The cleaning services industry is expected to grow a staggering 6.1% from 2020 to 2027. A cleaning business is easy to open, and if you are in the right market, it can be quite profitable.
To start a cleaning business in Pennsylvania, you must complete a few important steps, such as getting a FEIN and obtaining financing. After you get the legal and financing pieces ready to go, you must purchase the necessary cleaning equipment and supplies. The last step is to develop a well-rounded brand and market your cleaning business.
Want to learn more about starting a cleaning business in PA? Keep reading and take a look at the most frequently asked questions. Below are the first action steps that need to be completed before you can start taking your first customers.
1.Get a Business License
A cleaning business must register its business structure (an LLC, partnership, corporation, etc.) with the state of Pennsylvania. However, businesses that are sole proprietorships and operate under the owner’s first and last name do not need a registered business structure in the state.
The Pennsylvania Department of state hosts a comprehensive fee structure that outlines how much it costs to register each type of business structure.
If the cleaning business is not a sole proprietorship operated under the name of the owner, it needs a registered fictitious name.
The state of Pennsylvania has a database that shows business entity names that are already registered. You must make sure the fictitious name is not already taken before attempting to register it.
2.Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
Pennsylvania strongly encourages all businesses to get a 9-digit FEIN. The FEIN enables you to properly display your cleaning business to all the agencies in the state government. To get a FEIN, you need to apply directly with the IRS. When applying for both a FEIN and business license, it is important to maintain a consistent business name.
3.Create a Business Plan
Creating a business plan is one of the first steps to opening a cleaning business. The business plan should outline the following: who will own and operate the business, the target market, the services offered, the financing, and the long-term strategy and vision of the company.
Also, the business plan should include an analysis of competitors and what advantage the cleaning business will have over others.
Depending on the size, you can start a cleaning business for as little as $1,000. If you buy commercial-grade equipment and must purchase a vehicle, that amount can quickly rise.
We recommend obtaining a small business loan from a bank, credit union, or SBA-approved lender. The best scenario is not to use financing, especially given the low cost of opening a cleaning business, but if it is necessary, look for low-interest rates and lenient terms.
6.Take Out an Insurance Policy
We recommend that you apply for a general liability insurance policy before starting a cleaning business. Even if you operate the business out of your home, your homeowner’s policy likely only covers up to $2,500 of damages to business property.
Furthermore, a standard homeowner’s policy will not cover the cost of injured customers, lost income caused by damages to your home workspace, or any loss of data. A general liability policy protects you from claims made by both customers and employees.
For example, if your employee trips over a cord and breaks his or her leg, your liability insurance policy will help cover the medical expenses. Likewise, a general liability policy will cover any accidental damage caused to your client’s property.
7.Identify the Target Market
With a population of nearly 12.8 million, Pennsylvania has a diverse population that lives in both urban centers and small towns. The first thing to decide is whether to service commercial, residential clients, or both.
A new business should target one or the other – catering to both types of clients would be too ambitious in the beginning.
After deciding what types of services to offer, you should analyze the demographics in your area. Target those who have excess cash and those who work full-time and do not have the spare time to clean their homes.
8.Understand the Competition
Now that you have identified the target market, it is time to figure out who your main competitors are. We recommend doing a Google search for “residential” or “commercial cleaning” along with the town name.
For example, if you are offering residential cleaning services in Erie, search “residential cleaning Erie, Pennsylvania.” Create an Excel file or grab a pen and paper and write down the name of at least ten potential competitors.
After accumulating a list of competitors, you should notate the services that they offer, their pricing, operating hours, and any unique selling points that make them stand out from other cleaning companies in town.
Look for things such as special promotions, recurring cleaning services, and how the companies promote their brand. For example, if “green” cleaning companies that use non-toxic and eco-friendly supplies get more customers in your local area, you may want to consider specializing in that niche.
9.Buy the Equipment Needed to Start a Cleaning Business
Below is a checklist of the most important pieces of equipment and supplies that you need for a cleaning business.
- Vacuum Cleaner
- Mop and bucket
- Trash bags, paper towels, and sanitizing wipes
- Bathroom, wood, and glass cleaners
- Cleaning cart or bucket to carry supplies
- Toilet brushes
- Broom and dustpan
- Grout brush
10.Develop a Brand or Get A Franchise
When you develop a brand, you take your name and idea and bring them to life. We have already mentioned many of the components of developing a brand – identifying a target market, creating a business plan, and positioning your brand (understanding the competition).
The next step of developing a brand is to create a logo and tagline. Keep your logo visually appealing and stick with “clean” colors such as green or blue.
We recommend taking a trip to the grocery store, looking at cleaning products, and implementing similar colors in your logo. The tagline should be simple and easy-to-remember – stick to a couple of words or so.
11.Create a Website
Creating a website is an absolute must. First, register a .com domain name. If your name is taken, we recommend adding “PA” at the end of the domain. Do not use free domain names as they diminish the appearance of legitimacy.
