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Note: Learn how this self employed owner feels starting a cleaning service is a happy small business to own. This entrepreneur started this business with virtually no money and now has a successful business that makes you happy.  I find truly amazing that like another Small Business recently interviewed, no marketing dollars are spent.  As always any specific questions on how to be self employed, please connect or leave a comment below.

Business: Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Services     Owner: Meghan Brester

Location: Montana       Website: Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Services

Type Of Business: Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Service is a residential and commercial cleaning business in the Flathead Valley Montana area.  They are committed to providing the best cleaning service possible and never leave a job until it is perfect.  They specialize in residential cleaning, commercial cleaning, vacation home cleaning, construction clean-up and help property managers assure spaces are clean.

Start-Up Cost: Starting a cleaning service can be done with possibly no initial dollars invested.  Miss Pretty Picky started for just under $3000, though the majority of that cost was in purchasing a highly expensive vacuum cleaner that also shampoos carpets.  This is not a necessary cost if you’re looking to start a cleaning business, though one that Meghan feels made a tremendous amount of sense.

Business Background: Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Service was started 3 years ago as a side business picked up from a friend. Meghan had a friend who cleaned 4 homes in the area and was moving out of town.  Her fried asked if Meghan, a stay at home mom, if she’d be interested in taking over the 4 homes.  Meghan agreed to takeover these few homes and within a few months she began getting referrals.

The 4 homes turned in to many more new customers within 6 months of taking over. Meghan decided to make a business out of this opportunity and be self employed!

Getting A Cleaning Service StartedMeghan researched online what she needed to do to form a legal business.  After doing some research Meghan also contacted her local county officials who put her in Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Servicetouch with a business development contact for the county.  After discussing the business Meghan formed a LLC on the State of Montana’s website.  Those looking for further assistance in this area can visit CorpNet and speak to a representative who can also assist. CorpNet can make sure the business is set up correctly and they’re very affordable.

Meghan wanted to get insurance to protect her business and customers. She contacted a friend that had opened an insurance company for some advice and purchased General Liability insurance. This insurance would protect breakage in a customers home and acts of dishonesty by any cleaning staff.

Now that Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Service was born, Meghan wanted to get a coupon out to drive more business.  Meghan put a deal on a local coupon site called Eponme that offered 50% off a prospects first clean.  Immediately 25 coupons were sold and the business was up and running.

Hiring Employees for Cleaning Service: The goal of Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Service is to provide the best service available. Meghan has all her cleaners hired as independent general contractors which requires those individuals to register themselves at the local government office.  They simply need to complete some forms that need to be notarized and handed back into the state.

Because your image is everything with this business, Meghan pays slightly more than other businesses, though demands the best possible quality from her teams.  Employees work in teams of 2 when cleaning homes for safety reasons and the cleaners are responsible for getting themselves to the homes to clean for the day.

Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Service provides all the supplies needed to clean the homes for her customers.  Employees are given the schedule earlier in the week and as they clean each home, a team member must hold payment and supplies for the week.  Each Friday the cleaners return all supplies, rags to be cleaned and checks collected for the week.  They hand in the hours they’ve worked and payroll is cut for that coming Monday after adding everything up.

Customer Gift CardWhat to Charge Customers: Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning charges customers per hour based on a 2 person team of cleaners.  Currently they charge $50 per hour and that includes all the cleaning supplies provided and 2 cleaners.  Some customers are charged a flat rate per clean, though most prefer to pay per hour.  Paying per hour helps when customers want extra tasks to be performed and also assures the cleaners don’t rush through the home.

Commercial customers prefer a bid be submitted for clean-outs and Meghan handles that. Customers will typically leave a blank signed check behind to be filled in based on hours spent in the home.  Most customers aren’t home for the clean and will leave the door open, provide a key or have a security system that the cleaners can use to enter the home.

Most customer homes take 2 hours on average to clean for the team of 2, which is 4 man hours total.  Construction cleaning takes much longer and can average up to 10 hours. Typically Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Service cleans around 40 properties a week.

Marketing a Cleaning Business: Miss Pretty Picky receives a majority of their customers by referral.  They don’t advertise the business other than a Facebook page, a local listing on Find it Montana and a logo on their company car.

90% of the business that the company receives is currently referrals from existing customers and local relationships with Property Managers. The cleaning service receives between 5-7 new leads a week.  Because these leads are referrals, they always seem to sign on for service.  The key to keeping your marketing cost low (non-existent) is providing great customer service, maintaining happy employees and obviously performing spectacular cleaning.

Miss Pretty Picky Cleaning Service would rather slightly increase pricing than take on new customers.  Reputation is everything in the cleaning business and if you provide premium service you can charge more.

Work Less and Make More by providing top notch service and being able to charge a premium are keys to success!

Biggest Headaches in Owning a Cleaning Service:  Meghan stressed that this is a pretty happy business to own.  To be self employed with little stress and have time for family are key.

Occasionally dealing with customer bounced checks can be a minor disturbance, though the biggest issue is dealing with damage in a customers home.  Unfortunately accidents happen when cleaning. Damage to walls, breaking items or spilling supplies.  They’ve had to repair damage to stoves that has cost $500 which is less than her insurance deductible.

Tip: Have relationships with a local handyman that can assist with any damage caused inside a customers home. Also have a carpet cleaning machine to clean floors from accidental spills or have a relationship with a carpet cleaning company.  Typically if you refer them enough business they’ll help you for free for minor carpet fixes.

Purchasing Cleaning Supplies: Have a local relationship with a janitorial store who can assist you with advice.  All supplies are typically purchased from a local janitorial supplier, online or at the local Costco.   Though many people discuss green cleaning, customers ultimately want their home smelling good and being clean when paying money, thus this isn’t a top priority when choosing products.

Closing Advice for those who want to be Self Employed: Starting a cleaning business is a very satisfying business to own.   This is a very community driven business, thus your reputation is everything. Be honest about everything. If you make a mistake live up to it and if you’re charging per hour don’t cheat.  This can be a very rewarding business if you treat your customers and employees with respect!

Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job.