I started my janitorial cleaning service by cleaning offices on the side of my day job. I took baby steps and learned how to start a cleaning business from scratch. I’ll share with you the two reasons why I chose to start an office cleaning side hustle and no other business.
Let me first explain when I started my janitorial cleaning service. I was 20 years old. It was long before marriage and children.
I had a desire to have something for myself. Something to call my own and have ownership of my future. Cleaning was the “one thing” that I loved to do. Some people like baking, some like gardening. I simply liked cleaning. I just didn’t know how to clean on a professional level. Since I didn’t know, and I had no money to invest in a training, I had to think outside of the box.
How I started my office cleaning side hustle
At that time, I had a small office job by day as an administrative assistant for a doctor. Since the office didn’t have a cleaning person, I asked his permission to practice with cleaning products throughout his office. I wanted to learn how to use different cleaning products and disinfectants for the pros.
I not only learned what cleaning chemicals to use when cleaning an office building, but I also learned how to test my clean time. Learning how to charge for office cleaning is so important. It’s just as important learning what chemicals to use.
After 30 days, I asked my boss if he was satisfied with the cleaning (as I was practicing). He said YES! Then I asked if he would be willing to pay me to clean his office twice a week moving forward.
He said yes to that! So I offered him an office cleaning contract to do all of the janitorial cleaning maintenance for his small office building.
How I grew my office cleaning side job
So, can you guess what I did next? I went to every physician that I could think of. With permission, I contacted my boss’ colleagues, who knew me from working in the office as his administrative assistant and my personal physicians too.
Soon after making more money, got my business license, general liability insurance, and purchased business cards and flyers. As far as I was concerned, I was in BUSINESS!!
I used this method because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I secured my first 5 clients by giving free cleanings with a verbal promise that if they were satisfied, they would sign a cleaning contract with me.
I know what you’re thinking. Risky right?!?! It was, but I was young, determined and driven! Let me also add that I had nothing to lose. Besides I needed clients somehow if I was going to be in business… right?
2 reasons to start a cleaning business by cleaning on the side
First, learn how to clean a office professionally before going full time.
When cleaning like a pro, there are certain procedures to adhere to. Like how to fold your towel when wiping surfaces so that you have a clean side to flip to for continuous cleaning. Or like to mop the perimeter of a room first then shade it in as you mop your way out. Stuff like that. I didn’t know these things at first. All I knew was that I liked cleaning and was fascinated at the thought of starting a cleaning business of my own.
By the way, I learned quickly that I needed to make a Customer Profile Worksheet. By creating a form such as this, I was able to take thorough notes when I performed a walk-through with all my other customers.
These sheets were also handy, when I wanted to provide additional services such as window cleaning, or wipe down large office equipment, or clean trash cans and recycling bins. After all, I already knew my customer and all their needs.
Second, learn how to price office building cleaning services
I had to learn how to connect money with my time.
This is an example of how I was thinking.
- How much should I pay myself?
- What would I charge the client when I started to hire employees and factor in the total costs I incurred for the new team members?
- Then I had to factor in a percentage for my liability insurance, car insurance and maintenance, cleaning material and equipment. And most importantly… A PROFIT MARGIN!
You might be thinking, but why not just give 1 or 2 cleanings for free. Well that could have happened, but I was learning. I knew nothing. All I had were facts and figures from books or VHS tapes. Yeah, VHS cassettes because this was the ’90’s.
One or two real time cleanings would not have helped me that much. I mean it takes that many cleanings just to learn the layout of any new office. Besides I wasn’t cleaning Monday through Friday. These doctors’ offices were small and only required once maybe twice a week cleanings. So, I really wasn’t giving that much away.
During this time I had to prove to myself WHAT I could actually do. How to clean an office building. And, how to price office building cleanings. I sincerely felt that 30 days, 4-8 cleanings, would effectively show me just how to handle a professional cleaning job.
And it did!
After about 4 weeks, I had my proposal in hand, confident of my abilities and certain of my price. I contacted each office manager and/ or the physician. They were all not just impressed with the cleanings, but as equally impressed with my approach. Remember, I was only 20 years old!
How I paid for my new office cleaning side hustle
Let me also add, when I say that I had nothing to lose, I’m saying that I had a full-time, 9 – 5 job during the day which was sufficient to pay my bills. I could afford to give “my time” at night and on the weekends to learn this new trade. Like I mentioned, I wasn’t married at the time and I didn’t have children. In fact, my only responsibility was paying rent on my apartment and keeping my car maintained.
My daytime job of being an office assistant was how I funded my new passion. I would use my paycheck to purchase the supplies I needed for my clients.
To keep things simple I only purchased what I needed and nothing more from a janitorial product supplier. I only performed general cleaning in the beginning and didn’t bite off more than I could chew.
With those first several office clients, I can’t tell you all of the lessons I learned – the lessons were more of what not to clean than the reverse. 🤦🏾♀️
I learned the importance of communication with your clients. Which was invaluable! But my biggest take away from starting my janitorial cleaning service was how to manage my own money.
So, how did you get your start in this business? Was it anything like this? Feel free to share. I would love to hear your story as well.
“Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession, and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.” Eric Reis, The Lean Start-up
Until Next Time,
Creator of A Janitor’s Story®. I started my office cleaning side hustle at 20 years old. Years later, with the partnership of my husband and our amazing staff, my business grew to mid-six figures and fulfilled my wildest dreams! Now, 27 years STRONG, I’ve retired, and I help aspiring entrepreneurs to START and GROW their house and office cleaning service businesses to achieve their big dreams. I’d like to help you do the same.
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