You will need to pay for hosting, which can cost as little as $10, and build a website. WordPress, which is often included with most hosting plans, has tons of free and paid templates that are easy to implement.
You can also hire a professional web designer to build the website for you. We recommend using the same colors that appear on your logo, or a similar palette. Clearly outline your prices and use an online booking script/plugin so your customers can easily book an appointment online and see your availability.
12.Market Your Services
One of the final steps to developing a brand and launching a cleaning business in Pennsylvania is to create a marketing strategy.
You will spend more time marketing in the first few months of operations, as it takes some time to gain repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals. There are several ways to market a cleaning business and none of which require you to be marketing-savvy:
Hanging flyers at local businesses with bulletin boards is a great way to get the word out. You can even leave flyers on doors, which is legal in most parts of Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh.
Make sure to check with your town’s ordinances before leaving flyers on cars or residential doors. The flyer should detail your services and incorporate your brand.
Use colors like your logo and include your tagline if you have one. We also recommend offering a special promotion on the flyer to incentivize potential customers to use your services.
Google and Facebook Ads
With Google and Facebook ads, you can target customers in your local area. Using Google ads will make your website show up on the top of Google searches based on the keywords you bid on. With Facebook ads, your ads will show up on the newsfeed of users that you target.
Google tends to have a higher cost-per-click (CPC). To see a return from Google and Facebook ads, you should expect to spend between $500 to $1,000 per month. Make sure that your website is 100% complete before starting to advertise online so that you can turn clicks into sales.
While we do not recommend Groupon as a long-term marketing strategy, it is a good way to get some of your first clients that will turn into regulars. To sell cleaning services on Groupon, you have to offer the services for at least 50% less than the regular price.
After the sale, Groupon then takes another 50%. So, if you sell cleaning services for $80, you can offer them for $40 on Groupon which will result in $20 net. As you can see, Groupon is not a profitable strategy unless you have extremely low margins.
Once you start to get a few customers, a great way to ramp up your customer base is to offer discounts to your existing customers for referring new customers. This can be as simple as adding the referral offer to your client’s invoice.
Recurring discounts are not as profitable, but a one-time 50% discount can be advantageous to both you and your clients.
Free Cleaning Promotions
This marketing technique is a bit ambitious, and not profitable in the short term, but it is a good way to get the business’s name out there. When you launch your cleaning service, you could offer free residential cleaning for the first 50 customers, for example.
To ensure that these customers eventually bring in revenue, one technique would be to offer a free clean only if the customer books three cleaning appointments. For example, “get your first cleaning free when you book three appointments!”
If you are feeling extra generous, you could also just offer free cleaning without any stipulations and hope that you will get a few repeat customers in return. Make sure to put in 100% effort, because first impressions are everything in the cleaning industry.
Frequently Asked Questions
While we hope you now have a good idea of how to start a cleaning business in Pennsylvania, below are some of the most frequently asked questions.
How Much Should I Charge for Cleaning Services?
You should charge anywhere from $100 to $300 to clean a house, depending on the size and location.
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Cleaning Business in Pennsylvania?
It costs between $1,000 to $5,000 to start a residential cleaning business and between $20,000 to $100,000 to start a commercial cleaning business. The costs will vary depending on the services offered and the locale.
Do I Need a Certification to Open a Cleaning Business in Pennsylvania?
No, you do not need a special certification to open a cleaning business in Pennsylvania. However, we recommend that you inquire with your city before opening your business.
Can I Operate the Cleaning Business from My Home?
Yes, you can operate the cleaning business from your home. As your business grows, you may need to rent a commercial space to store your cleaning supplies and equipment.
Should I Franchise a Cleaning Business?
You should franchise a cleaning business if you have excess capital and you want a recognized brand name. Prepare to give up a percentage of your sales in royalties and have less freedom over how you operate your business.
Do I Need to Hire an Accountant?
You can either hire an accountant or do your own accounting. If you are just starting, we recommend doing your accounting using software such as QuickBooks or Sage.
Pros and Cons of Starting a Cleaning Business in Pennsylvania
- Low startup costs
- No fixed business hours – you can book clients around your schedule.
- Steady cash flow
- High growth potential
- Hard to find and retain employees
- High labor costs
- Cleaning is a highly competitive industry
Is it Worth it to Start a Cleaning Business in Pennsylvania?
Yes, we believe that starting a cleaning business in Pennsylvania is worth the effort. With the projected growth in the cleaning industry and the fact that starting a business does not cost much, running a cleaning company can be quite profitable.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average cleaning business owner makes around $55,000 per year. That might not sound like a lot, but you can scale your business upwards and potentially make over $100,000 per year.
Ruben has been doing online marketing for the last 4 years. Prior to that, he spent 15 years managing different brick-and-mortar businesses, in the home improvement and logistics industries. Overall, he has 20 years of business experience under his belt. Recently, he added SEO, affiliate marketing, and link building to his business skills.