When Elbow Grease is Your Only Capital: Growing Your Cleaning Business from the Ground Up

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Starting any business is hard work–including starting a cleaning service. If you don’t have lots of money to work with, you can expect an uphill climb. It is possible to get your business off the ground with little or no money, but you’ll have to rely on sweat equity and smart decisions.

Here are some tips to get your cleaning business started with little or no money:

1.) Choose Your Market Wisely

Before doing anything else, make sure you understand the basics about the cleaning industry. One of the most important factors to consider is your target market. You must decide whether you intend to serve the consumer side of the business or the commercial side.

The consumer market involves residential cleaning services, carpet cleaning, window cleaning and maid services. In most cases, very little equipment is required, making it a good choice for someone with little or no money. Busy moms, single parents and people with severe allergies often rely on cleaning services to keep their homes presentable.

The commercial market consists of a variety of janitorial services geared toward commercial buildings. This type of cleaning business requires a team of dedicated employees and lots of equipment. For more information on acquiring new and pre-owned cleaning equipment, see more from SweepScrub.

2.) Pick a Niche

Next, decide on a niche within your chosen market. You can expand into other services later, but it’s best to begin by focusing on a specialty you can use to establish yourself with. Some examples include carpet cleaning, pool cleaning, steam cleaning, or laundry services. These can apply to both the consumer and commercial markets.

3.) Create a Business Plan

Your business plan doesn’t have to be long and complicated. A one page plan should be sufficient for a simple cleaning business, especially if you start out cleaning pools or carpets by yourself. The point is to lay out an organized road map that keeps you on track with your business goals and your original vision. It should identify your target market and services, along with basic pricing. Lenders will want to see your business plan before investing in your company.

4.) Inquire About Licenses and Permits

Find out about any federal or state licenses required to run a legitimate business in your area. You can get a DBA (Doing Business As) and vendor’s license through your county clerk’s office. The vendor’s license requires you to collect sales tax and should come with your DBA, after you complete the application process and pay the required fee.

5.) Prepare a Marketing Strategy

You’ll need some type of marketing strategy to promote your business. One of the simplest ways to do this is by passing out fliers in areas you would like to target. Offer to buy lunch for friends and family, if they’ll help you pass them out in multiple areas. Some restaurants and Laundromats have bulletin boards where you can staple fliers with contact numbers that customers can tear off. You can also place an ad in your local newspaper and offer discounts to current customers for referrals that lead to new business.

6.) Pool Your Financial Resources

Starting a business with little or no money sometimes means little or no money of your own. Once you have taken care of the steps above, you should have a good idea how much you’ll need to get started. With this figure in mind, make a list of all your possible financial resources. Remember that the simpler your cleaning business is, the less money you will need, borrowed or otherwise. If the figure is too high for the resources you have available, look back at your plan and try to simplify it some more.

Sources of financing you should consider include borrowing from family or friends, finding a financial partner, credit cards and government programs. When borrowing from friends and family, put the details in writing to avoid a messy situation. If you bring a partner into the business, make sure it’s someone you can trust. If you have to use credit cards, pay off those balances as soon as possible. If you’re a veteran, woman or minority, you may qualify for special government programs.

Don’t be surprised if you can’t get all the funds required from the same source. If you have to combine two credit cards, a small loan and a crowdfunding campaign, that’s all the more reason to give it all you’ve got. Remember, there’s no guarantee of success in any business. It’s up to you to put in the time and effort.

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