How to start a commercial cleaning business

Be your own boss and set up your cleaning company in a way that makes it ready to turn a profit.

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Whether you're quite new to cleaning or you've clocked up years in the trade, a commercial cleaning business can be a rewarding venture. But before getting your hands dirty, you'll need to work out the business and legal practicalities including how to structure, price and market your new company. Plus, there's a bucket-load of equipment and software to think about.

Read on to mop up the key points of launching a commercial cleaning business.

What is a commercial cleaning business?

A commercial cleaning business is one that specialises in cleaning services for corporates and other organisations. Commercial cleaners tend to work at commercial premises including offices, schools, hotels, cafes, gyms and other shared spaces like in apartment blocks.

This type of company differs from other cleaning services such as home cleaning, industrial cleaning or end-of-lease cleans.

Learn key industry skills

man mopping floor of movie theatre lobby

Fortunately, there aren't any specific qualifications needed when it comes to starting a commercial cleaning business. In many ways, the key to the success of your venture will depend on the working relationships you build up with your clients.

Here are five core skills you'll want to master to set yourself up for success:

  1. Excellent time management. You'll need to juggle the competing demands of your commercial clients, including any last-minute jobs.
  2. Attention to detail. Your clients will expect nothing less than a spotless workplace.
  3. Honesty and discretion. Your cleaners and clients should pass one another like ships in the night.
  4. A good level of fitness. This will be important if you intend to get stuck in with the cleaning duties if and when required.
  5. Knowledge of health and safety procedures. Your expertise will reflect well on your company. Start by visiting your state government's website and check for any specific regulations you'll need to follow.

In addition to these and other key skills, it's really important that any small business has a well-considered business plan. This can take your business from its first phase as a startup through to eventual business growth, as our guide explains.

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    Choose a business structure

    Before you can start your business, you will need to register as a Sole Trader, a Partnership or a Company.

    • Sole Trader. This business structure, also known as a sole proprietorship, is the simplest and cheapest structure. It means that you alone are responsible for the control and management of the company. You'll be personally liable for any financial or tax debts.
    • Partnership. If you're intending to share the company ownership with another person (or more people), you may want to establish the business as a partnership. A partnership can have comparatively low set-up costs. That's because the financial burden of the company is shared equally with the other partners.
    • Company. Establishing a company requires obtaining an Australian Business Number (ABN), choosing and reserving a company name, registering your company, registering a business name and setting up a separate business bank account. The company is a separate legal entity which can be liable for business debts and any money earned belongs to the company.

    Another option of getting into the cleaning business is by buying a franchise. A franchise means you will be working under an existing cleaning company, but you will still have many of the fundamental rights of a standalone business.

    With a franchise, there's often a yearly fee and a percentage of sales you will have to pay to the company. You may want to explore your loan options when you're starting a franchise. Some companies will provide you with key equipment, such as a vehicle.

    Read more about how to structure your business in Australia.

    Buy the right equipment and software

    As a minimum, you'll need to think about the following equipment:

    • Commercial vacuum cleaner
    • Commercial floor polishing machine
    • Rubber gloves
    • A mop and bucket with a mop squeezer
    • Face masks
    • Sponges and rags
    • Microfibre cloths
    • A squeegee
    • Wet and dry dust mops
    • Non-toxic cleaning fluids including floor cleaners
    • A dust wand
    • Tile and grout cleaning machine
    • Trash pickup container and a supply of garbage bags
    • Safety signs
    • A vehicle for transport.

    If you choose to hire staff for your commercial cleaning business, you may also want to consider investing in apps to streamline the work schedule of each employee and keep track of your cleaning inventory.

    Some of the apps available for this purpose include mHelpDesk, Jobber, Housecall Pro, Service Fusion and Intuit Field Service Management.

    Also, you must abide by Occupational health and safety and workers' compensation guidelines.

    You'll want to feel confident that you're starting your commercial cleaning business on the right legal footing.

