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Becoming a housekeeper sounds simple. You apply to cleaning jobs on sites like Care.com and slowly start to build a group of clients who pay you to clean their houses. But if you want to make a good living in this career, you need to stop thinking like a housekeeper and start thinking like a small business owner.
Setting up a small business can be a daunting challenge and most people don’t know where to start. There are start-up costs, business licenses, advertising, etc. — all before doing any actual cleaning.
Delores Garcia, a housekeeper in Las Vegas, and Tammy Wright, a small-business owner in Denver, have been through it all. Garcia started out working in various casinos as a housekeeper before deciding to open her own business. After two years, she almost has more clients than she can handle. Wright runs a small housekeeping business in Denver, Colo. She went into the field fresh out of high school because, as she puts it, she is “just a bit OCD,” and can appreciate her client’s cleaning needs. After seven years of working for others, she decided to branch out with a couple of friends to start her own business and “has never looked back.”
Here are their eleven tried-and-true steps for setting up a successful housecleaning business:
Choosing a name can be tricky — look for something interesting and catchy to draw the interest of considered clients. Before you even begin brainstorming, you’ll have to pinpoint your focus: Will you clean homes or serve corporate clients? This could affect your name. Google prospective names to make sure no one else had the idea first. Search profiles of other housekeepers and cleaning companies near you, to make sure yours stands out.
You may want to think twice about starting a housecleaning business if you haven’t touched a vacuum in two years, or you’ve only cleaned your own home. This is a business and clients will expect expertise. Get practice by offering to clean the homes of friends and family. Practice techniques such as spot or pet-stain removal, polishing chrome or silver, oven cleaning, floor polishing or treating furniture. Experiment with different cleaning products and equipment to find the most cost-effective and efficient methods.
Outfit a business van or car with professional signage, including your business name, logo and phone number, plus the fact you are insured, licensed and bonded. Wright attributes having two vans outfitted in company colors and logo with providing “thriving outreach to prospective clients,” adding that “your logo is one of the first things that clients notice.”
Wright stresses the importance of slow growth and budgeting. Determine all the costs associated with your business and allocate how much money, resources and time you have to dedicate to each. For example, insurance and transportation are costs that must be considered, in addition to stocks, labor, and advertising. Always be on the lookout for ways to save. Purchase cost-effective cleaning equipment that can multitask, such as a steam cleaner that can remove gum, eliminate allergens and act as a wet and dry vacuum.
Investing in accounting software can help you manage your appointments, payroll issues, expenses, and income. Garcia relies on spreadsheets, saying the “one thing we don’t cut costs on is service. We are thorough, keep a checklist for each client and store individual expectations on a spreadsheet on the computer, so that when we return clients call, or when we have recurring homes that we serve, we already know the expectations and personal quirks.”
The key to a successful business is customers and lots of them. You need to make sure people know about your services. Let everyone you can think of know you started a cleaning company, from friends to the cashier at the grocery store.
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