everything you currently do. These processes and systems can then be handed over to someone who can easily follow them. A detailed process reduces training time/costs and ensures quality control. When it comes to taking on extra help, you've got two real options: hire sub-contractors or employ staff – and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Conclusion:

Having a dedicated cleaner will ensure consistency in the service quality. The cleaning team who know your site and cleaning needs well will perform much more efficiently, organise themselves better, and prioritise tasks. Cleaners who know every nook and cranny, what to look for, and what areas need more attention will give you peace of mind that you are leaving your site in safe hands and that your site will be well taken care of and secured once the cleaning is done.

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