    Some of the key agreements you may want to get in place include:

    • Services Agreement. This legally-binding document needs to be signed by the service provider and the client. A cleaning services agreement typically details the service you'll be providing, your schedule, the cost for your services, entering and exiting premises, the payment method (dates and deposit required), equipment provision, insurance requirements and responsibilities of the parties. You should also include a clause on contract termination for both parties, a dispute resolution clause and the limitations of your liability.
    • Employment agreement. An employment agreement outlines the employee's rights and obligations in the company. This can include their day-to-day roles, promotion policies and holiday time. This agreement can be used for every employee regardless if they are full-time, part-time or casual.
    • Cancellation Policy. Having this key legal agreement in place can cut down on wasted costs which result from last-minute cancellations. It's no surprise that many service-based industries choose to use it when setting up a new appointment or taking on new customers.
    • Termination of employment. No employer likes to draft a letter of termination, but in circumstances where it's necessary, you may want to use a free letter template to help you out.
    • Co-founder agreement. If you do start a commercial cleaning business with one or more people, a co-founder agreement can be super useful as a way to set out the roles and responsibilities of all founders.

    If you draft these agreements on your own, consider hiring the services of a lawyer to look over them to cover any loopholes. You can avail of online legal services and some free templates to help you get started with the likes of Lawpath, LawDepot, LegalVision, Sprintlaw and Net Lawman.

    Finally, don't forget about getting the right business insurance in place. In particular, you may want to get public liability insurance to offer protection if a client gets injured or their property gets damaged as a result of your operations.

    Find legal documents and services now

    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month
    Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    $4.99 per month
    $59.88
    Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
    Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $49 + GST per week
    $2,548 + GST
    No
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
    Law Central
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Free for the Silver membership
    Gold: $99
    You can view samples and create your own document for free with the Silver membership.
    Law Central offers a large number of legal templates for super, trusts, estate planning, employment and commercial uses.
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    Get your first clients on board

    Add your business to Google Search, Google Maps and other Google properties through Google My Business. Many people use this site to search for nearby services. List your business on Google's search listing and link it to Google Maps.

    Think about creating a basic website with the likes of WordPress, Wix or Squarespace. Invest in a domain name, a business logo and online ads for your website. Show off your testimonials and achievements with your website, and network with related businesses who may recommend you to their existing clients.

    There are several online marketplaces, Airtasker being just one, that you can use to advertise your services and gain new clients. These include:

    • hipages. This marketplace is primarily aimed at tradies who can post their skillset and browse the tasks people need help with.
    • Airtasker. Connect with your local neighbourhood and residents looking for a specific trade. Airtasker also makes it easy to see the jobs and prices your competitors have been accepted for.
    • Oneflare. Get matched with consumers and set your schedule with the jobs you want to take on.

    Don't underestimate the power of social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Nextdoor. They are sure-fire ways to make noise about your company.

    After you have a few jobs under your belt, you might want to ask for customer testimonials to help scale your business faster.

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    Decide how much you're going to charge customers

    Generally, commercial cleaning companies charge around $25-$50 per hour on average. Rates will vary from state to state and a number of other factors influence the cost of a cleaning service.

    When you're thinking about your pricing structure, a good general rule is to avoid the temptation to undercut the going market rate, even if you are new to the field. This aggressive pricing tactic can lead to cashflow problems if you're not careful.

    To work out how to price cleaning contracts, you could:

    • Estimate the hours it will take to clean the office, building or house.
    • Compare the going labour rate in your locality.
    • Factor in payroll costs – in other words, the total labour cost.
    • Calculate the estimated expenses for your cleaning materials and overhead expenses.
    • Add your profit margin to arrive at a price that will work for you.

    If you're self-employed, it helps to educate yourself about the taxation laws in your area so you can put away the right amount of money early on. Figure out when and if you need to register for GST.

    You may also want to create a plan on how you intend to save any extra money you make, which you can invest in growing your business' future.

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    Frequently asked questions

    Is a commercial cleaning business a good idea?

    Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, the commercial cleaning market remains steady with fairly consistent demand. In 2021, the market is estimated to be worth $11.7 billion.

    How much do commercial cleaners get paid?

    A cleaner typically earns $22 per hour while a night cleaner can expect to take home around $25. These figures are based on data from PayScale and were correct as of 15 January 2021.

    Does the business owner need to be there for a commercial cleaning job?

    No, the owner doesn't usually need to be around during the actual clean. After all, the purpose of hiring a cleaning service is to save hours of peoples' time.

    What's included in a basic cleaning service?

    A basic cleaning service includes cleaning all floors, wiping down any visible surfaces, cleaning toilets and general dusting. Finding out as much information as possible from your client will only help you when it comes to meeting their specific needs.

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